Saturday, September 12, 2009

Absalon - Archbishop and Statesman

Close to Christiansborg Palace and Church you find this magnificent statue of Archbishop Absalon. He was son of Asser Rig, a powerful Danish leader, and closely connected to the Danish royal family. The location of the monument close to the Palace is no coincidence. Archbishop Absalon built a fortress here in 1167, and the Danish capital grew up around it.

Absalon was born in 1128, and by that time there was only a small fisher village, where Copenhagen is today.

He belonged to the powerful Hvide clan, and was foster brother to King Valdemar I the Great. He was an educated scholar that had studied theology at the University of Paris 1146 to 1156.

He took side with his foster brother Valdemar during the political turmoil that made him solitary king of Denmark in 1157. Absalon was rewarded as the king made him Archbishop of Roskilde, and was given the area around today's Copenhagen as his personal property in 1160. He remained deeply loyal to the king as a confidant and councellor.

Here he built his fortress, that stood from 1167 to 1369, when it was destroyed by an army from the Hanseatic town of Lübeck. It was rebuilt in bricks. Excavations in 1907 found the remains of the old fortress under Christiansborg Castle.

Absalon died in 1201, and was buried in the Church at Sorø Monastery, that he had commissioned in 1161. His grave was opened in 1567, and then they found a golden ring with a sapphire on his right hand.

Absalons ring is now on display at the Museum of Roskilde Cathedral

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spanish Paella - country style

I bought a sachet of Paellero paella seasoning in Spain. With a bag of paella rice, some Spanish chorizo, seafood and green peas you can make your own country style Spanish Paella. I did as much last weekend and the scent of Mediterranean took over my country kitchen.

The funny thing is how much taste a small paper bag of seasoning may contain. It transformed my pan of rice into the real thing, providing a great colour as well, as it contained real saffron.

Country style Spanish Paella (Serves Three)

5 cl / 2 fluid oz olive oil
1/2 medium sized onion, finely chopped
2 chorizos (around 200 grams / 7 oz), finely sliced
1/2 bag of paella rice (250 grams / 8 oz)
1 package Paellero seasoning
Green peas
Peeled fresh prawns

Heat up olive oil in a hot iron pan. Ad onion and chorizos. Fry until golden.

Add rice and stir until rice is covered in oil. Then add paella seasoning, then water. Stir continuously so that rice does not stick on the bottom and has absorbed the liquid and is tender. Allow the rice to be a little al dente.

Add peas and seafood at the end of the cooking.

Serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Notre Dame de Fourvière - the protector of Lyon

The Romans built their first settlements in Lyon on top of the Fourvière hill. From here they could keep an eye of what went on in the valley below. At the end of the 19th century work started on impressive churches in three French cities.

Paris built its Sacre Coeur, Marseille its Notre Dame de la Garde, and Lyon built its Notre Dame de Fourvière where the Romans once had their forum vetus. All these churches are visible far away, as they are located on hilltops overlooking the city centres below.

I have walked up to all these churches, and they have striking similarities. They are all built in a neo-byzantine style, and both Notre Dame churches in Marseille and in Lyon have a gilded sculpture of Saint Mary on the top.

The Basilica was built from 1870-1886 and is in fact inspired by Sacre Coeur. It is the main work of the architect Pierre Basson. It is a beautiful building, and it looks like a fairy tale palace when you see all its towers.

And it looks as beautiful inside, as outside. Personally I felt removed to one of the richly ornate churches found in Eastern Europe.

Outside you may enjoy a fabulous view over the city of Lyon. From the church you can walk down to the city below through a lush forest.

It is certainly a place to visit. Make it as a tour of the Fourvière hill, with its rich Roman remains.

More stories on French cathedral on Enjoy Food & Travel

- Read story on Sacre Coeur in Paris
- Marseille: Notre Dame de la Garde
- Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg

More churches in Lyon on Enjoy Food & Travel

- Saint Bonaventure's Church
- St-Martin-d'Ainay
- Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon
- Church of Saint Paul
- An ancient Christian centre

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

US fusion - Crab Rangoon and General Tso's chicken

I told you about Crab Rangoon, one of my favourites, and how it was served at Yenching at Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. Another tasty treat is General Tso's Chicken. Both dishes sound and look genuinely Chinese, but they are most likely an American or American-Chinese fusion.

Crab Rangoon

Crab Rangoon is supposedly based on a Burmese recipe. Ingredients fits, except the cream cheese, that will be hard to find as ingredient in Burmese or any other East Asian cuisine.

As many Italian dishes, Crab Rangoon is invented in the US either by an Asian immigrant or an inventive American cook inspired by Asian cuisine.

Crab Rangoon has been served for more than 50 years. The cradle of this dish is on the Western coast, facing the Pacific and beyond - the Asian continent.

What we do know is that it has been on the menu on the legendary Trader Vic's restaurant in San Francisco at least since 1957, but it is probably identical with the "Rangoon crab a la Jack" served at the restaurant at a Hawaiian style party in 1952.

Whatever origins it is delicious. The crispy wonton pastry and the creamy filling inside are intriguing culinary contrasts.

Wanna know how to make your own Crab Rangoon?

By chance I found this clip where Alli Adolphson, a junior at the University of Missouri , who studied abroad in Beijing, and she teach you how to make these treats.

General Tso's Chicken

Another favourite is General Tso's chicken. This dish is even more steeped in mystery than Crab Rangoon. It is named after a 19th century Chinese general. It is neither known as an original recipe in China, nor in the Chinese diaspora found around the world.

General Tso's chicken is wonderfully spicy deep fried chicken, inspired by the cuisine of the Hunan province.

Some claim that it derived from an older and simpler recipe from the Hunan cuisine. The name should in this case, not be inspired by the general's name, but rather derived from a similar word meaning old ancestral hall.

Others claim that the dish was invented on Taiwan by Peng Chang-kuei, a local cook. Peng Chang-kuei fled Taiwan to settle in New York and supposedly introduced it to the American cuisine.

It has, in any case, a shorter history on American menus than Crab Rangoon. It was first mentioned in New York Times in 1977 and has, since then, been introduced to many menus in restaurants in the US and Canada.

Wanna know how to make your own General Tso's chicken?

Here is another film clip from YouTube where you are given instruction on how to make General Tso's chicken in your own kitchen.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Grabbing a snack along Mass' Ave'

Massachusetts Avenue, or Mass’ Ave' as it is called, cross right through Harvard Square. Along this busy street and by the square itself you will find a large number of places to eat or drink. This is one of my favourite places in Boston to sit down, take a light snack, and look at the busy life on this famous campus. For those of you on your way to this area, there are a few places I recommend.

In business for four decades - Bartley's Burger Cottage

Last September I spotted the impressive sign outside Bartley's Burger Cottage. No wonder this snack place has managed to stay in business in this area for more than 40 years, and I have read as much to understand that Bartley's Burger Cottage is a place to try.

I have decided when I return to Harvard in a months time that I will go there to eat ye traditional American burger.

Address: 1246 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge MA, 02138

Au Bon Pain - a favourite among students

This is a café with so much personal sentiment connected to it, as it has been there during my 21 years visits to the Harvard area. Located in the heart of the square, it is as popular with students as well as University employees and tourists, as the first time I enjoyed a coffee and a cookie there in 1988!

At Au Bon Pain you can grab pastry, salads, and other light snacks, along with your a coffee or tea. You may have to wait to order, as this is a busy place, with long lines in front of the cashiers, but when you have got your grub, take it outside, sit under a tree and enjoy the Square.

Address: 1300 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

Yenching - proper Chinese grub

A nice place if you are in the mood for Chinese food. An informal Chinese restaurant in the heart of Harvard serving the most delicious food. A very popular place always as it is always packed with people during lunch or dinner.

Last year I tried one serving of their steamed dumplings and a serving Crab Rangoon, a clear favourite - deep fried dumplings filled with cream cheese and crab meat, with a bottle of Tsingtao. Awesome!!

Address: 1326 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

Once upon a time - salmon crepe at Z-Square

If you are looking for Z-Square at 14 JFK Street, you will search in vain. This place is out of business. Z-Square was a place to either hate or love for the locals, as I discovered looking through reviews at One review stated that:
"Good riddance. This place was obnoxiously smug, the staff was inept, and the food was overpriced and terrible. Really, the best part about this place is that it closed down."
And the opposite view:
"HBS memories, a lot of brunches spent here....i go here whenever i have a salmon crepe craving. however, after i discovered arrow st crepe down the street, i stopped going to z square."
Sad, really, as I enjoyed this particular crepe at Z-Square last year, filled with cream cheese and salmon with a freezing cold glass of dry white wine. Maybe I should try Arrow Street Crepe instead?

Going to Boston soon?

Find these restaurants and much more on my map of Boston and surrounding area.

View New England on Enjoy Food & Travel 2006 - 2008 in a larger map

Other stories around Harvard Square

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Check different airlines - get cheaper fare!

I have already told you that I will visit Brussels in November. When I spotted that SAS could offer cheap flights to European destinations, i.e. from NOK 520, I decided to check whether I could get one of these tickets, and I did! When it came to the return from the Belgian capital, the SAS air fare was on a completely different level.

Grabbing a bargain fra Scandinavian Airlines

That meant that I had to make an effort to get prices down on the return flight.

First, though, I was determined to get hold of that bargain flight with SAS, and I did! I paid 540 NOK (62,6 EURO), and this included air fare (NOK 235 / 27,2 EUR), tax (NOK 285 = 33 EUR) and service fee (2,30 EUR).

Getting a bargain back from Brussels was a challenge. I decided to rely on, a Norwegian service that compares airfare from several airlines and booking services. Through FINN I found several booking sites offering favourable fare, and I went to that had the best offer.

Using once (and never again)

Whereas SAS had all included, I found that travelstart, besides my booking, persistently tried to push other products into my trolley, and particularly its flag ship "Travel Assist" that would offer "free" seat reservation, food, special luggage, sports equipment and other services.

They also ended up asking me whether I would need a cancellation insurance. I turned this "generous" offer down as well, as most travel insurances (including mine) will cover cancellation due to force majeure or illness.

The most irritating part was that they even charged you when you were to pay with your credit or debet card. Clever of them, you may say, as you hesitate to stop your booking when you are at the end of the process.

Not clever in the long run, as you may choose to book and use your card for free on other competing sites.

I found a very pushy site to use, and will avoid it in the future.

Luckily the return ticket with Brussels Airlines ended up at a total of NOK 770 or 89,30 EUR, with no Travel Assist or cancellation insurance. Not bad really. A quick price check a week later, revealed that Travelstart would at that point charge you 945 NOK / 109 EUR for the same ticket excluded all fees.

Use different options - save money

Conclusion: You are well advised to check whether there are competing airlines on the destination you plan to travel to. You may save money booking different airlines instead of staying with one of them. Do check with other sites as well, but be aware of hidden fees.

Another trap is that some airlines and booking sites may charge you for services that are included in other air carriers total prices. You will discover as much when booking, and you are recommended to stop your booking and try another site or competing airline, unless the basic price is unbeatable including fees.