Saturday, November 07, 2009

El Rincon del Artista - tapas in heavy traffic


June 14th. Returning from Barcelona Botanic Garden to pick up our suitcases, and then head for the beach. We needed a quick snack before we should catch our train. What about tapas on a busy street corner. No? Well we thought it was a great idea. Welcome to El Rincon del Artista!

Location: BBBB-

We literaly sat down on a street corner under two large sycamore trees. Cars, lorries, and motor cycles roared as they passed us. Other guests did not mind the noise, as the bar was packed with people, a very good sign for those in need of good tucker.

El Rincon del Artista is located C/ Nou de la Rambla 105, a short walk from the Paral-lel metro station, and a short walk away from La Rambla itself, really!

Service: BBBB+

Very busy staff, with no need of small talk. They seemed rather uninterested, really, but served our drinks very swiftly. El Rincon del Artista had a short menu, and halleluja - in both Spanish and English.

Interior & Atmosphere: BBB


We sat outside, and the seating was not very comfortable. Hard garden chairs placed on cobble stones placed close to each other. When looking in we could see a traditional Spanish bar interior. No nicely decorated tables, rather the completely opposite. No glass, china or cutlery.

Food: BBBBB

We started to smile when the tapas were served. This was the real thing. We ordered Grilled mushrooms (€ 3,20), Croquetas Caseras (€2,50), Calamaris Romana (€4,80), and Patatas Bravas (€2,50). Lunch for two at €14 - a price difficult to match. Here is a short presentation of the dishes:

Grilled mushrooms

Champigñones de la Plancha. Doesn't it sound great? The most delicious little dish is plainly button mushrooms lightly fried until soft in olive oil with salt and pepper and garnished with parley.

An extremely simple dish to make. Deliciously soft and tender, but still with a little bite to them. And with that special mushroom taste.

A bargain at IEl Rincon del Artista for a little over three Euros.

Croquetas Caseras

If you make a simple search on Enjoy Food & Travel - you will find that that I love croquetas, and the croquetas at El Rincon del Artista were no exception.

Made from a smooth, thick white sauce / mash flavoured, in this case, with ham, then rolled in bread crumbs and fried in oil. A delicious combination of soft smooth filling underneath a crisp shell. Very good taste from the cured ham.

Try, them, you will not be disappointed and priced at 2 Euros only, you do not talk any chance at all!

Patatas Bravas

This is another traditional tapa, I have enjoyed many times during my stays in Spain. The trick with these is to get them as crisp on the outside (while not being too greasy), while keeping the potatoes tender inside. Perfectly prepared at El Rincon del Artista.

Patatas Bravas are usually served with a pink, mayonnaise based sauce, flavoured with a little garlic and, I guess, paprika powder, so familiar to Spanish cuisine.

Calamaris Romana

Another specialty separating the professional from the amateur. Two snags are: 1) Dry the calamaris on kitchen paper so they are not soaking in oil. 2) Do not over cook. The squid shall be tender, not tough as rubber.

Another perfectly prepared tapa. Different sized bits, not only rings, soaked in batter and fried. These were certainly made by professionals - dry, crisp, and mouth-wateringly tender.

Beverage: BBBBB

What is better than a pint of Estrella Damm, Barcelona's local beer. Perfect to fit the different dishes, as well as the ultimate drink for a thirsty tourist after a long walk in a summer warm Spanish city.

Rating Rincon Del Artista experience: BBBB (4,176 points)

Lunch served on the pavement, with city traffic roaring only yards away. Decent service, but definitely the place for excellent Spanish tapas, offered at ridiculously low prices.

Address:
El Rincon del Artista
c/ Nou de la Rambla 105
ES-08004 Barcelona
Phone: 93 442 12 40

Friday, November 06, 2009

Tortellini in red pesto - a dinner in 5 minutes




After a busy weekend, socially, my choice for Sunday dinner was an easy tortellini. This is literally a dinner in five minutes, or can be, if you precook the pasta., and I used a spicy chorizo, a Spanish sausage to make an aromatic tomato sauce. The red pesto from Barilla is one of the best products in its category adding even more aroma to the sauce.

Tortellini with red pesto sauce

I have discovered a speedy way to prepare tortellini, or any pasta. I cook a whole package tortellini with cheese by Barrilla, until al dente, and then I dry and rinse them in cold water.

When cold, I place the tortellini in a container or a zip lock bag, and freeze them. Then I can take out the amount I need for a dinner. One bag is enough for 2-3 meals.

For this dish, place frozen tortellinis into a casserole, add boiling water from a hot water kettle, and allow them get warm. Then prepare the sauce.

Here is the ingredients that went into the sauce:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 chorizo sausage, finely chopped
3 gloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp Barilla red pesto
10 cl red wine
sugar to taste

Fry garlic and chorizo in the hot oil, until golden. Ad red pesto and red wine, allow to reduce. Add sugar to balance the acidity.

Mix tortellini with sauce in you pan.

Serve immediately.

(Photos: Barilla website)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

From March 2010: More flights Oslo - Milan



Scandinavian Airlines, has, until now, been the only air carrier between Oslo Airport and Milan Malpensa Airport. Norwegian Air Shuttle will break its monopoly, as they launch four weekly flights, starting March 2010. This according to Daniel Skjeldam, Norwegians Commercial Director.

Milan, Italy's second largest city, is famous for its shopping, good food and wine, as well as being a gateway to the Alps in the North and the classic culture of the Po river valley in the south. Norwegian Air Shuttle will open up for more travelers from Italy and Norway alike, at a lower and nicer price.

The airline will fly to Malpensa, Milans second and largest airport outside the city.

One way flights will be available for Norwegian travelers at a low price starting at NOK 349 (€41).

This will be Norwegians fourth destination in Italy, as the airline operates all-year or seasonal flights from Oslo to Olbia, Pisa and Rome.

Did you know that Milan has a third airport?

Orio Al Serio is located close to Bergamo, 50 km /31 miles away from Milan. It is a major airport for Ryanair flights.

More stories on flights to Orio Al Serio:
More non-stop flights from Oslo and other Norwegian airports


Vis International non-stop flights from Oslo Airport - status November 2009 i et større kart

On special maps you find non-stop flights operating from Europe to the largest Norwegian airports. Here you have non-stop flights from Oslo Airport to destinations in Europe, Middle East, Asia and the United States.

On these maps you will find markers that display status on different non-stop flights to Norway. A red marker means that flight is seasonal and not in operation or that an earlier non-stop flight has been canceled. A green marker shows that there is a new non-stop flight planned to this destination. A yellow marker means that there is a seasonal flight still operating to this airport. An airplane button means that service is in operation all year around from the destination to Oslo international airport.

More non-stop flights from Norway to the continent
(Photo: Andrej203 and G.dallorto)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Amalfi-style Cannelloni à la Crespelle



I am by no means a master of Italian cuisine. I rather think that any genuine Italian foodie would scream in pain seeing how I mess around with their high quality products. Non-Italians do, however, tend to like my brand of fusion cooking. As the evening I prepared my culinary prelude for two happy ladies on their way to Cinque Terre.

In a program on BBC Food, the British TV-chef Sophie Grigson took two guys to the Amalfi coast, and helped them to recreate that Italian feeling in a party for their friends back in their own home.

Sophie Grigson prepared crespelle, thin pancakes filled with Italian cheese, and Parma ham baked in a rich tomato sauce.

The whole idea seemed so intriguing to me, that I just had to try it myself, back then. As the busy man I am, I bought my pancakes, and used the same ingredients as Sophie Grigson to create the most mouth-wateringly delicacies I have eaten in a long time. I served them, and other appetizers at a National Day reception in my flat.

As my friends Laila and Gerd Ester came to stay the night, my first idea was an encore. But did the store have ready made pancakes (without sugar)?

Nope!

My idea was to use cannelloni tubes as a substitute. It worked great, hence this recipe for Amalfi-style Cannelloni à la Crespelle.

Amalfi-style Cannelloni à la Crespelle (Serves at least two)

Filling

1 jar of ricotta (300 grams / 11 oz), stirred
1 mozzarella di bufala (100 grams / 3,5 oz), mashed
100 grams / 3,5 oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated
100 grams / 3,5 oz Parma ham, thinly sliced, then chopped in very thin morsels
Salt
Pepper

1 package Cannelloni tubes

Sauce
5 anchovies fillets
3 cloves garlic
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 can Italian pomodorini (small cherry tomatoes)
Mediterranean herbs, dried
Salt, pepper and sugar to balance taste.

Topping

Finely grated parmesan cheese
Mozzarella di bufala, finely sliced

And here is what you do!

Mix ricotta, mashed mozzarella, grated Parmesan and Parma ham thoroughly. Add salt and pepper. Allow to rest in refrigerator.

Add olive oil in a skillet. Add anchovies and garlic. Allow the fillets to dissolve and garlic to get lightly brown. Add pomodorini, herbs, salt, pepper and sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. Simmer for 5-10 minutes over low heat. Allow sauce to cool.

Take out cheese mix. Squeeze mix into the cannelloni tubes and place in an oiled, square, oven proof dish. Pour over tomato sauce. Sprinkle sliced mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake in moderately hot oven 200C / 400F for 25-30 minutes. Allow to rest 5 minutes before serving. Serve with good bread and a good red wine.

Enjoy!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Italy - culinary memories


Less is more in Italian cuisine. These gnocchi de quattro formaggi is a good example. Boiled potato, eggs and flour dumplings served in a sauce with four cheeses. My friend John is a gnocchi fan, and these were enjoyed at Navona Notte in Via del Teatro Pace in Rome. Here are a few other culinary memories from their visit in Roma and Amalfi.

Melanzane alla parmigiana

Eggplant parmigian is a great dish. Thinly sliced aubergine, layered with tomato sauce and cheese.

Melanzane alla parmigiana does not come from Parma, but probably from Sicily, that introduced aubergines to the Italian cuisine.

This is a dish that is easy to make, but it is time consuming, as you have to slice the eggplant, flour them and fry them lightly in olive oil before you assemble the dish.

Wanna try it? You'll find a recipe on Divine Eggplant here

Frito Misto

A frito misto is made from different ingredients, turned in flour or batter and then deep fried in hot olive oil.

A wide range of ingredients may be used in a plate of frito misto. Meats, fish and even sage leaves and slices of mozzarella cheese may end up in the sizzling oil.

This plate frito misto of seafood was actually the best one John and Øystein had during their Italian vacation. It was served at "Pizzeria Da Maria" in Amalfi.

Spanish fried bait - see story here

Insalate Caprese

This traditional salad originates from Campania, the region in which Amalfi is located. Its name means salad from Capri. It consists of sliced mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil leaves drizzled with olive oil.

Making this dish at home, you are recommended to use only the best ingredients. Try to find sun ripened fresh Mediterranean tomatoes, high quality Buffalo milk mozzarella, and extra virgin olive oil. Without them the salad may end up bland and boring.

My ultimate Insalata Caprese moment took place in the ancient Tuscan city of Lucca 10 years ago. The pungent aromas of the fresh, thinly sliced, deliciously sweet Italian plum tomatoes, the rich and soft mozzarella, and fresh basil made me nearly cry.

No wonder why non-Italians use so many ingredients in our home-made Italian food - to get more flavour! With high grade ingredients you are taught the fact that in genuine Italian food less is more - than enough!

John’s insalata Caprese was ordered at Rome airport. I do not know whether he had one of these Lucca moments there. He did not say, but I’ll ask him.

Bufala mozzarella and other delicious cheeses - see story here

Vin Santo and biscotti

And then to the sweet end of the culinary journey. The title of this picture is RomeAirportComplementaryDrinkWithCookie. That explains it all, doesn't it?

You often get a small surprise after a good meal, a cookie or rather biscotti, a sweet crisp delicacy with almonds, and what I think is a classic Vin Santo.

These sweet wines originates from Tuscany, and are not unlike a French Sauternes or an Hungarian Tokaji, and is served with desserts, blue cheese, or even foie gras.

I love the crispy almond cookies. They are very sweet, even compared to the vin santo. I had my first taste in Siena in the year 2000 and I loved it so much, that I brought two packets home with me. They are a perfect end to a good meal, served with ice cream or just by themselves.

Vin Santo and Versinthe - see story here


How to make this food yourself - see films on YouTube:




Sunday, November 01, 2009

Cheap stay at Thon Hotell Bergen Brygge


If looking for budget as well as a bargain, Thon Hotell Bergen is definitely not the place for you. In spite of the low price and a great location, it had a more than a few cheap features. Pay a little extra and enjoy more comfort elsewhere.

Location: BBBBB-

Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge has a brilliant location, with Bergenhus Fortress as nearest neighbour and the historic Bryggen and Mariakirken (Church of St Mary) within a few minute walk away. It easily reached if you take the Airport express bus. Take it to the last stop at Radisson SAS Hotell Bryggen. Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge is located a few minutes walk away.

Service: BBB

Staff at the reception made a mixed impression. I was given a rather impersonal or uninterested greeting on arrival, and had to wait for a long time to check in. The staff present during day was slightly kinder. The service delivered in the breakfast room was in no way satisfactory. Dishes were either removed before you had finished, or was partly left on the tables when people had left.

Rom: BBBB-

Both room and bathroom were tiny. There were very little space for much more than a bed, a desk and a small chair. TV on an adjustable arm, with 5 channels. Little storage space, just one shelf and one rack with hangers.

Very little space in bathroom. Toilet squeezed in between sink and wall. Small shower on the floor with a outdated curtain.

Interior can be described as moderately designer style with neutral light brown and gray shades on walls and ceiling, gray carpet. Tiled bathroom with wooden trims and ceiling. One lipstick red wooden chair and one chrome chair with textile seat.

Good hygiene, very little dust on surfaces.

The room had moderate needs of maintenance. Yellow spots on walls, cracked tiles on bathroom, and bathroom ceiling slightly damaged by damp.

Bed was very good to sleep in and there were two small halogen lamps providing good light for reading.

No wireless access on the room. You had to pay a card valid for 4 hours from first access in the reception at the cost of 10 NOK (1,20 EUR). Offering a service at such a low price, the hotel should either consider including this extra (and often much needed service) in the price of the room, or (even better) be offered free to the guests.

Be aware that rooms at the 1st floor (I stayed in room 259), you are within the reach of the free wireless zone on the ground floor and may surf as much as you want. Choose the network Belkin54, instead of Telenor and just log on.

Breakfast (Not included NOK 69 / EUR 8,15): BBBBB

The breakfast was not included in the price, but was relatively cheap compared to many other hotels I have stayed in.

A good sized breakfast buffet, with hot and cold food to any taste. A large selection of all kind of breads. Hot food as; scrambled eggs, meatballs, cocktail sausages, no bacon! Cheese, cold cuts, mayonnaise based salads, patés, and herring. Health nuts could choose from cereals, yogurts, and fresh fruit.

Cold apple, orange juice and milk from dispensers. Tea, coffee, regular or espresso, cappuccino, from coffee machines easy to operate.

Facilities: BBB-

Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge is certainly not the hotel for those of you that expects in house facilities.
  • Entertainment: BBB
    You can may buy wine or beer in the restaurant. In house restaurant serving breakfast only.

  • Exercise: N/A (Meaning none)

  • Well being: BBBB-
    Cozy seating by a fire place by the reception. Extra PC by reception, well functioning wireless access in reception area, in rooms for an extra charge. Good ventilation in the rooms.

  • Hygiene and maintenance: BBB
    Good hygiene, but the hotel seems a little run down. The lifts were clearly not in good working order on arrival, as the receptionist had to restart them several times. I was locked in the lift in the 9th floor, but the lift started quickly after I had sounded the alarm.
Price: BBBB

The price of the hotel room was NOK 745 per night (88,6 EUR). Breakfast (NOK 69 / EUR 8,20) not included. Not a high price for a room. If you look around, however, I bet I could beat this price at a better hotel, and maybe get breakfast included in the price.

Rating the Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge experience: BBBB+ (3,57 points)

A budget hotel at the lower end of the scale, budget as in feeling a little cheap, as well as inexpensive. Great location. Good breakfast you have to pay extra for. Low in inhouse facilities.

Address:
Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge
Bradbenken 3
5003 Bergen
Tlf: +47 55 30 87 00
Faks: +47 55 32 94 14
Hotel website