Saturday, December 12, 2009

Remember La Zorza in Riomaggiore?

In August I helped my friends Laila and Gerd to book a trip to the scenic Cinque Terre area. I found a small hotel in the historic town of Riomaggiore. That was a great choice.

They wanted to have a dream vacation along this rugged coastline in October, and I found flight and accommodation at La Zorza, a small family run hotel for 1248 EUR per person. They traveled out of season, and were the only guests staying at this hotel. In spite of this they enjoyed good weather and pleasant temperatures throughout their vacation, and they were very happy with my choice of hotel.

They were delayed when traveling to Riomaggiore, and missed their train in Genoa. They sent me an SMS and asked me to notify the hotel that they would arrive around midnight. This as the reception closed around 8 PM.

After contacting, I found the phone number, and when I had notified, they gave me a phone number for them to call. Then they would get access to their room and get their keys.

Gerd and Laila got the only room with a balcony facing the street below. The room was small, but very charming, and they wanted me to tell you that La Zorza is definitely a low price alternative to consider if traveling to scenic Cinque Terre.

See hotel website here

More on this trip:

See the story A Passage to Cinque Terre

Traveling out of season to famous places may be a good idea. See stories:

Impressions of Italy - the Amalfi Coast

Christmas in Barcelona - the city of lights!

(Photo: Hotel website)

Coming December - Hotel Armada****, Istanbul

During Christmas I'll be moving south to Istanbul, once the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. It will be a completely new, and exciting experience to explore the mysteries of Muslim world.

I will get there by the daily non-stop flights Oslo-Istanbul operated by Turkish Airlines. Stay tuned for a full review of this airline.

See all non-stop flights to Oslo airport here

Where east meets west

Istanbul is one of the worlds megacities, with an estimated population of 12,6 million inhabitants - a giant meeting point between Islam and Christianity, an intriguing melting pot of history, culture and faiths.

Even though the city covers an area of over 1000 square kilometers, we will stay at Hotel Armada, located by Sultanahmet - the historic heart of the city.

I do look forward to a visit to many of the attractions in this ancient city, and to enjoy the Turkish cuisine, known to one of the best of the world. I travel with my friends and Enjoy Food & Travel co-writers Susanne and Per Koch, and they have told me of a few places to enjoy some lavish banquets.

Hotel Armada - four star comfort by Historic landmarks

Hotel Armada is a 4 star Istanbul hotel close to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, and within walking distance of many of the major attractions from the city's rich past.

It is a modern hotel, only 15 years old, and completely renovated in 2009.

I have ordered a superior room, paying only 108 Euros a night, breakfast included. The hotel offers the following facilities, and services to their guests.

  • 108 rooms (2 of which are fully equipped for wheelchair access)
  • 5 meeting rooms
  • 2 restaurants offering organic and gourmet foods
  • Guest Lounge
  • Parking garage.
  • Two rooftop restaurants, one open and one atrium-style, offer magnificent views of the area.

Room facilities:

  • Personal safe-deposit box
  • Hair dryer
  • Pure cotton fabrics and towels, down pillows and comforters
  • Bathrobes
  • Natural beauty soaps
  • LCD TV
  • Direct telephone
  • Mini-bar
  • Air-conditioning
  • Kettle
  • Wireless Internet access.


  • 24 hours room service
  • Laundry
  • Dry-cleaning service
  • Free wireless Internet throughout the hotel
  • Business Center with computers and printers
  • Istanbul Library
  • Luggage room
  • Guest Relations service.


  • Tango on Monday nights
  • Classical Turkish Baths within walking distance
  • Trekking and jogging at the sea shore along the Marmara Sea for your health.
See hotel website here

Istanbul on Enjoy Food & Travel

Keep track of our visit as it progress. Our map of Istanbul will be continually updated during our stay.

You can see the map here

More hotels on Enjoy Food & Travel

See complete list of hotel reviews here

(Photos: Top and bottom - Hotel website, middle The Imperial Gate at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, by Griffyndor)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bento on Bus4You

Bento is a Japanese lunch box. We bought our own in Göteborg, and tucked into it with chopsticks, when cruising on Bus4You back to Oslo. My goodness how different to a Scandinavian style lunch.

I've gone through a gradual culinary awakening to sushi. When I started, I was at best indifferent to these strange bits of raw seafood, and the flaming hot green wasabi. Now, however, sushi has become one of the best foods I know - a real treat!. Having a great sushi restaurant as neighbour has made it more and more an option when returning home after a hard day's work.

As I and Enjoy Food & Travel co-writer Susanne Koch entered the bus from Göteborg to Oslo, we were carrying a box of sushi each. On board we braced ourselves to eat our lunch from our Styrofoam bento.

Our box consisted of Nigirizushi (握り寿司, or hand-formed sushi) made with prawns, salmon, tuna, and a strange variety with fried eggs and Makizushi (巻寿司, or rolled sushi), i.e. salmon and cucumber in rice wrapped in nori, a small container soy sauce, pickled ginger and a decent heap of burning hot wasabi.

Sitting in a bus, with two chopsticks, trying to manage these bits, was certainly a challenge, but I discovered that this was high class sushi.

So this will certainly not be the last time I eat sushi in a bus.

More bus stories

A Bus4You? Absolutely!

A journey through the polar night

More sushi stories

Nodee - sushi in hyperspace

I love Kitty’s Sushi

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Église Saint Paul, Strasbourg

Église Saint Paul in Strasbourg is located by one of the canals criss-crossing the city. It is a beautiful neo-Gothic stone building dating from the last decade of the 19th century.

It is an important monument from a period when Strasbourg was a part of Germany.

Strasbourg had grown in size and importance in the mid 19th century. When German and France clashed in the Franco-Prussian war 1870-1871, the city was sieged, and later conquered by the Germans. It remained German until its defeat in the First World War in 1918.

Église Saint Paul was built between 1892 and 1897 and was designed by architect Louis Muller (1842 - 1898), to be used as the protestant garrison church for the German army, after the annexation of Alsace to the German Empire in 1871.

Other Strasbourg churches on Enjoy Food & Travel

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg

Church of Saint Thomas - Strasbourg

More on food stories, hotels, restaurants and sights in the Alsatian capital

See map and list of stories here

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Microwaved lasagna at (on) Venus

This was one of these rare culinary occasions you asked whether you were on another planet. What an irony that the tavern was called Venus. I ask myself how restaurants like these manage in a city as Barcelona, as this is a place to avoid when looking for a place to eat in Barri Gotic.


Venus is located in a dark and mysterious street located in the Barri Gotic - the old part of Barcelona. This is an area with much character, easily within walking distance from La Rambla and Placa Catalunya.

Service: BBBB

There were no one in the restaurant but us, a clear warning to leave. Thus, we were given proper attention by the two waiters and were able to order immediately, and we did not have to wait for our food. The waiters appeared, neither attentive, nor welcoming for us as guests.

Style: BBB

Venus had an interior characterized as shabby chic, but this was no artificial wear'n tear - this was a place in genuine distress. Plaster fell off the walls, and even though it had the atmosphere of an old tavern it seemed to be in a state of decay.

My concern for the hygienic state was raised as I discovered a sign on the toilet saying something like:

- Kindly do not dispose toilet paper in toilet, but place them in the waste basket (!!!)
Conditions like this should be attended by the proper public authorities, as this, besides being extremely unappealing, may also be a cause of food born infections.

Food: BB

We booked lasagna, and we were surprised when we were served. The only truly nice thing with the dish was the price - the rest was terrible!!

It was a square heap with a sauce as white as snow on top, sprinkled with dry herbs (OUCH!!) on top. Even though the Lasagna Bolognese is often "Al Forno", i.e. from the oven - this lasagna had not been close to one, rather heated, or reheated in a microwave. It had an appearance of a damp white blanket with dust on top.

The white sauce had a creamy consistency, but an bland taste, slightly salty. The tomato sauce between the pasta sheets did not provide the sweet aromas of Mediterranean tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs. It rather had the taste of a cheap sauce poured out of jar bought at the closest supermarket.

The dry herbs had most probably been poured over the white sauce after the dish had been taken out of the microwave, and were crisp as paper.

The pasta was overcooked, and when cutting into it, it turned into a white and red mash. A truly unappealing dish, hardly fit for sale at any place.

So my friends, it is fair to say that is most certainly not a place for lovers of Italian food, in fact I think, with this dish in mind, I would not dare to recommend any of the dishes served. At best, it is the place to have a drink - only!

Drink: BBB+

We ordered a glass of red wine of the house. Inexpensive, but hardly anything to talk of.

Rating the Venus experience: BBB+ (3,31 points)

Venus provided the worst culinary restaurant experience in 2009. The 3 B's is due to location and price. The food was terrible, the interior looked worn and decayed. This is certainly a place to be avoided if looking for a late night snack. Consult the map below to find other (and better) restaurants in the neighbourhood.

C/ Avinyó 25, 08002 Barcelona
Phone: 93 301 15 85

View Barcelona and Catalonia on Enjoy Food & Travel in a larger map

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

New destinations from Bergen Airport 2010

Vis International non-stop flights from Bergen Airport Flesland - status December 2009 i et større kart

Norwegian Air Shuttle gave citizen of Bergen, Norway, good news this Friday. From March you may catch non-stop flights from Flesland Airport to 10 new European destinations.

Bergen Airport Flesland service Norway's second largest city. In 2009, Norwegian Air Shuttle had seasonal flights to a large number of destinations in Europe. Most closed down in October.

Norwegian will launch new non-stop flights from Bergen from March 2010. Read press-release here.

The new destinations are:
  • København (daily, except Saturday)
  • Stockholm (daily, except Saturday)
  • Barcelona (two flights weekly)
  • Roma (two flights weekly)
  • Kreta-Chania (one flight weekly)
  • Antalya (one flight weekly)
  • Dubrovnik
  • Split
New flights may bring 80 000 travelers to Bergen, creating large revenues and employment in the local tourist industry.

The number of weekly flights to London will increase to 13 winter 2010, providing more flexibility to business and leisure travelers in the Bergen area.

More stories on Bergen

Bergen from A-Z 2007-2009

Close to Flesland you'll find Quality Hotel Edvard Grieg - see review here

(Photo: Departure area, Flesland Airport - Nina Aldin Thune)

Keep track of direct flights from Norwegian airports to destinations in Europe, Africa, Asia and the US

On special maps you find non-stop flights operating from Europe to the largest Norwegian airports. On these maps you will find markers that display status on different non-stop flights to Norway.

You will find maps of flights to these Norwegian airport:

Monday, December 07, 2009

Holy Grail of Crispy Cracklings!!

The holy Grail of Crispy Crackling is time, low heat and seasoning - nothing more, nothing less.

The struggle to get crispy crackling on your pork rib is over, at least for me. I have discovered a stress-free way to get extremely moist, tender meat and the most deliciously crust.

This Friday, I invited my colleagues to celebrate what we have achieved in 2009. I bought two Nordfjord pre-marinated pork ribs, weighing in total 3 kilos / 6,6 lbs. The day before, I discovered a story in a newspaper telling that water had been added to this product. The famous Norwegian cook Bent Stiansen, went as far as warning those buying the rib, risked boiling it instead of baking it.

6 AM: I challenged his claim, simply by doing what I usually do. I placed the rib in the middle of the oven, on a rack over a baking tray. I poured water in the tray. Turned the heat on 100C / 215F, and left for work to attend a meeting. I returned at 10, to work from home, and attend to the food.

12 PM: I removed much of the water around noon and placed another tray under the rib to collect the dripping.

2.30 PM: I poured a bag of frozen Brussel sprouts, seasoned with salt and pepper and shaked the tray to cover the sprouts in dripping

3.30 PM: I placed 1 kilo / 2,2, lbs of pre-boiled potatoes on the tray. At that point I increased the temperature to 200C / 400F and after 10 minutes the cracklings started to puff up. At this point I monitored the rib every 2nd minute to avoid it burning. When the cracklings had a dark bronze colour I took it out and allowed it to rest for ten minutes.

My guests arrived at 4 PM. Then I could serve the most delicious pork rib ever, and I am pleased to say that they all agreed.