Saturday, February 13, 2010

Baklava and other Turkish pastries

If you have a sweet tooth, Turkey is certainly the place to go! Here you can get pastry and cakes that surpass anything you may have tasted in sweetness. As here, on display in a bakery in Sultanahmet - sweet nuts wrapped in filo pastry and dipped in honey!

Pistachio treats

As you walk down Yeniceriler Cadessi in Sultanahmet, you will find shops selling sweets . One specialty is Turkish delights, a rosewater or lemon flavored starch and sugar confectionery, rolled in caster sugar.

If you would like to taste something even sweeter, try one of the sweet pastries filled with nuts.

As these Özel Specials (above), small, neat filo parcels made from flour, pistachio nuts, eggs, butter, starch and sugar.

Another treat is Söbiyet a rolled baklava with pistachio and cream is one of the most popular traditional Turkish desserts. Söbiyet is very similar to baklava, the only difference is that it has cream inside it. The amount of carbohydrates from one of these Turkish bombs exceeds any amount recommended by a dietitian.

You really need a cup of strong, bitter Turkish coffee to get through one. I know from experience.......

Coffee and Baklava at Bedesten Café & Patisserie

There is a quiet corner in the Grand Bazaar. There you find Bedesten Café & Patisserie. I, Per and Susanne Koch sat down in the comfortable sofas, and ordered a small cup of strong Turkish coffee.

I have no sweet tooth, but decided to taste a genuine Turkish baklava, a small cake made from filo pastry filled with nuts and immersed in syrup and honey (sticky fingers).

I was served not one, but three, and knew immediately that one was more than enough. It was sweet beyond any dessert or cake I have eaten during my 49 years on this planet. The only balance was the strong aromatic Turkish coffee.

Where to find Bedesten Café & Patisserie

See this map of the Grand Bazaar and surrounding area.

Vis Istanbul A-Z 2009 Updated January 6th 2010 i et større kart

Friday, February 12, 2010

Riad Yasmina and Riad Yacout

Just outside our room at Eden Andalou Spa & Resort we found two Riads, enclosed open-air spaces. These are characteristic features in local building customs, as the Riads provide much needed shade during the scorching hot North African summers.

There are two wings with two Riads at Eden Andalou Spa & Resort. Our two was Riad Yacout and Riad Yasmina, the latter right outside our door. I loved how the architects of this complex has incorporated this important architectural element in the new buildings.

The exterior was painted in strong terracotta red colors, whereas the Riads were delicately painted in pink and cream.

Three levels of walkways went along the two Riads with doors to the rooms facing the garden or the countryside.

Inside the Riads there was an abundance of exotic plants as cycas, bananas, orange trees, date palms, and Kaffir Lillies around a small fountain.

In the city of Marrakech, you find similar enclosed yards with the same abundance of plants. Many of these have been converted into hotels and gust houses and many have swimming pools as well as gardens in their Riads for guests to retreat to when you tired of the hectic city life.

I visited one, Riad Moulay Said, just a stones throw away from Djemaa el Fnaa, the main square. It is wonderful to walk into one of these secluded spots.

I used to walk through Riad Yasmina at our hotel, when leaving our room, just to admire our special Riad - and discover that fresh lemons were ripe to be picked. Neat!!

Marrakech: Eden Andalou Spa & Resort

Naming a hotel Eden, is an ambitious thing to do. Eden Andalou Spa & Resort did, however, meet our expectations to the fullest. Behind high walls you found an Andalusian Style Palace set in a beautiful garden run by a staff that did their utmost to give you a great hotel experience. Staying at Eden Andalou Spa & Resort was one of the best hotel experiences for years. But this is not the hotel to choose if you want to stay within easy reach of the city area.

Location & area: BBB

Eden Andalou Spa & Resort is located by Route d' Azmezis, 9 kilometers from the city of Marrakech. Here you find a landscape of partly semi desert with hardy shrubbery and partly agricultural land. In the distance you can see the snow capped peaks of the High Atlas rising over 12000 feet over the valley below.

Eden Andalou Spa & Resort is located in a secure area, beautifully planted with orange grows, olive trees, palm trees and other exotic plants.

Service: BBBBB

I will highly praise the staff at Eden Andalou Spa & Resort. I have rarely felt so welcome at arrival and we were taken care of by a professional and kind staff at the reception, restaurants and bars. We left a small contribution for the staff tidying our room and we were both spoilt rotten by them.

We would like to strongly commend the staff at Eden Andalou Spa & Resort for their excellent service during our stay.

Room: BBBBB-

All rooms at Eden Andalou Spa & Resort were suites, starting from 40 square meters in size.

We had booked a junior suite, and were on arrival upgraded to a junior suite with our own terrace. Room 166 had two separate beds, separate room with two comfortable sofas, a large bathroom with two sinks, separate shower and bathtub and a separate toilet room.

Room 166 had a small terrace with modern garden furniture facing both outdoor swimming pools, and the beautiful inner garden. The beds were very comfortable and we had duvets, keeping us warm through the cool Moroccan nights.

The room had a contemporary decor with many traditional features. It was painted in cream and white colours with beautifully detailed trims. Floors were covered in ceramic tiles. Dark wooden furniture matched the colour scheme.

Beautifully tiled bathroom with shower with glass door, and separate bathtub. Tops in polished sand coloured marble.

Generous amount of storage available.

The room had extra features
  • Flat screen TV
  • Mini bar (filled up by request)
  • Safe
  • Hair drier
  • Airconditioning (worked as heating during winter)
  • Dry cleaning service
  • Room service
All was immaculately maintained, not a scratch or a crack in sight and very well cleaned.

Breakfast: BBBBB-

Breakfast was was included in the price and served at Restaurant le Toque by the inner yard and swimming pool.

The buffet at Eden Andalou Spa & Resort had a generous variety of different products and could easily satisfy the most demanding guest. As Morocco is a Muslim country there were no bacon available, but I tucked into the most delicious spicy sausages, an excellent substitute. The other hot dish available on the buffet table was, funny enough, dauphinoise potatoes - not the most obvious choice for my breakfast.

Another great option was that you could order delicious omelets with vegetables outside the restaurant. The cook could prepare a plain omelet, but you could choose onion, tomatoes, ham (halal), and cheese - and I ended up ordering the full package every day.

There were a wide variety of croissants, other pastries, breads, and even small pancakes served with melted butter.

There was a selection of cheeses, boiled ham (halal), fresh tomatoes, cereals and different jams and honey.

Health conscious guests may choose from a wide variety of fresh or dried fruits, cereals, and yogurts.

Very good teas, coffee, chocolate. Peach, pineapple, and freshly pressed orange juice (YUM!!!!).

Facilities: BBBBB-

Entertainment: Three inhouse bars and three restaurants. Be prepared that there may be fewer restaurants open during winter. During our stay we could take a drink in Jazz bar, and dine at Restaurant Le Toque and Le Fes.

Exercise:Indoor swimming pool (in spa area - free during our stay, a fee may be charged), two outdoor pools, one heated to 30 degrees, the other temperated. Exercise-room, different spa treatments, and Hammam (Turkish Bath) available at fixed price list.

Well being: Air conditioning, room service, several large outdoor and indoor rest areas, a few with open fire place. Roof top terrace with bar. Large garden, entertainment centre for kids.

Others: Wireless internet access available, but very expensive (60 dirhams - 5,35 EUR per hour, 200 dirhams - 17,80 EURfor 24 hours). Free shuttle service from hotel to Place Foucauld in Marrakech 6 times a day (first 9.30 AM from hotel, last 11 PM from Marrakech.

Maintenance: Newly built - immaculately cleaned and maintained.

Price: BBBBB

We paid 4500 NOK (552 EUR) per person for flight and 7 nights at Eden Andalou Spa & Resort. That was a real bargain. Be aware that you may easily charge dinners on you room, without being robbed blind. Room service is free (except for the tip for the waiter). We paid 1500 NOK / 185 EUR per person for 7 dinners with 1/2 bottle of wine!!!

Rating the Eden Andalou Spa & Resort experience: BBBBB- (4,68 points)

Professionally run Resort and Spa Hotel at an unbeatable price. One of my best hotel experiences for years. Several restaurants and bars, pools and beautiful garden - a true garden of Eden.

Only downside was the location, as it is located 9 km from Marrakech city centre. This may, however, be an advantage as well. Marrakech is a very chaotic and noisy place to be, and we found, thanks to the free shuttle service, a happy retreat to the secluded location a bliss after a long day in the city.

Highly recommended by Enjoy Food & Travel

Eden Andalou Spa & Resort
9 km Route d'Azmeziz
Marrakech, Morocco

See film of the outdoor recreation area at Eden Andalou Spa & Resort from our stay here

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rating Norwegian Air Shuttle

You may get a bargain when flying Norwegian Air Shuttle, as we did when we booked our trip to Marrakech in the middle of January. The round trip ticket cost around 1500 NOK per person, i.e. less than 200 Euros for a nearly five hour trip from ice and snow to a warm North Africa. Be aware that you will have to pay for a lot of extras, though. But if you are willing to fly with one piece of hand luggage, be seated wherever in the plane and pack you own lunch box, you can travel cheap. If not, it all adds up.

Traveling facts: Our non-stop flight with Norwegian Air Shuttle departs every Saturday Oslo airport to Marrakech Menara Airport. Flight is scheduled to leave Oslo 12.50 PM CET, arriving Marrakech 4.35 PM GMT (-1), returning from Marrakech 5.30 PM GMT landing in Oslo 11.15 PM CET (+1).


Check-in and boarding: BBBBB

Check-in and boarding at Oslo and Marrakech Menara was swift and on time.

Take-off: BB+

None of the flights left on schedule. In Oslo we were more than 15 minutes delayed, and we left Marrakech over 30 minutes after schedule.

Hospitality: BBBB

Nice and welcoming staff and good service offered by the Norwegian Air Shuttle staff.

Service: BBBB

Crew sold food and drinks around 30 minutes after fasten-seatbelt sign had been switched off.

Complementary: B

No complementary food, drink or entertainment offered on board. Food, softdrinks, beer, wine and liquor sold at reasonable prices.

Comfort: BB+

We were seated on seat 10A on our way to Marrakech and 11A on our way back to Oslo. Seating comfort was on each scale during our flight.

Seating on our flight to Marrakech was terrible, providing no room to move our feet, and the seat was narrow and very comfortable.

On our return to Oslo we had a generous amount of leg space and the seats were very comfortable.

We strongly recommends Norwegian Air Shuttle to consider what vessels to use on these long haul flights.

Flying time: BBBBB

4 hours and 45 minutes is by far the best option for Norwegians to Marrakech Menara. Otherwise, you would have to change flights in one of the larger

Arrival: BBBBB

We arrived on schedule at Marrakech Menara airport. Due to strong nosewind and delayed departure we arrived 20 minutes delayed on the return.

Check-out: BBBB

Flight disembarked swiftly at Marrakech Menara Airport, but behind schedule at Oslo Airport.

Duty free goods: BBB

A limited selection of duty free goods on sale on board.

Price: BBBBB

We paid flight + hotel as package at the nice price of NOK 4500,- (552 EUR) per person. This was a great price for flight and hotel - a real bargain.

See more on booking experience here

Rating the Norwegian Air Shuttle experience: BBBB- (3,54 points)

Great price for ticket and good service. Low seating comfort on flight to Marrakech, but satisfactory on way back. Delays on departure and/or arrival both ways, confirming that Norwegian Air Shuttle struggle to meet demands on punctuality.

No complementary goods, and only a limited selection og duty free goods on board.

Ready for takeoff?

See Norwegians flight DY 1699 takeoff from Marrakech Menara Airport February 6th 2010 on this little film clip.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bars with character at Playa del Ingles

It is no secret that Norwegians (and others) travel to the Canary Islands to party. The food might be uninteresting, but there is cheap alcohol in abundance. The hot weather does taking a drink even more tempting during the day, and there are no shortage of bars and taverns to satisfy that particular urge. Here are a few bars we visited during our stay at Playa del Ingles.

Sosialkontoret Bar

This bar seemed like a kind of a joke. Its name refers to the Norwegian State Social Security bureau. Does this indicate that many social security clients frequent these premises? I do not know, but the name left us with a good laugh.

Located by the Yumbo Centre at Playa del Ingles, it was a place for us to visit - once! Norwegians were sitting everywhere chatting to each other, or reading one of our newspaper for sale nearby.

If you want, you could enjoy Norwegians specialties here as well, as Spekesild, salted and smoked herring with you cold pint of lager.

Gio Bar

Gio Bar is a giant leap from Norwegian culture to gay culture. The area around Yumbo Centre is packed with gay restaurants, bars and clubs. The rule here, is as everywhere - if you've seen one, you've seen them all.

Still we liked Gio Bar, on the ground level of the Yumbo Centre. They served great drinks and was located just by the promenade, so you could peek at all the people walking by.

And it was not entirely gay, as it attracted youngster and straight people as well. A good thing - if you ask me!!

Paddy's by the Sea

If you are looking for a beach side bar, I will strongly recommend Paddy's by the Sea by the Faro lighthouse at Maspalomas. This is the hangout after a swim or a walk by the beach.

One thing that stood out was a framed t-shirt with the signature of Nick Faldo, the famous golfer. Whether he had dropped by for a drink here is unknown.

Whe substituted our cold lager with a Magners, a deliciously fresh Irish Apple cider served in pint bottles, a more generous sized portion than the regular 50 cl we usually get in our metric world.

Bilbao Berria revisited

I have visited the popular tapas restaurant Bilbao Berria in Barcelona a number of times these last years, and always decided to revisit, as in June 2009. After this last visit, I found that much of the previous magic had disappeared. The once charming chaos felt distressing and claustrophobic, and it was hard to get the waiters' attention. The food, however, was still to die for, and worth a visit if you stay in the Catalan capital, but do not expect good service!

Location: BBBBB-

Bilbao Berria is located at Placa Nova in the heart of the city, just by the magnificent cathedral and the Barri Gothic and a short walk away from Placa Catalunya and Las Ramblas.

Service: BB

As Bilbao Berria is a self-service restaurant where you are left to fend for yourself. No menu necessary, as you just walk up to the counter and pick what you want. You pay according to the length of the wooden stick pinned to your food (two sizes).

The only thing requiring service is to order drinks and to pay, both equally difficult in the noisy restaurant. This time I really had to really work to get the waiters attention, much harder than during previous visits to this restaurant.

Interior & Atmosphere: BBBB-

Bilbao Berria had recently been renovated to a more contemporary design, but it was as overcrowded as earlier. We felt rather pressed for space as we watched the commotion in the restaurant. As popularity for this restaurant had soared, much of the charm had disappeared.

Food: BBBBB-

You definitely go til Bilbao Berria to enjoy Pintxos, Basque style tapas served on thinly sliced white loaf. You simply walk to the counter and take what you like, and pay per stick left on your plate. Here are the tapas we chose in June.

Tarte with mayonnaise based salad.

Quite a few pintxos varieties have mayonnaise based salads based either on boiled ham or prawns or tuna.

This delicate tarte is made with eggs, garnished with a large black olive and a slice of baked peppers.

This is a variation of a traditional pintxo, served on a pastry shell, whereas most of them are served on a slice of bread.

This pintxo provides a delicious contrast of different tastes, mildness from the rich egg salad, sweet aromas of the baked red pepper, and the strong salty olive.

Pintxo with red peppers stuffed with tuna salad

Another favourite, that I always choose when I visit Bilbao Berria. One large grilled pepper stuffed with a creamy mayonnaise based tuna salad.

The stuffed pepper is pinned into one slice of baguette.

This is a tapa that I have made with a little twist, at the latest at my best friend Ketil Zahl's 50th anniversary.

See full story here

Pintxo with hot'n spicy chorizo

This hot pintxo is another favourite. Spaniards are experts on how to prepare fresh, cured and/or smoked sausages.

There are a large number of sausages that vary in tastes from mild aromatic to strongly spiced.

This chorizo found among the hot pintxos is hot in more sense of the word than one, as it is packed with spices and garlic and served on a crisp slice of bread.

Pintxos with ruccola and chorizo - see story here

Pintxo with bacon, cheese and hot green chili

A pintxo tower with bacon, cheese and a hot green chili.

These fried, lightly salted green chilis are most often by themselves whole with seeds.

They are called "pebrtos del Padrón" (catalan) or "pimientos del Padrón" (spanish)

Mini croissant with smoked salmon

Norway are one of the largest producers of farmed salmon in the world. As I chose this small croissant I wondered whether the sliced salmon was Norwegian or Scottish.

Much simpler than the other bite sized foods under offer on the counter at Bilbao Berria, but equally delicious.

Wine: BBBB

The wines are served in small glasses. I chose a glass of chilled white wine, perfect for a hot summer's day. It was a medium dry, light, and fruity white wine. Good and very inexpensive.

Rating the Bilbao Berria Experience: BBBB (3,82 points)

Location and food is as excellent as earlier. Service and space worse than earlier, as Bilbao Berria has gained popularity. A stress-full and noisy experience. I wonder whether I will return for another meal, or try elsewhere.

Address :
Plaça Nova, 3, Barcelona
Area : Barrio Gótico
Opening hours : Every day from 9am to midnight.

See earlier rating here

Eating in Bilbao Berria (2006)

Interior of Bilbao Berria - see this short film clip on YouTube