Friday, June 04, 2010

Sights, scents and flavours of the mysterious souqs


Look at this beautiful picture of pale green and purple olives. It is taken by the entrance of the main souqs in Marrakech, a maze of small passageways on the western edge of Djemaa el Fna. Here you may buy a multitude of different, fruits, roots, oils, and spices, but do consult a local expert if you purchase medicinal products, as some may bring more harm than good.

Mysterious roots and sprigs

At home you walk through your own supermarket where everything is properly tagged, but in the souqs your have no clue what is under offer.

Stored in sacs or baskets you find an enormous amount of different articles with unknown uses.

Roots, sprouts, dried rosebuds - for what? For medication, perfumes, food, teas? You are left to speculate!

As these sacs filled to the top by sprigs of a succulent plant (probably a subspecies of Euphorbia) and small purple rosebuds, ideal to make your own rose water, so popular in Moroccan cuisine.

As European tourists pass through the souqs, some of the vendors suggested some of their ingredients as remedies for a multitude of different ailments from back ache to improving your love life.

I would personally consult a local doctor on how and for what ailment one might use these specific local ingredients.

It is a fact that many natural remedies may have highly favourable benefits for your health, but other may, if used incorrectly, have very unfavourable effects on your health.

Fresh produce all year around

Morocco baskes in sunshine all year. With a minimum temperature in winter of around 20 degress Celsius (68 on the Fahrenheit scale), fruits and vegetables may be grown and harvested all year.

Much of the land around Marrakech may seem arid, but the slopes closer to the Mediterranean are very fertile as I observed from the plane. It was a strange experience to fly over the green pastures and woods by the sea, and then suddenly to cross over the first ridge into the plains leading up to the High Atlas, seeing arable land turn into wasteland and desert.

But even on these plains, fresh produce is grown and brought to market, thanks to artificial irrigation, as what is on display on this cart filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. It cannot get any fresher than this!

Spices bring a Maghreb touch to your cooking

One of the safest things to buy in the souqs is spices, and there are certainly an abundance of spices and herbs to choose from. You'll find large heaps of powders in any colour for sale, and all vendors will help you to find what you are looking for.

I bought two different powdered spices. The brightly red harissa is a mix from ground dried chili, tomatoes and paprika that the Moroccans use as it is, or add to different local dishes or use as rub for different meats. Refreshingly hot. I use harissa powder to spice up stews or soups, and it literally brings tears to your eyes.

The second mix is ras el hanout, also an individually prepared mix from different herbs and spices. It is used more or less the same way as harissa, and is an important ingredient in an iconic Moroccan dish - the Harira soup.

Have a chat with the spice vendor. He may initiate you into other hidden corners of the Moroccan cuisine and supply you with the appropriate powder for your cauldron.

Impressions from the mysterious main souq as seen through my camera


Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sigtuna Rådhus, Sweden


Sigtuna has a long history, but is today a small town, far from its former glory. By Stora Torget (Main square) you find the former City Hall, the smallest in Sweden.

It is one of the many charming buildings in this historic town, and goes back to 1744, when it was inaugurated by mayor Erik Kyhlman.

It is a rectangular ochre coloured building with one floor, with a mansard roof and a small clock tower. It has a symmetric facade with the main entrance facing the square flanked with two windows one each side.

It was in use for two hundred years and the last city council meeting was held in the building in 1948.

More Sigtuna stories
See rådhuset and other sights on this map of Sigtuna


Vis Sigtuna and surrounding area 2009 i et større kart

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

CLOSED JANUARY 2012: Basement Restaurant & Bar - Göteborg

Last year we enjoyed a great dinner at Fond Restaurant in Göteborg. It had then been awarded one star in the prestigious Michelin guide. In April we explored another Michelin restaurant in the city, and we were most definitely seduced by the culinary witchcraft performed at Basement Restaurant & Bar.

Location: BBBB+

Basement Restaurant & Bar is located in the residential area of Lorensberg, a quiet neigbourhood in downtown Göteborg, just a short walk away from the city centre. Easy to get to by foot or by public transportation.

Service: BBBBB

The staff at Basement Restaurant & Bar deserves a Michelin star just for their great service. We were pampered by attentive and skilled waiters from we entered the door until we left, then highly satisfied and content.

They were all available to us at any time of our meal and constantly kept an eye for all our needs, discreetly and with a smile.

All waiters showed great skills and did willingly engage in conversation on what food we were served and on what wine served to accompany it. At one occasion we were even given access to the house sommelier to answer a few questions too demanding to our waiter.

Food were served and table was cleared promptly. The exquisite service was a great joy to us!!!

Interior & atmosphere: BBBB+

The Basement Restaurant & Bar is, rightly guessed, located in a basement. Interior wise there were no extravaganza. Tables were located along discreetly coloured stone walls with very little interior details, except a few pieces of art.

This was certainly a restaurant where you should concentrate on the food and not on what was going on in the room.

There were plenty of room by the table, and enough space for all the cutlery, china and glasses that would appear during the large dinner, and the good distance to the neighbouring table felt very reassuring.

Food: BBBBB

We ordered the 6 course dinner priced at SEK 695,- with a wine menu for SEK 455, all in all SEK SEK 1140 (118 EUR). This is a seriously good deal, as you get tastes and wines in abundance.

Crayfish and scallop, thinly sliced, served with woked cuttlefish, avocado cream and grated 3 year old Parmegiano Reggiano and newly picked meadow herbs: BBBBB-

My kind of starter, scallops, one of my favourite seafood, and crayfish, raw and very thinly sliced, all elegantly presented on a black plate.

Exceptionally delicate seafood flavours topped with a mature Parmesan cheese, and it all worked well when matched with the slightly bitter herbs. The cuttlefish was equally well prepared.

I had never thought of using an avocado sauce to such a dish, but it worked surprisingly well.

Duck liver in serrano ham, with port jelly and raspberry and chocolate compote: BBBBB

A truly scrumptious dish. One slice of duck liver wrapped in the most delicious slice of high quality Spanish cured ham served on a rectangular plate, with two small slices of toast, one cube of port jelly and a spoon filled with chocolate compote.

Duck liver rich and deliciously creamy, and its sweet- and nutty aromas was a great match to the ham.

The port jelly and raspberry and chocolate provided much needed sourness to the rich dish.

Sensational!!!

Angled hake, steamed with lime beurre blanc, roasted pumpkin seeds and Atlantic salmon roe: BBBBB

Another delicious serving from the sea, served in a beautiful deep plate. A decent size of fried fish, topped with beautiful ruby red pearl-sized salmon roe, and crunchy pumpkin seeds, resting on mange-tout all immersed in beurre blanc.

This was seriously delicious, one of the best dishes of them all. Fish perfectly fried, firm and flaky, vegetables prepared "al dente". Wonderful creamy sauce.

Fish lightly salted, and the the large Atlantic salmon roe "popped" in your mouth providing a salt-metallic taste. Good balanced by the acidity in the beurre blanc.

Medium prepared ostrich, with cream on grilled sweet potatoes and garlic, served with salsa on tomato chili and coriander: BBBBB-

The meat was ostrich, a meat resembling, and easily mistaken for beef, and may be served medium prepared. A large chunk served with a hot, spicy salsa and with an artificial curl of sweet potatoes. All swimming in a dark gravy.

The meat was not tender but rather tough, and I struggled to chew, hardly the thing one might expect on a restaurant as Basement. My two other companions did not experience this to the extent. The rest was perfect.

All interesting complementary flavours derived from the meat, the hot peppery salsa and sweetness from the sweet potatoes.

Nordbotten cheese, pecorino and French blue cheese with tomato and apricot marmalade: BBBBB

Three different cheeses with different tastes and textures served on flat stone plate, with an individually sealed compote glass and three slices of bread.

A hard Italian cheese with a characteristic aroma, made from sheep's milk, matched by a soft and mild Swedish cheese and a creamy strong French blue cheese.

Three aromas perfectly matched with a sweet bread made with fruits and nuts and a sweet marmalade.


Dark chocolate and banana and vanilla ice cream, roasted peanuts and sea salt: BBBBB

A box of different, conflicting and even surprising flavours all served on a white piece of china.

The most surprising element on the plate was the salty foam, not intuitively connected to the other flavours, but the salt worked surprisingly well.

The other flavours ranged from the traditional dark chocolate ice, the less traditional banana and vanilla ice, with a slightly browned slice of banana. An excellent end of the long meal at Basement.

Wines: BBBBB-

The wine packet at Basement Restaurant & Bar consisted of four different wines, three white and one red.

First a white wine from the Delheim estate in South Africa made from the chenin blanc grapes to the seafood and foie gras de canard. This was a sensational, surprisingly rich wine matching the dishes well. It was followed by a chardonnay to the fish. This was hardly the best match, and I did not find a similar match to the delicious fish. The Côte du Rhone served to the meat was perfect.

The choice for cheese and desserts is most often a sweet wine, e.g. a Sauternes and a late harvest. We were surprised to learn that they served a dry wine from the French Loire district. I am happy to say that that was a good choice. There was sufficient sweetness in the bread and jam to contrast the cheese, and a sweet wine would have been an overkill.

All in all - the choice of wines were good, except from the chardonnay. I would have preferred a much drier white wine to the fish.

(Photo: Delheim company website)

Rating the Basement Restaurant & Bar experience: BBBBB- (4,67 points)

Another great Michelin experience in Göteborg - in fact even better than the food served at Fond in 2009. Awesome food (4,83 points out of 5), excellent wine package (4,68 points), and that is the most important part of the visit. The basement interior was slightly disappointing. The service was excellent from the first start.

Enjoy Food & Travel concludes!! Basement Restaurant & Bar in Göteborg is worth a visit. An impressive experience to a very favourable price.

Address:
Basement Restaurant & Bar
Götabergsgatan 28, 411 34 Göteborg
Phone: +46 031-28 27 29
Fax: +46 031-28 27 37
E-mail: bokning@restbasement.com
Website: http://www.restbasement.com/

See location on this map of Göteborg



Vis Gothenburg on Enjoy Food & Travel 2009-2010 i et større kart

More restaurants in Göteborg

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

New direct flights from Norway - June 2010


Most seasonal flights have already started. New in June is that Iceland Express, an Icelandic low cost carrier, will start two weekly flights from Oslo to Reykjavik, connecting more travelers from the Norwegian capital to New York.

Fare for a round trip ticket to the Bug Apple will start from NOK 4045 (USD 722 / EUR 481). Here is an update on all new direct flights from Norwegian airports to international destinations for June 2010.

JUNE: New direct flights from Oslo Airport
See all direct flights from Oslo Airport here

JUNE: New direct flights from Rygge Airport
  • GREECE: Thessaloniki (Norwegian Air Shuttle)
  • TURKEY: Chania (Norwegian Air Shuttle)
See all direct flights from Rygge Airport here

JUNE: New direct flights from Trondheim Airport
See all direct flights from Trondheim airport here

Photo: Hello MD-90-30 HB-JIE operating for Iceland Express by JuergenL

Monday, May 31, 2010

Truffle risotto


Here is another treat for dinner. Risotto with real truffles, an exclusive and seductive choice for a romantic dinner.

Truffle risotto (Serves 2-3)

Butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
30 grams black or summer truffles, finely chopped
200g/7 oz arborio (risotto) rice
1 wineglass dry white vermouth (dry Martini or Noilly Prat) or dry white wine
50 cl (1 pint) vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
50 grams/2oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp good truffle oil

Melt butter and olive oil in a skillet. Blanch onion and garlic until golden, then add truffles.

Pour in rice and allow it to be covered in the butter and oil, and add dry vermouth. Stir while the wine evaporates. Then add 10 cl stock at the time, and stir so rice does not stick in the pan. Allow to be soaked up by the rice each time.

Check if the arborio rice is slightly al dente, tender but still with a little bite. Add more stock if necessary. Do not allow rice to get completely dry, but serve when a little moistness is left

Season if necessary. Add parmesan cheese, and a generous drizzle of truffle oil when serving.

Rustic bread and a dry white wine is perfect as company to the truffle risotto.

Upgrade to a white truffle risotto!

See this clip on YouTube.



More truffle stories on Enjoy Food & Travel

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Salumeria - a new Italian deli in Oslo



As I strolled through the city a week ago, I found that a small Italian deli had been opened in the old Bazaars surrounding Oslo Cathedral. Salumeria has, in fact, been open for a year, without me discovering it. I bought a few treats to bring to my summer home.


Good delicatessen come and go in Norway. This as most Norwegian prefer price to quality, when buying food. As we are not part of the common market, outrageous duties are charged on imported quality foods. This makes small delis like Salumeria struggle. Why should these importers of small quantities pay the same duty as the large supermarket chains? There should be a graded duty system in place to help them survive.

It is most certainly our duty to help suppliers of foreign quality foods survive. Without them, the Oslo culinary scene would be so much poorer.

Back to what Salumeria has to offer. Choose from a wide variety of Italian fine foods as cured ham, salamis, cheese, marmalades, olive oils, balsamic vinegars and pasta. I did not buy much, as it was just before pay day, but I bought a packet of sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, one small mild Italian salami, and one much stronger.

I felt very welcome at Salumeria, and the staff had time for a food chat, and we got a taste of the products before buying them. This is most definitely a place that I will return to, and that I will recommend to those of you looking for a weekend treat.

Address:
Salumeria
Dronningensgate 27, 0154 Oslo, Norway,
Phone: +47 22 82 52 01
Join the Salumeria group on facebook


View Oslo on Enjoy Food & Travel - from A-Z in a larger map

Photo: gruppo di pancette affumucate by Dancan