Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rating Clarion Hotel Tyholmen, Arendal

I have always wanted to stay at Clarion Hotel Tyholmen in my hometown Arendal. It has one of the most beautiful locations you can think of, and a lot of character. It is a new hotel built according to local traditions and with a distinct maritime theme. It was a nice stay, but the hotel failed to deliver that dream stay I expected.

Location: BBBBB

Clarion Hotel Tyholmen is located at Tyholmen, the old part of Arendal, among wooden houses dating as far back as 1650. It has a superb view of Galtesund - the fjord leading from Skagerrak, into Arendal. The city's bus terminal is only a 5 minute walk away and the railway station is also just a short walk away.

Service: BBB+

Receptionist gave excellent service at check-in, but failed to be present on several occasions when I needed assistance. At check out, we were three people waiting, and as there were no bell to call the receptionist. We had to call out for the receptionist to attend to us, hardly the best service you could offer an impatient guest.

The service in the breakfast room had room for improvement as well, as they were a little slow to clear tables and replacing napkins, plates and cutlery.

Room: BBBB+

Room 401 was a medium sized room on the top floor of the hotel. Neutral design with pale yellow / cream coloured walls and blue wall-to-wall carpet.

Classic furniture in birch wood. Two single beds placed along a matching head board in birch.

Compact bathroom with bathtub, decorated with pink tiles and basin surrounded by a marble top.

One small armoire. As this was a room for two, the armoire did not provide enough storage for us both. Part of it was taken up by the minibar. One basin in bathroom, but top provided more than enough space for your toiletries.

Both hotel room and bathroom were well maintained. No cracked tiles, and no dust found on picture frames and other surfaces, and the inside of the window frame.

We looked for air conditioning or any other sign of air processing, but did not find any. The room got very warm and we had to open the window in order to get fresh air during the night.

Some other features of our room:
  • Flat screen TV
  • Minibar
  • Hot water kettle with coffee and tea
  • Free wireless connection in excellent order
  • Hair drier
  • Room service.
Breakfast: BBBB

Breakfast was included in the price, and we could enjoy an wide variety of foods during our early meal.

There were bacon, sausages, and baked beans. Bacon was cooked rather than fried and crispy. Sausages was not properly fried. There were both scrambled and fried eggs, and I chose the latter. All my "warm" food was stone cold. There were soft and hard-boiled eggs as well.

There were different kind of rolls and breads, and they even provided a gluten free alternative.

There was a wide variety of meats, cheese, paté, herring, but none of the mayonnaise based salads you often find in a well stocked breakfast buffets

For the health freaks there were muesli's, fruits and yogurt. There were freshly brewed coffee on each table and you could choose from orange and apple juice.

Facilities: BBBB

  • Breakfast restaurant
  • Bar /restaurant
Exercise fitness:
  • Fitness studio in the city available free for guests.
Well being:
  • Air conditioning (in working order?)
  • Room service
  • Rest area
  • WI-FI zone
  • Extra PC in reception area

All the hotel was well maintained and well cleaned.

Price: BBB

We paid NOK 1395 per room including breakfast. I would have expected a higher standard, more facilities, and a more sufficient breakfast for that price.

We paid, in my mind, too much compared to what we got. Clarion Hotel Tyholmen does not offer facilities or a room standard that may defend paying a price like this.

Rating the Clarion Hotel Tyhomen: BBBB- (3,60 points)

Prime location in the old part of Arendal and just by the water. We had decent sized room with a view over the Arendal city fjord. Few inhouse facilities offered to paying guests. Clarion Tyholmen Hotel is overpriced compared to what is delivered.

Clarion Hotel Tyholmen
Teaterplassen 2, 4801 Arendal, Norway
Phone:+47 37 07 68 00
Fax:+47 37 07 68 01
See location on map of Arendal

Arendal stories on Enjoy Food & Travel
Room 401 with your own eyes?

See my little film posted on YouTube

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wine in progress

Last year my friends Stian and Øyvind brought a grape vine down to our summer home. Later that year, I purchased another variety. They have both survived the harsh winter of 2009/2010, and has woken up to face another summer. May this will be the start of a prosperous vineyard?

I know that two plants hardly will matter if you want a decent harvest of grapes. I have to admit that I bought mine primarily for decorative purposes, as I love the ornamental leaves on these vines.

The funny thing, though, is that people in Norway believe that grape vines are exotic plants. It is true that some are rather timid, but other varieties e.g. from Eastern Europe are used to very cold winters, and would be well adjusted to our climate.

The question is whether I will get some grapes. If you grow them in a greenhouse (as Stian and Øyvinds), you can get large dark blue grapes. If you are growing them outside, you may struggle if it is a cool summer. In fact my uncle and aunt that used to live in the quaint community of Tvedestrand by the Norwegian south coast hard grape vines climbing in a large pine tree, and they could harvest small green grapes on a regular basis.

Stian and Øyvind gave me a hybrid between a North American wild grape and a European grape variety for my garden. As the North American wine variety may be used to cold inhospitable winters, its offspring may be well adjusted to the climate of South Eastern Norway. The other was bought at Plantasjen, my local garden centre. They import plants according to the national plant hardiness zones, so they should have a good chance to grow to maturity.

I will keep you posted on my wine producing adventure during the 2010 season.

See Stian and Øyvinds blog here

(Photo: Grapes from greenhouse at Stav Østre: Stian and Øyvind)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Polcari's Bridgwaye Inn, Scituate MA

The Bridgwaye Inn was built before the American Revolution. Originally it was called Ye Surprise Inn, it provided comfortable relaxation for those traveling from Plymouth to Scituate. Located by the Whites Ferry, carrying passengers across the South River, the Inn became a natural resting place for travelers. When the ferry was replaced with a bridge, the name changed to The Bridgwaye Inn.

Location: BBB

The Polcari's Bridgwaye Inn is located in the coastal community of Humarock in Scituate MA.

Humarock is a charming community hidden behind a barrier island on the Boston south shore, popular as a summer resort, with beaches attracting swimmers and surfers.

Beautiful as can be, you may not get there without your own car. Even if you travel by the Greenbush Line to the end station it is a good stretch to Humarock.

So for those of us relying on public transportation, getting to Polcari's Bridgwaye Inn is out of the question, unless you have a cousin in the neighbourhood, that is!

Service: BBBBB-

Good service, as would be expected, at lunchtime a day in September after Labour Day. We were alone and were given all the attention from a sweet waitress. We ordered and were served without any delay.

Interior: BBBB-

Considering the long history of the house, I have to admit I expected that the owners would have created an interior underlining the age of the house.

The Polcari's Bridgwaye Inn could have been any of the countless restaurants along the coast. I have, in fact, seen more interesting interiors in many newer, contemporary restaurants that reflects the spirit of Northern New England better.

Interior looked more like a cheap diner - peach coloured walls, modern grey tiles on the ceiling, comfortable white and grey chairs and tables.

A good thing it has a spacious interior with much room between the table.

Food: BBBBB-

The food at Polcari's Bridgwaye Inn was excellent and reasonably priced. You may choose from a wide variety of fish, chicken and meat specialties, salads, pizzas and desserts.

See menu here

I ordered a bowl of Soup de Jour at $ 4,49 followed by Broiled Seafood Platter priced at $15.99.

Soup de Jour: BBBB+

A cup of thick soup with vegetables and black beans, flavoured with cajun spices.

Very "rustic" presentation, some of the soup had been poured out of the edge of the white china bowl.

The Soup de Jour had large chunks of different vegetables and soft spicy black beans. Good balance and additional heat from the hot Cajun spices.

Broiled Seafood Platter : BBBBB

This dish is based on traditional New England fish pie recipes, i.e. different seafood - here scallops, scrod, shrimp and sole topped with seasoned bread crumbs.

It was served with steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes rolls and butter

A huge portion, that I had to make a choice on what to eat. I decided to concentrate on the fish and vegetables.

Delicious!! Crisp, hot breadcrumbs and perfectly prepared seafood, scallops raw in the middle, shrimps firm, but not tough and fish firm and flaky. Vegetables served "al dente"

Well seasoned, salt, pleasant sweetness from the breadcrumbs and served with a lemon to add that necessary acidity.

Beverage: BBBB

I decided to pick a glass of white wine, served icing cold. Pleasantly dry and perfect to the dish

Rating: BBBB (3,98 points)

The Polcari's Bridgwaye Inn is another of those New England restaurants out of bounce for those of us who does not drive, located in a charming coastal community and with a long and dramatic history.

It has certainly not used the historic potential the Inn has to create a unique dining experience. The place and the interior cries out for more character, and the presence of this would have improved the score considerably.

The service and food at The Polcari's Bridgwaye Inn, however, is reasonably priced and delicious and deserves its BBBBB- rating, and the main dish was scrumptious. My complements to the chef.

Polcari's Bridgwaye Inn
1265 Ferry Street
Marshfield, MA 02050
Phone: +1-781-834-2020

View New England on Enjoy Food & Travel 2006 - 2009 in a larger map

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Copp's Hill Burying Ground, Boston

By the Freedom Trail, you pass Copp's Hill Burying Ground, the second oldest cemeteries in Boston. It was founded as far back as 1659, and house a number of notable citizen from Boston's old history.

I have already told the story of the Granary and King's Chapel Burying Ground. These cemeteries hold the graves of some of the most renowned members of Bostons pre and post revolutionary era. Copp's Hill is not resting place for the same number of famous men or women, as the two other.

It is located on a hill, facing the North End on one side, and Charlestown on the opposite side. It has been extended in 1711, 1809, and 1895. It fell into disrepair in the late 19th century.

Famous people buried on Copp's Hill

Here are the most famous habitants of Copp's Hill Burying Ground.

Increase Mather (Left) (1639 - 1723) a Puritan minister involved with the government of the colony, the administration of Harvard College, and most notoriously, the Salem witch trials.

Cotton Mather, (1663-1728) socially and politically influential Puritan minister, prolific author and pamphleteer. Son of Increase Mather. Remembered for his role in the murders of several people accused of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials.

Robert Newman, the patriot who placed the signal lanterns in the steeple of Old North Church for Paul Revere's midnight ride to Lexington and Concord

Prince Hall (1735-1807), the father of Black Freemasonry.

George Worthylake, (died November 3, 1718) was the first lighthouse keeper in what was to become the United States. He was also the first to die in the line of duty.

Two other graves

William Clark (1670-1742)

This is the tombstone of William Clark Esq, trader and councellor of the Bay State Colony.

He was born in Boston in 1670. About 1713 he built a large house in the North End.

In 1702 he married Sarah Brondson; their children included Robert Clark and Benjamin Clark.

His grave at Copp's Hill features the coat of arms of his family.

John Wall (1644-1720)

This tombstone marks the grave of John Wall. Hie died 76 years old in 1720.

It resembles many of the stones found on Granary Burial Ground and Kings Chapel Burial Ground.

The symbol of winged skull or deaths head on top of the headstone is a symbol going back to medieval times. It is found on 8 out of 10 headstones on Copp's Hill.

View New England on Enjoy Food & Travel 2006 - 2009 in a larger map

Monday, June 14, 2010

King crab on toast and a bottle of Moët

Making a King crab sandwich is neither cooking nor preparation, rather an assembling job, but the end result is both easy, esthetically pleasing, and wickedly good. What can beat King Crab and a bottle of prime bubbly. Nothing!

I will not deny that peeling and extracting meat from king crab claws involves a fair amount of suffering. Those beasts have taken great care protecting that delicious meat behind an armour of spikes. The good thing is that the shells are soft, and instead of a nutcracker, you just need a pair of scissors to cut the shells open.

I bought 1,5 kilo (a little over 3 lb's) of frozen claws, as this treat was offered at the ridiculously low price of NOK 99 (12,50 EUR) per kilo at my local supermarket. I divided the lot into four equally sized portions before freezing them down.

I took out two packages of four claws each, a decent portion for a good lunch. We sat down by the table in my country garden and started the work.

We had toasted two slices of good bread each and then we chopped, cut, tore, and squeezed out every ounce of delicious crab meat until our knuckles were bleeding.

Then we placed the heap of meat on toast, squeezed over fresh lime and a large dollop of Hellmann's Mayo!!

Susanne had brought a bottle of Moët & Chandon Champagne that had been properly chilled in the fridge, and presto we had one of these culinary million-dollar-moments.

Hubba, hubba!

More crab stories!

More champagne stories

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Swedish shopping bag

When going abroad, even driving the short distance crossing into Sweden, I always buy groceries. This as I am getting increasingly bored by the sight of Norwegian supermarkets. When visiting Sweden two weeks ago, we visited Lidl and the large Coop supermarket at Bergvik, both located in Karlstad. Here is a short account of my shopping bag.

Lidl - Bratwurst

If you want some variation from your bacon and egg breakfast, substitute bacon for Nürnberger Bratwurst available at Lidl.

I bought two packets of small (double portions) and one packet of large sausages, with six sausages in each package.

What I did discover, when I came home, was that the use-by date was very short, in fact only a week. Buying such a big portion for one, it is best to split it up, and place a suitable portion in the freezer for later use.

Nürnberger bratwurst is great for breakfast and on the grill.

(Photo: Nürnberger Rostbratwürste, auf dem Nürnberger Kristkindelmarkt by Schlurcher)

Coop - Kelda soups

Quality of pre made soups and sauces vary, and most are not worth mentioning. Swedish Kelda, however, make some the best sauces and soups I know. They are also low in fat, and may be enjoyed with a good consciousness.

The spicy Thai soup is surprisingly pungent, and have that fresh citrus character derived from lemon grass and lime leaves. The chicken Carib soup is equally tasty.

This time I did not find the chicken soup, and bought two packages of fish soup. The Thai soup is as delicious, but I was slightly disappointed by the quality of fish soup. It was a little bland, and I had to add some sweet chili, lime juice and cream to improve the product.

Italian and Spanish charcuterie

I always try to find cured ham, salamis or other products abroad. This as these quality products are subjected to heavy duty to protect the much more inferior domestic products.

I do not say that there are no good producers in Norway, but products from high quality manufacturers are not widely available, and when found they'll cost you an arm and a leg.

You are left with mass produced, over salted and under cured and over priced products of inferior quality. So I always try to find good salamis when crossing the Swedish border.

When visiting Coop at Bergvik I found 500 grams of delicious Italian ham for just SEK 99 (10 EUR), and 150 grams of lomo embuchado, i.e. Spanish cured and salted pork tenderloin for just 40 SEK (EUR 3,50).

Other products to look out for when going to Sweden
  • Ultra pasteurized milk.
    My friend Terje always buy ultra pasteurized milk at Lidl. This is a product range not available in Norway. Perfect for those of us that do not consume industrial quantities of milk. If left unopened, it will keep for weeks, even months. By a tray - or two!

  • Wine and beer
    Prices at the Swedish Systembolaget are much lower than in Norway. I always buy my quota of wine (3 liters/6 pints) of wine and 2 liter/4 pints of beer. Strong ales as Belgian Chimay and Leffe are sold for less than half the price you would have to pay at the Norwegian counterpart Vinmonopolet.

  • Cigars
    Hardly the most ideal product, but you are allowed 50 cigars or 100 cigarillos back over the border. Price of a packet of 10 of Manne in Norway is around NOK 150, but in Sweden you pay around SEK 55, i.e. a third of the price. So there is a lot to save buying just 5 packets.
(Photo top: Lidl supermarket in Lomma, Sweden by Väsk)