Saturday, July 31, 2010

Uncle Sam wants more passenger information from November 1st

- Ticket chaos threatens transatlantic travel


Traveling to the US in November? Have you booked a ticket yet? If you have, check whether your operator or airline may meet new demands from American authorities. If not, you may be re booked at a higher price.

From 2009 all travelers traveling under the visa waiver program must register in ESTA - the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. Failing to do so, may mean that you are refused entry into the US. You are advised to register as quickly as possible and at the latest 72 hours prior to departure.

The American "Secure Flight"-system introduced in 2009 will now demand that information on age, date of birth, and sex shall be registered when booking a flight to the US.

These "Secure Flight" rules will also include passengers only passing American airspace on their way to a non-US destination.

Few booking systems are adapted to these new US demands. This according to what Danmarks Rejsebureau Forening, Lars Thykier states in an interview to the Danish travel site Take Off. Adapting to the new demands in the "Secure-Flight" system may therefore lead to chaos as operators will have to re book travelers with the additional information to conform to the new rules. This may lead to higher prices.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A drink at Sky Bar

Yesterday I and a few friends ended up at Sky Bar. Located on 33rd floor at Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, you have a fabulous view of Oslo.

I have found that it is one of the best places to bring visitors from out of town. You descend and ascend the 34 floors in an outside glass elevator. A option for those of you with fear of heights is to take an inside elevator from the lobby and up to 32nd floor. From here you have to walk the stair up to the bar.

From the Sky Bar you have a superb view of Oslo city centre, as you are on the top of the tallest building in town, even in Norway.

Try visiting during the evening, when you can admire the countless city lights. Even I fell out of town when I sit there with a glass of sparkling wine.

Address:
Sky Bar
Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel
Sonja Henies plass 3,0185 Oslo

A view from the top on YouTube

Here is a short film clip showing the view from 33rd floor of Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel.



Other Radisson Hotel stories
(Photo: Oslo Plaza by by John Erling Blad)

Statholderens Krostue, Oslo


Stattholdergaarden is one of four restaurants awarded a Michelin star in Oslo. In the basement, you find Statholderens Krostue, where you may enjoy the same cuisine under 17th century vaults. We did, and dining here may be the best culinary experience in Oslo ever, and I have lived here for 30 years!!

Rating Stattholdergaarden experience: Highly recommendable BBBBB- (4,69 points)
  • Location: BBBB (4,0 points)
  • Service: BBBBB (5,0 points)
  • Interior & atmosphere: BBBBB (4,83 points)
  • Food: BBBBB (4,91 points)
  • Wine: BBBBB- (4,75 points)
Dining in "Stattholderens" basement

Statholderens Krostue is located in Stattholdergården, built in 1640 by Peter Grüner and later rented by Stattholder Ulrik Fredrik Gyldenløve. He was the illegitimate son of king Fredrik III of Denmark-Norway and became Stattholder, de facto Viceroy and the Danish king’s representative to Norway in 1664.

Statholdergården is located in a busy street, not far from Oslo Stock Exchange and the charming Kvadraturen area connected to the Old Akershus fortress.

See more on Stattholdergården and other buildings from the Renaissance here

To enter the basement you have to descend by a steep staircase and you find yourself brought back 370 years. Strong vaults holds up massive stone walls underlining the history of the building. The rooms have been renovated in a neutral manner. Light walls with massive tables and traditional chairs in light wood. No nonsense interior pleasing to the eyes.

The service at Statholderens Krostue was exquisite from start to end of the meal. We were attended to by a kind and knowledgeable staff and all our (primarily mine) questions were given an answer to by the waiter or (if difficult) by someone in charge further up the line. All our 10 dishes in 6 servings were served on time or were held back in agreement with us.

Stiansen's summer menu (NOK 569 / 71 EUR)

And then the food…… We experienced one of those meals you just wish to try again. We chose the summer menu with a wine package. This was a classic menu de degustation, where you were give a chance to experience a wide range of tastes and textures. The summer menu consisted of the following delicacies.

First serving:
A feast for the eye, as well as the pallet. Gazpacho served as a small shot with delicious garlic and herb croutons. Great balance of flavours, sweet, as well as tangy, as this treat requires sweet, properly sun ripened tomatoes. Those from greenhouses will not do.

"Lefse" is the Norwegian counterpart to the tortilla, made partly from flour and potatoes. The mix of Snøfrisk, a soft cheese based on goat's cheese and St. Kristina Ham, a product inspired by its Spanish-Italian counterparts, worked exceptionally well. Wonderfully aromatic and creamy duck liver.

Leek quiche with Mackerel rillette was our favourite. Perfectly balanced flavours in abundance, sweetness from the leeks and the warm salty aromas of the fat fish, complemented by the richness of the ingredients.

Second serving
  • Lightly smoked and baked fjord salmon with crab-salmon roulade asparagus and lemon Hollandaise
Two items, one baked piece of Fjord Salmon and a roll made from minced crab and salmon meat in a soft rice pasta sheet, served with rich lemon flavoured Hollandaise sauce and steamed asparagus.

Fish perfectly prepared, flaky and firm with a pleasant saltness that did not conceal the salmon flavour. Crab and salmon roll had excellent sweet and salty balance.

Rich and smooth butter sauce with acidity to cut the rich ingredients on the plate. Asparagus prepared to perfection - "al dente".

Third serving:
  • Chicken consommé with baked halibut, served with carrots and beets garnished with spring roll filled with oxtail, apple and leek pure
This was one of my favourites, wonderfully clever to combine this firm meaty white fish with a chicken bouillon.

Again; fish prepared to perfection, firm and not over cooked as much fish tend to be when served.

Bold, strong, but not overpowering range of tastes, from the salt fish to the rich bouillon, sweetness of the beets and celery roots, and interesting parcel of meat ragout on top of fish.

Many, but not too many tastes!

Entre plat
Entre plats are meant to clear your pallet in between multiple courses, and we were served an Italian style sorbet, a "granita" flavoured with lemon verbena.

Lemon verbena is a strongly citrus flavoured herb brought back to Europe from South America by the Spaniards in the 17th century.

The cool, freshly flavoured granules provided relief to our taste buds before the fifth serving, the "piéce de résistance" of our meal.

Fourth serving
  • "Urfe" (Beef from old breed cattle) served with pink roasted rump steak. Garnished with pickled red onion, oyster mushrooms and red wine and morel sauce
We were supposed to get meat from "Sidet Trønderfe og Nordlandsfe" or "Urfe", an ancient breed of cattle from the mid part of Norway, but we were served another cut of beef of unknown origin.

This did not effect our judgment. This was an excellent dish.

The beef was medium done, and mouthwatering, tender as could be.

The vegetables and sauce were perfect in consistency and we could enjoy a wide variety of superb sweet, sour and salty tastes blending into a higher union.

Fifth serving
  • Norwegian cheese platter with home made crackers, apple compote and marinated sultana raisins.
A traditional assembled cheese platter with yellow, brie and blue-cheese varieties from small scale Norwegian producers, served accompanied by sweet side dishes to cut the richness.

A cheese platter like this reflects different textures, from hard to soft and flavours from the mild yellow cheese to the sharp blue cheese, and the chefs at Krostuen had selected them with care and skill. It was served at room temperature.

The sweet side dishes varied in sweetness ranging in intensity from the very sweet sultanas to the sweet and slightly sour apple compote. A great serving

Sixth serving
  • Rhubarb trilogy; rhubarb pie, rhubarb-strawberry soup and pickled rhubarb. Vanilla ice cream and rhubarb jam
At this point I had to change dish, as one serving of rhubarb will throw me into strong pain. This as this delicious product contains large amounts of oxalic acid creating kidney stones. I have tried it twice with the same result.

I was allowed to choose another dessert, and discovered, to my joy, that they had chocolat mousse as an alternative dish. It is one of these dishes that shows who's a good cook, and definitely those that aren't.

The chocolate mousse was rich, creamy and sinful and an ultimate end to a superb meal.

Wine menu (NOK 499 / 42 EUR)

I strongly recommend the wine menu. The price may seem a little steep, but you really get much for your money.

I have experienced that many exclusive restaurants offer wine menus, and you are served one, or two small glasses of wine at the most. At Statholderens Krostue, you will get wines in far more generous quantities. In spite of the NOK 500 price tag, you leave very satisfied.

I was given a complete list of wines served to bring with me, and I left the list behind. This means that I may provide you with little information on wines, grapes, etc. We were served four wines, three white and one red wine. White wines were served to first, second, third, and sixth serving, and the red to fourth and fifth.

The wines were especially picked to match the food, and we experienced that they did. They refilled our glasses continually during our meal, and the amount of wine lifted our spirits towards the end of our meal.

Statholderens Krostue - a real bargain

The meal at Statholderems krostue is the best I've had in years. A wide range of presentations, textures and tastes made this meal into a extraordinary culinary experience.

Stiansens summer menu highlights the best ingredients from the deep oceans to mountain areas with a focus on local specialties. The menu is prepared according to tradition as well as innovation, combining ingredients in a way many of us never would have thought of.

There is much to learn from this, and the the way this food is prepared should serve as an inspiration for us to try something new in our own cooking.

Address:
Statholdergaardens krostue
Rådhusgate 11, N-0151 Oslo
Phone +47 22 41 88 00
Fax +47 22 41 22 24,
Mail: post@statholdergaarden.no
See company website here


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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The precious argan oil


When traveling to Morocco, why not buy a bottle of the precious Argan oil. It is a rare specialty of the country said to have many positive nutritional and medicinal effects. But be aware. Much of what is offered in the markets may not be the real thing.

The oil is extracted from the fruit of the Argan tree (Argania spinosa, syn. A. sideroxylon) a very hardy tree growing in Morocco. This is a tree with roots back to the Tertiary era, and has been brought close to extinction. Thanks to conservation efforts arganeraie forests now cover some 8,280 km² and argan oil has become a considerable source of income of growers.

Argan oil contains natural tocopherols (vitamin E), phenols and phenolic acid, carotene, squalene, essential fatty acids, 80% unsaturated fatty acids and depending on extraction method more resistant to oxidation than olive oil.

Argan oil is used for dip, on couscous, salads and similar uses.

It is also a vital ingredient in "amlou" a thick brown paste with a consistency similar to peanut butter produced by stone grinding roasted almond and Argan oil. It is considered a favorite local bread dip.

The unroasted oil is traditionally used as a treatment for skin diseases, and has created considerable interest in the cosmetics industry.

You may find bottles labeled argan oil all around Marrakech. We discovered that buying the thing on the street may be a bad idea, as these bottles may contain a blend of Argan and other oils, or even nothing of the precious oil.

We were tempted to enter Herboriste El Andalouss by Mosquee El Mansour in the Kasbah district. This seem to be the place to buy the thing, as he had an extremely large selection of different remedies in his very clean and neat shop. Susanne, my travel mate, bought Argan oil and interesting seeds that if placed in a piece of cloth and rubbed, released oils relieving congested sinuses. I bought two plastic bags of Ras el Hanout and harissa.

If buying Argan oil in Marrakech, I strongly recommend a visit to a herborist as the one in the Kasbah district. Do ask on your hotel where you may safely purchase this precious oil.

See location of Herboriste El Andalouss on this map


View Marrakech A-Z 2010 in a larger map

(Photo: The production of argan oil by traditional methods by Chrumps)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

La cucina Calabrese


By Enjoy Food & Travel co-writer Dagfinn Sigridsson Skoglund

I am a real fan of Italy and its food, but until now I didn’t know the southern parts of the boot-shaped country too well. That changed this year when I spent two heavenly weeks in the charming Calabrian town of Tropea (situated on the knuckle of the big toe if we stick to the boot analogy).


The first shock was the green and abundant landscape – I had previously imagined it to be scorched and brown – and the second the crystal-clear waters. Calabria is renowned for its agriculture, and can boast several specialities, of which I shall mention the most famous.

We have to start with the “Cipolla rossa de Tropea” – the red onions of Tropea (right). These are mild and sweet and can be eaten raw or cooked, and in fact the affix “alla Tropeana” in menus simply mean that it is prepared with these red onions. And they are seriously GOOD!

The locals are also fond of spicy food, and grow several types of hot peppers (Pepperoncini), and I can recommend the pointy, red, thumb-sized type they sell on strings, or the green, round, egg-sized ones that are fresh on the market in July/August.

It is one of the primary ingredients in a very special form of sausage that originally came from the mountain village of Spilinga, just up and behind Tropea. We talk about Nduja (word originates from the French Andouille) which is a soft, smoked sausage made from pork fat and meats, chilli and red peppers, and it comes in various degrees of hotness. It is delicious, and used in hundreds of recipes, the affix “alla Nduja” will give the game away!

The Calabrians are indeed fond of their meat, even if it is very much a seaside country. Among their favourites from the Mediterranean is the swordfish (pesce Spada) which comes grilled or with various toppings, in Scilla I enjoyed it with tomato, capers and olives (lower right).

Fresh anchovies (Alici) (top) are another favourite, I have had them headless, gutted and deep fried, or marinated and filleted, and they are delectable whichever way. Of course, the salted fillets are also a staple of the local kitchen, and they are often added to sauces where they simply melt away and impart an extra yummy savoury flavour.

Caper (Capperi) is of course another local ingredient which is much loved. The creeping or often hanging Caper bush (Capparis spinosa is the botanical name) can be seen everywhere, and its beautiful white and purple flowers would be reason enough to grow it, but it also gives us its flower buds (for caper buds) and its fruits (for caper berries). They are sold pickles in salt, usually, and not in brine as we are more familiar with.

The local cheese of favourite is the Pecorino, made from sheeps milk (pecora means sheep) and it is sold in all grades of maturity and with various additives, and it is used in recipes much like the parmeggiano or grana padano is used further north.

Dagfinn Sigridsson Skoglund is 50 years old (forever) and is living in a studio apartment in downtown Oslo. He is working as a designer and art teacher, and is an excellent cook.

Dagfinn is a passionate lover of music, botany and is an experienced traveler - and he hates popcorn!





Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lemon and garlic chicken with ratatouille


Last week I made another long-roast chicken dish with a twist. Convenient summer food, as all is prepared in one operation and takes care of itself. This dish consisted of ingredients I had available in my kitchen. So this recipe may be varied after what you have, fresh or canned, but remember to use enough garlic!!

To prepare this dish for 3-4 you’ll need what you have available. I had:

1 chicken (1,4 kilos / 3 lb’s)

Marinade

4 cloves of garlic, minced
7 cl / 3 liquid oz olive oil
Juice from ½ lemon
Salt & pepper

Ratatouille

½ onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
8 dried tomatoes marinated in olive oil, finely chopped
½ can of ratatouille or 500 grams (0,8 lb's) mixed fresh vegetables (diced)
20 cl water
20 cl red wine
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 sprigs fresh oregano, whole
½ leaf lovage, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp vegetable stock powder
Pepper
Sugar

Place chicken in a large plastic bag. Mix the marinade and pour in plastic bag. Allow to marinate overnight.

Prepare the ratatouille the coming day. I used a can of ratatouille as my refrigerator held few vegetables and I was in need of more ingredients for my stew. The contents of the can, can be substituted by fresh vegetables as zucchini, egg plant, tomatoes, and red peppers if available.

Fry onions and garlic lightly in a skillet. Add ratatouille, and dried tomatoes and reheat. Pour in water, red wine and tomato paste, and season with stock powder and pepper. Add stock gradually not to over salt the dish. Balance with sugar to your taste. Add herbs and allow boiling over low heat for 15-20 minutes.

Allow ratatouille to cool.

Place marinated chicken in a large oven proof dish, and place in a low oven (100C / 215F) for 5-6 hours. Take out chicken after 3,5 hours. Place stew in dish, and place chicken on top and continue to bake for 2-3 hours. Add more water or wine (or both) if stew gets too dry.

Newest chicken recipes on Enjoy Food & Travel

Monday, July 26, 2010

Istanbul - the marvellous Blue Mosque


We had dinner at our hotel the first night we stayed in Istanbul. From the restaurant on top of Hotel Armada we could admire The Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in full flood light, a truly exotic fata morgana on the top of the hill.

These two buildings are among the most important sights of Istanbul. Whereas the Hagia Sophia dates back 1700 years, the Blue Mosque was built in the 17th century, at the height of the Ottoman Empire. Visiting these two important sights is a must for travellers to Istanbul. They cast light over the long and turbulent history of this city bridging Europe and Asia.

Sultan Ahmed I decided to build a new mosque to honour Allah after he signed the treaty that secured peace with the Habsburg Empire in 1606. It was his favourite architect Koca Mimar Sinan Ağa that designed the building and it was completed in 1616.

The official name of the Blue Mosque is Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: Sultanahmet Camii). Its nickname is derived from the blue tiles covering its interior.

The Blue Mosque strongly resembles the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia used to be a Christian church and was converted into a mosque when the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453.

Koca Sinan incorporated the best from Byzantine and Muslim architecture into his design of the new mosque. A large central dome was placed in the centre of the construction surrounded by smaller domes, and large minarets placed in each corner.

Whereas the exterior of this massive building are grey, the inside is covered with beautiful blue ornamental tiles with the most intricate patterns. This as depictions of plants, animals or humans are strictly forbidden in mosques but the enormous number of identical stylized patterns covering vast surfaces is breathtaking.

The visit to the Blue Mosque was my first visit to a mosque, ever. In Turkey, most major mosques are open, even for non-Muslims. If you go to visit, do observe important rules, and do remember that many are houses of worship.

Remove your shoes on the outside, wear a suitable dress for the visit, and women must cover the head during the visit. Do observe the time of prayer, as all mosques are out of bounce for non-Muslims during these times.

Other stories from Istanbul on Enjoy Food & Travel

Sunday, July 25, 2010

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