Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rating Bistro Hotel de France, Ferney-Voltaire

Grissini with dip to enjoy before the meal
The Bistro Hotel de France in Ferney-Voltaire is the one of two best meals I have in 2011. Superb service and outstanding food and wine package at a very decent price. I am happy to say that Bistro Hotel de France was so different from the Hotel with the same name.

Rating Bistro Hotel de France: BBBBB- (4,63 points)
  • Location: BBBB+
  • Service: BBBBB-
  • Interior & Atmosphere: BBBB+
  • Food: BBBBB
  • Wine: BBBBB-
The restaurant sign show its old roots
The Bistro Hotel de France is is located in the hotel with the same name in the community of Ferney-Voltaire, bordering Switzerland. Ferney-Voltaire is a charming village with quaint houses, restaurants and bars in abundance just a half-hour drive away from Geneva.

The bistro is found on the ground floor is in an early 17th century listed building that once belonged to Monsieur Wagnière, secretary of the famous philosopher Voltaire that resided here from 1758 to 1778.

The F-bus from the City Hall will take you to Geneva’s main railway station in around 30 minutes, whereas bus Y will take you to the airport.
Old architectural features
Part of the modern interior is definitely classy, in particular modern strongly coloured chairs, but they   do, when combined with neutral upholstered wooden benches, not match properly.

All tables are beautifully set with sets of knives and forks, wine glasses, white china and real napkins waiting for the dish after dish to be served, and you wait in suspense.

Modern chairs and traditional benches slightly mismatched
The service at the Bistro Hotel de France is almost as good as the food. You are given the best attention from the waiters (one of them is, in fact,  the cook's wife).

You are given good instructions when ordering, as well as when you are being served.

Dish after dish were brought to the table, not in a hurry, slow enough to enjoy the the superb food, but quickly enough not to be bored.

You feel welcome, and we commend the staff for their effort give us an excellent social, as well as culinary event.
Baby mozzarella and cherry tomato with dip
How I would have loved to have more of this  foie gras!!
Rack of veal with cured ham and pasta gratin
Selection of cheese after your choice

And then we must proceed to the meal.

We were, as a small starter served small soft mozzarellas and cherry tomatoes marinated in home made pesto with a garlic potato dip.

They tasted decent enough, but I do have to admit that I was a little disappointed, as I have been served small delicious surprise starters under similar circumstances that were exquisite in both taste and presentation.

Marinating tomatoes and mozzarella is an idea I could have chosen for an informal meal, but the starter was neither inventive nor special in any way.

Then it all changed. The foie gras de canard with forest mushroom brough us to another, metaphysical culinary level.

Three large pieces of duck foie gras, one with a sliced, crisped cured duck breasts (I think).

The duck foie gras was awesome, deliciously creamy and with a layer of sliced black forest mushrooms.

The mushrooms looked (end even tasted) like sliced black truffles. The foie gras had just those intense rich foie gras aromas, sweet and umami at the same time. 

The main dish was fried rack of veal. Very unusual to be served a relatively large piece of meat without any vegetables, and the pasta gratin was another, quite unusual side dish to serve with veal.

Excellent taste, the gratin was immersed in, creamy white sauce over penne pasta individually separated with thin slices of cured ham.

The veal was covered in creamy concentrated gravy, and tasted equally good, but surprisingly I found part of the meat to be tough, hardly anything you should expect from a piece of veal.

What would a good meal be without a tray of French cheese. At the Bistro Hotel de France you are not given a plate with cheese selected for you. No, you are allowed to pick the cheese yourself.

The festive table
Passion fruit mousse with raspberries

After all this delicious food, one should expect to hit rock bottom at the end of the meal, but I am happy to say that the whole meal held a very high standard.

The dessert was no exception, and was the prettiest one. The passion fruit mousse rested under an arch way made up by white chocolate. On the plate you had a serving of freshly made lychee sorbet.

The fresh raspberry balanced the sweet and slightly sour passion fruit mousse and the delicious fresh sorbet, and then you could take nibble of the sweet chocolate.

Coffee and macaroon at the end of the meal
We took a glass of kir royal before the meal, and we offered a wine menu adjusted to the menu.

We started with a glass of Kir Royale
It was a great bargain, considering the fact that you were served a generous amount of wine to each dish. I was surprised to be served a dry white wine to the foie gras. I would have chosen a vin santo, sauternes or a vendange tardive, as it generally provides a great contrast to the foie gras.

Our bill ended at 160 Euros for two, that may be more than your regular dinner, but a bargain compared to all you were served.

As I have already said, this is one of the two best meals I have been served in 2011. Account of the other will come soon, but if you consider the service and food offered at Bistro Hotel de France, Enjoy Food & Travel highly recommends a meal at this quaint restaurant if you visit the Geneva area.

It is just a pity that the hotel itself did not offer a similar standard.

Address:
Bistro Hotel de France
1 Rue Genève
01210 Ferney-Voltaire, France
04 50 40 63 87


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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hotels.com in trouble?

Historic Hotel Park in Bergen is always fully booked, according to hotels.com.                                Photo: Hotel website 
In recent days there has been focus on hotel booking sites on the net, and in particular hotels.com. Who or what party does hotel booking sites represent, affiliated hotels, the customer, or merely themselves? These are questions sites like hotels.com should ask, as stories told in the press lately are on loosers, i.e. connected hotels and customers.

I personally do not use hotels.com. There are several reasons for that. The most important is that the site charge your credit card when booking, not after you have stayed in the hotel. The press story disclose, however, that the hotels, get their money after you have stayed there, but hotels.com in the meantime get the interest on your money.

I recommend those sites that does not charge your card on booking as venere.com, booking.com, and hrs.de, but beware that hotels may charge your card directly if you are offered a special deal. When offered a deal, you may also loose the right to get your money back if you decide to cancel your booking.

Another problem with hotels.com is a definite problem for them. It may seem that the site has a cooperation with hotels, when they in reality has none. Hotel Park in Bergen reported that they were listed with hotels.com, even though they were not afilliated to the site. Hotels.com also informed those looking for accommodation that all rooms in Hotel Park were fully booked, when there in reality were vancant rooms. The little hotel wondered how all this had affected their business.

Want to check availability at Hotell Park? Go directly to the official website.

Then they presented the case of the Grimsmo family that had booked a room for one night at Acadia in  Antibes at hotels.com. Arriving late, they discovered that, in spite of a confirmation from hotels.com, all rooms were booked. The hotels in question did not even have any affiliation with hotels.com. The staff at Hotel Acadia did stretch their hospitality and offered the Grimsmo one double room with extra beds to sleep all of them.

Latest: I have tried to book room at Hotel Acadia, but the hotel seems to have been removed from hotels.com.

Stories like these do not strengthen the industry’s credibility, even though they may be just exceptions. Hotels.com should, however, inform travelers, which hotels they represent and remove those not affiliated with the site.The fact that hotels.com even profit from payment for a service that has not given and may even be cancelled is highly questionable.

No! Follow the advise from another experienced traveler. Use the booking sites to check the hotel, but check how much you will have to pay if booking at the hotel website. You may save money and unpleasant surprises. Do ask for a written confirmation to be sent your e-mailadress.

Have a great stay!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Janssons fristelse and Tor Johnsens Fristelse - two varieties of a Swedish theme

Delicious Janssons Frestelse, a Swedish Specialty

Janssons frestelse (Jansson's temptation) is a traditional Swedish specialty, that I had only heard of, until my friend Dagfinn visited me this summer. The original dish good the first day, but excellent the day after and even one day more, and it had a culinary spin-off. Dagfinn turned a traditional Janssons frestelse into a similar bake with a few different ingredients and named it Tor Johnsens fristelse in my honour. 
Dagfinn is a cook after my mind. He rarely use recipes, turning his cooking into culinary jam sessions. One evening he took two cans of Swedish herring in brine, and started to prepare his Janssons Frestelse.

Golden Janssons Frestelse right out of the oven
Janssons Frestelse is a Swedish specialty. It contains 6 ingredients. They are: Sliced and peeled raw potatoes, sliced onions, herring or anchovis fillets, cream and cheese and seasoning.

If you wonder how much of each ingredient, check this recipe on the net. This recipe follows the traditional way to prepare it, as it use butter and breadcrumbs as topping. Choose either of them, I loved the cheese, but it is a question of taste.

It is very easy to assemble this dish. Place potatoes, onions, fish fillets in two layers in an oven proof dish, and end it all with a layer of slice potatoes and cheese on the top. Mix cream and seasoning and pour over.

Place in a hot oven (220 C/ 425F) and bake until potatoes are firm, but cooked, the cream is reduced and topping is golden brown. Do check during baking, as time will vary depending on the oven.

We enjoyed this dish for dinner and the following two breakfasts, and Janssons Frestelse in one of these dishes that improves in taste and texture the coming days.

Tor Johnsens Fristelse

As a final note I am proud to have had Dagfinn to cook at my 50th anniversary July 30th 2011. He introduced an interesting new dish inspired by Janssons Frestelse. As my family has a steady supply (through my brother-in-law) of smoked mackerel, he substituted the herring with smoked mackerel and added crisp diced streaky bacon. He named this dish "Tor Johnsens Fristelse" in my honour.  My guests loved this new innovation.

More Swedish food stories:    

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

UPDATED AUGUST 2011: Non-stop flights from Haugesund Airport

On this map you find domestic and international direct flights operated by all airlines from Haugesund Airport.

This map is based on information from the Airport official website. Errors may occur. Do consult airport website or airline for updated information.

Red marker means that flights has been cancelled or seasonal and not in operation. Green marker for planned services. Yellow marker means that flights are seasonal and in operation. Airplane marker means that service is in operation all year around.

Widerøe revives non-stop flights Haugesund-Copenhagen

Photo: A Widerøe Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 by Arsenikk
Widerøe will resume its flights from Haugesund to Copenhagen October 30th 2011. A 78 Bombardier Q400 NG may take up to 78 passengers to the Danish capital every day except Saturdays.

Flights will give business and leisure travelers access to international flights without passing through Oslo airport. Flights will depart weekdays from Copenhagen 3.35 PM, arriving Haugesund 5.05 PM (Sundays: 1 PM - 2.30 PM), returning from Haugesund 5.35 PM, arriving Copenhagen at 7 PM (Sundays: 3 PM - 4.25 PM).
Scandinavian Airlines operated direct service to Copenhagen during the late 90’s. Widerøe had direct flights to Copenhagen just after Coast Air, filed for bankrupcy in 2008, but stopped flights after a short period.

Similar stories: 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Eglise Notre Dame et Saint André - Ferney-Voltaire

The altar with a lage sculpture depicting Our Lady and baby Jesus
Eglise Notre Dame et Saint André is the parish church of Ferney-Voltaire, a small village on the Franco-Swiss border. This small town was the home of Francois-Marie Voltaire for twenty years, and proudly bears his name.
 

The Neo-classical facade
Eglise Notre Dame et Saint André is a child of the neo-classical style. The rich ornaments of the baroque and rococco from the earlier period are gone.

When building the parish church in 1826 it was inspired by the architecture of the ancient Greek and Roman civilisation.

Eglise Notre Dame et Saint André is today the largest neo-classical church in the French Departement of Ain, bordering Switzerland.

The church was dedicated to Our Lady, Jesus' mother and Saint Andrew, his disciple.

The interior is extremely simple with a arched ceiling with covered by identical square ornaments. The columns and other classic architectural features of the exterior are  continued inside. All in shades of gray and cream.

Stain glass window depicting Saint-Anne, mother of Our Lady and Jesus Grandmother
See location of Eglise Notre Dame et Saint André on this map


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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Indian food made from scratch

Here are a few videos showing how to make the previous dishes completely from scratch. 

Butter Paneer Makhani 



Rajma (Kidney Bean Curry)



Dum Aloo



An Indian feast

My friend Dagfinn served up an Indian feast for me when he arrived at my summer home this siummer. Three, reasonably priced Indian casseroles, all vegetarian, of different tastes and strength.

Ashoka is one of the leading Ethnic Indian food brand made in India. Its range includes ready-to-eat curries, Frozen Foods, pickles, condiment pastes, mango pulp/slices, chutneys, pappadums, ready-to-cook vegetables, and Microwaveable rice.  

Dagfinn had found these range of curried dishes in the large Turkish green grocer located in Smalgangen, in downtown Oslo. They contained a generous amount, enough for one, or if added a little more vegetables for two. Priced at only 20 NOK ($ 3,50 / € 2,50) it is a great idea for students, or others on a budget.  

The Shahi Rajma
Shahi Rajma
This dish is a dish made with curried red kidney beans tenderly cooked in a red tomato sauce. I remembered this as the most tasty of the three.  

The tomato sauce is flavoured with ginger, garlic, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cardamom, chilies, cumin, poppy seeds, nutmeg, and bay leaves.

The Dom Aloo originates from Kashmir
Kashmir Dom Aloo

This dish originates from the Kashmir region, shared between India and Pakistan. The Dom Aloo is another vgetarian dish made from curried potatoes immersed in medium hot sauce.

Ingedients used in this Do Aloo are potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cottonseed oil, ginger, salt, green chilli, coriander powder, chili powder, sugar, groundnuts, cumin, coriander leaves, melon seeds, sesame seeds and other spices.


Paneer Makham - cottage cheese served the Indian way
Paneer Makhani

Paneer Makhani is curried cottage cheese in a rich spicy tomato gravy.  

It is a richer dish made with cottage cheese, tomato puree, cream, onions, cottonseed oil, ginger, garlic, melon seeds, chili powder, salt, sugar, green chili, black pepper, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, dried fenugreek leaves.



See servings of the dishes

The Kashmiri Dom Aloo - curried potatoes in tomato sauce

Paneer (cottage cheese) in a rich creamed tomato sauce
Curried red kidney beans in tomato sauce

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