CategoryFood

RennyBA’s Blog Friends meet up in Mariestad Sweden

Mariestad The Osean City #1My motto is Blogging connecting people and meeting blog friends in person is always special after you’ve gotten to know them through their posts over the years. As many of you know we have our vacation home in Mariestad, the pearl of Lake Vänern, and this year we had the privilege of inviting our good friends TorAa and wife Anna from Norway as well as Mr. & Mrs. Lifecruiser from Sweden to a Scandinavian blog gathering there last weekend. Like other bloggers, these folks love to travel and are always looking for adventures and are eager to go photo hunting in new places – so I was looking forward to showing them around in Mariestad with its slogan: “The Sea City” (goes well with the photo – don’t you think).
Mariestad Harbor in Sweden #1
Mariestad Harbor Summer 2011

Some may think that Mariestad, popular in the summer time with its beaches and islands, might be kind of dull in the winter time. It’s true that there are fewer tourists and fairs, festivals or exhibitions, however there is still a lot to see and experience in this charming town all year round. Let me give a few examples:

The Cathedral and The Old Town:
Mariestad was founded in 1583 by Duke Karl (later become King Karl IX), who named the city after his wife, Duchess Maria av Pfalz. The hidden jewel at the heart of the city is the beautiful wooden buildings of the Old Town, which were erected in the 18th and 19th centuries and are still almost perfectly intact. The city of Mariestad suffered a great fire in 1895 so this old section is the only one not destroyed by the raging flames.
Cultural pearls in medieval surroundings #2 Wandering through time in old Mariestad #8
Mariestad Cathedral is built (1593–1625) upon antagonism between the two brothers Duke Karl and Johan III. Duke Karl copied his brother’s drawings over the church in the capital city, Stockholm (St. Klara Church), drawn by the Dutchman Wilhelm Boy. As you can see, it’s close by the old town and of course with its tower which is a landmark of Mariestad.

Exhibition: MC – Adventure – Freedom:
Mariestad had more to offer then its own charm this weekend – , in the library of all places we found a MC Exhibition. Taurus MC club, founded 20 years ago, held their annual MC show with about 100 enthusiastic members who enjoy displaying some of their treasures. Every spring they do a long weekend trip, one was even to Norway! Their favorite destination is south Europe where riding on the scenic Alps are the top of the cream : -)
The exhibition’s main attraction was this beauty of a bike model 1993, build in India. Royal Enfield MC have been continuously built for more than 100 years – the longest in the world:
Exhibition: MC – Adventure – Freedom #1
Royal Enfield 500 Bullitt
Exhibition: MC – Adventure – Freedom #2 Exhibition: MC – Adventure – Freedom #3
A mini model display and some club photos

The bloggers meet up:
Camp base was our vacation home just outside of the city. Whenever we get together – even if it was two years since we met the Lifecruisers – it always feels like we met just yesterday. I guess it’s because we have so much in common. Traveling and photo shooting are well documented in this post, and of course good food and beverages was part of the fun too, which can be documented this way:
Blog Meet Up #1
Computers, Sangria and champagne on the table : -)
Blog Meet Up #2 Blog Meet Up #3
Left: Spanish Tapas – Right: Lifecruiser’s shrimp cocktail with Champagne onion
Blog Meet Up #5 Blog Meet Up #6
Left: Anna is cooking -> Right: An authentic old fashioned slow cooked meat dinner

We had a lot to talk about at this little Scandinavian blog gathering. Of course there is all we have in common but we also have a secret plan – a common dream – or rather a common goal. We will all meet again a bit south for Scandinavia. Keep watching and maybe you will catch a glimpse of us all together again this summer – in Provence, South of France at our good friend Claudie & Pierre’s home! The days are getting longer and the sun is higher in the sky, and we are looking forward to more exploring with good blog friends real soon.

Santa or Nisse and Smorgasbord food are Christmas traditions in Norway

Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #2Yuletide, the return of the sun and now Christmas calls for a special celebration and brings old time traditions based on folklore and myths in Norway. After a long period of darkness and cold, no wonder people needed a break and celebrated with wild feasts the fact that “the sun was coming back”. In Oslo (latitude of 60° North) it means max 6 hours daylight with the sun only low on the horizon at midday, compared to 19 hours and hardly no dark at all at summer solstice. For thousands of years we have developed our food preservation traditions and our folk tales have over time become mixed with other European folklore, like for example Santa Claus.
All of this comes to mind when visiting my parent’s home for the Christmas day smorgasbord. The house is filled with Yuletide spirit with decorations and food traditions which have been in our family for generations. In this post, I will concentrate on the Nisse or Santa and my mom’s homemade food – illustrated with pics from last year’s family gathering on the First Christmas Day. Counting about 15 people, there is always a lot of food left, so join us, sit in and enjoy my childhood’s food feast memories:
Smorgasbord as Christmas Food Traditions in Norway #1 Smorgasbord as Christmas Food Traditions in Norway #7
Left: Ham, Pork Ribs, Tongue, Roast Beef, Lam Roll & Lever Pate – Right: Salmon & Herring
Smorgasbord as Christmas Food Traditions in Norway #6 Smorgasbord as Christmas Food Traditions in Norway #8
Left: Bread & Pork Patties – Right: Cheeses

Remember, all these (except for the cheese), are homemade with fresh meat coming directly from the butcher – made with love and care, based on recipes past on for generations! Just by thinking of it, especially when I enter my parents house this special day, I am literary taken down the memory lane – just by closing my eyes, I remember mom and grandma in the kitchen almost the entire month of December, the smell, the atmosphere, the excitement and the anticipation. There was something in the air – it was Christmas!
If you thought the food and the feast ends here, you are wrong! No, when you are filled up with pork and lamb and ham and…… and maybe had a short walk or a power nap to digest at least a bit, then the special homemade sweets were on the table:
Cookies as Christmas Traditions in Norway
To the right: All kinds of cookies and the Kransekake (Ring Cake)

The Nisse or Tomte:
Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #2A Nisse is a mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore originating from Norse paganism – actually close to what we call an elf. He was believed to take care of a farmer’s home and children and protect them from misfortune, in particular at night, when the house folk were asleep – type Fjøs Nisse (Fjøs = barn). Nisse is the common name in Norwegian, Danish and the Scandinavian dialect in southernmost Sweden is Tomte and Tonttu in Finland.
The Nisse was often imagined as a small, elderly man (size varies from a few inches to about half the height of an adult man), often with a full beard; dressed in the everyday clothing of a farmer. However, there are also folktales where he is believed to be a shape-shifter able to take a shape far larger than an adult man, and other tales where the Nisse is believed to have a single, cyclopean eye. Here are some examples of Nisse from my parents home Christmas decorations:
Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #5 Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #6
Left: My Great Grandmother’s Nisse – Right: My Grandmother’s Nisse Family

The Fjompe Nisse:
Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #3I’ve never seen him, but he has been an important part of my memories from Christmas ever since I was a child – especially in preparing, like decorating the tree and house in general. The Fjompenisse was defiantly a shape-shifter type, as he could come in (always at night) through the chimney or even the key hole. He defiantly had a temperament: One year I remember we had forgotten to take out the key from the hole and he had to use the chimney. You could then see his footprints of ash all around the house. The Fjompenisse was clearly a traditionalist too and did not want to be disturbed in his work.
Another of these things that takes me down the memory lane and brings back the Yuletide spirit from childhood when I enter my parents house, are all these Fjumpe Nisse figures hanging around:
Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #1 Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #4
Left: On top of the paintings – Right: On top of the old family clock from the 18Hundreds

Jule Nisse or the Santa Claus:
In the 1840s the farm’s Nisse became the bearer of Christmas presents in Denmark, and was then called Julenisse (Yule Nisse). This mythical character then turned into the white-bearded, red-capped friendly figure associated with Christmas ever since. Shortly afterwards, and obviously influenced by the emerging Father Christmas traditions as well as the new Danish tradition, a variant of the Nisse, called the Jule Nisse in Norway and Jultomte in Sweden, started bringing the Christmas presents in instead of the traditional Julbock (Yule Goat).

I hope you have enjoyed my reminiscing of my childhood and a walk down memory lane. Christmas Eve is now upon us and its time not only to remember our traditions but to give them to our own children and families. From all of us here to all of you we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

A gourmet feast at Cru Wine and Kitchen in Oslo

Gourmet feast at Cru Wine & Kitchen in Oslo #2Restaurant Cru Wine & Kitchen in Oslo reflects a French wine term: Traditionally translated as “growth” it’s often used to indicate a specifically named and legally defined vineyard or ensemble of vineyards and the vines “which grow on a reputed territory; by extension of good quality”. Growth, quality and wine for that matter, gives a perfect frame for the reason of the visit:
As an active member of The Norwegian Computer Society, I am involved in several workshops, for example “IT Strategy and Management”. At the end of each season of intense teamwork to provide our members with a variety of cutting edge sciences, we believe that we deserve a social gathering. What’s better than a culinary feast and trying a new restaurant in Oslo? You’re welcome to join us while I tell you about this place and our 7 course gourmet feast:
Gourmet feast at Cru Wine & Kitchen in Oslo #4 Gourmet feast at Cru Wine & Kitchen in Oslo #3
Let’s start with the wine; Cru is a place where the waiter carefully describes the wine and the food before serving.
Gourmet feast at Cru Wine & Kitchen in Oslo #7The guests swirl the wine in the glass, as in wine tasting, and you smell the bouquet of the wine before drinking it. However, With Kari Innerå, Nordic Chef of the Year 2007, in the kitchen, there is all reason to have great expectations for the food too. The griffin menu shows the way: three appetizers (12 € each), two main dishes (28 €), cheese and dessert for around 10 €. One can eat quite reasonable, but if the occasion calls for something special, it is possible to put together menus of three, five or seven dishes. We went all the way on the gourmet adventures road – here is our seven dish feast along with our waiter’s wine recommendation for each of them:

Left: Caviar of Lavaret, blintz, sour cream, dill & radish – Wine: Sancerre Domaine de la Rossignol 2010
Gourmet feast at Cru Wine & Kitchen in Oslo #8 Gourmet feast at Cru Wine & Kitchen in Oslo #9
Right: Artichoke, caramelized puree, glazed macadamia, soup & artichoke chips & black truffle – Wine: Alto Adige – Südtirol Manincor “Réserve della Contessa” 2009

Left: Skin fried cod, open lasagna with fennel & ricotta, seafood sauce, crab croquet, avocado cream & peas
Gourmet feast at Cru Wine & Kitchen in Oslo #10 Gourmet feast at Cru Wine & Kitchen in Oslo #1
Right: Red wine braised beef shoulder, homemade sausage, Confit of plum, spicy broth, potato gnocchi & pumpkin – Wine: Côtes du Marmandais, Domaine Elian da Ros – Le Vin est une Fête 2008

Moose from Gudbrandsdalen, celery puree, Brussels sprouts & cranberry vinaigrette
Gourmet feast at Cru Wine & Kitchen in Oslo #11
Wine: Rossignol Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2008

Left: Cheese soufflés – Wine: Mosel. Jos. Christoffel Jr. Wehlener Sonnenuhr ** 1994
Gourmet feast at Cru Wine & Kitchen in Oslo #12 Gourmet feast at Cru Wine & Kitchen in Oslo #13
Right: Carrot cake Cru – Philadelphia cream, salt caramel ice cream, oatmeal crumble with cinnamon & carrot jelly.

Is there a better way of enjoying good colleagues company and discussing the future of the Computer Society and our work group’s activities for the coming season? We fully agreed we are the best work group team with eagerness and enthusiasm to start a new and successful season – and of course looking forward to the next culinary feast in mid June.

Norway 4th of July celebration in Oslo Vigeland Park

4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #5The 26th annual American Independence Day 4th of July celebration in Oslo’s Vigeland Frogner Park was a grand success! The American Coordinating Council of Norway (ACCN) arranges this celebration every year and we just love to participate. Like Norway’s Constitution Day the 17th of May, a national holiday is in many ways like a family reunion. Then it’s easy to imagine – living abroad – the feeling of being homesick on such a day, but those who were in Frogner Park really seemed to consider Oslo their “home away from home”. No wonder when you look at the keywords in the invitation: Great Food – Family Entertainment – Crafts – Book Sale – Bring Your Friends – Fun for everyone – Raffle with fantastic prizes including 6 Round-Trip tickets to the U.S.
Or if you look at the girls in the top left who willingly posed when I was hunting for some “Typical Americans” ; -)

So my American wife and I were there and with my Nokia N8 at hand, I’ll gladly share some highlights with you – starting at the grand opening on the stage (click pic to bigify):
4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #3 4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #4
Left: Marine honour guard presenting the American flag – Right: Guest of honour: deputy mayor Mrs. Aud Kvalbein gives her speech.
4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #2 4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #1

Diverse booths were set up giving information and special offers to Americans abroad and Norwegians as well, like this one manned by the US Embassy. The opening ceremony was begun with a speech by the American Ambassador to Norway, Barry White (beside him is his wife Eleanor) and of course I had to greet him and thank him for sharing one of his lovely citizens with me!!
4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #8 4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #6

American food feast:
Before I show you some photos, here is the menu: Hamburgers • Hotdogs • BBQ • Chili • Ice Cream • Yogurt • American Lutheran Church manned the Coca Cola stand • American Women’s Club dished up lots of great America cookies • Sons of Norway offered waffles & sloppy Joes (not together thankfully) • Plus lots more goodies to feast on! We stood in the very long line for homemade, handmade freshly grilled cheeseburgers – fantastic!
4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #12 4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #9
Hamburgers left – sloppy Joes right
4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #11 4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #10
Cookies and ice tea

Street Cars Norway:
Once again this year, Street Cars Norway had an exhibition behind the stage and Thomas Følling (SCNs President) awarded prizes in 7 categories – Lucky one: a place in Oslo Motor Show 2011 in October!
An impressive exhibition I would say and quite American too – or what do you think:
4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #14
First a panoramic view – then: …….

4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #15 4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #18
…… some of the beauties in details ; -)
4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park #16 4th of July in Oslo Vigeland Park # #17

The atmosphere was truly an American 4th of July celebration with all the trimmings. There were lots of happy families everywhere with good music and good food, plus fun for all ages. It was apparent that many American families feel themselves at home in Oslo. We finished off the day in our traditional way with Diane’s grilled ribs, corn on the cob and lots of grilled vegetables. I want to wish all my American friends and family a Very Happy 4th of July!

Blogger enjoying culture food and local charm in Malta

Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #1Malta in the Mediterranean – just a stepping stone between Europe and Africa – has been a home to some of the oldest man-made stone structures in the world and the famous Knights left a considerable legacy when settled here in the mid 1500s. Served as a watch keeper and guardian of the Mediterranean trade routes, it has been a launch-pad for European invaders as well as an idyllic retreat for rich aristocracy. This Republic within the British Commonwealth’s history is long and complicated and its geography unique. Together these have made it one of the most enticing islands in Europe. Its characteristically Mediterranean climate – quite different from Norway – was proven when my wife and I were visiting in the beginning of April. We gladly invite you along on our two days adventures, starting with the proof : -)
Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #23 Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #22
Through the plane’s window: Left: From snowy mountains around Oslo, to Right: a sunny island in Malta.

Local cuisine and seafood delight in a charming city:
We stayed in St. Julian’s at The Westin Dragonara Resort and the hotel, the view, the beach next to it as well as the city, were quite exotic to us Norwegians. Here are some panoramic photos taken with my Nokia N8 to set the scene:
Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #20 Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #21
The Hotel & The view
Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #5
The beach

The old fishing village of St. Julian’s immediately north of Sliema, made up of the districts of Paceville and St George’s Bay, has made great efforts in recent years to develop its tourist facilities, and now competes with Sliema as a holiday center. It has long sandy beaches, first-class hotels and several night-clubs. The modern parts of the town form an attractive contrast to the picturesque old fishermen’s quarter. Some more photo examples:
Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #2 Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #3

To me, food and drinks is an important part of a country’s culture and traditions. That’s why I always go for restaurants with local food on the menu, and sharing it with my wife makes even more adventures and even romantic ; -). Let’s start with lunch at day two were the food was actually quite general, meat pie for my wife and of course seafood salad for me, but the drink however, was their local beer; “Cisk”
Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #14 Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #15
Even more local – and romantic – was our supper in the middle of the city with Maltese’s food on the menu – two courses: Seafood & Rabbit!
Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #16 Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #17
Romantic with a local charm. Left: the restaurant outside – Right: inside
Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #18 Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #19
Left: Fresh local calamari – Right: Traditional Maltese rabbit in sweet sauce with Mediterranean vegetables

A gourmet adventure at Lulu Restaurant
Since our three days in Malta was a business trip: A Council Meeting for CEPIS (The Council of European Professional Informatics Societies), the local computer society invited all delegates and their SO for dinner. You’ve seen our food experiences so far – all with a local touch and to our satisfaction – however, the dinner at Lulu Restaurant was the top of the cream. Not because of the interior (although it was modern, fascinating and I liked the view from our table of their vine cellar behind a glass wall)
Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #9 Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #10
Left: entrance terrace – Right: view through the window from the terrace

and actually not because of the food either (although it tasted delicious!), but because of the atmosphere created by the staff and especially the owners; Nicky & Caroline Pillow. With their social awareness, how they made sure each and every guest was noticed and important to them and at the same time their attitude and service was far from intrusive, but heart-fully meant to make you feel good, relaxed and happy. More than 30 CEPIS delegates from all over Europe had a jolly good meal and when shaking our hands goodbye, saying we hope to see you soon again: that was a mutual feeling!
Of course I have not forgotten the food – Bon Appétit:
Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #11 Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #12
Left: Home – cured salmon with a citrus relish; wholegrain mustard vinaigrette and petit salad.
Right: Prime cut of beef fillet served with a Barolo wine jus, potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
Wine: La Valette – Blanc or Rouge.

Enjoying culture, local charm and food in Malta #13
Chocolate fondant with fresh cream and strawberries

So as you can see this was exactly the kind of trip we enjoy. We had the opportunity to explore the rich and ancient culture in Mdina (click to read my post!), meet the friendly local people, and enjoy wonderful culinary adventures together with my wife, and with friends from around the world. I hope you enjoyed our little view of Malta. Make sure you check out, to see for yourself, mine and others reviews on TripAdvisor!