30 Oct 2010
Wolfgang Wagner
The thing I like most about travel is the constant challenge to discover something new and cope with the unforeseen

After 3 days of traffic, noise, pollution and millions of people I had enough of Shanghai downtown and asked my friend Mr. Ji whether he would be willing to drive with me to some nice rural place outside town. He laughed and said that this would require at least a 2 hours drive.

So off we went direction west towards the ANHUI region. It took us about an hour until we crossed the city limits of Shanghai and then another hour to arrive at our destination. In between for about 100 km just industrial agglomerations and high rises under construction – this is China.

About 130 km west of Shanghai close to the city of Suzhou there is TaiHu Lake, one of the largest sweet water lakes in China. There are several islands within the lake which are connected by white bridges.

TaiHu Lake bridge

The whole area is a preferred weekend/holiday resort for the middle/upper class of Shanghai with golf course, boating marinas, meeting hotels and vacation homes close to the lake.

Once you get away from the beaten track, you encounter almost unspoiled nature and rural life. We stopped at a small village called Mei Yuan which is the capital of plum horticulture including a plum university. Life is still at a very slow pace – we went by some crab fishers and at the local street market.

Fresh caught crabs

Crab fishermen

"Local supermarket"

Up from a hill, we had a splendid view on the plum gardens – the famous plum liquor and everything out of plum is made here.

Plum garden

On our way back, we had lunch at a very elegant hotel just right at the lake. We were the only guests as the season was over. Nevertheless, they managed to cook us a meal from local incredients within 20 minutes – white fish from the lake, specialty soup, some vegetables (no idea what it was) and porc with tofu. All tasted special, but was very good.

Our way back took another two hours with some detours as the roads into Shanghai were as congested as ever – but we made it back. Quite an adventure for two hours of relaxation at a lake.

27 Oct 2010
Christina Lund Sørensen
I'm a keen collector of refrigerator magnets and I have a newfound passion for 'usu nigori' - sparkling sake

Der Goldene Hahn

Some times when I travel, I feel it can be difficult to keep trying to be creative about restaurants choices. The big question is always, where to go? There might be plenty of restaurants around, but where is the food good?

In Berlin I met up with my sister and her boyfriend. My sisters’ boyfriend, Rasmus, is the head chef at an Italian restaurant in Copenhagen called ’Fiat’, so naturally he is keen on eating Italian food, when he travels to get inspired. My sister and I are just keen on eating, so when he suggested that we should go to an Italian restaurant in Kreuzberg a friend of him had recommended, we said yes immediately.

A lot of U-Bahn stops and a rather long walk later we were finally there. And we were famished to the point, where we the blood sugar was low enough to make us a tad cranky. We entered the door and it was obvious that there was a private event going on in the restaurant. Disappointed we almost turned around, when the owner of the restaurant asked us, if we wanted to join. We looked at each other, looked at the owners smiling face and decided to accept his invitation. This turned out to be one of the smartest decisions we’d done in a long time.

The restaurant is also a bar

‘Der Goldene Hahn’ hosted a wine-tasting with four different wines from a small Italian winery called ‘Rattalino’ (www.massimorattalino.it). We had a Nebbiolo, two different Barbarrescos and a Barolo. They were exquisite. And the homemade pasta we had for one of the Barbarrescos (the pasta was actually the reason, why we came to the restaurant in the first place) was to die for – pumpkin ravioli with sage butter – I almost haven’t got words for how delicious it was.

Pumpkin Ravioli in sage butter

There probably wont be a wine tasting every night you stumble into ‘Der Goldene Hahn’, but there will for sure be homemade pasta, food at reasonable prices, great Italian wines and the friendliest service I’ve had in a long time. I can highly recommend a visit to this restaurant if you happen to be in Berlin and have a craving for homemade pasta.

Happy people at wine tasting

Der Goldene Hahn

Pücklerstrasse 20

10997 Berlin

Phone: +49 (030) 618 80 98

20 Oct 2010
Wolfgang Wagner
The thing I like most about travel is the constant challenge to discover something new and cope with the unforeseen

Just having arrived in Beijing, the resident PR agency Metromedia which works for Finnair called me up and suggested a meeting. I then proposed a much more easier setting – a nice restaurant where mostly locals have dinner and where food and pricing are still in sync.

Upon the suggestion of Shirley Yang who works the Finnair account, we went to Jinzun Roast Duck restaurant which was nearby my hotel.

It is rather trendy as it filled up quickly even on a Tuesday evening.


Jinzun Roast Duck restaurant

Shirley took on the ordering and she chose very wisely. We had Beijing Duck, mixed bamboo sprouts, salad and spicey shrimps – what a feast.

Chinese dinner with Shirley

During the course of the meal, we discussed in depth the must sees in Beijing besides the traditional sites like the Great Wall, Tianamen Square and Forbidden city.

Shirley´s hot spots are:

Houhai, a big lake in the middle of Beijing, around which there are a lot of bars in old Chinese style architectures. In this area there are some well preserved traditional Beijing Hutong. You will get a different experience there.

Summer Palace, a wonderful royal park, with beautiful lake and hills, and royal style buildings.

Nan luo gu xiang, a traditional Beijing style laneway, now it is full of interesting stores and bars.

As usual in China, the conversation took lots of turns and we touched upon lots of interesting subjects. And which is also a habit in China, you always order more food than you can eat – despite the fact that it was absolutely delicious. Stay tuned …

16 Oct 2010
Wolfgang Wagner
The thing I like most about travel is the constant challenge to discover something new and cope with the unforeseen

The modern Düsseldorf mostly caters to the needs of the working locals with its nice office buildings. There is, however, another part of town where business is out and fun is in – the Old town. Situated very close to the Rhine river promenade, it stretches about one kilometer in length and four blocks in width and is filled with restaurants and beer halls. Last count says that there are about 250 eating and drinking places within this small area.

Düsseldorf Old town

One of the specialities are the drinking halls where “Altbier”, a special locally brewed beer is served in small 0.2l glasses – mostly outside regardless of which weather conditions are predominating. I was there when heavy rain was pouring down, but nobody really seemed to care and continued drinking under large umbrellas.

All weather drinking

On weekends the party already starts late morning with lots of tourists flocking in and bars offering happy hour drinks from 1pm onwards.

For early starters

And the nights are usually pretty long in this part of town – I hope I will make it back in reasonable shape tonight.

12 Oct 2010
Wolfgang Wagner
The thing I like most about travel is the constant challenge to discover something new and cope with the unforeseen

Dining in Amsterdam is a real experience. You can get just about any international cuisine you wish – just like in any other major city on this planet.

But the Dutch have done one thing: They copied the original restaurant – not only in terms of food, but also from its appearance from the outside.

Would you have guessed that the below pictured restaurant is in Amsterdam?

Floating Chinese Restaurant

The original is located in Hongkong – it´s called Jumbo Kingdom and has more than 1500 places. Here in Amsterdam, they have “just” 500 seats.

9 Oct 2010
Wolfgang Wagner
The thing I like most about travel is the constant challenge to discover something new and cope with the unforeseen

When I started my journey, one of the first things was to call my old friend Jorge in Barcelona – he always knows the hottest places in town, especially if it gets to food. So we arranged our dinner date for last night.

After my extensive sightseeing and walking to and from Park Guell, I started to be really hungry around 6 pm, but this is far too early in Spain for dinner. I called Jorge to ask whether we could at seven, but he only laughed:” The restaurant only opens at 8pm”. So I continued starving for another two hours and then was promptly outside the recommended place:

Hot restaurant - MariscCO

From the outside, it looks like a trendy fish shop, but once you go in, you are immediately greeted by a waiter explaining to you the restaurant´s concept: Choose the fish and seafood you would like to see on your plate later, check out the prices on the chalkboard to be sure you can afford it, go to the next chalkboard round the corner to select the wine from a list of twenty options and then sit down and wait for your food to arrive.

Fish and seafood counter

"The menu"

The waiter then takes exactly the fish you have chosen to the kitchen where it is prepared just right in front of your eyes – no cheating possible as  the kitchen is open and the cook might even be open to your cooking suggestions, though I did not dare to try this option.

We shared a platter of large gambas a la plancha as a starter and Catalan Lobster with rice. As seafood requires some liquid to swim in we opted for a bottle of Fefinanes Albarino, a dry Spanish white wine.

Arros de llamantol

The gambas arrived just after 5 minutes and after having finished the starter course, our lobster was ready as well. The service was very professional – nice and knowledgeable. The prices are really reasonable both for food and the wine – most expensive bottle at 16 euros for a very good wine (small producer from Spain they explained).

We finished at around 10pm when the place really started to fill up – good food always means good business in Spain.

http://www.mariscco.com

Caller de Corsega, 272

7 Oct 2010
Christina Lund Sørensen
I'm a keen collector of refrigerator magnets and I have a newfound passion for 'usu nigori' - sparkling sake

If tofu was good enough for the peeps of the Ming Dynasty in China, it’s good enough for me. But a lot of people think that the coagulated soymilk has been invented by the devil and comes no way near a good piece of meat. It may be so, and if you’re from Texas or just have an extremely healthy appetite you might need a snack later that evening, but the tofu restaurants in Japan can not under any circumstances be missed. It’s THAT delicious.

You can find the traditional tofu restaurants in basically all neighbourhoods. I went to ‘Sora no Niwa’ a stone’s throw from Ebisu Station. The big attraction here seems to be ‘yuba’. Soy milk in a wooden square box that is heated over a small stove at the table. You wait for the milk to create tofu skin (kind of like the skin you see on hot chocolate and gravy) and then you take the skin and dip it into a sauce of soy, onion and spices. It’s great.

Other recommendable dishes are ‘goose and yuba’ and dices of soft tofu that tastes of avocado, sesame and cheese.

“Itadakimasu”, as they say in Japan.

Sora no Niwa

1st Fl. 4-7-2 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku

Tokyo 150-0013

Phone:03-5798-7331

7 Oct 2010
Ella Marshall
I am a self-confessed foodie, I am always seeking to test my taste buds.

New York is arguably the culinary captital of the world. With London, it’s possibly the only place in the world, where ramen, ravioli and rendang are available at your fingertips anytime, anywhere. Additionally, the city’s ability to offer good food at good prices reflects its standing as a leader in metropolitan dining.

In the three days I have been here, I have indulged in Mexican, Soul Food, American and my favourite…sushi! Without a doubt, all said cuisines are availible back home in London. But $7 (around £4.40) for good quality Mexican?

‘Fuggedaboutit’ as the New Yorkers would say!

This perhaps goes a long way in explaining why I was so chuffed to discover Inakaya yesterday. A robata grill and sushi restaurant, the eatery’s proximity to the New York Times building (next door in fact) and several office blocks, means it’s directly in the firing line of sharp-tongued food critics and ravenous suits alike. No pressure then.


Inakaya

One of the (very, very few) downsides of being a Quality Hunter is dining alone; an obstacle I assume, for many business travellers. So how delighted was I, that I would not be placed at a table for two, looked upon with pity by my fellow diners as my waiter loudly cleared away the tableware for my companion that would never arrive…

The magic of Japanese restaurants? The sushi bar! You can eat alone without looking, shall we say, tragic. Inakaya’s bar was laden with multiple bottles of sake, along with bowls of vegetables and seafood on ice ready to be freshly prepared by a trio of chefs.

I ordered a Premium Plate of 7 types of melt-in-the-mouth nigiri sushi including fatty tuna, medium fatty tuna, king crab, seared salmon belly, salmon roe, seared kobe beef and a chef’s surprise of what I believe was octopus. Nor could I resist the spicy tuna roll…

It was also interesting to see how the chefs, behind the expansive sushi counter delivered food to diners…

With a paddle!

4 Oct 2010
Warren Singh-Bartlett
I was born in Pakistan. My father is English and my mother is Indian. I was brought up between India, Taiwan, Brazil and almost every industrialised city you can think of in England.

My mission was to eat bear. But I was tired and I had a headache, so I thought I’d grab something quick at the hotel restaurant, get an early night and get a good start in the morning.

At first sight, Monte Rosa was unprepossessing. Aesthetically, somewhere between a log cabin (rustic panelling, skins and a deer head on one wall) and a pizzeria (somewhat surprising backlit stained glass panels in the ceiling), I’d passed it on my way up to my room and when I decided to eat there, for convenience’ sake, I left my camera in the room because I thought I’d have nothing to report on.

More fool me.

Yes, the music was a mix of songs I’d last heard as a child (Earth, Wind and Fire, anyone?), early Springsteen and Louis Armstrong/Ella Fitzgerald standards. Yes, the kitchen flooded the dining room with cooking smells everytime the door opened. And yes, the view out of the window was over the main street and a parking lot.

The first sign that I’d completely misjudged the place came in the form of the pre-dinner amuse bouche. This gift from the chef  was a tiny mug of creamy white bean soup, laced with cheese and served with a slice of crusty bread. It was absolutely delicious. Unbelievably so.

Tantalised, I was eager to sample the small bowl of salmon soup I had ordered as a starter. It was equally impressive, delicate pink chunks of fish poached in a cream soup, with a curl of smoky raw wild salmon perched on top. Sublime.

The main was equally magnificent; two slices of meaty, rose-coloured Arctic chard and pale, flaky whitefish set on a mound of lightly sautéed vegetables and small whole fried potatoes drenched in butter sauce.

True, with all that butter, the meal was not what you’d call slimming and my arteries might not thank me in the morning but as a culinary treat, it was epicurean, well worth the 482-kilometre flight from Helsinki alone. Chef Kristian Karnell, I’m going to sleep a happy man indeed!

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