Oslo Continued – Local Food and Playing in the Park

The Harbor - Oslo, Norway

When I last left you, Sten and I had just finished exploring a large portion of Oslo.  It was a fantastic insight into the city, Norse history and local culture. But, I wasn’t done.  In fact, my hosts still had  a few surprises left up their sleeves.

After a quick hello, and then a far longer nap (dare I cry jetlag?)  I eventually stumbled out of bed and wandered into the living room.  A bit groggy but generally feeling refreshed I settled into a stool and joined the others.  As it turned out, we’d all crashed for longer than anticipated. When the sun never sets, a nap here or there quickly turns into a great idea.

Local Food - Oslo, Norway

To my delight Hildur had picked up some pre-cooked whole shrimp on her way home from work, and had set to preparing a classic regional dish.  The ingredients were simple.  Boiled and well salted shrimp, sliced bread, mayo, sliced green onions and lemon.  Combine it all as pictured in the image above, and then enjoy.  It was delicious, and a meal I hope to replicate sometime in the near future.  The shrimp in particular caught my attention – the Norwegian shrimp are a different species than the ones I’m familiar with in the US. They’re a deeper orange-almost red when cooked, slightly smaller and have a saltier/stronger shrimp taste. Stuffed, we decided to enjoy the weather and set out towards the park.  Hildur grabbed a bag of blocks – which I later learned was a fun game to play in the park.

The 3 minute walk to the park was pleasant.  The weather perfect – riding that fine line between cool and warm.  The sun had started its ever so gradual descent leaving everything with the slight suggestion of Sunset despite the reality that it was still hours off.  As seems to be the case with most Scandinavian parks in summer, despite the late hour (it was perhaps 10PM), there were still lots of people out and about.  BBQing, lounging, drinking, chatting, and playing an assortment of park games.

For our part we set up shop next to one of the small ponds, then found a flat area to play our game.  To my surprise, it was one I’d never seen before.   Each team set up a series of rectangular blocks standing on end.  The blocks were spaced about a foot apart in a long line, parallel to your opposition’s blocks. Each team had 6 or 8.   Located in the middle – about 10 feet from either side – was a larger, taller rectangular block.

The goal?  Each individual used three foot long round, wooden, stakes which were lobbed straight at the opposing bricks.  The goal?  Knock as many down as you could, before eventually going after the central block.  The catch?  Distance, aim, and a few additional challenges which went with each block which you managed to knock down.

All in all the game was one of the more entertaining park games I’ve played in a long time (afraid I’m not a huge fan of Frisbee).  The company was great, and the setting…well…how often can you claim to have spent a relaxing evening playing in the park in the shadow of Norway’s Royal Palace?

Cadiz Part III

Clean, refreshed and ready for a full evening I lazily drifted from my room to the common area after a hearty nap.  There, I checked my e-mail, chatted with the other hostel goers and then decided to set out for a snack.  After a leisurely walk exploring the narrow, winding streets around the hostel I eventually made my way back to my favorite greasy spoon.  Just up the alleyway and around the corner from the hostel…the place was a small bustling tapas restaurant with a large wrap around bar showcasing their various tapas options.  With an old style half door into the kitchen three older gentleman worked the bar in a bustle of commotion.  Taking orders, scooping plates of tapas, pouring beers and joking along with the customers. The place was affordable which, combined with it’s diverse selection of seafood/heavy foods, made for a delightful combination.

During previous visits I’d tried their albondigas, beef stuffed cuttlefish and whole wine steamed cuttlefish.  This time I went for something different:

Always one for an adventure I dove into their escargot. The snails were delicious once you got over their appearance and the the realization that they looked just like the garden snails that had plagued our gardens when I was growing up.  I’ve had escargot a number of times in a variety of countries.  Each time, however, they’ve been prepared in very different ways. This was no exception.  They were cooked in a brothy tomato sauce with slight meat undertones not unlike the sauce the local albondigas was served in. With a glass of local beer, tooth pick, plate of green olives and small loaf of bread, I made quick work of the hearty bowl of snails while relaxing and reflecting on the events of the day.

With my palate wet I made my way back into the city and towards the beach where several of the others had mentioned they might be.  After a brief walk I found the beach and before long had stumbled onto a small group – mostly made up of those temporarily working at the hostel.  There I was quickly welcomed into the group as we all sat on a beautiful sand beach, reclining against the seawall while enjoying a beautiful, warm winter day.

One of the guys had brought a guitar, while one of the girls had brought a bottle of champagne. After the guys tossed a ball around for a bit and the rest of us chatted, we cracked open the bottle of champagne, passing it around as one of the guys played a few guitar licks.

After relaxing and enjoying the beach for a while the sun began to set and we all decided it was time to head back to the hostel.  I made my way back where I caught up with the hostelers I knew, met several new faces, and exchanged a variety of horrible, entertaining, delightful and periodically hysterically offensive stories.

Casa Caracol is one of those delightful hostels that’s small enough and personal enough that the owner can usually be found working, socializing, or generally instigating a good time.   Nick – our patron – was usually somewhere to be found and always had fantastic stories, a smart quip for a silly question or a hearty argument for a good debate.

By 7 we had begun to gather, preparing our various contributions to the Christmas potluck. To my relief and as one might imagine, most of those on the road over Christmas aren’t overly religious. The hostel staff and most of my fellow travelers were no exception. Not a fan or believer myself, I was happy to spend the evening with a crowd who took it for what it was. ..A terrific excuse for good food, a great party and camraderie. As people pulled up youtube music videos for music we sat discussing music, shouting out requests and generally teasing each other for our picks.

I conferred with Aaron – a fellow traveler and chef from New York –  on how best to cook the kilo of small shrimp, potatoes, garlic and peppers I’d picked up. I eventually decided on pan frying them in oil.  As I set to frying the small shrimp whole others created a variety of delicious eats.  There was a huge bowl of curry, a platter of taters, green olives, a large bowl of fruit, deviled eggs, a huge Spanish omlette and other foods I can’t recall…not to mention a multitude of Spanish wines and bottles of beer. Even a few pitchers of mojito mix.The following is a quick walk through in the lead up to the meal:

Before long the periodic nibbling gave way to a full onslaught and within 30 minutes we’d left a devastated table behind, cleaned out most of the food and been reduced to a near food coma. With cigarette smoke heavy in the air we all sat around chatting, breaking periodically for spurts of dancing or wildly re-enacted stories.

As the night carried on (and got progressively more ridiculous) the music got louder, the wine stronger and the stories grew more and more comical.  All set to the backdrop of the seasonally decorated hostel mascot (yes, that’s a donkey doll with a beard and Indian headdress on) and Christmas tree.  I learned various Peruvian card games, cleaned up in a few games of B.S. and learned new and interesting facts about France.

Eventually we elected to set off to one of the local bars – as I recall it was about 2AM or so – but not before we picked up and helped Nick carry a large refrigerator box.  With the box in tow on our heads we made our way through the streets towards the heart of downtown….pausing briefly to gift the box to one of the local homeless men that Nick had befriended. Cardboard box delivered we made our way up a small hill before reaching a number of trendy local clubs.  The mixture of people was engaging and the scene was entertaining. We danced, continued to drink and generally had an amazing time. Sometime around 5:30 we eventually found our way back to the hostel and crawled into bed.

By 1 pm I crawled out of my bunk bed. After taking some flack for snoring heavily I washed up, managed to get my shoes on, ate a quick snack and set out into the city.

The city itself is beautiful in an old, compact, historical sort of way.  I started by wrapping along the peninsula’s coast towards the tip where I’d failed to explore during previous forays. As I passed the main Cathedral I quickly rounded the point and came across the paved walkway that hopped from small searock formation to searock formation as it gently curved out towards the city’s main fortress.  However, before making my way out onto the walkway I paused to take in a spectacular sand carving of a dragon at rest.

After enjoying the artwork for a while I continued out along the walkway as the sandy beaches quickly fell away.  Before long I found myself at the locked doors of the fortress surrounded by a small rocky area just above water level on either side of the raised causeway. To my delight the small waves came crashing in, slowly winding through a series of tunnels under the rocks which had been slowly warn away by the tide’s incessant pummeling. In several places the broken waves came rushing in before eventually crashing against a hollowed-out tunnel which forced the seawater up in a geyserlike fashion.  Always eager for a reason to pause and relax I kicked off my backpack and rested for a while.

Moments like that one are the subtle joys of travel that remind you why life is worth living to its fullest.  After my brief respite and musings I wound my way back down the long walkway before finding another spot too good to pass up.  With beautiful white sand beaches, clear blue waters, beautiful weather and gorgeous, clear blue skies I quickly found myself reclining once more…

A bit sandy but feeling positively amazing I wound along the beach taking in the rest of the old port which now stood vigilant guard over a fishing fleet of small boats. From the beach I set off around the tip of the peninsula before eventually cutting back towards the inland side of the point.  Before long I found myself in a large, beautiful park full of well fed cats, beautifully manicured trees cut in giant cones, amazing spirals and a multitude of other shapes. All decorated with blooming flowers and centered around a small park cafe which was open.  For 4 Euro I snagged a quick soda, 2 chicken skewers and a side of potatoes and then set off through the rest of the park.

After leaving the park I continued along the coast.  As the walls were more protected and no longer faced outwards toward the harsh open ocean, the cement breakwaters were replaced by the city’s old, unadorned defensive wall.  All lined by a beautiful tree-lined walkway and decorated with beautiful wrought iron lamps.

Eventually my path led me back into the beautiful inner city streets.  Paved with cobblestones and lined with lamps the city streets sport an abundance of beautiful painted windows, small flower-laden window sills and countless power lines, wires, and laundry lines stretched across the small gaps between the buildings that the streets create.

Eventually I found my way back to the hostel where I settled in for drinks and the usual evening hostel revelries.  Tomorrow I leave for Grenada.

Eager to see more photos of the places outlined in this post?  View the complete album here!

January 20th 2009 – Today Was A Good Day

Today is January 20th, 2009 and it was a good day.  It was one of those days that stands out in your memory as history marches forward.  As the paintbrush of time colors in the tapestry of life, what once struck us as broad strokes of the brush fade into subtle outlines. I have no doubts that this day – these memories – will survive the test of time.  As I reflect upon this day in history I know that these past 24 hours will forever stand as a cornerstone in the annals of American history.  Further, though it is perhaps far less significant to the world at large, today has held incredible significance for me personally and not just because of the presidential inauguration of Barack H. Obama.

Leann Rimes – The Star Spangled Banner

Like many Americans today was special for me.  It was the first time in my life that the candidate I had chosen, researched, fought for and supported was elected as President of the United States.   It is an amazing affirmation of a political system that, despite its problems, is one of the world’s modern marvels.  Today, the majority will of over 300 million US citizens was carried out in a peaceful transition of power between two camps of astoundingly different ideologies and principles…All framed by the backdrop of one of the worlds most powerful military and economic powers.   What an amazing thing.

The Necessity

I believe that this transition – this wide stroke of the brush – marks the true beginning of the 21st century.  For the last 8 years we have been in flux.  As a nation we have been lost, forced to adjust. We have been trudging forward while adhering to outdated philosophies and principles. While other parts of the world began to embrace the 21st century the United States stood confused and unsure of its own identity.  The cost has been a devastating economic collapse, a widespread assault on intellectualism and major adjustments across the global political landscape.

I realize that President Obama and his team will not accomplish all that is expected of them.  I also realize that the true depths of his moral fiber and vision are untested. Yet I refuse to give up on the belief that he holds the potential to truly be the man we believe him to be. His track record suggests that he harbors the inner potential to truly lead the United States into the 21st century and his platform offers a framework to help America take those steps.

President Obama’s speech today was not flashy. It did not provide great quotes to be regurgitated across the annals of time – but it wasn’t meant to. Today’s speech spoke to the intellectuals among the American people and the world at large.  It was a speech that said, “I am here now and I will do everything within my power to do what is necessary.”  It was the speech of a humble man with noble character reaching out to his fellows with sleeves rolled up, back bent with the weight of a world that can be.  It was a speech that spoke to those of us who have been laboring furiously to keep America strong, to keep America true and to keep America supreme.  For me it was a dream come true. It was a speech that re-committed America to true Science. It was a speech that re-committed America to protecting the world that sustains us. It was a speech that re-committed America to the constitution and our roots. It was a speech that re-committed America to education, peace, and prosperity. Equally as significant, it condemned the actions over the past 8 years that pulled us towards catastrophe.   Above all, it was a speech that committed America to change – no matter how difficult that change may be – and  embraced the needs and dynamics of the 21st century.


Perhaps it’s my perception of the world as a Millennial. Perhaps it’s the result of my travel or upbringing.  I find myself in an odd conundrum. While today marks an incredible moment in American history and has turned the tide of hundreds of years of blood, tears and agony, I find myself somewhat detached. I’ve never seen a segregated world. I’ve never lived in an America powered by slavery.  Born in 1985, the world I know and have seen is one of hope and opportunity.

I have no illusions as to the presence of stereotypes within myself but I revel in the fact that those are just that…idle stereotypes easily displaced and overcome.  My world is one that offers but a glance to race while focusing its scrutiny on the individual regardless of their sex or ethnicity.  As the world and America celebrate an historic moment that rightfully has profound meaning to those who at one time attended segregated schools and faced the most insidious forms of hatred, I find myself looking forward.  I pause today in profound gratitude to all those who have made this day possible, but equally it’s significance is somewhat reduced for me. For me this is not about the election of America’s first Black President, but rather about what I hope will be one of America’s greatest Presidents.

My Brother

As I sat watching President Obama sworn into office my younger brother, an individual who I am incredibly close to, was somewhere in the skies over Europe.  At the age of 21 he has undertaken an adventure that leaves me awed.  He left the U.S. on the evening of the 19th and began the long trip across the Atlantic to London before continuing down toward Italy where he will begin an internship with the US Consulate. The connection between a new president and my brother’s impending period of service truly strengthened my investment and pride in the all that the US is and has to offer. The resulting feeling isn’t something words will convey – all I can say is that the feeling was powerful, unique, and complex. Today marks the start of a major phase of growth in his life and no doubt, through all that he will share, my own.

Food, Reflections & Capitalism

At 5:00PM I left my office in Scottsdale where I work as a Mergers and Acquisitions Analyst. I paused briefly at the market to pick up groceries and then again to purchase a cigar. By 5:30 I was home and after a brief pause set to cooking a special celebratory, albeit experimental, dinner.

Sleeves rolled up I set to it – angel hair rice noodles, two beautiful portabello mushrooms, 1 package of enoki mushrooms, half a yellow onion, 1 pound of peeled fresh shrimp, 6 saved shrimp heads, 4 chopped and diced cloves of garlic, half a lemon, a hearty mix of spices, salt, pepper, olive oil, butter and 1/3 of a bottle of canola oil. Soon I had a bubbling frying pan full of noodles and delicious smelling food. Somehow, some way, the meal turned out perfectly and resulted in an incredible, steaming plate of a pasta/seafood delight.

After dinner and ready to relax I picked up the CAO Criollo Cigar I’d purchased earlier, poured a sipping glass of Effen Black Cherry Vodka on the rocks and made my way outside into Scottsdale’s beautiful, partly cloudy, 75 degree evening.  The CAO Criollo was perfect: mild and slow burning with just the right hint of taste.  As I sat on the steps of my apartment complex I reflected on the day, the year and all that had transpired.  As I sat there watching the stars slowly brighten across the sky I considered my various entrepreneurial projects and decided to finish the evening out with the addition of a new one – the attempted sale of several domain names I purchased back in August.

Truly I live a blessed life.  One lived in the greatest country in the world.  Today was a good day.

Cadiz Part II

After the previous night’s sushi and tapas I started the following day with plans to take things easy. The combination of an old injury, hours of walking each day, cobblestone streets and nights full of dancing had done a number on my knee and I needed to rest it.  Still, I was eager to stock up on food and had heard that with Christmas coming the following day all of the markets were closing at 3PM and would remain closed through the following day.

After a slow start to the morning I set out into the warren of old winding streets that zig-zagged across the peninsula crowned by Cadiz .  Map in hand, I slowly made my way down beautiful cobblestone streets, pausing from time to time at small intersections just large enough to fit a single pedestrian and car through at once. One might think that with tiny winding streets barely large enough for a compact car, and buildings hundreds of years old, that European cities would be dirty.  While some are, most are incredibly clean. Cadiz is no exception.  Its carefully laid streets are washed on a regular – perhaps even daily – basis leaving clean walking paths devoid of most litter and unmarred by so much as a single weed.

I struggled to internalize the scale of the map as I plotted out my route to the large outdoor market.  I eventually bumped into the ocean.  The day was gorgeous with calm waves gently caressing the large square cement breakwater.  As I traced my way along the ocean I enjoyed the fresh sea scent and gentle crispness to the air.  Before long I found the side street I needed and made my way down a wide, albeit random, set of  stairs which dumped in to a small alleyway being used as a parking area for several compacts.  As is somewhat common in the back streets and side alleys in Europe, the whole area smelled of urine.  Eager to avoid stopping and smelling the roses I quickly made my way back into the internal mix of streets and before long found Cadiz’s old outdoor market.

The original building which looked to be quite old was being renovated. In what I assume was originally a square in front of it, an expansive portable tent had been set up.  As I rounded the side of the old market and prepared to enter the temporary tent, I passed by the following street vendor with a small table set up loaded with a healthy mound of raw sea urchins.  The fisherman had halved urchins sitting out on his table in the same way super markets often display their melons. In retrospect I probably should have stopped and sampled one of the urchins, but I’ve never been a huge fan of the texture or taste and as such decided to skip the snack.

The tent was chock full of hundreds of small vendor’s stands offering everything from fresh crab to exotic olives.  I’ve always loved the ocean and the bounty of creatures that come from it.  I guess it’s no surprise then that I also love fish markets and seafood.

One of my favorite things about European markets is the quantity of fresh food displayed.  From beautiful fresh salmon to fish roe, the seafood section of the market was packed with stalls.  If I had to guess I’d say that there were easily 30 stalls with seafood alone.  Located on the coast, Cadiz has fantastic fresh seafood at incredibly reasonable prices. I candidly filmed the following clip from my hip as I walked through the crowded isle.  I apologize for the quality of the video but hope it conveys part of the experience (make sure to select “watch in High Quality”):


Eventually after taking in the sights for a few minutes and checking out the various vendors prices, I remembered that I was there to pick up food for several meals. Before long I’d purchased 1kg of large tiger shrimp for 8 Euro and another kilo of smaller shrimp for 4 Euro. With bags in hand I wound through the stalls to the next row over which had a mixture of meat, vegetables and fish.

After a few more minutes I’d picked up a kilo of delicious, sweet, mandarin oranges for 2 Euro, a clove of garlic, lemons and a bag of potatoes. With my arms and bag loaded down I began my trip home, pausing at a small super market to pick up a 6 pack of beer and a bottle of wine.

Despite slightly overshooting my hostel I easily found my way back. Once back  I separated my goods into bags, labeled them and then either put them in the hostel fridge or one of the small dry goods bins they had available. After getting everything put away I set to making a delicious shrimp and pasta meal for a late lunch which I shared with several of the other guys who were relaxing in the hostel common area.

Stuffed after several bowls of pasta I cleaned up and made my way to my room for a refreshing shower, pleasant nap and a bit of reading (Dad’s The Spirits in the Ruins).

More to come soon – Stay tuned!

Crab, Oysters, Shrimp & Pasta for $14 a Plate

Table with Crab Dinner

Listen to this post:

Crab, Oysters, Shrimp & Pasta for $14 Audio

The Challenge?

To cook a seafood meal for three, for under $20 a piece with fresh seafood purchased at the local Chinese Cultural Center (best seafood in town). Actual per person cost? Less than $14. This post is a follow up on my earlier, “How To Eat Like a Millionaire on a College Budget” post.

The ingredients?

  • 2 Live Dungeness Crabs
  • 1.5 Pounds of headless Shrimp
  • 3 chunks of fresh Garlic
  • 1 set of fresh Green Onions
  • 1 bag of Fettuccine Pasta
  • 1/2 bottle of Pasta Sauce
  • 6 leftover button top mushrooms
  • 1 bag of frozen chopped Spinach
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Several Limes
  • Several Lemons
  • Garlic Powder
  • Italian Seasoning Mix
  • Parsley Flakes
  • Rosemary

Please note that the cost of the seasonings, olive oil, and butter is not included in the cost because of their multi-use nature.

Without further delay, here’s the video walk through with guest presenters Nathaniel Berger and Charles Trahern.

Post Mortem
The meal was fantastic.  I wasn’t paying attention and accidentally overcooked the Spinach, which was the biggest disappointment, but still very edible.  The shrimp were also slightly overcooked for my taste (I prefer most of my food on the rarer side) but still very flavorful. The crab was absolutely fantastic – packed with flavor and perfectly cooked. The pasta was delicious with a little fuller flavor than standard pasta. The oysters were fantastic.  Fresh, good sized, and full of flavor – remember the salt and lime, it’s a must!

As always, thanks for tuning in!  Please post questions, thoughts and feedback in the comment section – I value your feedback and insights!

Fish, A Frying Pan and $9

Howdy all,

I’ve decided to follow up on my previous post in which I shared my technique for cooking a live Dungeness crab, shrimp, squash and salad for $15. For today’s project I chose salmon, sole, yams, and a side salad. Total project cost is about $9. In usual form my focus is on simplicity, price and how to use your frying pan/microwave to cook anything you can dream up.

Instead of writing out a step by step I’ve recorded a video of the process. Additional comments, information, options and directions are included below.


  • .7 pounds of fresh salmon (skin on) – on sale for 5.99 pound – cost approx $4
  • .2 pounds of fresh sole – cost $1.00
  • 1 lemon – cost $.70
  • 1 yam – cost approx $1
  • 1 bunch of onion chives – $.60
  • 1/4 white onion – $.50
  • 1/2 bag pre-mix leftover spring salad – cost $1.25
  • Odds and ends herbs/salt/pepper – not priced.
  • 1 quick pour of open white wine I had on hand – not priced/necessary.

I tend to have a cavernous appetite and as a result the portions I cook are often fairly large. If you have a small/medium appetite you could easily cut out the sole, or reduce the size of the salmon portion in order to drop the price of the meal. For the super price conscientious you might also substitute lemon juice in a bottle for the real deal. While effecting the taste somewhat (I used half of a whole lemon with the peel on as flavoring) a few drops would still allow for sufficient flavoring. I have not tested this recipe on other types of fish, but it should work with almost any mild fish including trout and tilapia.

Spices – In this recipe the primary flavoring comes from salt, pepper, lemon and onions. However, if you have rosemary, sage, or other spices like those shown in the video feel free to apply them. As you do so, just follow a simple rule – how will this taste with fish, onion, and pepper?

Cooking time – fish cooks extremely fast and tends to be pretty thin. Keep an eye on it. You want it to be moist and flaky, but if you overcook it, it will fall apart and you will end up with more of a soup than a fillet.

I hope this was helpful!