The golden fish

A wonder of nature happens every winter when five ocean currents host the annual migration of the Norwegian-Arctic cod, or ‘Skrei’; these fish come down from the Barents Sea to the Lofoten Islands to spawn.

Eager fishermen catch this variety of fish, gut it, decapitate it, scale it, tie it in twos and hang it out to dry in order to preserve the fish. The fish does not freeze into pieces, but it doesn’t rot either. The fish simply dries in racks in the Nordic sun and wind from late winter until spring. Then, it is bone dry and easy to transport, but still retains its key nutrients; 1kg of this dried fish has the same nutritional value as 5kg of fresh fish!

The entire fish is consumed: the tails and body is exported to Spain, Italy, Portugal and the rest of Europe. The heads are sent to Nigeria to be cooked in soup. The livers are made into medicinal oil. And the tongues are kept as a Norwegian delicacy for tourists from near and far.

So far, so good

In my short time here it would seem that Craft beers are not such a popular drink of choice. The tap beers are seldom craft and to buy craft beers one must go out of their way and find the appropriate shop that sells them. Finding myself needing to kill time, I had the luck to be near a bar and trial a local brew.

Local commerce

To promote local commerce in the small village of Valdoreix, a small farmers and artisans market is set out every Saturday just outside the train station. 405 meters offer prepared food, produce, clothing, or even a vermut catalan and a nibble. Buy high quality jamon from a local producer and get it vacuumed sealed ready to travel!

And then there was wine

There are approximately 10,000 winegrowers and 853 wine companies in Catalunya. None of which I had ever heard of a few months ago. Now I can confirm that Catalonian wines (or at least the ones I have tried) tend to be full bodied and high in alcohol. Apparently, due to the grape varieties and the region’s warm weather ­conditions. With so much diversity around, one ought to start somewhere and look forward to explore other grape varieties and climate conditions…

A promise delivered

Tucked away at the end of a street and in the middle of a maze of narrow street of the gothic quarter is a place that promises good coffee. The long walk and wait were well worth it. Though I should have probably ordered two.

Decadent luncheon

Three kilometers away from Noosa and its gazillion tourists, Noosaville takes full advantage of its riverfront location with relaxing foreshore and leisurely aquatic pursuits. Running, walking and bike riding are popular activities along the riverside walkways; so is people watching or dining whilst sitting on the public benches. You might even see a boat go adrift. Early mornings you can be woken up by the colourful local and loud rainbow lorikeets with their morning calls.

Noosaville’s location makes it a perfect place to stay away from the crowds. Though it is possible to join them with the ferry service. A river cruise which includes commentary about the local history, wildlife, what to do and the homes along the river. Other more popular destinations are the nice restaurants with stunning river views and degustation menus with matching wines. Indulgence for an Easter Saturday afternoon!

How to make proper Tequila

Is it the drink that made Mexico famous or did Mexico make this drink famous?

Good Tequila is a mix of art, patience and hard work. The “pineapple” of the Agave takes from 7 to 10 years to harvest. It grows to an average of 40kg – 80kg; though in some cases it has grown to weigh 120kg.

The Agave is a cactus, though only one specific one can be used to make tequila: blue Agave, and is the sugar source for the fermentation needed to produce alcohol. After the pineapple is cooked and ground, it is juiced and only 40% remains. The rest is used as compost. Or in some places to make biscuits. The juice is then fermented and distilled at least twice to raise the alcohol content. In Mexico, tequila can have 35-55% alcohol though the minimum alcohol content to export is 40%.

Tequila that is bottled after distillation is “white” tequila. Its flavour is raw and is truer to the fruit. Tequila can also be aged in barrels for different lengths of type to make “reposado” (2-11 months in barrel), “añejo” (1-3 years in barrels) or “extra-añejo” (3+ years in barrels). The barrels, as with wine, change the flavour of the drink. White oak is what is needed and it comes from USA or France. There used to be also Canadian oak used but our northern neighbours tore their business by raising their taxes in the transportation.

The cost of barrels drives decisions on the final product. French oak is generally used for the older tequilas. A barrel can cost between 1000-1500 usd. Whilst american oak is used for younger types of tequila as the barrel cost is between 300-500 usd. Barrels used to age wine and bourbon are also sometimes re-used for tequila. Barrels life is 8-10 years thus so is the aging period of the “oldest” tequila.

Tequila is produced world wide though the drink has denomination of origin, which means that to be called as such it has to come from this region where blue Agave shares the same altitude, weather and soil. Otherwise the drink can be called Agave liquor or distillation of agave.

Real tequila is elegant and must be had sip by sip, accompanied by a slice of lime or orange and possibly a cricket. So next time you try this drink, make sure you appreciate the art that goes behind its production.

Lob not love

The greatest food of them all is a tortilla wrapped or rolled around a filling. Tacos predate the European invasion and were really invented by indigenous though they were not called “tacos” back then. In those days, between 1,000 and 500 B.C., tacos were really just a kind of edible spoon: using a tortilla to scoop a filling. It is thought that as corn was seen as a religious symbol by indigenous, it was incorporated into their cuisine to honor the gods. Hence making its appearance in tacos. There are also records that Hernan Cortez back in 1500s referred to the tortilla in one of his reports back to Spain. The word tortilla comes from the Nahuatl “tlaxcalli” and Hernan described it as a “corn flat bread sold in local markets”.

So now that we have history sorted, let us get one fact straight: real tacos come from a stand not from a sit-down restaurant. And it is always better to have a recommendation from a local. Like this place, commonly known as “tacos Lob” because they are outside the Mexican clothing chain “LOB”.

Thus, as you enter Mexican lands that is the one thing you must do – direct yourself to the best nearest taco stand. Who knows maybe you get to try a new filling – like tongue or lip!