At the Helsinki Coffee Festival

This weekend was full of events. I know many of you are waiting for my report from Grad Champagne (it was awesome), but I want to put some more time and effort into writing that. So today I will focus on the Helsinki Coffee Festival instead, where we found ourselves just by chance. M saw a poster on the wall of one of our favorite third wave cafes, and luckily the event was near to where we were staying – the Helsinki Cable Factory event hall. The tickets for the morning were 15 euros from the door and 12 euros if you bought them online. The fare included access to the event and an endless flow of samples of coffee. Continue reading “At the Helsinki Coffee Festival”

80 Meters Underground – Cricova Wine Cellars

It has been long since the last winery visit – and this one is a treat. Last week I visited nearly 70 year old Cricova winery in Moldova, half an hour ride from the Capital Chisinau. The winery is underground, housing a labyrinth of tunnels that have existed since the 15th century. The tunnels are over 120km long and 80 meters deep underground: Half of the roadways are used for wine storage and the rest for production, warehouses, tasting rooms and other facilities. Continue reading “80 Meters Underground – Cricova Wine Cellars”

The Resurrection of Magkeolli

Last Sunday, I wrote about our Easter trip to the capital of South Korea, Seoul. During our travels, we stumbled on a traditional Korean drink that really tickled our fancy – Makgeolli. Makgeolli is a Korean alcoholic beverage made from rice. Its a kind of rice wine, like Soju, but low in alcohol (from six to nine percent). Makgeolli is milky, creamy, and lightly sparkling with a some viscosity. The taste can be sweet or slightly bitter, and and the texture chalky with sediment that gives a cloudy look. Magkeolli is considered a happy communal drink, and due to its history as the “farmers” wine, it has been mostly unpopular since the 80’s. But recently the 2000 year old drink has been resurrected as young korean’s prefer low alcohol and healthier beverages. Continue reading “The Resurrection of Magkeolli”

The Seoul Journal

This will be hard to fit in one post, but here goes. For the past three and a half days, we have been in South Korea. Seoul to be exact. You might think that that’s a short time to visit a city, but it is often sufficient for us to have a break. It’s the long flights that are offsetting. However, once a year, we are lucky enough to fly long haul in first class – with airline points of course. But the first-class experience is not the topic (I can write someday about that too), I aim to summarize our four day food extravaganza: low and highlights. There are not many disappointments though (except for the Aseana first class lounge), but a list of great recommendations for a foody holiday in the capital of South Korea, Seoul.

To make this easy, I will divide the reviews to three categories: dining, drinks and coffee. We didn’t see many sights, but you can get a taste for the street life from the photos. I will start with the most obvious one, food.

Dining

In the beginning of the trip we set a goal to taste all well known Korean dishes: Bibimbap, Bulgogi, Korean BBQ and fried chicken. In addition, we planned a trip to the food market, to try some street food, and booked lunches at two Michelin starred restaurants: Mingles (*) and Jungsik (**). After being acquainted with a local Korean rice wine called Makgeolli, we made a third booking, for dinner at restaurant said to have one of the best selection of local wines in town, Mr. Ahns.

For the local delicacies, we went as low key as possible. Places that the locals would go to, on a weeknight. The only touristy place was Gogung, where we had the Bibimbap and Bulgogi. It was a tourist restaurant, but with low prices and a good display of local cooking. It was conveniently located in the shopping area of Myeong-Dong, and we were a bit short on time. For the Korean BBQ we went to Mapo Sutpul Galbi in Gangnam. A simple place with high quality meat. Maple Tree House, a chain, was our second option, but we opted for the one that was on our way. Fried chicken was available almost everywhere. It was so addictive that we had it several times. Accompanied by beer of course – preferably a cheap light lager (Hite).

For the finer restaurants, I really only want to talk about one place – Mr. Ahn’s. Migles and Jungsik, were both ok, but not that high in their class. At Mingles we also had some issues with the payment. They required a weird Paypal deposit for booking, and returning it was a drag as we had booked the restaurant via a concierge. In the end the starred chef himself came out and guaranteed we would get our deposit back. I am sure they solved it the best way possible, but it still resulted in irritation. Jungsik was much more up to standards, but I would not rank it in my top five, not even my top ten restaurants in the world (am I getting spoiled?).

Mr. Ahn’s was a totally different story. We booked a table to be able to go and taste Makgeolli, traditional Korean rice wine, which we hear has become popular among young people. It’s a thick, grainy liquid that has a bit of sweetness; the taste is quite soft and non-intimidating. Makgeolli is low on alcohol, so it is quite easy drinking. I will actually research this a bit more and write a whole separate post on this new obsession. The restaurant itself was very small. Hard to find, even for the locals, as it was very minimalist and had no sign. Everything was in Korean, but luckily the waiter spoke decent English. We ordered some nice sounding appetizers, two mains and a dessert, with expectations of getting our tummies full, but we never expected Mr. Ahn’s to be a foody paradise. The dishes were innovative, well presented and could be characterized as an explosion of tastes. The cuisine was Korean but combined with some modern European ideas. We both agreed that this was the best food experience the whole week, one that we will remember for some time.

Cocktails

To the drinks section then. Many know that I am fond of speakeasies, secret bars that require some insight information and a skilled eye. They are not that hard to find, ever, but great fun, and often the cocktails are also pretty good. A speakeasy must have something more than a cellar-like ambiance, people need to be motivated somehow to look for them. And on our list, we had four that we wanted to visit: Alice, Le Chamber, Twelve and Charles H. All of the bars were good in their own way: Alice was quirky, with an Alice in Wonderland theme. It is located in the back of an underground flower shop, and definitely had the most innovative drinks we had seen in a long time. The presentation was part of the fun. Sadly, the lighting was too poor to take proper photos, and usually the bar staff frown upon a flash.

The best cocktails, in taste, were served at Le Chamber. This one also has the most fun entrance as the door is behind a bookshelf. You need to press the right book to get in and the staff will not tell you which one it is (neither will I, I am sure you will find it). Le chamber was not as big on presentation of drinks but did the best job with taste. From le Chamber we also got a tip to go to Charles D.

Charled D. was the hardest of all to find. It was said to be located in the cellar floor of the Four Seasons hotel, through a very discreet door that looked like a maintenance closet. Or it should have been hard to find, the hotel staff were too generous with tips and we picked the right door straight away. A bit boring If you ask me. Charles D. was the biggest and clubbiest of all the speakeasies and offered the most comprehensive list of cocktails. There were styles and tastes from around the world: New York, Havana and Hong Kong. You could also do some interesting flights, like the Manhattan trio, with three different styles of mini Manhattans. The presentation of the cocktails was not comparable to Alice, but the tastes were supreme and service rocking.

Twelve was perhaps the most boring of the places we visited (cocktail fatigue), but it had some nice features. They did not have any kitchen, but you could order your own food there, which was a big plus. Cocktails were mainly whisky-based, so for friends of Bourbon, this is a paradise.

Coffee

And finally, coffee. I don’t even know where to start. Seoul is full of great coffee places. Actually, you cannot avoid running into a Chemex or V60 when you are out and about. Not all places are good, but they try. M could perhaps elaborate more, as he toured coffee places while I took photos. But my top coffee shop was Fritz Coffee and Bread in Gangnam. Their Kenyan cold brew was awesome, and I really liked the looks of the baked goods: bread and pastries. Perhaps good to mention that in Korea, it is always advised to state if you are having you coffee hot or cold. Cold seems to be the norm there.

And here ends my lengthy list of recommendations for Seoul. We were perhaps a bit lucky this time, but luck is only a part of it as M always does quite extensive research on where to go. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

xx Soile

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Yukhoe tartar at Buchon Yukhoe
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In the tunnels of Gwangjang market, where we just stumbled on to Buchon Yukhoe
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At the Gwangjang market
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Fried chicken and beer
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Late night dumplings and Makgeolli
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Walking in Itaewon
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Dessert at Mingles
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Korean BBQ at Mapo Sutbul galbi
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The shopping street at Myeong-Dong
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Shoppers in Myeong-Dong
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Tasting Bulgogi at Gogung
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Korean girls seem to be very fond of photos of themselves
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Mother and daughter at the Ihwa Mural Village
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At Ihwa Mural Village
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Taking the steps at the mural village
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Street art at Ihwa mural village
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Gallery cafe at the hills of Ihwa
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Swimming up the stairs at Ihwa mural village
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Tasting Makgeolli at Mr Ahn’s
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Morning coffee run at Fritz
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Amuse bouche at Jungsik
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The dessert at Jungsik

Dining Like a Kazakh

I have recently taken on a new job. Maybe you have noticed – the blog, and my Instagram account, has an increasing number of references to countries in Central Asia. It’s quite exciting actually. My new job is taking me places: to the shores of Lake Caucasus, ancient cities along the silk road and far away business hubs, that I before did not know existed. I have been truly amazed and blown away by these cultures, and what treasures lie behind previously closed borders. As my trips are for business only, I haven’t had much time to explore. But my lovely colleagues have every time made sure, that I get at least a small taste of local culture. This week, I was visiting Almaty – business hub and former capital city of Kazakhstan.  Continue reading “Dining Like a Kazakh”

A Night at Frantzen

If there is one restaurant in Sweden that has been making headlines lately, it is Frantzen. In February, at the Michelin gala in Copenhagen, star chef Björn Frantzen finally got his wish, and made culinary history by bringing the first three-star restaurant in history to Sweden. Since the announcement it has been impossible to book a table. Luckily yours truly had a booking from before the announcement, so a week ago we dressed up and hit the town for our first Swedish three-star meal. Continue reading “A Night at Frantzen”

The Cocktail Garnish Project

You don’t find me in the kitchen that often. Or you do, but its when I am snacking and disturbing while M tries to make food; or when I am making cocktails. Today it has been the latter. I have long been thinking of drying lemon slices to make garnishes for my home made cocktails, and today was one of those days that I just decided to get it done. Continue reading “The Cocktail Garnish Project”

Three Restaurant Tips for Surviving Winter in Stockholm

March is perhaps the most depressing month of the year – or at least the second, after November. But when it’s depressing weather outside, what better than to book a nice cozy restaurant to cheer up your weekend. Here are a few recommendations, from three different price classes, that I have visited in the past month.  Continue reading “Three Restaurant Tips for Surviving Winter in Stockholm”

From Baku with Love

Since I am only writing on Sundays now, it does not really make sense continuing Wineweek as it is. My workload has increased both at my “adult job” as well as with Tripsteri, so I don’t find it enjoyable to write several times a week any more. But on Sundays, I feel relaxed and inspired, and writing this blog contributes to my overall sanity. But this is not the topic of today’s post. This week, I had the pleasure and honor to visit Azerbaijan for the first time in my life, and I took a few pictures from the coast of the Caspian sea as souvenirs. Continue reading “From Baku with Love”

Wineweek 173: The Launch Party

Today I want to write about one of the greatest things I have been working on the past year, our Tripsteri travel app, that was finally officially launched this week. And when you launch something that great, you have to have a party, right! I had very little to do with it, but my girls had put together a super event at our office in Helsinki. We had some awesome raw pizzas, vegan chocolate cake, Moritz beer and newly launched Kyrö distillery Bitter Rye with Fever Tree aromatic tonic. For viewing frankly the best travel app there is, you can visit the app store and search for Tripsteri, and for reading more about the concept and about our company, visit www.tripsteriapp.com Continue reading “Wineweek 173: The Launch Party”