Wine and Korean Inspired Food at Nook

I know I said I would cut down on restaurant posts, however, Nook is a place I feel I need to share with everyone. To my defense, they serve over 40 different wines by the glass. So I am not really straying from the purpose of this blog, am I.

Nook is a restaurant in the hipster area of SoFo in Stockholm. The restaurant is casual, but serves nice set menus of fine-dining-ish Scandinavian food with a Korean twist. Sounds quirky, but to be honest, the execution is much more traditional than the concept lets on.The ambiance is a bit of French-bistro mixed with sleek Swedish simplicity. Tables are not too close together, which was a true blessing on that hot summer afternoon we decided to visit. You can choose from two three-course menus, both priced very reasonable in between 350-400 SEK.

What came as a surprise to me as was the number of wines that they had by the glass. The actual list is only per bottle, however, the sommelier promises that he does a large number of the wines by the glass. The only downside is that he does not have any list detailing which wines are sold by the glass, so we have to describe our preferences for him to be able to point out suitable candidates. In general, I like a good sommelier who makes suggestions for me. However, I WANT to browse the whole list myself. What if there is something really interesting that I just did not describe at that moment. The list is heavy on France, the most interesting wines being whites from Bourgogne and Bordeaux (it was hot outside, so perhaps that really drew me to the white-side). M also had a vey nice crispy fresh Riesling. The champagne list is disappointingly main-stream and the only bubbly by the glass is Pommery Brut. I am hoping this will change in the future.

Some edamame to start the meal
Some edamame to start the meal

A crisp white Bourgogne in the hot Stockholm weather
A crisp white Bourgogne in the hot Stockholm weather

Nook does not look much like a Korean restaurant.
Nook does not look much like a Korean restaurant.

The beautiful blueberry sorbet
The beautiful blueberry sorbet
Food-wise, we had some wonderful dishes. I had chantarelles with miso, burned butter, egg and truffle as a starter and a white fish with leek, dill and caviar as a main. For dessert, I had blueberry sorbet with roasted wheat. I must say that my menu was excellent. I think M was slightly jealous of the starter. The other menu (that M had) contained king crab with sweet corn, Korean chili and coriander as a starter, Veal with tomatoes as a main and punch ice-cream with candied egg, rosemary and cake crumbs as dessert. Both menus sound wonderful, right? I feel both sets were great value for money.

Great food, great wines and great service. Even with a few disappointing features, I would give Nook 4.5 stars. Grabbing a table is not too difficult if you just book well in advance, so for a winelovers night out in Stockholm, Nook is a strong candidate.

London Cru, an Urban Wine Experience

What is new and cool in the wine business today? Well, urban wineries of course. I am not always the early adopter, so perhaps some of you are sighing that urban wineries are already old news. However, for me they are somewhat new and exciting. For those who are wondering what an urban winery is, it is a winery located in a city instead of a remote location close to the vineyards. Urban wineries have been popping up all around the US: San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, New York and many other cities. On our last trip to London, we visited the first urban winery in London, the London Cru.

It was a rainy July afternoon when we arrived at West Brompton station, soaking wet of course. Thankfully the winery is located just a few blocks away from the tube. We were greeted by Adam, the man that keeps it all together at London Cru. He welcomed us in and we went straight for the tour of the facilities. Adam started by explaining the process and by introducing the equipment. All was fairly new. Adam also explained how the grapes are shipped from different European destinations. It all happens within 36 hours: The grapes are picked, loaded on to ta truck and transported with temperature controlled vehicles to the winery. The process of winemaking is started immediately when the grapes arrive. This requires very good planning and reliable partners as you cannot have the grapes standing anywhere in the heat. When the grapes arrive in London, they are inspected, pressed and the juice moved to either barrels or steel tanks for fermentation. The French barrels at London Cru have some years behind them, so the oak flavor in their wines does not become too aggressive. At this point of the story, Gavin, the Australian born head winemaker joined us. He had been busy lifting some equipment and was almost out of breath. At London Cru, five guys do all the work, even the heavy lifting. Impressive.

Oak barrels at London Cru
Oak barrels at London Cru
The equipment is still new and shiny
The equipment is still new and shiny

With Gavin joining, we moved on to the tasting of the wines (ok, we took some gulps already while we were waiting for Gavin). He told us a bit about their philosophy and how they want to make exciting wines from the best grapes that year can offer. That means that wines will vary from year to year, but I find that more of a richness than a fault. Most of the grapes come from France, where the boys have some excellent growers they are used to working with. Partnerships are everything in this business and the quality of grapes (or being able to pick the right grapes) speaks louder than any other marketing effort. We tried out some Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. We also had a swing at a Barbera. They tasted amazing! Very crisp wines with taste of minerals, granite and balanced fruit. We looked at each other with M and thought the same thing: this is definitely our style. We would love to have these wines in our selection.

On top of the taste, the labels are fun and the branding of the wine is done with thought. The label features a map of the London city district SW6 (South-West 6), and the wording ‘crushed’ + date refers to the date the grapes arrived to London Cru and the process of winemaking was initiated. I also appreciate that some small details, like the cork have been taken into account in the branding. With our history being in London (in district SE1), an urban wine from the city we fell in love in feels like the right addition to our selection.

Fresh design featuring London's district SW6
Fresh design featuring London’s district SW6
Even the cork is branded. I like the extra effort.
Even the cork is branded. I like the extra effort.

The tasting continued with shared stories of wine and how we got into the business. It seems it is more common than I thought, that a (drunken) evening with friends ends up as an actual thriving business. Hey, great minds drink…sorry think, alike. The rain had not stopped, but it was time for us to go. We said our farewells and agreed to keep in touch. We will definitely do a proper study on what it would cost us to bring these wines to Sweden. I really believe that the market will love them (and if not, we will just drink them ourselves).

If you have a chance, check out London Cru wines. They are sold in the UK over the internet (http://www.londoncru.co.uk/) and you can taste them at some restaurants, for example the Michelin-starred Harwood Arm’s.

Good coffee and great for brunch&breakfast: Kafé Orion, Stockholm

Just a few steps from Odenplan the people behind Kafe Esaias (named on NYT list of the best espresso in the world) have opened a small spot for coffee and light food. I do like the look of this small space with wooden tables and green walls. The staff are friendly but often busy as there is a steady stream of customers. Not really the place to sit for hours as no free wifi and for some reason my mobile barely gets a signal.

The coffee used is DaMatteo so the roast is good but the main draw back here is that unlike at Kafe Esaias they do not make any hand-brewed coffee. The espresso based beverages are all very good but to really be a good coffee spot I require hand-brewed coffee. This more falls into the category of place that I pick-up a coffee at if I am in the neighborhood but not worth a trip.

The food is however very good, nice sandwiches, great omelets and salads so a perfect place for breakfast and brunch.

So how does rate:
Coffee quality: 2.5
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 4
Vs local competition: 2.5

Wineweek 38: The End of Summer

The first full week of August is almost gone (there are only minutes left), and so is my “so called” vacation. I have what they call, restless feet. I always need to have a project going on (while I dream about a completely project-free vacation). This summer I have been writing my Stockholm travel guide, and I am almost done. This is my friends one of the reasons this blog has been slightly quieter lately. The second reason is, I seem to be nearing the one year crisis. Every relationship has one; a point where small things start getting on the nerves or you tire, and it is the memory of the good times that keeps things alive. Perhaps they are coming back, perhaps they aren’t. Blogging about wine, food, coffee and all kinds of experiences has been great and rewarding, but with all my other “little projects” I don’t always have the energy to keep up the quality. I have been concentrating a bit too much on restaurants and too little on wine. So let’s see. Either the blog will have a face-lift in the fall, with more posts about the business, discovering wine and prominent producers, or I will have to scale it down significantly. One thing is for sure, I will be concentrating on quality more than quantity.

Enough chatter about feelings. What have we been up to his week with wine? We had some (very) winecurious guests from Finland, so it was a good opportunity (excuse) to open up some of our nicer bottles of wine. I always love it when I have people over who can appreciate the bottle. It makes the drinking experience more fun. We finally decided to try a bottle of Agrapart & Fils Mineral. Agrapart is a medium-sized grower producer and an interesting house to keep ones eyes on. The bottle of Mineral was fantastic btw. fresh, but with some nice complexity. We also opened a Tarlant Cuvee Louis and a Savart L’accomplie. Both were absolutely wonderful, especially the Tarlant.

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Savart L’accomplie, a fresh start to Tuesday evening. Why not!
The wine tasting experience at Gaston
The wine tasting experience at Gaston

We also visited a few wine bars this week. Gaston has a new great concept, the sommeliers tasting menu. It costs 120 SEK and includes three small glasses of wine (3 x 4cl). The choice of the wines will be made by the sommelier our of the menu for wines by the glass. Basically, I told the sommelier which wines in the menu interested me and she picked the ones she would be best together. We were a party of four and everyone got a tasting tailored to their preferences. What a great concept.

On Saturday, we visited Nook, a restaurant serving Scandinavian food with a Korean twist. The food was yummy and beautiful, and actually wonderful value for money (not common in Stockholm), and the sommelier had over 40 glasses of wine by the glass. My only disappointment was that I could not browse the list as it was in his head. So I had to rely on the sommelier for the wine pairings. I had some wonderful white Bourgogne and white Burgundy, and M had some Riesling from Pfaltz. All good selections and went great with the food. So the restaurant is forgiven for the missing wine list. After we were done at Nook, we wen’t to enjoy the last warm days of the summer to the terrace of NoFo (review here). It was a perfect warm summer evening with a warm wind, the wines were well chilled, and the courtyard of NoFo was peaceful. Perfect!

Some White Bourgogne and Riesling by the glass
Some White Bourgogne and Riesling by the glass
The beautiful dessert
The beautiful dessert
Warm summer evening in the courtyard of NoFo
Warm summer evening in the courtyard of NoFo

To these pictures I end this wineweek. Next week will be busy. We will be traveling to Finland for the weekend to attend Restaurant day. It is a day when anyone can open their own restaurant, so the parks of Helsinki will be filled with food stalls and the whole town will be snacking. We have been meaning to go so many times, and finally this August we were able to keep the weekend free. There will not be any wine served on Restaurant day, but I am sure I can sneak some in before Sunday.

The Best Pork in Town? Lobos Meat and Tapas, London

I am sure it is no surprise, at least to the people who have been following this blog, that I like Spanish cuisine. Spanish tapas to be exact. Not only do I like the bite size Spanish dishes due to them being a great companion with wine, but also due to the great meats coming from the region. Pork, beef, duck, you name it. I love them all, but especially I love a good Iberico ham. During our last trip to London, we visited a new tapas restaurant at London Bridge called Lobos. It was perhaps the best pork-experience of the year and we had some nice wines as well.

Lobos is located next to Borough Market under the London railway. I love it how in London the old railway arches are utilized for shops and restaurants. The spaces are cozy and I don’t really mind the noise of the trains. It is a part of the experience. Lobos is built on two floors and the narrow space is used efficiently. It has a meat market feel, but nothing too trendy. Lobos has just the right kind of simple charm. We were seated upstairs in a comfortable two-seater.

Efficient planning with the space
Efficient planning with the space

The smirk after a few glasses of wine
The smirk after a few glasses of wine

Copper cocktail glasses at the bar
Copper cocktail glasses at the bar
The first thing I noticed, was that the service was very friendly. The second that the wine list was long and reasonably priced. We started of with some Mon Marcel Cava Rosado and Torre del Cava Reserva 2010 (6.25£ per glass each), both nice and fresh aperitifs. The rosado was the way I like it: Catalonian style with deep red color and full taste, not the light style of cava often made for the export market. To accompany the starters, croquetas, migas and arroz con costra; I had a glass of white Rioja and M an unoaked 100% Xarel.lo (both around 6£ per glass).  And as companion to our main, the amazing Iberico pork selection, I chose an Albarino (7£ per glass). That was definitely the best wine I had all night. All the wines were good value for money.

Now back to that pork platter. I think this is my all time favorite pork-dish in the whole of London. Yes, even better than the Secreto Iberico at Jose’s. There were three different types of cuts: fillet, Secreto and Presa. All came wonderfully medium rare. Now I like my meat nice and red, but I was a bit surprised that we were not asked at all how we would like it served. I agree, “almost mooing” is the best, but I also know that is not how everybody wishes their meat. Or at least, perhaps warn that the meat will come out very pink. They also had some other interesting mains: leg of lamb, pork cheeks and ribeye with foie gras. This is definitely the place for a carnivore.

Cava aperitifs
Cava aperitifs

Croquetas
Croquetas

Pork perfection. Fillet, Secreto and Presa beautifully medium rare.
Pork perfection. Fillet, Secreto and Presa beautifully medium rare.
All in all, Lobos is a wonderful addition to the London tapas-scene. A casual place with great food, wine and laughter. The wine list gives a good snapshot of what Catalonia has to offer and prices by glass and by bottle are reasonable. I would love to come here with a party of four to six people and take a tour around the wine list. The pork, well, I already said it, is divine. Lobos is not to be missed if you are in London.

A Friendly Wine Bar North of Folkungagatan, Nofo Stockholm

There are only a handful of wine bars in Stockholm that I take seriously (or any city for that matter). I suspect that there is just not enough wine crowd here in Stockholm to keep that many places profitable. As Talk-A-Vino wrote in his blog recently, people seem to think that wine requires some special kind of knowledge for people to feel comfortable about enjoying it to the full. At a wine bar you are inevitably asked how you like the wine (as is per good manners from a good bartender or sommelier), and perhaps this is daunting to some. It really shouldn’t be! Wine, like any other food or drink, is a matter of taste, and it is ok to disagree about the wine with someone more knowledgeable. What a sommelier really cares about is whether you liked the wine or not. So all you winecurious out there, go wine tasting, share you opinions and perhaps we can see an escalation in the number of good wine bars in town.

A glass of Chardonnay from Loire
A glass of Chardonnay from Loire
The inner yard, for summer use only
The inner yard, for summer use only

Back to Nofo then. There were two things that really made an impression on me: the friendly service (they even helped me carry some heavy stuff in) and the champagne list. There were only three champagnes on the list and only sold by the bottle (a minus on not having any champagne by the glass), but they were good champagnes, with a capital G. Larmandier-Bernier, Francis Boulard and Olivier Horiot, wonderful producers all of them. And the most expesive bottle (Horiot’s Sevé) was 700 SEK, that is a very good price level for Stockholm.

As the only sparkling by the glass was a Prosecco, I opted for a glass of white wine, a Chardonnay from Loire. For the bar’s defense, the Prosecco was at least not main stream, but it still had the overly fruity taste that I personally find a bit disturbing. It was not bad, but just not my style of bubbly. I encourage others to of course try it. And try you can! The bartender was friendly and professional enough to let me taste the wines before making my choice. My Chardonnay was served to the table, perfectly chilled and in a nice glass. We are not talking Zalto, but decent glasses nevertheless. Otherwise, there were around three whites and reds and one rose wine by the glass. This is not that many, but as long as the choices are good, I don’t mind.

The interior at Nofo is not that exciting
The interior at Nofo is not that exciting
The bar at Nofo
The bar at Nofo. The hanging glasses look like chandelliers.
I wouldn't mind this kind of decorations in my own office
I wouldn’t mind this kind of decorations in my own office

As for the ambiance, the place does not stand out that much. I really like the bar, with all bottles nicely presented on the table. It kind of feels like being invited to someones kitchen. I also like the inner yard. The problem with that is only the Swedish weather, but on a nice day it is fabulous.

All in all, I am pleased by the new, friendly addition to the wine-scene in Stockholm. Nofo is definitely a place where I will bring my friends in the summer when they are visiting. Then I will perhaps be able to have some of the wonderful champagnes by the bottle.

Forloren espresso -among the top places for coffe in Copenhagen

Today the coffee bar review focuses on Copenhagen and then most of you are probably thinking that it will be Coffee Collective but think again. While I am actually writing this from Coffee collective at Torvehallarna the focus is one of my favorite coffee bars, the small Forloren Espresso. They are a nice addition to the otherwise largely touristy area around Kongens Nytorv. They have a clear focus on quality coffee and often have for example La Cabra available. They do however rotate the selection and usually have a few different hand brews to choose from. Execution is usually very good, have had a few that have been really great but always at least good. Espresso based is also reliable.

  
Service is usually polite but I would not call it friendly. It is also very meticulous and may be a bit slow at times. So while the execution is good, there may be a wait for your coffee and there is perhaps not much of an invitation to chat or talk with the staff. That said I still like it and while it feels more un-Danish (would be more Swedish or Finnish) to be a bit quiet they still do a good is job. There is also free wifi so while the place is small it is still possible to sit around for a while.

  
There are also some pastries and cafe style food so no need to go hungry. I would however perhaps still mainly come for the coffee. All in all a very good place for coffee in a city that despite some really good places suffer from a pretty poor average quality.

So how does rate:
Coffee quality: 4
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 3
Vs local competition: 5

Wineweek 37: The last days of July in Stockholm

Summer in the Nordics is always short. This year it is even shorter. The weather has not been great for me all July. Wherever I have traveled, plus 15 (C) and rain has followed. Or at least that is how it feels to me. I am actually looking forward to the fall, as then I know at least that Cavatast is coming (2.-4.10).

Regardless of the rain, it has been a productive week. I have been working on my “secret” project, which I can now reveal to you is a travel guide to Stockholm. Now that I have enough content ready, I dare to go public about it. So to all you Finns (as the guide will be in Finnish) out there, the Tripsteri Stockholm guide will open later in August, unless I run into some serious technical difficulties. My linguistic targets have already been reached. I must confess, I was very nervous about writing in Finnish, but as this blog, the text started coming out after a while.  This is something completely new to me, so be gentle (but honest) with the feedback.

I also found a wonderful new wine bar this week in Stockholm. This is all thanks to my friend Agnes at Yelp, who arranged a social night for all those interested about wine (or just afterwork). Nofo Wine Bar is located in Södermalm and is in connection with the Nofo Hotel. It is a friendly place with a comfortable bar and a courtyard where one can sip wine and eat charcuterie. I will review the place in coming posts, but I must already say their champagne list made an impression. It was short (three different champagnes) but the bottles were all from great producers, like Larmandier-Bernier, Francis Boulard and Olivier Horiot. Boulard and Horiot are some of my favorite grower producers and a place that offers them cannot be bad. No way. The only downside was that none of these were offered by the glass, so I need to go back the coming week with a group (or by myself).

Talking about champagne, we opened (me and M) a bottle of Bereche & Fils Brut Reserve on Saturday and concluded that we have a clear winner for the years value for money champagne. It tasted of mature yellow apples, brioche and fresh citrus. What a wonderful wine and you can order it for just 300 SEK/bottle (if it would not be sold out at the moment) from Gaston. I will for sure be getting some more of these babies when they come back into stock. We also tried a red wine, Selecta, from Almeida Garret, a Portuguese producer we are considering adding to our collection.  We have really been impressed by the quality of their wines, even though they are fairly new in the trade (think of what they can achieve with some experience). The Selecta was not necessarily one of my favorites, but I suspect it is due to just not being my style. The taste profile would complement our selection very nicely, so we will keep it in mind. Even though we have been very keen on having solely wines that we like ourselves, it is perhaps not in the long term the best road. We have quite specific tastes.

That was it for this wine week. Enjoy the pictures! I will now retire on the sofa with a box of ice cream and a brainless TV-series to finish of the Sunday with style.

My office for the week, Coffice in Södermalm
My office for the week, Coffice in Södermalm
Stockholm Pride did not wear off even with masses of rain
Stockholm Pride did not wear off even with masses of rain
New wine bar in town
New wine bar in town, Nofo
I wouldn't mind this kind of decorations in my own office
I wouldn’t mind this kind of decorations in my own office
Almeida Garret Selecta Red, a candidate for our selection
Almeida Garret Selecta Red, a candidate for our selection
New Mochi ice creams in the supermarket. They look good, but are they?
New Mochi ice creams in the supermarket. They look good, but are they?
Perhaps one of the best value for money champagnes ever, Bereche & Fils Brut Reserve
Perhaps one of the best value for money champagnes ever, Bereche & Fils Brut Reserve