Wineweek 114: My Bangkok

It is the last day of our trip, and it feels like an end of an era. Well at least an end to a year. Tomorrow we make a long journey back to Stockholm, and on Tuesday I will already be back at the office. It stings a little bit less, as I know we will be flying comfortably in business class. But still the traveling has grown on me, and tomorrow already feels like something significantly different. Continue reading “Wineweek 114: My Bangkok”

Mikkeller Around the World

We have this weird habit: everywhere we travel, we always end up visiting a Mikkeller-bar. Unplanned. It’s an odd habit, especially when we travel in Asia, as it is something available in Stockholm and all over the Nordics. However, there is something fun about “collecting” the locations. There is usually only one Mikkeller bar in a city (with the exception of Copenhagen). Mikkeller is a Danish brewery making a wide range of delicious craft beers. The founders, former math teacher Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and journalist Kristian Klarup Keller started experimenting with hops in their own kitchens, now Mikkeller is exporting their products to 50 countries all over the world. Mikkeller is internationally acclaimed as one of the most innovative and cutting edge brewers in the world. We really like the beers, even the non-alcoholic ones. Continue reading “Mikkeller Around the World”

Craft Beer Craze at Casa Lapin BKK

There is something about the warm weather that makes me crave two things: spicy food and beer. Many seem to agree with me, as beer is extremely popular in Thailand – could you imagine red wine in 35 degrees Celsius? The local beer market is protected with high taxes on export products, so other  products than Singha and Chang have a high-ish price tag. However, the Thai capital has still developed a taste for craft beers from around the world, and many new spots have opened that serve a wide range. I am sure it’s mainly the expats and tourists but there is enough of them. One of our favorite cafes, Casa Lapin has opened Tap Room, a restaurant and craft beer bar serving a wide range of international products from tap.  Continue reading “Craft Beer Craze at Casa Lapin BKK”

At the Bottl3.5shop

If you are wondering if I have been writing this post while tired, the answer is no; Bottl3.5hop is actually the name of the store I intend to write about. Or perhaps I should say I am writing about a phenomena, which is the rapid increase demand for low alcohol drinks, especially beer. There are small shops popping up in hipster parts of town specializing in small brewery beers that fit under the state controlled limit of 3.5%. These shops slash bars are great places to find interesting local products that are often too small scale to make it to the big players shelves, like peach beer (yuk). I am not kidding about the peach beer, but would like to emphasize that most of the selection is actually not as “special”, but rather something that I would consider excellent low alcohol alternatives to be enjoyed with food during the week or why not weekend. Continue reading “At the Bottl3.5shop”

Sunday Ramen at Blue Light Yokohama

There are two occasions when I feel like ramen: after I have had too much wine, or after I have had no wine (which would imply that I have been sick). For some reason both of these usually happen on a Sunday. This Sunday it was the case of the latter. And to spice up the experience, I made the mistake of leaving our home without an umbrella. Nothing beats hot ramen when your pants are all soaking wet.

Blue Light Yokohama is a Japanese restaurant here in Stockholm serving only ramen on Sundays. It has a real Japanese vibe, friendly staff and tasty food. The selection on Sundays is not broad, usually two types of ramen with a choice of meat or vegg. You can top up your meal with starters, edamame or japanese pickled vegetables, and some chicken karaage with rice; and you can order desserts from the a la carte. For drinks they have some Japanese beers: Sapporo, Kirin and Hitachino Red Rice Ale and Ginger Ale. They do also have some wine, but even the adventurous wine-blogger has to say at this point that I don’t recommend it. A restaurant that categorizes Prosecco as a white wine should stick to serving other beverages. The Sencha tea (their basic green tea) is wonderful and a cold beer is the perfect pairing with the hot ramen.

Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
The dining room
Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
Tables for bigger groups
Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
The tea is served from a cup with all the heads of the Japanese prime ministers
Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
Hitatchino Ginger Ale
Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
Pork-blackpepper ramen
Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
The miso-vegg ramen
Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
Yuzu Ice cream

On Sundays, Blue Light Yokohama opens at five in the afternoon. We were the first ones to arrive, my friend and I, and it was no trouble getting a table. However, after 10 minutes the place was full. Especially if you are a bigger group, I would recommend booking a table. They have some nice Japanese tables where you take off your shoes and all. A genuine experience. We ordered the two types of ramen they had on the menu: The pork-blackpepper (clear) broth with spring onion, and the thick miso-vegetable broth with pork and corn. Both wonderful and exactly what you need in the raw spring weather. We also ordered some edamame to share and my friend took the extra karaage with rice. The ramen its self is very filling so any side dishes are pure greed. We also warmed up with some green tea, and I tried out the Hitatchino Ginger Ale. Regardless of the high alcohol content (8%), the beer was light and fresh and a great pairing with the salty pork broth. Nope, we didn’t stop there, we also ordered some desserts. I took the white sesame brule and my friend the yuzu sorbet. The brule was a wonderful experience with tastes of sesame, nuts and burned butter (that is basically what it is made of right), and the yuzu sorbet was like a fresh breeze (great for a hangover I would say).

I must admit, Sundays is the only time I have visited this restaurant, so I can only comment on the ramen menu. For the price (around 130 SEK) it is value for money so a welcome option to making food at home when you are under the weather.

Fabrica Moritz and Bar a Vins: Great Wine bar at a Brewery, Barcelona

I have never really been a fan of the local (Catalan) beer brand Moritz but I was still somehow convinced to visit their combined brewery, restaurant, shop, bar and wine bar called Fabrica Moritz. The place has been extensively renovated and I will happily admit that it does look really nice. They are also making some special beer (not available elsewhere) in this location so there are actually some much nicer beers here than what is normally available under the Moritz brand. It also means that it is not just a design and concept idea since they actually produce beer here as well. What however did surprise me immensely was first that the food was pretty decent and second, which is the main topic of this post, that they have an excellent wine bar called Bar a Vins.

When I was browsing their standard wine list I did find some pretty decent wines and what I really liked was that it was possible to also have really small sips of the wine. I then started asking a bit about the wines and was then brought the full wine list and they asked if I also wanted to have a chat with the sommelier. Really appreciate that it was possible to order the full range of wines while seated in the restaurant and the good service attitude.

The set-up of the wines are a bit different than in some other places I have been. It is possible to order in three different ways: by weight, by the glass or by the bottle. Most of you are probably familiar with by the glass and by the bottle but the ‘by weight’ is perhaps a bit new. They are using a system with argon gas canisters on the bottle allowing to take small amounts out without damaging the remaining wine. It is very much similar to the Coravin system but this was from what I could see a different brand or producer. This does allow one to order either a specific number of grams of wine or if that is the preference order for an amount of money (and you will then be poured as much as that amount will buy you).

There are around 40 wines available by the glass (and by weight) and in addition to that more than 400 by the bottle. Spanish wines are very well represented here but there are international wines available. I did to my surprise find the excellent Carousel from Alvaro Castro (of Quinta da Pellada) by the glass here. The slight disappointment is perhaps that the selection of Catalan wines was not as good as I would have expected but it is still one of the better ranges of Catalan wines around. I was however happy to see four sparkling wines available by the glass. We sampled nice Cavas here and they also had some Champagne by the glass. A nice touch is also that all the wines served come with a little label around the foot of the glass with information on the wine.

The service is very good, friendly, knowledgeable and attentive. It does seem that the fact that it is in beer brewery makes it a bit more relaxed than some other wine bars. The possibility to order wines by weight also makes more high-end wines available to a wider audience so I think they are doing some really good things for the wine scene in Barcelona. The food is also very nice, and while perhaps not the cheapest meal it is still decent value for money.

The design of the place is pretty neat and I do encourage a visit to the toilets as they are pretty nicely designed as well. One objection I have is that it tends to get fairly loud as many people who go to the beer bar seem to be there more to drink a lot of beer than to sample different things so I do in general prefer to sit in the smaller space at the Bar a Vins than in the actual restaurant.

Shopping wine at Selfridges, London

Just when you thought I cannot possible have any more reviews of wine shops from our last trip to London..

The wine shop at Selfridges is a really a nice place to browse around in. It is located at the bottom floor of the iconic department store on Oxford Street, and they actually do not only carry a respectable assortment of wine but also an impressive selection of beer and other spirits. The wine selection is also a very good mix between the big name brands mixed up with some smaller producers to appeal to those who want to try something new. The price level is above the average wine boutique or online store but not so much to prevent me from shopping there. It is however good to have a view what the fair price is as some of the wines are a lot more expensive while others are reasonable priced.

The selection of English sparkling wine is impressive. I have not tried that much of then, mainly due to my suspicion on poor-ish price vs quality ratio, but it has tickled my interest (perhaps I should do a tasting round to get some more insight on the situation). The selection on Champagne is also very nice with some smaller producers represented in addition to the big names. Selfridges has their own private label Champagne from Henri Giraud that I am also aching to try.

The staff are knowledgeable and very service-minded, but if you would like to have a proper chat, I would suggest not visiting on the busiest hours of the weekend. There are also a few tasting machines, not as extensive as the Sampler (review here) or Vagabond Wines (review here) but something to entertain you for a little while. All in all you can have a very nice shopping experience at Selfridges and it is a good combination some other purchasing activities from the luxurious department store. For example, having a few nice tasters of wine and then heading to the shoe department works very well for me (not that well for my wallet).

Beer Tasting in the Sun

With the lack of good wine while in Thailand we decided to do a tasting of the local beer selection as well as adding two regional (Asian) beers in the same category.

The line up was as follows:
– Archa (Thai)
– Asahi (Japanese)
– Chang Export (Thai)
– Leo (Thai)
– Phuket (Thai)
– Singha light (Thai)
– Tiger (Singaporean)

The beers are all in the category of light lagers so nothing exciting or unexpected. All except for the Phuket were in cans (the Phuket in a green bottle).

Archa
The color is pale, on the verge of looking like a white wine. The nose has almost nothing in it, faint aroma of grain aroma is virtually non-existent. It has a very faint smell of grain, corn and rice . The taste is pretty sweet, a mix of corn and rice with almost no bitterness and short finish.

Asahi
The color of the Asahi pours as clear golden. The palate is dry and crisp. Dry malt, hint of grass as well as a little citrus hop are apparent in the flavor. Dry finish, light body to the beer. While a light lager it did not have any unpleasant metal flavor or sweetness to it.

Chang Export
The color was almost golden with small white head. Grain and malt in the nose. The taste was slightly sweet, but hints of grass but a slight metallic taste as well. Drinkable while ice cold but not a good beer.

Leo
Pale golden color with a nice white head. The aroma had some sweetness to it but also citrus and grain. Flavor is weak but there are hints of metal and citrus but also a bit weird dry cardboard flavor.

Phuket
The color is light golden with a fairly thick head. Aroma has hints of dry malt, cardboard but also something vaguely artificial reminding me of some cleaning liquid. Taste is mildly bitter. Somewhat sweet, hints of artificial spices and vague notes of malt.

Singha light
Nose has light hint of grain and grassy hops with a whiff of herbal character. Pours clear and a very pale yellow with a small white head. Flavor has a very light grain and grassy hop note. Lightly bitter in the after taste, very light and and while a bit bland beer still very refreshing.

Tiger
Color is clear golden with creamy white head. Aroma has makt, grains and hint if grass but all fairly weak. The flavor is slightly sweet and maly. Low in bitterness but still rather unpleasant and sharp.

None of these beers really rank high on a list of our favourites beers in the greater context, but when it is warm and humid it can be great to just have a very cold lager. Also the assortment here is not all that exciting but it does beat the wine selection.

We will not be rating any of these 0-5 as they would actually all under normal circumstances rate fairly poorly but instead we just made an rank between them. So here goes:
1. Asahi
2. Singa Light
3. Tiger
4. Leo
5. Chang Export
6. Archa
7. Phuket

All of these beers benefit form being drunk very cold as they mainly serve to refresh. Will not have any of these until next holiday in a hot country (or if there is an extreme heatwave in the Nordics) but if you find yourself on holiday in Asia you can consult this ranking to find our top pick!

Wineweek 10: Bangkok Edition Vol. 2

Greetings from sunny Koh Samui! Its nice and hot here, feels much warmer than in Bangkok (temprature is actually pretty much the same). I guess it is the humidity in the air that really makes the difference, and it makes me crave for some cold, dry and sparkling even more. It was to be expected, but the selection of wine here on the island is even worse than in the Capital, obviously. However, in such a sauna, beer tastes almost as good. So we have stocked up with some local and local-ish (read: Asian) beer to keep the thirst at bay. I actually prefer to have my beer from cans. Like Coka Cola, it just tastes better from aluminum, or what do you think? But back to Bangkok for a while, the island edition is coming up next week.

We were so overly excited to find a decent wine bar in Bangkok, that we published a review immediately. You can find Ms review on the @494 at the Grand Hyatt here. We were equally offput by a Romanian sparkling wine we bought at the store, that we posted a Wine warning. A Wine warning will be issued when a wine has the look of something drinkable, but majorly disappoints when tasted. Some wines you already know will not be good, like many bag inbox, so you just have yourself to blame if you put it in your mouth. But the devious wines that manage to trick their way into my glass, they are the ones that will get a Wine warning.

What else did we do in Bangkok this week? We went to some very interesting restaurants. We had not planned for much fine dining, but it was much easier to reserve a table in the Bangkok top spots than one could have thought. We picked three interesting restaurants from the Asias To 50 -list (2015): Nahm (#1), Gaggan (#3) and Issaya Siamese Club (#31). The restaurant ranking lists are a bit tricky, and we found ourselves disaggreeing heavily (with the list, not eachother) on which one should come first. We will write some separate reviews on all of them, but I think it is worth mentioning here how we placed our votes.

Ambience:
1. Issaya Siamese Club
2. Gaggan
3. Nahm

Food:
1. Issaya Siamese Club/ Gaggan (50/50 vote)
3. Nahm

Service:
1. Issaya Siamese Club
2. Gaggan
3. Nahm

Issaya Siamese Club was a beautiful, unique and very customer oriented restaurant that was very strong in quality produce and talented cooking. The only minus could be that it was hard to find, but perhaps we can only blame ourselves trying to be very Scandinavian and walk there (google maps really let us down). Gaggan is a restaurant doing Indian fusion (or progressive Indian as they call it), a style of food that has failed me many times. With a chef who used to work at the famous El Bulli’s food lab they do a bit of hokus pocus but still with focus on flavors and that it should taste good. There is an Indian twist, but not too forceful to take the focus off the culinary experience. This is very hard to achieve, so thats why M and I disaggreed on the first spot for food in our ranking. Nahm was good, but nothing that stood out from a good hotel restaurant anywhere in the world. Service in general lacks behind Europe and the US, but perhaps it is also how we want to be served compared to what the local culture considers valuable.

As I mentioned before, the lack of wine would perhaps be compensated by some refreshing cocktails. In general, I must say I was a bit disappointed at many bars we looked at. Even the Speakeasy on the rooftop of our hotel, The Muse, that was supposed to be one of the best in town was very average. I guess they ranked it based on the view. Cocktail list consist mainly of Mojitos, Martinis and the occasional Sex on the beach. This is what I can get at the local pub, equally boring and poorly made. I guess I was hoping for some nice fruity Daiqiris and a lot of stuff with lemongrass and ginger. But the three restaurants mentioned above did not disappoint in this area either. Gaggan had several pages of drinks under the title Mixology (yes a lot of smoke and dry ice) and Issaya walked the extra mile in both fresh ingredients and look of the cocktails. So we cast aside the wine lists and had some coctails together with our food. I am not a huge fan of the concept, but especially with some spicy Thai cuisine, a fresh cocktail works better than many wines.

Thats it for Wineweek 10. Next week will bring some more beach to the picture with posts from Samui. You can also expect more on street food, reviews from London (to keep up the focus on wine) and Ms coffee reviews. Btw. Did you know that coffee has around 1500 different tastes as opposed to wine having only 200. That my friends is why coffee deserves its own reviews. It is such an interesting subject that we have taken it as permanent part of our blog.