Wineweek 84: Paris Favorites

Even though we have been home for a few weeks, I still have so much photo material from our recent trip to France, that I can fill Wineweek with them for many weeks to come. I promise you, these Paris pictures are way more interesting than anything I did this week, except for the dinner I had last night at a new restaurant called Derelict. It was awesome! However, I will write more about that another time. Now to some Paris favorites. Continue reading “Wineweek 84: Paris Favorites”

Wineweek 80: Pictures From New York

Finally I have a chance to post some proper pictures. I was running around with my camera all week in New York, however, was not able to edit them before returning home. The only place I skipped having the camera was 11 Madison Park. I felt it was slightly inappropriate to hover over all of the nice dishes with my heavy Nikon. I will spend some time writing more about wine bars and restaurants during the coming week. Until then, enjoy the photos! Continue reading “Wineweek 80: Pictures From New York”

Wineweek 68: Nordic Stars

Last week of February. The winter is soon over. Can you count March as spring already? The weather this weekend has definitely been spring-like, and we have moved on to a lighter profile of wines. I am definitely a white-wine person 80% of the year. There has been some exciting news coming out this week, with a new Guide de Michelin for the Nordics. Stockholm managed yet again to miss out on that magical three stars, but at least we got two top-tier (***) restaurants to the Nordics: Maaemo (Oslo) and Geranium (Copenhagen). I will write more about the Stockholm restaurants during the coming week. Continue reading “Wineweek 68: Nordic Stars”

Wineweek 58: Half Way Through Asia

We have come to the half-point of our tour. The journey has taken us via Bangkok, to Phu Quoc, Ho Chi Minh City and now Singapore. We will spend the following week in Asia’s capital of specialty coffee, and the best destination for wine, Singapore. For the last leg we move back to edgy Bangkok for a final week and a half. It feels like we have been on the road for a long time, however I have been wined and dined enough to not yet miss Stockholm. I am sure that a week in Bangkok will fix that (the wine scene is still very thin).

So what have we been up to? I already posted some wine tips for Ho Chi Minh City. It was much more of a wine city than I initially thought (makes sense with Vietnam’s history as a French colony).  We enjoyed a lot of street food: Pho (noodle soup), Bánh Mi (Vietnamese baguette), sticky rice and fruits. I will write a separate post about the food tour we did (Ho Chi Minh Street Eats, I can warmly recommend). We visited some of the main sites as well as tried out the wine scene. Ho Chi Minh was very buzzing, but in six days, I was ready to move on.

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Celebrating Christmas eve in Ho Chi Minh City
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Our glasses were filled with Baron-Fuente champagne. I would perhaps not buy this bubbly by the box, but it was definitely half decent.
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We dig out specialty coffee wherever we go. Workshop at Ho Chi Minh City
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Arriving to Singapore
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Lights at Orchard Road
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Cold brew at Common Man
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A labyrinth of escalators at Dhoby Ghaut
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Coctails at 28 Hong Kong Street
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Japanese beer tastes fresh in the hot weather.

Now we are in modern Singapore, where everything works like clockwork. Wine is not cheap, but its available, the specialty coffee scene is mature and the ease of transport makes it possible to do more within one day. Singapore is one of the best cities for good cocktails, so for our first night out, we popped into one of the first and best speakeasies I know, 28 Hong Kong street. It is a widely known secret, but still very hidden. There is only s small copper sign indicating of its whereabouts. The food is dripping of fat and/or deep-fried (not a dieters paradise) and the cocktails are amazing. I wrote a review on it already last spring, you can read about it here. You can expect some more cocktail action to come during the following weeks.

That was it for this wineweek. Coming week, who knows what is going to happen. A new year is approaching with new adventures. We already looked at our calendars last night planning for some tastings and other events for the spring. Have a great week wherever you are!

xx Soile

 

 

The Second Annual Coffee Festival by Johan&Nyström

It is coffee Monday again and normally on Monday’s there will be a cafe or coffee bar review but today I opted to write a bit about the Swedish micro roaster Johan & Nyström’s Coffee Festival. It was held a few weekends ago at Södra Teatern in Stockholm. This was the second year it was held and I was not even going to go as I was fairly disappointed the first time around.

The set-up this time had however been improved with more focus on the coffee and less on music and other things around it. Main sponsors seemed to be Oatly and Moccamaster. I do get the need for sponsors but the fact that Oatly is the sponsor means that there was no milk just the wheat based milk substitute they sell. I tried it in a cappuccino and was a bit disappointed – it did by no means taste bad but the wheat flavor was rather overwhelming so the coffee did not at all manage to impact the flavor at all.

The fact that Moccamaster is the other sponsor worked better, using the Moccamaster to brew the batch brews worked nicely. There was also a variety of different stations where one could sample the same coffees made with different methods so nice to try the same Kenyan on V60, Moccamaster, Aeropress and Chemex. Nice cold brew station was also a highlight.

In addition to this there were also workshops such as latte art, espresso making and interesting lectures. The set-up was perhaps more geared towards people who are not yet that knowledgeable about specialty coffee. The range of coffee would benefit if they would also cooperate with other micro roasters as it would be more interesting if also some other roasters were represented or that they would present small batch coffees that are not available in their regular store. I did not really try any coffee that I had not already sampled so it was in a sense a pleasant event but I would not really feel that it would have been worth paying for so I was happy I got a free spot here.

It is however a great introduction to specialty coffee and Johan & Nyström are once again making a great effort in marketing specialty coffee in Sweden.

Solde: Excellent roaster and coffee bar in Malmö

I have a somewhat special relationship with this place. For the year and a half or so that I l lived in Malmö it was my go to place. I passed it on my 5 minute walk from home to the office everyday and almost always went in there for a cup to go. Being from Stockholm it is not always that one is met with great friendliness and warmth in Skåne (or when I think of it not in many places outside Stockholm at all) but I always loved the friendly and relaxed atmosphere here. The clientele was and is extremely hipster so if you are allergic to that go elsewhere. For me the good coffee makes me overcome my aversion to hipsters. The coffee has always been very consistent high quality and that is what I really like here. I do not believe I have ever had a bad cup of coffee in this place. That said, I do also seldom come away feeling as it is the best cup I ever had either but they are really solid.

These days they roast their own coffee and they are really good. They do not have the widest range but always some good stuff. At the coffee bar I would mainly go for the espresso based beverages as the skilled baristas here really know how to use the espresso machine. There are also filter coffees available and those are pretty good as well.

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Food wise there is basic breakfast stuff as well as pastries and cookies. There are no full meals so more a place to stop by for a cup and a small bite and then be on your way. In a sense the vibe is a bit like what an Italian espresso bar would be if they served good coffee.It is fairly small so not the place to hang out for a long time and not really enough space to comfortably work or so but still one of the top spots in Malmö for coffee and good service.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4
Ambiance and service: 4
Food: 3
Vs local competition: 4.5

Scandinavian Embassy: High quality coffee & Food in Amsterdam

As some of you may have gathered I do have to spend some time in the Netherlands due to work now and then. When I started coming to Amsterdam the coffee scene was not really much to talk about and then when it started the quality was not really there. For me the place that made all that change was Scandinavian Embassy. It took me some time to make my way there as it is not really close to the areas I go for work (and it is not smack in the center but not too far off Albert Cuyp Market by the calm Sarphati park). The area is lovely so can understand why they set up shop here. When I entered I was promptly met by a cute little dog, one of the owners (Rikard) has a tiny little dog that will happily stare at you in an attempt to get some food from you.

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The second thing I noticed was a familiar face behind the counter. Nicolas who used to work at one of my local favorites cafes in Stockholm (Drop Coffee) was now one of the people running this place. I then immediately knew I was in good hands when it comes to coffee. Nicolas is one of the top baristas in the world so I fully trusted him to make me a decent cup. When I was there the first time they had a wide selection of coffees from some of my favorite Scandinavian roasters like Danish Coffee Collective, Norwegian Tim Wendelboe and Swedish Drop Coffee. I sampled several of the Kenyans and they were awesome! On subsequent visits they kept to the Scandinavian roaster and always served impeccable coffee. The coffee is also most often paired with the food they serve.

Food wise there is also a clear Scandinavian touch to the menu and a lot of the things sounded great. I have tried some of the pastries as well as the food (among other things the wild boar sausage as well as poached eggs). In general high quality food, made with carefully sourced and selected ingredients. The food is better than what you will have in most restaurants and I just love sitting at the bar looking at them prepare it. The ambitions are high and yet the prices stay reasonable.

Food
Food

The design is also clearly inspired by Scandinavia. For me, it looks really great and of course familiar, so not sure how the locals like it. The seats are perhaps not the most comfortable but I still like to hang out here. The tables in the back are more nice to sit for a long time at. There is free wifi as well so fine for doing some work. The staff are really friendly and happy to chat about coffee, food and stuff.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4.5
Ambiance and service: 4
Food: 4.5
Vs local competition: 5

TAP Coffee: Solid roaster in London

Another week has just flown by and it is time for coffee Monday again. This week we are back in London and one of the coffee roasters I often enjoy going to. TAP Coffee have been around for some time but they used to be called Tapped & Packed. In the old days they served a range of different roasters but since a few years they roast themselves. They currently have three locations in London (26 Rathbone Place, 114 Tottenham Court Road and 193 Wardour Street) and I do visit all of them fairly regularly. This review is however mainly for the one on on Wardour Street in Soho.

Come in and enjoy the coffee
Come in and enjoy the coffee
Charming space on Wardour street
Charming space on Wardour street
Amond croissant
Amond croissant
Cold brew in July
Cold brew in July

I prefer coming here on weekdays as weekends tend to be too busy and while the place has a fairly large number of seats it does tend to crowded. It may also not always be possible to order all the hand-brews if they are too busy at the brew bar. They have the roaster in the back and the space looks a bit rugged but nice. One thing I am not a huge fan of is the seating. The seats are not very comfortable and they are actually rather ill-suited to sit and work. That may be intentional to avoid having people linger for too long. They do however offer free wifi and a lot of newspapers and magazines which in a way is an invite to stay for long. Service is very much up and down here – sometimes people are super-friendly and at others I almost feel like I am a nuisance when trying to order some coffee. Out of the three locations this one is the only one where service is so inconsistent, perhaps due to it being the busiest one but still not really great.

The main reason to visit is however the coffee. They offer three different coffees as hand-brews and the selection rotates fairly frequently. The quality is usually really good, the roasting was not top notch when they started but I really feel that they have improved greatly. While not always the most exciting coffees they do have consistently good quality and reliable execution which is not easy. They also offer good espresso based beverages and for part of the year also nice cold-brews.

With regards to food they do have a good range of typical café food so plenty of sandwiches, pastries, some yogurt and the occasional salad. Good enough to keep hunger at bay but not really a substitute for a real meal. Quality is good but not overly exciting.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4
Ambiance and service: 3
Food: 3
Vs local competition: 4.5

Espresso House in Hötorgshallen (Stockholm) delivering quality coffee

One of my favorite  coffee bars in Stockholm belong to the chain Espresso House. They do perhaps not in general contribute to the great coffee scene but rather bringing up the average quality be serving a decent cup. The location in Hötorgshallen is however their showroom and have both better coffee and more skilled baristas than their other locations. Hötorgshallen is a food hall in the center of Stockholm and this café is on the ground floor alongside several other restaurants and cafés and downstairs in the basement there are numerous vendors selling cheese, meat, vegetables, nuts, spices and many other things (there is even a Finnish specialty food store). In general a nice place to browse but it also means a lot of people moving through there so even if there is free wifi and some space to sit at Espresso house it is still not a really great place to hang out for a long period of time. The staff are however very knowledgeable and friendly so still like the place.

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The main thing is however the coffee. As all Espresso house they have coffee roasted by Solberg & Hansen but in addition to the normal range of five different coffees to select from they have an additional three to five different ones. Usually these ones are more interesting and smaller lots. All coffees can be ordered as hand-brews and are very nicely prepared. The espresso based beverages are also good but I am not a super-fan of their espresso blend.

The food selection is virtually non-existent, only some cakes and pastries but they do kindly offer to grab some food from the other places and still sit and eat it at the tables at Espresso House.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 1
Vs local competition: 4.5

White Label Coffee: Top roaster in Amsterdam

The coffee Monday this week goes back to Amsterdam. When people talk about Amsterdam and coffee in the same sentence it has historically been more the coffee shops where there is more smoking than coffee drinking go on. The specialty coffee scene in Amsterdam is however really taking off and in the past couple of years a variety of new places have popped up. One of my recent discoveries is White Label Coffee in the western part of Amsterdam.  I first encountered their coffee at Kokko in Helsinki and then decided to make sure to have time to visit.

Filter coffee
Filter coffee
Cool espresso machine
Cool espresso machine

They have a rather spacious café where they roast coffee, sell beans and some equipment as well as of course serve the coffee. They have a wide range of coffee for sale and upon my visit they had an impressive seven different coffees available to order as hand-brewed filters. The guys working here really know how to make their coffee, very nicely prepared. The roasting is also very good and I was impressed by filter as well as cold brew. For me they are among the top coffee places in town and for me they are currently only beaten by Scandinavian Embassy but I do believe the fact that these guys roast their own coffee is something that may in the long run make them number one.

There is some simple café food on offer and nice apple pie and other pastries but I would still not say that it is the place to come for a full meal. What they have is however nice and decently priced. I like the atmosphere of the place and the people working there are very friendly so it is a nice place to hang at. It is fairly spacious and has free wifi so it is also possible to hang around for a longer period of time.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4
Ambiance and service: 4.5
Food: 3
Vs local competition: 4.5