The Best Cuts in Helsinki

I like meat! But like many others, I have also scaled down on my consumption. Not only because it is good for my body and the environment, but because I have become picky. Meat should be good, and well made. A steak well-done is murder of good produce. Somehow, I have lately not been too impressed by meat-places in Finland. I would not even dream of using my meat-quota on a pepper steak. But now, I have found a place I can happily recommend to a carnivore. Werner bar and grill on Bulevardi delivers on both produce and execution. And has good wines.. Continue reading “The Best Cuts in Helsinki”

Wineweek 163: Pre-christmas in Helsinki

Every year, we travel abroad for Christmas. And not just abroad, but preferably far far away from cold Sweden. We like spending the holiday season somewhere warm. Other prerequisites are safety, good food and preferably good drinks. There are plenty of travel destinations in the world, but only a few of the fulfill our requirements. So despite a tough analysis on all of the possible options, every year we end up going to South-East Asia. This years destinations include Thailand (Bangkok and Hua Hin) , Cambodia (Siam Reap) and Singapore. And whats best, we leave already next week. Next week! Awesome! But before that, we have been spending some time in Helsinki to make up for the lost Christmas with my family. We did some fun stuff. Here are a few tips for Helsinki in December. Continue reading “Wineweek 163: Pre-christmas in Helsinki”

Classic Dining at Carelia – Helsinki

Last Sunday I was (shortly) writing to you about Carelia, a restaurant and wine cellar in Helsinki. Carelia is one of those places that has been where it is for a long time. It is an old apothecary turned restaurant almost 20 years ago located in my childhood neighborhood of Töölö. A popular venue among opera-goers and athletes as it is located near to the stadium and the Opera of course. I can’t believe that this was the first time I visited as it for sure will not be my last.

Today I will be mostly concentrating on the restaurant part, but just so you know Carelia also rents out a private wine cellar. There are several tasting rooms you can use if you are a member and catering can be arranged from the restaurant kitchen upon request (basically you can just order of the menu). What a perfect concept to be able to enjoy your own wines with some classic food.

Restaurant Carelia Helsinki
The restaurant and bar
Restaurant Carelia Helsinki
Old apothecary deco
Carelia Restaurant Helsinki
Decorations at Carelia

We were invited for dinner by an old friend of mine, Iisa, who is also the sommelier of the restaurant. She had picked an aperitif for us, a bottle of Pierre Gimonet Oenophile Premiere Cru 2008. We don’t often see each other with Iisa, but it is like she read my mind with selecting a 2008 (one of my favorite young vintages) and a non-dose. It tasted like yellow apples and brioche and was absolutely perfect for the start of the dinner. I peaked at the menu and noticed another Gimonet (Cuis1) only around 13 euros for a glass, that is a definitely a fair price here in the Nordics. For food (starters) we ordered the beef tartar and asparagus with Hollandaise accompanied by some semi-sweet Riesling. Both dishes were very good, but I must say the asparagus was perfect, a simple dish with no compromises.

For mains we had the classic entrecote with Bernaise, fries and salad, and some tasty small chicken (why is it that the smallest are always the tastiest?). The meat was wonderful and made exactly like we ordered, medium rare (almost mooing). To accompany the mains Iisa selected a nice Pinot Noir from Chambolle-Musigny. For dessert we shared a platter of cheese, the rhubarb sorbet with almond and rosemary sauce and the Tarte tatin.

Restaurant Carelia Helsinki
The beef tartar
Restaurant Carelia Helsinki
Tarte Tatin
The Carelia Sommelier Iisa showing us around the cellar
The Carelia Sommelier Iisa showing us around the cellar

After the dinner things started getting “out of hand”. I am not talking drunken wild, just that we ordered a great many wines for tasting (we ordered one glass of each and split them by four people). We tried several Rieslings from Auslese and a Muscat de Rivesaltes Grand Guilhem. The Rieslings were served from beautiful Magnum bottles and tasted fresh and fruity. The Muscat was interesting with light notes of port wine but a very low alcohol content. A nice dessert wine. We also took a “short” tour down stair in the wine cellar. A friend of ours was arranging a tasting there and we stayed a bit. To end the evening, we moved to the bar (to get out of the way from hungry opera goers) and ordered a bottle of Blanc de Blancs (2007) from Lilbert & Fills.

All in all Carelia is a beautiful restaurant. The wine list is awesome with closer to 30 different champagnes and prices are not a rip-off. Of course champagne is always quite pricey, but Carelia has clearly positioned its self as a place for wine-lovers, and most wine-geeks will stay home and drink from their cellar if the restaurant aims to rob you blind. I must say I had similar feelings or reasonable pricing at Sinne Helsinki (review here), so it seems like the Helsinki wine-scene is really starting to get on its feet. The food is nothing innovative (it does not aim to be), but it is classical dishes made extremely well. My salute to the kitchen! Last but not least, the sommelier at the place is really something, so if you visit, I recommend leaving your wine-adventure into her capable hands.

A Night Out at the Apothecary

You might remember a few weeks back I mentioned we went for dinner at Pharmarium, a restaurant built in an old apothecary specializing in pairing cocktails with food. I have been somewhat fascinated with the concept. I like cocktails and I like food, why would they not fit together? Sadly there are not many restaurants that pass with flying colors in this area. Perhaps the best one I have been to is HKK in London that did a wonderful (non-alcoholic) juice flight with their tasting menu.

A cocktail bar serving food, that’s how Pharmarium markets its self. Emphasis clearly on the drinks, but also with an interesting menu. I have visited this restaurant several times and left happy. The space is decorated like an apothecary from the 18th century (the space used to be an apothecary) and there is a scent of herbs and spices in the air. As a Finn I immediately associate the lingering aroma of smoked birch tree to a Sauna. Oh my God I miss having a good Sauna. One would think that the Swedes would get it, but they don’t really have Saunas in apartment buildings in the city. If it were my choice we would have a Sauna or two just in our two bedroom flat. Back to Pharmarium: it is murky inside with light coming from candles and lanterns, perfect for creating a warm and cozy atmosphere. It feels great stepping inside from the crispy (read sh*t cold) weather outside.

The menu has a set of interesting cocktails and mid-sized dishes. This time the waiter suggested to order three to four dishes per person to fill our tummies, but we knew better from previous visits (and also from what the staff previously suggested) and settled with two to start with. The dishes are not all the same size, and some of them would easily go as a main course, at least for me. The chefs suggestions for food-cocktail pairings are in the back of the menu, but the staff are also very knowledgeable and will mix something special if you cant find anything to your liking on the list. There are also some nice beers and wines if you are not up for cocktails with the food, but I must say the drinks are the reason to come to this restaurant, the food comes second, so if you do not buy into the concept you may be better off going somewhere else.

We ordered some pulled pork tacos (Vietnamese style), charcuterie, sweetbread and snails with bone marrow. The food was mediocre, which was a surprise, as my previous visits have been much more positive. The hazelnut sauce in the tacos was way too overwhelming (could barely taste the pork), and the sweetbread was rare (WTF, we even asked if that was the intention of the chef and it was). I liked the snails and marrow and the charcutrie board, but they were nothing special.

But the drinks, they were wonderful. Original, tasty and well presented (as you can see from the pictures). Btw. check out the quality of the pictures (not edited). They were taken with my friends Samsung Galaxy S5, and boy am I jealous. I really had great expectations for my iPhone, but the Samsung was a clear winner in dim lighting. Thank’s Kaisa for letting me use these! Now back to the drinks. My favorite was the Dream Catcher. Some Gin, Lillet Blac, cucumber and rose cordial mixed together with Garam Masala house bitters. It came in a cute little bottle; and when opening the cork I finally understood why the whole restaurant smelled like a sauna. The aroma flowed like smoke out of the bottle making the whole experience quite exciting. Not to mention the drink was served warm. We also tried the Gin & House Tonic, Roses & Gold and the 5th Element. The GT and Roses and Gold were very good, but exactly what I always go for at a cocktail bar: fresh lemon and ginger notes mixed preferably with some bubbly. But the 5th Element, that was something different. Served in a copper cup, it was like a liquid dessert.

Yes, we had a fun evening out. I was a bit disappointed at the food, so I am not sure if I will have dinner there again. However, I am happy to pop by for some drinks (and a charcuterie board) any time. Another very positive note is that Pharmarium contributes nicely to the revival of the night life in Stockholm’s Old Town. Today (as opposed to a few years back) there are numerous really good places for wines, beers and cocktails. Gaston, 19 glas and Burgundy all offer interesting wines. Cocktails can be had at Pharmarium, TweedCorner Club and Pubologi. The Flying Elk as well as to some extent the new No 53 (more on that in a coming blog post) offer nice beverages as well. I am looking forward to seeing what else will pop up in 2015, as the charismatic Old Town has many great spaces, and plenty of visitors to fill up restaurants.

Wine Review: LaVis Simboli 2012 Marzemino

To start the wine-review, I would like to take the opportunity to write a little bit about the grape: Marzemino. Marzemino is found in Northern Italy, mainly in Trentino but also in the Lombardia, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine regions. Its mostly used as a blending grape together with Barbera, Merlot and Sangiovese; but it makes a wonderful wine on its own. It requires a long growing season, ripens late and produces light wines with plummy flavors and lively acidity.

When grown in cooler climate flavors can be light, hints of grass and cherry notes. In some ways it reminds of some of the Pinot Noirs grown in cool climates. As we have a Pinot-lover in this house, it was no wonder M fell in love with the grape the first time he tried it. It think it was one of those “where have you been all my life”-moments. Although quite known in Italy, and appreciated by the locals, it is not widely available in the Nordics. The Monopoly carries only one Marzemino in their special-order selection. Marzeminos susceptibility to fungal disease has not helped its popularity.

Now about Lavis Simboli 2012. Slightly violet in color, the wine looks light and fresh in the glass. You get soft aromas of red berries and almond and a sweet and balanced taste. It made us think of game as the perfect food pairing, but I must say, an Iberico-steak was not bad match either. Not bad at all! This wine was among the samples brought from Italy a few weeks back. Nothing expensive, perhaps about 6€, so wonderful value for money. I think this wine is worth 3,5 stars, maybe even 4 if you take into account the great price.

So all you winecurious out there, especially the Pinot-fans, do not walk past a Marzemino without giving it a shot. Especially if you visit Northern Italy, you should check out the local wine-shops for some great value for money.

The Return to Matkonsulatet

I always thought it would be easy peasy to write about this restaurant. After all it’s my favorite, probably in the whole world. Ok, I have several favorites, but this one is special. I know the menu inside out, I have tried all their cavas, and I have been there enough times to high-five with the staff. But, it turns out it isn’t as easy to find the words as I thought, almost feels like writing about a family member. I have so much to say and I want every word to do justice to the object of the review. So I will try to go about this in a structured manner (like a proper structure junky) and see how it goes.

Matkonsulatet is a small cozy restaurant in Kungsholmen serving Catalan style tapas. The dishes at Matkonsulatet are nothing special (by special I mean complex), but they are wonderful in all their simplicity. The menu has some nice classical tapas: sliced meats, Pan con Tomate (bread rubbed with tomato, olive oil and salt) and my all time favorite the Bikini Toast (toast with cheese, ham and truffle-butter). And some more experimental dishes; for example: Fennel tempura with Romesco sauce and salmon sashimi with yogurt and truffle honey (omg. that’s good). The menu changes now and then, so there is always something new to try out. Not to take away any credit from the kitchen, but what makes many of these dishes wonderful are also the high quality ingredients. The olive oil at this restaurant is just amazing (P.S. you can buy a bottle to take home).

A Catalan meal would not be complete without some good wines, so a few words about the list (and after all, this is a wine-blog). There is a nice selection of Cavas; mostly by bottle, but more than one by glass. Anne-Marie by Castell D’age, the “house cava” is a nice fresh Reserva with notes of strawberry (sorbet) and green apple. Its very refreshing, but the taste is not that long. Definitely a good house cava though. There are also some other interesting cavas on the list, like an Agusti Torello Mata Brut Reserva and another cava from Castell D’age, Aurelia. Most of the bottles, and now I’m referring to all wines, are very reasonably priced (for being a Swedish restaurant), so its not really a problem to just order a bottle.  For other wines, I haven’t gone through the whole selection (for the cavas I have), but there are some interesting reds and whites and the trend seems to be ecological and bio-dynamical wines.

The desserts are not to be forgotten. My favorite is the passion fruit, white chocolate and cookie crumble pudding. I have had a bit of a sweet tooth lately. But what you really want to try (if you only settle for one) is the dark chocolate mousse with olive oil and sea salt. This is just such a wonderful and actually surprising combination. Or more in the lines of “Olive oil and chocolate – why didn’t I think of it” But the whole idea of tapas is sharing, so why settle for only one dessert? Have them all and share with friends.

The restaurant is great, you can tell that I adore it from my review! But this is also a place where we have made memories: nights out with friends and family, hugs with the staff, and hot summer Sundays at the terrace. Its more than a restaurant to me, its a part of the Stockholm that I call home.I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, but not that much that I will have a hard time getting a table in the future =).

Wineweek 2

Every year I curse Christmas coming too early. I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong. However, I generally dislike it when the holiday brochures start dropping into the mailbox mid October (or worst case late September). Year by year, I have felt the advertisement starts earlier. 2014 has been an exception. Either I have been walking around with some kind of blinds over my eyes for a month or two, or this year the advertises have taken it easy. I hope its the latter.

Now December is only one day away and I feel genuinely excited. One very good reason being this years Christmas calendar. For the past few years, M has surprised me with a “calendar” with 24 small presents (I love presents). The content has been small everyday stuff; hairpins (because I loose them with record speed), chocolate (that disappears with record speed as well) and other small things. This year he renewed the concept (picture on the top-right corner of the gallery), and I absolutely love it. I hope the wine-calendar is here to stay! It is after all, something we can both enjoy for many many weeks to come. It’s not like we will be drinking a bottle a day, but hey holidays are coming, so there is bound to be some more consumption. I will be posting on Facebook as the boxes open one by one.

And yes, what great wine-action we had this week. We tasted some oaky Cava, ruby red Barolo and special edition Lanson Champagne. I am looking forward to posting reviews on them. All in all, the week in pictures below:

 1. Looking for some good champagne glasses at NK// 2. Augusti Torello Mata Gran Reserva 2008 Barrica Brut Nature Cava, our appetizer for Fridays dinner// 3. The 2014 Christmas calendar. I cannot wait until tomorrow to open the first box// 4. Some moose to go with picture number 5 (I was not the cook)// 5. Paolo Scavino Bricco Ambrogio 2003 Barolo our Friday dinner wine// 6. Lanson Extra Age Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne, the Saturday Champagne.