Wineweek 105: The First Snow

This morning – the first proper snowfall of the year. Sorry, I don’t have any pictures of it. Me and my camera have remained happily indoors; drinking tea and eating chocolate. But I have a few other cool shots to show you from yesterdays visit to AB.Cafe for brunch and Vina wine bar for dinner. I also did some window shopping in the center. Even though we do not spend Christmas in Sweden, I still like getting a few small gifts for the fam. And the best place to find nice stuff is Designtorget, that carries works of many Swedish designers – big and small.  Continue reading “Wineweek 105: The First Snow”

Wineweek 77: Valborg

Walburgis Night aka Valborg in Swedish is celebrated every year on the 30th of April. The day is followed by May 1st Labor day, which in many countries is a day off. In Finland, Valborg is a huge party for the spring. Everyone is out, regardless of the weather, pretending that it is warmer than it actually is. Students get drunk and families with children go out for a picnic (and have sparkling wine). There are a lot of people out with balloons and funny hats both on Walburgis night as well as Labor day. It’s quite crazy. Finnish Valborg is definitely worth experiencing once, preferably young when you have the energy to party all night.  Continue reading “Wineweek 77: Valborg”

Wineweek 48: Champagne and the Flu

I have finally realized why I am always so inclined to start my weekly posts with the weather. It is because I have now lived two years in Stockholm and I am becoming more Swedish by the day. How do I come to this conclusion? This week I was drafting a post for my travel site (www.tripsteri.fi) about how to talk with a swede.  For that purpose, I also asked about five to ten of my friends and colleagues about topics they discuss both with friends and strangers. The first thing on everyone’s lips was the weather. I even think someone made a joke that the Swedes have become the British of the north.

The main content of my writing was about the discussion topics in Sweden being very general, to make sure you do not offend anyone. If one wants to discuss something serious, like politics, one must make a careful note in the start of the conversation about being slightly bothered regarding serious discussions being such a taboo. This way you make it clear you know what you are getting into. Well, wine is not a serious topic. At least it is not for me. The Swedes I talk to about wine always make a note though, that they know nothing about it. This is also a warm-up to make sure I do not take the discussion too seriously (and do not get offended). Every country have their rituals.

Friday evening with Laherte Blanc de Blancs and popcorn
Friday evening with Laherte Blanc de Blancs and popcorn
Some color for the darkening fall nights
Some color for the darkening fall nights
I have been preparing for Tokyo by tending to my colleagues Japanese garden
I have been preparing for Tokyo by tending to my colleagues Japanese garden
Champagne tasting with friends and customers at casa Winecurious
Champagne tasting with friends and customers at casa Winecurious
All the tasting bubblies in a row
All the tasting bubblies in a row

This week I have unfortunately been sick. I have caught the flu. My throat is very sore, and I feel drowsy. Luckily I have not lost that much of my palate, as we had our customer champagne tasting on Saturday. We invited all of our customers who ordered at our spring tasting to sample a range of private label bubblies from the UK. Now, I will write a separate post on the tasting. But just as a quick sum-up: we tasted seven wines, four of them were private label champagnes, two of them were from the original producers, and one was not a champagne at all, it was a cava (nobody guessed that though). We did the tasting blind to be able to have as objective results as possible.

The coming week will be very exciting. We will be flying to Tokyo for a five day food trip. Why Tokyo? The currency exchange rate is right now very favorable. We will be doing quite many nice restaurants and all of them for a fairly affordable price. For the drinks section, we will be trying out some local rice wine, Sake. So if you have any Sake tips, please let me know. We will of course have a look around for wine as well (as always), but I really doubt that it is that interesting. Who knows, I have been surprised before. We have quite a hectic schedule the coming week, so I will probably not be writing that much. Let’s see what I can conjure during the long flight from Copenhagen. And of course I will be posting photos. October is not the most beautiful month of the year, but Tokyo is so colorful that it really doesn’t matter.

That was all the wine action for this week. Next time I will be posting, it will be from the land of the rising sun. Have a great week you all!

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.

solde5

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

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

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.

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

Wineweek 33: It’s Getting Hot in Here

As per tradition, I will start with the weather report. It might seem like an irrelevant part of my weekly posts. But on the contrary, I think it is an important note for setting the right mood. The kind of wine I drink is heavily influenced by the weather. So it is no coincidence I have been drinking a lot of light reds, white and rose this week as it has been HOT. Sweden has been showing it’s best with 25-30 C and sun, and I have been doing my best to enjoy the hot weather with some cooling drinks.

Wednesday we went to check out the second location of our favorite wine bar in town, Gaston at Nordiska Kompaniet. NK is one of the finest department stores in town and the top floor has recently been taken over by the king of Swedish fine dining, Björn Franzen. Gaston wine-bar is also a part of Frantzen’s culinary empire and one of the most notable wine-hangouts in town. While the location in the old town of Stockholm remains my favorite (it also has a more extensive list of wine), the NK location is also a place worth to visit. The style of displaying the wines in fridges along the wall with pricing written with a white marker reminds me of Paris and it’s many wonderful wine bars. So on a rainy day, head up to this comfortable oasis for wine in between shopping. The two go well together (I have experience)!

Relaxing at Gaston Wine Bar at Nordiska Kompaniet
Relaxing at Gaston Wine Bar at Nordiska Kompaniet
The beautiful bar at Loka Izakaya
The beautiful bar at Lokal Izakaya
Strawberry, champagne and black pepper. Omnom!
Strawberry, champagne and black pepper. Omnom!

On Friday we went out for some drinks and Asian food at a new restaurant in town, Lokal Izakaya. The Japanese inspired Izakayas are the new food trend in town. Sushi and Asian inspired dishes combined with some yummy cocktails and a list of Sake makes up for a concept I very much enjoy. Sadly every single Izakaya in Stockholm has the same problem, they are not Izakayas. Don’t get me wrong, I like the restaurants as such. I just don’t like that the concept has been so grossly miss-interpreted. An Izakaya is a simple Japanese eatery, like a tavern or pub, a kind of after work place that serves some food to accompany the drinks. The so called Izakayas in Stockholm remind me more of Asian fine dining than a local.  Lokal Izakaya, like the first on the izakaya scene in Stockholm, Shibumi, is a fun restaurant. The cocktails, sashimi, and hot dishes all very satisfying. I was just expecting something more simple.

As many cities in Europe, Stockholm will partly close for summer vacations. July is prime time for Swedes to head to their cottages and travel around in Europe, so many small restaurants and bars close their doors. We went to enjoy the last opening day of Hornstulls Bodega, a wine bar and restaurant close by to where we live. After Gaston, I would say this is THE place to come for wine. We enjoyed some Spätburgunder rose, reds from Loire and an amazing peppery Rioja.

Last wine of the summer at Hornstulls Bodega
Last wine of the summer at Hornstulls Bodega
Celebrating 4th of July at Nya Carnegiebryggeriet
Celebrating 4th of July at Nya Carnegiebryggeriet

I will miss the Bodega, but the summer will go by fast. Next week we are heading for Helsinki, my home city; to rest, meet friends and relatives, and to drink some more wine of course. The blog will not be taking a holiday, but summer vacation will mean that there will be a slightly slower pace (maybe). And perhaps I have the chance to finally really consider what to do with the look and layout. All ideas and inspiration are more than welcome! Hope a warm and sunny week to you all!

Coffee Bar Review: Drop Coffee, Stockholm

This coffee Monday I turn to my home town of Stockholm and one of the most celebrated coffee bars in town, Drop Coffee. They are located just by the tube station Mariatorget in Stockholm, around 100 meters from Johan & Nyström the really early ones on the speciality coffee scene in Sweden and who, at least in my view, have done more for speciality coffee than anyone else. This used to be the real cluster to come to for high quality coffee and since both these places are still here it continues to be a good place to sample some of the third wave of coffee in Sweden.

Drop coffee started out as a cafe that served coffee from a variety of micro roasters from around the Nordic countries and that is how they built a reputation for serving excellent coffee. After a few years they did however decide to start roasting themselves and these days they only serve their own roasted coffee. They usually have between four and six different filter coffees to choose from and they are all hand-brewed. There is of course also espresso based beverages available.

All the hand brews are made as pour-overs and that is of course a bit more difficult to get consistent quality with compared to for example the Aeropress. That really shows here as the quality of the coffee can vary greatly depending on who is working, how busy they are and just plain how much effort they put into it. I have noticed that chatting about coffee a bit first in general results in a better cup as they realize that you are actually interested. The espresso based beverages have actually been more consistent, which is a bit surprising. S is usually the ordering a latte and she is happy with the quality but the size of the latte is a joke, it is more like half a cup of coffee. As you can hear I am not ecstatic but they are still good but the quality has in general deteriorated during the past years but I have noticed that they are once again picking it up in the past 6 months or so. They are however not good enough to compete with the best in Stockholm but it is well worth a visit.

They do serve some nice sandwiches, pastries and toasted sandwiches as well as soup. The food is in general high quality and while not a full meal there are good options for breakfast, brunch and light lunches as well as some nice options for sweets, including ice cream in the spring and summer.

The service is in general friendly, often a bit slow and there is occasional confusion with forgotten orders and such. That said the friendly and relaxed attitude makes it feel as if it is ok. That vibe from the staff also translates to the place itself, it feels relaxed, people are friendly and it feels totally fine to sit there and slack for a longer period of time. The free wifi also mean that a lot of people sit around with pads and computers and I have not once heard any complaints about it. Despite people sitting for long and the place being popular it is still often possible to find a spot. So all in all not the top of the list for Stockholm but a good solid option, not worth traveling far for but if you are in the area do stop by.

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

Wineweek 26: May Moments in Stockholm

May is always a confusing month in the Nordic countries. You are on the doorstep of summer, however there is still a cold wind reminding you that you are not there yet. This morning I woke up to a cold looking rain that is showing no sign of stopping. So this might be one of those days that I just stay inside. But there is much work to do. We are holding our open house tasting in a weeks time and we want everything to be ready for the new collection: samples, accessories (like coolers and spit buckets), not to mention the information on our webpage. This long weekend we have updated our webshop and it looks awesome! Much better than it did before. We work with a free online platform, Tictail, so there is so just so much one can expect. However functionality-wise, it’s nice and simple, and it works (as opposed to not working).

Optimists enjoying the weather in Stockholm
Optimists enjoying the weather in Stockholm
Cherry blossoms in Stockholm
Cherry blossoms in Stockholm

The wine week has been pretty awesome as well! We were on the Viking Line ferry on Thursday for one purpose and one purpose only, to buy wine. We had read up that the collection was decent and prices very good for the wallet. Also a friend of ours tipped us off that there are often other bottles there as well, not mentioned in the online catalog. The ferries traffic between Stockholm and two big cities in Finland, Helsinki and Turku. We hopped on a boat going to Turku, hopped off on Åland (and Island between Sweden and Finland) and boarded the boat going back. This took all day, however in the end it was worth it. I will write a separate post on shopping on the boats, but in short, it was a gold mine. The name behind the Viking Line wine selection is Essi Avellan, Master of Wine and undoubtedly the most recognized wine-personality in Finland. The tax free shop did not offer much on the shelves, but when we asked around for a few bottles we had read were supposed to be there, the staff dug them up out of the storage. Also, the Food Garden, the a la carte restaurant, had it’s own little wine boutique selling some very nice grower champagnes. These bottles were on no list, and we were lucky to be there a week after the storage had been filled up. That evening we disembarked Viking Amorella with 10 bottles of bubbly of the likes of Selosse, Agrapart & Fils, vintage Charles Heidsieck etc. It was not a cheap trip, but all bottles ranged between 20-40% cheaper than what we would have been able to buy them for on land.

Another interesting event this week was yesterdays beer brewing. We were invited by Yelp to a small event at Cafe Proviant, a brewery and a pub here in Stockholm. We followed as the brewmaster, Roger, introduced the equipment and the ingredients, and prepared the beer for brewing. We saw all the steps to making beer while sampling the pub selection of drinks and food. A very nice venue and a fun event. I could imagine this being something fun for a birthday (or bachelor) party. I am slightly worried though as I saw M eyeing the equipment with that look of “if we just had an extra room…”. Although, it would be quite fun having your own beer. We could call it the Beercurious.

The fine wine shop on Viking Grace
The fine wine shop on Viking Grace
The Brewmaster evaluating his work at Cafe Proviant
The Brewmaster evaluating his work at Cafe Proviant

Next week will be exciting. I am looking forward to seeing how our new collection will be welcomed and of course how sales start of. We have also set up a few new payment options that will hopefully be nicer for the customer. Earlier, we have only had an option of either bank transfer (an old fashioned invoice) or credit card via PayPal, which are both slightly annoying. For using PayPal, one needs to create a user account and that just seems like a waste of time for making one payment. So we hope that this results in a better shopping experience. We have also made some summer-packages for people to stock-up for their cabin or boat. It really feels like that the business is starting to take off.

That is it for this Wineweek! Hopefully summer will arrive soon to bless the terrace-season (for real). Next week, I will be writing quite a lot about our new selection, introducing the wines that we have spent so much time on finding. In a few weeks we will also be heading for a short trip to Shanghai, which I am sure you will hear much about.