Where to eat in Bologna (and why I gained 3 kilos in 3 days)


La Grassa, or the fat one, is the nickname of the Italian city of Bologna, lovingly named so by the rest of Italy, because of its, well fatty, cuisine. You could also call me the fat one, as I gained 3 kilos or about 6.5 pounds during my three days in Bologna recently.

So what is it that makes the cuisine of Bologna, the capital of the region of Emilia Romagna so good, that you just can’t stop eating while visiting. I’ll tell you what.

Mortadella.
The fatty sausage-meets-ham mortadella is one of Bolognas most famous foods. In Northern America, and probably in some other places too there is a similar thing called Bologna sausage, or ‘baloney‘. Mortadella is a sausage made of pork, with at least 15 percent of small fat cubes incorporated into it, which makes it remarkably delicious. Above is mortadella, salami, mozzarella, bread, cappuccino and some other breakfast stuff served at our hotel, Hotel Touring, which was pretty nice.
Hotel touring


Piadina.
These delicious quesadilla-y (sorry Italians) fried flatbreads are made out of a dough that includes lardo, which is pig’s fat. Okay, sometimes the lard is substituted with olive oil. Above is a piadina at nice wine bar Vineria Favalli, stuffed with bresaola (air cured beef), goat’s cheese and rucola/arugula.

Burrata.
A very delicious burrata cheese (sort of a runny mozzarella) served caprese style, meaning with tomatoes and basil. Maybe not that particularly Bolognese, but very, very good. This was at the same place as above, that is Vineria Favalli.
Vineria Favalli

Gelato. 
The first one is from Stefino, which makes both crazy ice cream flavours such as wasabi, as well as more traditional ones like the one above which was gianduia and raspberry respectively.
Gelateria Stefino


Gelato from Zanarini just next to Piazza Maggiore in the center of Bologna. Above are lemon and hazelnut flavours.
Caffé Zanarini


Cold cuts and tagliatelle al ragú at Trattoria Da Me Ancoranoi.
The dinner at to me highly anticipated Trattoria Da me was really something. We started with a platter of antipasti that featured an assortment of mixed cold cuts such as mortadella and salami, as well as deep-fried “crescentine” bread pockets, runny local cheese, pickles and fried onions. Mm-mm-mm.
Being a huge fan of the sacrilegious bastardisation of Bologna’s national dish, spaghetti bolognese, this was paradise to me. Tagliatelle al ragú is the original version of what is lovingly known as for instance spag bol in most other parts of the world, and the above version, which I had at Trattoria Da me is absolutely the best I’ve had. Including my own which I’m usually quite pleased with. The tagliatelle pasta was out of this world, the sauce was thick, meaty and very firm, and the parmesan cheese the natural binding-everything-together component. So. Good.
Trattoria Da Me


Pizza.
We had a fantastic pizza experience at Regina Sofia, just off Piazza Maggiore. We were seated in the back of the restaurant, which actually was in an alley, adding to the Italian experience. The pizzas were ‘Napoli style’, meaning thicker and doughier than usual thin crust pizza. Above is a capricciosa with fior di latte (mozzarella-like, made with cow’s milk) cheese, cotto (cooked ham), mushrooms, artichokes and small olives. It was so good. As everything else in Bologna.
Pizzeria Regina Sofia


Aperol Spritz.
Our hotel, Touring, had a rooftop bar called Terrazza Mattuiani where you could watch the sunset, eat some snacks, aperitivo, and drink aperol spritz. The only problem is that you need to pay €10 if you’re a hotel guest (includes a drink and snacks) or €15 if you’re a walk-in guest. Worth it in my mind, but more expensive than most other places in the city we visited. They do lack the views though.
Terrazza Mattuiani

One of the arcades for which Bologna is famous. There is actually 40 kilometers of them around the city, protecting its visitors and residents from the elements. First constructed in the late middle ages, and adding a lot of charm to the strolling which hopefully removes some of the mortadella or pasta weight gained.


Lasagne verde and tortellini in brodo.
Finally, Bologna is also famous for two dishes we had at a fantastic little restaurant called Al Sangiovese. The first one is lasagne verde which consists of green (spinach) pasta sheets, bechamel sauce and ragú (meat sauce). The other one is tortellini in brodo, or small pasta pockets filled with minced pork and served in a flavoursome and quite light broth. A sprinkling of parmesan wasn’t to be turned down either. Both dishes were delicious, especially washed down with a nice glass of Sangiovese wine.

What to eat in Visby on Gotland

Recently spent three days on the beautiful island of Gotland, just a short flight south east of Stockholm (or a shortish ferry ride).

Since my time on the island was quite limited, a food agenda was needed. Even though the island of Gotland and its main city Visby (where the airport is) are quite small in population numbers (all island is approximately 60 000), the number of visitors from both mainland Sweden and abroad means there’s plenty of good restaurants, at least during summer. In fact popular mainland restaurants such as Surfers (despite what the name might imply they serve Sichuan food) and Supper (South American:ish) have local branches in Visby. Below is what I managed to shovle down during my short trip.

Surfers Visby
First up was a Sichuan dinner at medium prized Surfers. Dishes are all 88 sek (2017) or roughly $10. We were advised to share 6-8 among the two of us. Everything was really tasty and service was great. There was quite a wait for a table so a reservation is adviced, at least in July when we went.

Surfers’ website

Dumplings.

Spicy (really spicy) fried chicken in red chilli oil.

Prawn meatballs with coriander, lettuce leaves and a tasty dipping sauce.

Five spice ribs. Falling of the bone tender, sweet and spicy at the same time. Mmm.

Pork belly and coriander salad. Sort of like a banh mi without the bread.

Scallops in XO-sauce. Fishy in a good way. Perfectly cooked scallops.

Sesame chicken with cucumber and deep fried tofu. Delicious.

Creperie & Logi
Lunch at Creperie & Logi. Awesome crepes or galettes with in above case skagenröra meaning a mix of shrimp, mayo, dill and usually creme fraiche. Also there was cheese, bleak roe, rucola and lemon. Sooo good. Price was about 200 sek or $22.

Creperie & Logi

Café Gula Huset
When on Gotland, a Gotlandic saffron pancake (made with rice porridge) served with whipped cream and salmbärssylt (dewberry jam) is sort of mandatory. We had ours at Café Gula Huset (the yellow house café) and it was awesome. Can’t remember the price more than it was not hideously expensive.

Café Gula Huset

Mille Lire
By chance I spotted Mille Lire on Instagram a short while before leaving for Gotland with a comment such as “Best pizza on Gotland”. Being a huge pizza lover, I naturally had to pay them a visit. Mille Lire comes from the Italian phrase for “some change” asked by the owner to his mother so he could get some pizza after school while being a child back in Italy (if I recall correctly). According to Google it means something like a “thousand dollars” though. The prize of a pizza at Mille Lire is actually close to that (oh well), being almost borderline excessively expensive with 160 or so sek for a pizza. But it is also indeed very good. And, you also get a 20 sek reduction if you do take away. I had a ‘Norcina’ with provola cheese, mozzarella, tomato and fresh salsiccia which was molto bene.

Mille Lire Visby

Glassmagasinet Visby
After pizza, what comes more natural than ice cream, right? A visit to Glassmagasinet in Visby’s harbour treated us to some nice local ice cream. Above is one scoop each of chocolate-peanut, and local flavours saffron and honey. Trivia is that Glassmagasinet is Europe’s largest ice cream bar, at least according to themselves. It’s not a huge place however, so the crown should be relatively easily up for grabs.

Glassmagasinet Visby

Brooklyn Visby
My last day on “öijn” as mainland Swedes affectionally ridicule the local pronounciation of “ön” meaning “the island” was on the 4th of July which is sort of a big day in a land slightly west (as in an 8 hour flight) of Sweden. Hence, a burger felt appropriate. More so because the venue was named Brooklyn (which is basically where you end up after the 8 hour flight). The burger at Brooklyn Visby was surprisingly good to be honest and came with fries and a nice truffle dip. The bread was made in a local bakery and the meat perfectly cooked. Prices were okay with roughly 120 sek for a burger. Minus points for forcing us to a dark corner bar table despite the place being nearly empty (and stayed that way till we left).

Brooklyn Visby

Supper Visby
And finally there was Supper. As in supper at Supper. At Supper (sorry), which is a restaurant with a party vibe the focus, as so many places these days, is on “share food”. We were advised to share four to five dishes on the two of us and decided to go for four. Food is sort of South American-Mexican-Tex Mex-y and relatively decently priced.

Pork belly tacos.

One of Supper’s signatures, their sweet potato fries that are crispier than anywhere else I’ve been. Topped with coriander and parmesan cheese they are delicious.

Tuna tartare with avocado, soy sauce mayo and cassava crisps.

Steak tartare made with chopped flank steak meaning it was a little bit tougher than regular ground tartare (but still delicious) served with peanuts, mustard seeds and mayo. Worked like a charm wih the not-included sweet potato fries.

Supper’s chilli had been slow-cooked for five hours in beer and chocolate and came with a pretty little ‘egg’ of whipped (?) sour cream and corn crisps. Like the rest of Supper’s food it’s very tasty even though it’s not terribly creative.

Supper Visby

Swedish Midsummer eating

 

One of my favourite celebrations in Sweden is midsommar, or Midsummer. The day is usually started with a boozy traditional sillunch, meaning herring lunch (the picture above), which then continue with dance around the Midsummer pole (yes, we’re heathens) and then usually a bbq of some sort. Usually strawberry cake is inserted somewhere along the way, as is a lot of drinking. My Midsummer pretty much followed the script this year, except for us skipping the pole dancing (pun intended, sorry).

 

Poolside champagne at my uncles.

 

Midsummer barbecue.

 

Midsummer strawberry cake with cream, vanilla custard and untraditional but delicious Nutella.

 

Post Midsummer weather.

 

A forest walk to get rid of some of the Midsummer calories.

To cure the Midsummer hangover, fried food was needed. This was a very delicious, if I may say so, homemade Korean fried chicken burger. Deep-fried panko crusted chicken breast, tossed in a spicy and sweet gochujang-butter-honey sauce. Served in a grilled brioche bun together with kimchi mayo.

144 stairs Cafe in Tbilisi

144 stairs Cafe

Our first meal in Tbilisi was enjoyed at “144 stairs” close to the Nariqala Fortress of Tbilisi. You walk up a few sets of stairs before reaching the restaurant, which, justifying the semi-steep climb, offered amazing views over Tbilisi, and as far as the Caucasus mountains we visited a few days later (more about that trip below).

144 stairs had, apart from nice views, great food. Prices were decent and the Georgian white wine was cold. As we had just arrived we ordered a lot of food. The khachapuri, the Georgian cheese bread, sort of similar to pizza, was delicious. As was the Georgian salad, with crispy cucumber, sweet juicy tomatoes, mild onion and creamy walnut dressing.
Website

Pastorali restaurant in Tbilisi, Georgia

 


Pastorali

The one place we actually went back to was a restaurant called Pastorali. Pastorali, like most (all) places we visited served tasty and affordable Georgian food. Located on the cozy slightly touristy Erekle II street, they served up the best Georgian khinkali we had during our trip. Khinkali are large dumplings, like my favourite dish in the entire world xiao long bao, they are filled with both meat and a spiced broth with a dominating flavour of coriander. You begin by sucking out the broth, then you proceed to eat the dough and meat, don’t eat the top though, that is used as a handle to hold the khinkali.

Apart from the khinkali we also had delicious Adjeri khachapuri (the famous cheese bread again, this time with a runny egg on top). We also had baked eggplant with mixed walnuts and pomegranate seeds as well as a Imeruli khachapuri which is a round cheese bread and with the cheese on the inside. Everything very delicious and prices were good.
Website

Barbarestan restaurant in Tbilisi, Georgia

One of the few places that I had looked up in advance was newly opened Barbarestan. Founded only one and half year ago by the founder, according to him after finding the book of an old cooktress, Barbara Joradze, in a market and then re-inventing her old recipes with the best produce and ingredients, served with great Georgian wine. Something like this was the story, told to us by the very friendly manager, who actually walked around the restaurant with the actual book in a glass cover. There are a few tables outside on the street and on street level and several ones in the restaurants super-cozy wine cellar.

I wanted to try most things on the menu, but being one of the few pricier places we visited, we controlled ourselves slightly.

First up a mixed starter plate with different dips and GREAT flatbreads. The dips were: caramelized onions and walnuts; broccoli and walnuts; cheese and yoghurt, and finally an eggplant dip. So, so good with the accompanying Georgian red wine.

Of course I had to sample the fancy(ier) restaurant-version of a khachapuri. The Georgian red continued to work well.

Georgian meatball with potato puree and pomegranate sauce.

Our server pooring us wine. Amber in colour but still considered a white wine. A peculiar taste, but nevertheless very nice.

Barbarestan was incredible. Exactly the kind of restaurant I like. Great ambience, great food, not too fancy, but not too un-fancy either. Attention on food, drink and that everyone feels good. Loved it. Go there.
Website

5 days of food and adventures in amazing Georgia

Just got back from a five day trip to the amazing little country of Georgia (not the U.S. state) nestled between Russia and Turkey in the Caucasus. I’ve been wanting to go to Georgia for quite some time. The reasons for it being the scenic countryside, Tbilisi as a city, rumours of friendly people, and most of all; the Georgian cuisine.

We flew Air Baltic from Riga, which were pretty decent apart from the final leg on our return to Sweden when I got stuck next to a space-stealing seat neighbour on Air Baltic’s cramped Q400.

 

Tbilisi is mostly a beautiful city, as can be seen on the Old Tbilisi building above.

We also took a day trip to Northern Georgia and Mount Kazbek, about a three hour drive from Tbilisi. Due to two (!) flat tires, either by unfortune or lacking maintenance from our tour operator, the whole day took forever to get through. We were picked up at 9.40 am and was back in town around 10 pm. Nevertheless, the trip was actually worth it, despite most of the day was spent on the road.

Our first stop: Ananuri fortress, situated about 70 kilometers from Tbilisi.


The main attraction for the trip, apart from amazing mountainous scenery for a good part of the trip, was the Gergeti Trinity Church, situated at almost 2200 meters height, and still surrounded by massive Caucasus mountains towering over it. To get there we took a four wheel driven jeep from Stepantsminda to reach the Gergeti Trinity Church. After a 30 minute off-road drive we reached the church, and my god what a place it was. Probably top five of the coolest places I’ve ever been, and that’s despite that they, not sure how, actually has rolled up an ugly little food truck selling burgers just outside the beautiful church.


Mount Kazbek, 5074 meters tall as seen from the Gergeti Trinity Church.

 

The following day, back in Tbilisi, we visited the Dry Bridge Market where everything from Soviet memorabilia to knives, old army surplus, wine jars and cutlery are sold. A fascinating place, for me perhaps more for the ambience than the actual shopping.

Jack London restaurant Tbilisi
After the shopping, more food was needed. The name Jack London did not sound too promising, but the menu looked nice and the food on the other diner’s plates did too.

We ordered a sulguni cheese (the cheese used in khachapuris) stuffed kabab and chicken shashlik, both served with mild raw sliced onion. The fries at this place looked great, I still regret not having them.

 

Since I try to visit as many new and different countries as possible, I of course had to visit neighbouring Armenia. Through Envoy Tours, we booked a “de-tour to Armenia” that took us through the green Lore region of Northern Armenia. I had not really understood just how beautiful Armenia would be with its rolling green hills, canyons and monasteries, some of them constructed in the 10th century. That’s pretty old. During our tour we visited Sanahin and Haghbat (or Haghpat) monasteries situated along the Debed canyon, both of them Unesco World Heritage sites and built somewhere around 966. We also briefly visited the old factory town Alaverdi with abandoned factories, train cars and cranes. Felt like something out of a zombie movie, very cool. Our last sight of the trip was akhtala fortress-monastery which was as old and cool as the two previous, but not a UNESCO world heritage site. Finally, before going back to Georgia and Tbilisi we stoped for lunch at a local family’s home. Sat down around a table with mile-long views of the valley and mountains below the 12 or so of us were served delicious home-cooked Armenian food. We started with a couple of vegetable dishes such as a carrot fritter, different pickled vegetables, bread, cheeses, spinach fried with eggs and fresh vegetables from the area. For main we had a great grilled pork, served with raw sliced onions and thick deep fried potato slices. An excellent meal in an equally excellent setting. Also bonus points to Envoy Tours for including this stop instead of just feeding us in a touristy place somewhere along the way.

A very cool tour that was quite affordable and with a great flexible and knowledgeable guide. You can find Envoy Tours website here.

Then it was time to fly back, but not before cashing in my drink voucher I received upon checking in at Mercure Tbilisi Old Town which’s sky bar was to be the last we saw of Tbilisi before heading back home.

So in summary, wow, what a place Georgia is. It’s beautiful, the food is amazing, the prices are low and you can go to an off the beaten track country like Armenia over the day. Now I’m really keen to keep exploring the rest of the region. All the good restaurants we visited are posted after this post. To just keep on reading to get inspired to visit one of my new favourite countries. 🙂

SAS plus domestic flight review

Flew SAS domestic the other day, and thought I should give some info since it’s not very much available in English about what is included. The trip I took was from Stockholm Arlanda Airport to Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, in the South.


When flying SAS plus, which basically is their intra-Europe premium economy, or business class, everything onboard is included and on the ground you have lounge access (with alcohol available in the Arlanda SAS Domestic lounge in Terminal 4, which only had lighter beer before) as well as fast track security. Since I was quite hungry, I had a little bit of everything such as delicious Ringi apple juice, mixed nuts, Marabou chocolate bar, a “Polar roll” of soft Northern Sweden-style thin bread with cheese and butter.

Danish craft beer producer Mikkeler’s Plane Ale is really tasty. Especially with a view of Sweden below a clear day.

Menu pages, for the geeks like my who likes to study that kind of stuff before traveling. 🙂


The new Cafe Lounge concept by SAS in smaller airport is pretty nice compared to no lounge at all. This one in Malmö had quite tasty muffins, a few small cookies, fruit, coffee and juice. No alcoholic beverages.

All in all, SAS plus is quite nice if you’re not paying much more for it. All the food onboard is available to both plus and go (economy) though, so you can pay for the exact same stuff further back in the plane. The seats are just the same, although you’ll sit in the front and can pick your prefered seat free of charge in plus.

Homemade Spaghetti alla Gricia recipe

This weekend, I tried the last one of the four pastas of Rome. The four pastas of Rome is carbonara (egg, guanciale/pancetta, pecorino, black pepper), Amatriciana (guanciale/pancetta and tomatoes), Cacio e Pepe (black pepper, pecorino) and the Pasta alla Gricia, with pecorino and guanciale/pancetta.

Pasta, or spaghetti alla Gricia is sort of a cacio e pepe with added crunch from crispy fried guanciale, or pancetta. The proper pork to use is guanciale, which is air-dried pork cheek. But when not in Rome, you can substitute it with pancetta, or in worst case bacon (preferably un-smoked).

What you need for Spaghetti alla Gricia (serves approximately four):

One package of spaghetti (I use Martelli or De Ceccho)

300 grams of guanciale/pancetta/bacon, cut into cubes, strips

2,5 deciliters/one cup of pecorino cheese

1/2 deciliter (1/4ish cup) of strained pasta cooking water

Black pepper

Salt

1. Add the pork to a cold pan and put on heat. This will make the fat render and make the pork crispier. I sometimes add a garlic clove to this to slightly flavour the pork (discard when done).

2. Cook the spaghetti until almost al dente, the pasta will cook some more in the sauce. Save the cooking liquid as indicated above.

3. Grate the pecorino cheese as finely as your grater allows. Mix about half of it with a couple of tablespoons of water to a smooth ‘sauce’.

4. When pork is crispy, turn off/lower the heat and add the al dente spaghetti into the pork and fat pan (remove some of the fat if desired). Toss around and then add the pecorino mixed with water as well as the reserved cooking liquid.

5. Stirr until the liquids almost has reduced and the pasta is covered in silky cheese sauce. Add almost all the remaining pecorino, salt and black pepper and give a final toss before removing from heat.

6. Serve immediately topped with the remaining pecorino cheese.

Enjoy!

Japanese style curry at Curry House CoCo Ichibanya in Shinjuku

One of the days in Tokyo we had been walking for ages in the rain. We were cranky, tired and hungry. That is usually not an ideal situation to start discussing where to eat. We stood outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building when it struck me; “Curry, I want Japanese curry”. After a quick look at Google maps, it was almost to good to be true, we were a block from one of the higher ranked curry places in Tokyo, the interestingly named “Curry House CoCo Ichibanya” which is part of a chain with the same name. After a approximately 30 second walk, we found ourselves in a small curry smelling paradise.

Japanese curry is a gravy like sauce flavoured with curry, served on top of rice and usually paired with some kind of deep-fried protein. We opted for deep-fried chicken with our curry which came with pickles, rice and mentioned curry sauce. The food was hot, savoury, crunchy, salty and just plain delicious. Price was really good too, and we left a lot happier.

Price ($) and website
I honestly can’t remember more than it was very affordable. They have an English website with a menu that you can find here. We had lunch at their Shinjuku location close to Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (that by the way has free entry) and the Park Hyatt Hotel. Shinjuku station’s main hall is a 5-10 minute walk away.