A short staycation at Hotel At Six in Stockholm

I recently took a brief staycation in one of Stockholm’s new ’luxury hotels’ – Hotel At Six. At Six is a part of both iPrefer and Nordic Choice Hotels (not sure how that works, but I could only receive points from one 😩), the latter is the mother company of my favourite Scandinavian chain Clarion, and hence my expectations were quite high. I won’t elaborate that much, but the stay was definitely my best hotel experience so far in Sweden; great staff, great room and amenities, and most of all fantastic views from our ’deluxe room’.


Room and views over Stockholm. Try to get a room facing Djurgården. The other direction, towards Södermalm has more nearby buildings blocking the view.

Complimentary breakfast buffet pretty latte.

We brought our own champagne to the room and got to borrow nice Riedel champagne glasses from house keeping. Ice bucket was included in the room and ice machines was in the hallway.

Room service sounded delicious but was a tad expensive so we went for take away from Barrels and Burgers (city), which is relatively close. The money we saved was invested in a bottle of Brunello that was deeelicious with the burgers, wings and fries.

After a good nights rest in the fluffy bed it was time for a very nice breakfast before checking out.

Philly cheese steak sandwich recipe

The other day I found a piece of Provolone cheese in my next door supermarket. Many years ago (I sound really old now) I tried to make Philly cheese steak sandwiches at home, featuring thin slices of rib-eye steak/entrecôte, fried peppers & onions as well as a thick layer of melted provolone cheese. Needless to say I loved it. Hence, I though it might be time for another round of cheese steak sandwiches last weekend, and I must say they turned out really well. Not to mention it’s really easy to make.

What you need (for two)

About 150 grams of flank steak

One green bellpepper

One red onion

One clove of garlic

2 soft bread rolls (I used brioche hot dog rolls)

Provolone cheese (I also used some leftover burger cheddar)

Vinegar, salt, pepper

Cooking instructions

1. Trim, and then rub the flank steak with salt and pepper. Let rest in room temperature. Also set your oven to 150 degrees celsius or similar.

2. Slice bellpepper and onion in thin slices. Finely chop the garlic clove.

3. Heat a pan until it starts to smoke (eg. is really hot). Sear the meat on both sides until your prefered cooking grade. I go for medium rare. Let the meat rest while you continue with the preparations.

4. Fry bellpepper, onion and garlic in oil on medium heat until soft. Splash over about two teaspoons of vinegar as well as salt and pepper. Take off the heat.

5. Start with the sandwiches. Brush the breads with a thin layer of dijon mustard (skip this if you’re no mustard fan). Slice the breads and put the fried vegetables on top of the bottom part of the bread. Add sliced cheese and put in the oven for about a minute to melt the cheese. Put in the top breads at the same time but separated to get them warm.

6. Slice the flank steak as thinly as you prefer and stack it on top of the cheesy vegetable bottom bread. Add the top bread. Done!


Swedish milk stewed macaronies recipe – stuvade makaroner

Made one of my favourite comfort foods for dinner tonight: fried falukorv (pork sausage from the city of Falun) with milk-stewed macaronies flavoured with nutmeg. I served it traditionally with a side of ketchup and untraditionally with a sprinkle of chopped fresh chives, which I think adds a nice-yet-subtle hint of fresh onionness to the generally sweet-salty-fatty dish.

Anyway, here’s how you cook Swedish milk-stewed macaronies or as they are locally known stuvade makaroner.

You need uncooked macaronies and you need milk. I use milk with 1,5 percent fat content.

Nutmeg, salt, black pepper.

Ketchup and falukorv (substitute with any pork, beef or veggie sausage, or bacon).

1. Slowy heat milk in a cooking pot until it is about to boil, eg. hot steam is leaving the milk. For four portions, add about 5 deciliters of macaronies to roughly 8-10 deciliters of milk.

2. Then pretty much stirr until the milk has cooked into the macaronies. Keep the cooking temperature to a gentle simmer. It’s similar to making a risotto actually. Slowly stirr, making sure the milk won’t burn into the bottom of the pot. That happens easy by the way, so no cheating with the stirring.

3. When most milk has reduced into the macaronies, add some grated nutmeg, salt and blackpepper. Remove from heat and serve immediately – as soon as the macaronies are getting cold they get about 50 percent less nice. So pre-cook your sausage. 

Enjoy with ketchup, possibly chives and a glass of milk or a beer. If you want to have some vitamins, Swedes (me?) tend to eat a Swedish carrot salad with raw, grated carrots with a splash of oil & vinegar and salt on the side.

Stockholm-Helsinki in a deluxe cabin onboard Tallink-Siljas M/S Silja Serenade


Had a bit of luck a few weeks ago when booking a cruise to Helsinki with one of the infamous Finlandsbåtar (Finland ferries) that cruise the Baltic Sea. 

After finishing our purchase I got a confirmation email for the wrong dates from what I had booked. I contacted the cruise company, Tallink-Silja, who explained that due to some kind of glitch, we had booked cabins that were already sold out. Fortunately, Tallink-Silja were friendly enough to compensate us with an upgrade to their deluxe cabin so we could go on our prefered dates.
One of the main issues (or the USP depending on your trips purpose) with going with any of the Finland ferries is the fact that you can drink the inexpensive stuff bought in the duty free shop directly after your purchase, meaning there are cabin parties all over the ship. That, and the lacking sound-proofing between cabins can make the trip a bit of a struggle as you can’t really escape the party anywhere.

Fortunately Tallink-Silja has adressed this to some extent with closed hallways depending on cabin category, meaning your key card can’t enter other hallways than the one you’re staying in.

We stayed in the deluxe cabin area of the ship, where there are only two-bed cabins, meaning the party crews stayed elsewhere.

The deluxe cabin
Where the standard cabins are good enough to get a couple of hours of sleep, the deluxe cabins are more hotel room-like. The cabin is 14 square meters with a good-sized window giving great ocean views from the 11th floor. Included is also a fridge with complimentary drinks (2 small 20 cl bottles of sparkling wine, 2 beers, 2 cokes, 2 Fanta, and one bottle each of sparkling and still water). It wasn’t replenished during our trip, we did get our beds made though day two, which does not happen in lower cabin classes (I’ve done the trip many times in C, B and A cabins). Instead of bunk beds there is a decently comfortable double bed (queen size I guess), there is a flatscreen tv of decent size and with good reception and Swedish and Finnish channels. Ship’s free wifi worked okay in the cabins, but the signal is much better in the public areas.




The main change for me compared to traveling in lower cabin classes was that this cabin was actually pretty nice to hang out in. The sound-proofing is not much better (if any), but our neighbours were quite silent. We probably spent three hours day two just watching tv, eating chips and resting.


A bonus attached to the cabin is also the ’luxury breakfast’ in Tavolata restaurant. The luxury being coffee and tea being brought to your table instead of you getting it yourself, and a complimentary glass of prosecco, or a bellini. The self-service buffet is good enough, comparable to a 3-star hotel or similar, with decent bread, charcuterie, eggs, Karelian pies, fresh fruit, pastries and bland juice.


Although this post is mostly about the deluxe cabins, as I did not find much information myself about them, I of course need to mention the food we had as well. 🙂

We had dinner the first night in Serenade’s fancy restaurant; Bon Vivant. The restaurant is quite popular, we made a reservation a week before our cruise and got the last table according to the booking agent. The restaurant has a Nordic theme, and menus are changed a couple of times per year. We had the Tommy Myllymäki menu earlier this year when we went to Estonia, and this time it was Finnish chef Jukka Nykänen’s menu.

Wild duck with apples.

Beetroot marinated salmon tartare with truffle mayonnaise.


Pike perch, potato and whey.


The vegan starter was according to my dinner companion one of the best ever.

Day two we swopped the fine-dining for a Finland ferry must.


No trip without a buffet! I managed four rounds of food (and a couple of glasses of wine on tap), but only the picture of round one was publishable. 🙂

Dinner at Restaurang Hantverket in Stockholm


After thinking of visiting for a year or so tonight it was finally time to visit Restaurang Hantverket in Stockholm. Below is what we had.

Nibbles: first a tuttul flatbread with ”slarvsylta” of pork knuckle and homemade butter. Also Hantverket’s possibly most instagrammed dish; deep-fried Hasselback potatoes with dill, bleak roe, sour cream and spring onion, and also “Struva” with whipped duck liver pâté, parmesan cheese and port wine.

Thinly sliced beef with Jerusalem artichoke, gruyère cheese and hazelnuts.

Fork-mashed potatoes with smoked roe, browned butter, crispy chicken skin and dill.


Blackened salmon with pumpkin, ginger, salmon roe and orange.

Pudding of spruce, roasted buckwheat, pine sorbet and birch powder. Three kinds of tree in a dessert sounds equal parts scary and intriguing to me. Fortunately this one was really wood… I mean good, sorry. 😩

The verdict
A really delicious and quite affordable dinner at Restaurang Hantverket. Added bonus was unusually friendly staff, nice setting and great smelling soap in the washroom. 4,5 hasselback potatoes out of five.

Price
3 nibbles, 3 medium sized dishes, 1 dessert and three drinks divided on two persons clocked out at 1000 kronor.

Website (with menu in English)

Best fika in a while at Mr Cake

Just a short update since I had a really nice fika (coffee and pastry) experience at Mr Cake, a newly opened bakery/pastry shop/café in Stockholm.

Mr Cake is a collaboration by famous bakers Mattias Ljungberg and Roy Fares, and serves Swedish fika with an American twist. Naturally I had to pay them a visit. Since they did not serve cronuts (they only do on weekend according to the staff) I took their recommendation and tried a red velvet croissant, and my fika company took a cinnamon roll with frosting a la Cinnabon.

The red velvet croissant was extraordinary delicious. I had a sample of the frosted cinnamon roll and it was great too. When the lines have died down a bit, I shall return for cronuts and cake.


Cronuts

Update: Now I’ve had the cronuts (on a Friday), and they were delicious.

According to rumours they do not have the cronuts (at least last weekend) ready when they open, so maybe arrive a bit later if you’re after them.

Website

3 days of eating in Madrid, Spain

Just got back from a short, fun and busy trip to the great busy Spanish capital Madrid. Unfortunately the image quality is not that great since I only brought my phone. But nevertheless, below are the (mostly) great restaurants I visited.

O’Grove restaurant

Most restaurants that has a man or woman hand slicing pata negra when you enter turn out to be great places in my experience. The thin, nutty and fatty pata negra ham did not dissapont at all to start our meal.

Pulpo, eg. squid grilled and seasoned with smokey paprika.

Grilled seafood. Langoustines, prawns, crayfish, clams, razor mussels and lemon. So good.

Our main was a perfectly sized (after the enourmos amount of tapas to start) beef fillet, served with only a few chips and piementos de padrón.

O’Grove restaurant website

El Buey restaurant

Surprisingly, you got to cook your own steak on a hot plate set in front of you, something I did not realise while booking. This is the steak, pre-grilling. By some reason I took no post-grilling pics. The meat above was really good and was served together with some really good chips/fries and a nice, slightly acidic sauce to baste it in while grilling.

Starters were handed out before the meat and consisted of salad with a mayonnaisy dressing; a ratatouille-like tomato and vegetable stew topped with quail eggs, and deep-fried potato baskets. The same baskets were included with the blood sausage scrambled eggs.

El Buey restaurant website

La Lonja del Mar

Despite being the fancy restaurant of the trip, I was a bit dissapointed with La Lonja del Mar. Although the dishes were okay, they did not at all impress. Above is the two best dishes, a Donistiarra style hake with clams and Torrija, a Spanish version of ‘French toast’ served with missing cherries and ‘Amarena’ ice cream. Tasty enough, but by no means great, unfortunately.

La Lonja del Mar website

Bodegas Pablo Morate winery

Our visit to Bodegas Pablo Morate, a small family winery just outside of Madrid was a highlight of our stay. We got to try some excellent wines (unfortunately not the 101 year old bottle above) and got served some of the best tapas I’ve had. Extra good because Pablo Morate’s mom, the cook of above feast, joined us and told us about the food and even gave us the recipe for the incredibly tasty Spanish tortilla omelette.

Bodegas Pablo Morate website

Tapas tour in  the Salamanca district
Our last evening we decided upon a walking dinner with stops at three acclaimed tapas restaurants in the Barrio de Salamanca where we stayed at the Novotel Madrid Centro, which was pretty good.

La Castela restaurant

Cold but quite tasty shrimps to start the evening.

Pizza-like sandwiches with cheese, grilled and peeled peppers as well as ham. Went down well with a glass of red.

La Castela website

La Monteira restaurant

Might not look that exciting, but a quite nice little nibble in the form of deep-fried breaded pork.

Prawns, deep-fried and supposed to eat whole.

Seared tuna with a tasty dipping sauce. One of the highlights of the tapas we were served.

La Monteira Website

Restaurant Castelados


We got served a plate like above at each of the places visited. A mix of whole deep-fried fishes – to be eaten with bone and all, piementos de padrón and some crunchy stuff I can’t remember.


We had lots of sandwiches. This one was quite inventive, being the vessel of one of Madrid’s most famous dishes; oxtail stew. By this point I was so full, but still managed to chew one and a half of these guys down.

Restaurante Castelados website

The roof at Hotel ME (Radio), Madrid


As a bonus, we also visited the cool rooftop club/bar ‘The Roof at ME’. Not a very high up skybar (7th floor), but a really nice place to dance off the tapas from earlier, have a few nice drinks and admire the (although limited) view. Admission was 20 euro, but included a drink, including cocktails.

The roof at ME website

Breakfast at Novotel Madrid Centro


A breakfast plate at Novotel Madrid Centro, where we stayed. This is just picked up from the buffet, but I would like to mention it because of the nice assortment of charcuterie/coldcuts that they served. The watery juice above is some kind of watered down mango juice I mistakenly took. Fortunately they also had proper fresh squeezed orange juice that was much better.

Novotel Madrid Centro website

Mercado de San Miguel


We also managed to make a quick stop at Mercado de San Miguel food hall in the central parts of town. During the 10-minute visit I had both the above duck foie gras pincho with onion compote and fig jam (I think), as well as churros dipped in hot chocolate. Mmmm……

Merca de San Miguel website

Madrid, hit or miss?
It was a very short visit to the Spanish capital, but the food was great, the people friendly and the city very pretty. I’d love to go back soon to explore some more.

A day trip from Bologna via Rimini to San Marino with Trenitalia and Bonneli bus

Since I have the fun, but also challenging, ambition of visiting all the countries in the world, naturally I had to visit the small mountain country of San Marino during my eating-frenzy in Bologna recently.

To get to San Marino from Bologna, I could not really find any simpler alternative (apart from driving yourself) than catching a train to Rimini and from Rimini station taking the international Bonneli bus line to the tiny little kingdom in the mountains.

Taking the bus to San Marino from Rimini’s Central station
We had done our reading, and were well aware that it may become crowded, especially so since we went in mid-July and on a Sunday, and by some reason the bus leaves only every 75 minutes. As we arrived from Rimini about 9 o’clock, we just missed one bus. We went to the tourist office adjacent to the station and bought our bus tickets. We then crossed the road (where Burger King is) and went to check where the bus would depart. It was now 45 minutes before departure and no one was there. – Good, we thought, and went to the nearby cafe for breakfast (boring sandwich, good cappuccino). About 25 minutes before departure we thought we should go and line up. Unfortunately, during our 20 minute breakfast, approximately 70 people had somehow sneaked past us and now formed a twisted line starting in a few different directions. The law-abiding of us formed a line, and a few more ego-centric soon started their own closer to the supposed bus stop. There was however decent order, despite no staff from the company. Suddenly the bus appeared, half full from two earlier stops, and chaos ensued. The semi-orderly lines formed into a wall of people trying to force their way on to the bus. Fortunately, someone had done a little thinking and another empty bus arrived. This meant that the people still trying to push themselves on half-full bus 1, now tried to push their way off and on to the empty one instead.

I’ve heard that it is not at all rare for people to be left behind due to the buses being too crowded, but this time I think all of us actually got onboard, even though it meant us less pushy had to stand up for the one-hourish trip up the mountain.

My suggestion here would be to get on the bus on one of the earlier stops before the Rimini Central station (or just grab a taxi) if you’re traveling during high season. If I were the bus company I would do much more frequent departures or sell reserved tickets on a few departures. The return was not much better, but we eventually managed to at least get a seat.

San Marino, the land of beautiful views
Anyway, after the sort of painful trip we found ourselves in San Marino. The tiny mountain kingdom has a resident population of approximately 33 000 (2016) and is not a member of the European Union (although the border with Italy is open, so no passport control). This also mean that the free intra-EU roaming is not in effect in San Marino, eg. shut off your roaming (or at least check with your service provider).

We had about 5 hours before we needed to go back to Rimini for our trip back to Bologna and chose to spend the first part visiting on of the towers of San Marino for some views of the kingdom itself, the surrounding countryside and also of the Med, looking very inviting in the distance.


Then there was food, of course. I had found a restaurant called La Terrazza that I’d booked online a few days earlier. Problem was, many restaurants was named “La Terrazza” due to having a view, and I had not internet. Fortunately, after some walking around we found the correct La Terrazza and were seated with an incredible view over the surrounding area. We ordered a Piemontese craft beer that the waiter suggested as well as a board of local charcuterie, cheeses and condiments.

I had read in advance that they eat a fair bit of rabbit in San Marino, so naturally I had to try their “Strozzapreti al ragú bianco di coniglio e olive taggiasche”. A delicious rabbit ragu with mini olives on strozzapreti pasta.

The food at La Terrazza was actually very nice, even though slightly pricey. The atmosphere was very relaxed and it was a nice contrast to the busy streets outside crowded with touristy shops and day-visitors like ourselves.

Our schedule worked out in the end and we caught the bus from San Marino back to Rimini about 3 pm and then the Trenitalia train back to Bologna 4.30 pm. Happily we found out that they sold bottled Aperol Spritz onboard which we enjoyed together with the scenery for the rest of the trip. A long day, but absolutely worth it in the end.

Delicious lunch at Leib Resto ja Aed in Tallinn

Visited the Estonian capital Tallinn earlier this Summer. We went to a really nice restaurant called Leib ja Aed, and I’d thought I’d share some pictures from the very delicious lunch we had there. Above, and served before the meal was a very delicious traditional Estonian black bread with chive butter.

Carrot tartare.

Slow cooked pork ribs with jus and vegetables was really good.

59 °C Siberian sturgeon fillet from Härjanurme with green vegetables and butter sauce.

Crème brûlée with black bread, paired with a Pearu IPA made by Leib Resto ja Aed themselves. Probably the best brulee I’ve ever had.

“Rhubarb rhubarb”. Rhubarb pannacotta, honey oat milk cookie crumble, mint, violet and rhubarb compote.

A really good lunch, and quite affordable too. We paid about €90 with drinks for a shared starter and one main and dessert each.

Leib ja Aeds website

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.