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.

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.

Kobe beef dinner at Gyu-an Ginza


One of the best meals of the trip, and probably one of my best meals ever was enjoyed at Gyu-An in Ginza, Tokyo. Gyu-An specialise in meat, as in good quality stuff, such as wagyu beef and the world famous kobe beef. After quite thorough research we decided that Gyu-An felt most bang for the buck for our relatively tiny kobe beef budgets and we managed to score a reservation with the help of our hotel concierge a few days later.

As we arrived Gyu-an, after a stroll through the neon lit Ginza district of Tokyo, they couldn’t find our reservation, and I had a few seconds of panic, before they found us a table, and my greatly anticipated steak dinner was, fortunately, a go. While prices are decent given what you get, there is still a considerable price for a meal, depending how you look at it. To have some reference, and to save some money, the two of us decided to share a slightly less pricey wagyu steak set menu as well as the swankiest of the kobe sets which meant you got 200 grams, 100 grams each of kobe fillet and kobe sirloin. Included was a couple of starters, a tiny dessert (below) as well as coffee or tea. Drinks were extra but was relatively decently priced.


We had a couple of starters, but the only really exciting one was this incredibly delicious beef sushi with a thin, fatty piece of beef covering the rice. A great bite that like the beef was washed down with house red.


The matsusaka wagyu beef was just a tad less delicious than the kobe beef. Hadn’t I had the kobe beef, this would’ve been the best steak I’ve ever had. Extremely flavourful and tasty with a great tender texture.

The steak of steaks. Kobe beef fillet and sirloin. Not really sure which one I liked the best. The fillet was of course a bit leaner and softer than the sirloin, but that was barely noticeable given how tender both were. The fat in the kobe beef is not at all chewy, but rather melts in your mouth. The best comparisson I’ve been able to make is, to think of how you bite into a ripe mandarin orange and how it kind of bursts with fruit juice when you bite into it. This was like that, only that the fruit juice was kobe beef fat. It was incredibly good. It was also incredibly rich, and it was almost a struggle to eat everything given the two starters, rice, soup and salad that you are also served. No doubt this was the best steak I have ever had. My expectations were really high. I’ve been eating some really good meat the last years, churrasco in Brazil, grilled bife de chorizo in Argentina and great French steak au poivre. But this beat them all, easily.


For dessert we were served three perfect strawberries. Although it is almost insulting calling this a dessert in normal cases, we were so full that we did not really mind. And the strawberries were in fact extraordinarily tasty.

Price and location
We paid roughly $280 for our two steak meals (one wagyu at 8500 jpy, one kobe combo at 15500 jpy), a caraff of red wine, and water. The restaurant is located in Ginza, easily accessible with a couple of subway lines.

Great ramen at Kairikiya in Kyoto

After finding our Air Bnb accomodation, food was on our minds. After some searching, our first meal in Kyoto was a delicious bowl of ramen at Kairikiya in central Kyoto. The place is part of a chain spread over Japan. We had a bowl of miso ramen, karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and fried gyoza (dumplings). Everything was very delicious and was celebratory washed down with an ice cold glass of Japanese beer. A very nice thing in Japan is that the beer always during our trip came in frosted glasses.


Delicious gyoza served on the side.
Miso ramen with pork, green onion and perfectly cooked creamy eggs. Delicious.

Kairikiya’s ramen was maybe not the best I’ve ever had (I will post about that one soon), but nevertheless a really tasty ramen. We went for lunch, and the place was almost full so we were not alone in enjoying the place.

Price and place
Located in central Kyoto. Prices were quite low. Around 1000 jpy per person for a ramen bowl, a couple of shared sidedishes and a beer.
Click here for website with menu (in English).

 

Sunday waffle fika at Älskade Traditioner

Just got back to the Sunday couch after a sugar-rushy fika at retroish café Älskade Traditioner on Södermalm in Stockholm.

Älskade traditioner translates to “beloved traditions” in Swedish, and serves for instance savoury as well as sweet waffles, cakes, semlor, Swedish classics such as meatballs, Bullens pilsnerkorv (sausages) and herring. The place is located on trendy Södermalm and was packed with a Sunday fika crowd. The service was friendly but sort of chaotic with my waffle arriving a few minutes after being ordered, while my fika companion’s waffle arrived together with my latte 15-20 minutes later, after we asked the staff where it had gone. The waffles were delicious and prices decent fortunately.

Savoury club sandwich waffle with chicken, bacon and extra avocado.

Nutella waffle with whipped cream, strawberry ice cream and fresh strawberries. Reminded me of the ‘pancake cakes’ I had as a child.

Banana split waffle. Also very good.

Price and website

While not exactly inexpensive at 95 kronor for a nutella waffle, prices are still pretty good considering the area as well as quality. A tasty latte was 40 kronor.

They do not have a website, but their Facebook page has some info about location etc.

Dough – how to make the perfect homemade pizza

Pizza. One of my, and many others’ favourite dishes. I am probably never as happy as when a pizza meal is approaching. A couple of years back we decided that we wanted to be able to make as good pizzas as from pizzerias or pizza restaurants.

We started with the tomato sauce, and then the toppings, before we realized it mainly depended on the dough to get that pizzeria quality homemade pizza. After probably five years of making homemade pizzas we were getting somewhere. Here is what we found out:

My 5 tips for making great pizza at home in summary:

Use a pizza or baking stone

Use good quality flour

A very hot oven

Put the pizza high in the oven, close to oven’s heaters

Watch the pizza all the time

Use a baking stone or a pizza stone

One of the tricks is using a pizza/baking stone. We bought our at Urban Deli in Stockholm, but I think you can get it in most places around the world. It’s basically a portable stone that you put in your oven to more or less mimick the effects of cooking a pizza in a masonry oven. Importantly, you will cook the dough from below to get that perfect crust.

Use a good recipe and good quality flour

We use this recipe, from the nowadays legendary hipster pizzeria Roberta’s in Brooklyn, New York. Tipo 00 flour can be a bit hard to find, but really adds to the texture, flavour and end result in my mind. In Stockholm we buy tipo 00 flour at Cajsa Warg on Södermalm.

What you need (approximately three medium sized pizzas or two large)

153 grams Tipo 00 flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon)

153 grams all-purpose flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons)

8 grams fine sea salt or regular salt (1 teaspoon)

2 grams active dry yeast (3/4 teaspoon)

4 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 teaspoon)

Tomato sauce

A kilo of peeled fresh good quality tomatoes (make a cut in the skin and cook in boiling water for a minute to lose the peels) or a can of a good brand crushed tomatoes

5-6 cloves of finely chopped garlic

Olive oil

Salt & oregano

1. Heat olive oil in a cooking pot. Add garlic and fry until soft. Be careful not to colour.

2. Add tomatoes, cook for 30 minutes. Add water if needed. Season with salt and oregano.

How to make the pizzas

1. Combine flours and salt in a large mixing bowl.

2. Stir together 200 grams (a little less than 1 cup) lukewarm tap water, the yeast and the olive oil in a small mixing bowl. Then pour it into the flour mixture. Knead with your hands until well combined, about 3 minutes, then let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.

3. Knead the rested dough for 3 minutes. Cut into 2 or 3 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Place on a heavily floured surface, cover with dampened cloth, and let rest and rise for at least 1 hour, but preferably 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or for 8 to 24 hours in the refrigerator. (If you refrigerate the dough, remove it from the fridge 30 to 45 minutes before you begin to shape it for pizza.)

4. To make the pizzas, place each dough ball on a heavily floured surface and use your fingers to stretch it, then your hands to shape it into rounds or squares. You can also use a rolling pin.

How to cook the pizzas

I put my pizza stone on maximum heat in my oven for about three hours so the stone is really hot. Follow instructions for your particular stone and oven though. Take care here to not do something risky, I would not want you to burn down your house. We have our pizza stone on a regular oven tray for easy handling. The idea though, is to get both stone and oven as hot as possible to minimize the pizza cooking time. We set our oven on 275 degrees fan-heat and grill. You need to watch the pizza all the time because they cook and hence burn fast. Set an alarm if you tend to forget stuff like me. 🙂

1. When the stone is ready. Put on a pizza, smother with tomato sauce, add your toppings such as mozzarella, salami, prosciutto, vegetables or whatever you fancy.

2. Put the pizza stone as high up in your oven as (safely) possible. I use the grill/broiler to get maximum blast from above meanwhile the pizza stone does the same from below. Again, important to watch the pizza as it bakes in about 2-4 minutes and burn very fast. Remove the pizza when it starts to get deep golden spots on the edges.

3. Serve immediately, and don’t forget to put the pizza stone back in the oven if you’re making another pizza. Red wine is very recommended, or a cold beer for that matter.

Homemade panang gai recipe (Thai red curry chicken)

A weekday favourite of mine is this version of a spicy delicious Thai panang curry. When we’ve been to Thailand, this is usually my number one choice for dinner, and after several attempts, I’ve finally succeded in making a somewhat authentic-tasting version.

What you need (approximately for four persons)

500 grams of chicken thighs

About 1 dl of peanuts (unsalted if possible)

Half jar of Thai red curry paste

One can of coconut milk

1 red chilli pepper

2 cloves of garlic

2-3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

1 Lime

5 kaffir lime leaves

1 teaspoon white sugar (can be excluded)

To serve

Fresh coriander

Steamed jasmine rice

How to cook

1. Trim the chicken thighs of excess fat, sinews or bones, if any. Finely chop red chilli and garlic. Mix peanuts and red curry paste until smooth.

2. Take the hard part from the coconut milk can, that is the coconut fat, and add to a frying pan. Save the remaining coconut water for later. If the coconut milk is mixed already, then skip this and next step.

3. Fry the coconut fat in a pan on high heat until it splits and releases coconut oil. (If you had no coconut fat, start at this step with heating cooking oil. Fry the curry paste- peanut mix in the oil). After 30 seconds or so, add the chicken, chopped garlic and chilli, and fry for about another minute or two.

4. Lower the heat and add the coconut water remaining in the coconut milk can. If the coconut milk was already mixed, then add all of it to the pan. Add lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and lime leaves (don’t forget to count them before adding them).

5. Let the curry reduce for 5-10 minutes. Taste and add some extra fish sauce, lime juice or sugar if needed. Finally, remove the lime leaves (I hope you did not lose count of them 😉).

6. Serve! Top the curry with fresh coriander, and serve with steamed rice on the side.

Chez Minnà Corsican restaurant in Paris

Since we were arriving Paris quite late, in fact we both worked until Friday afternoon and then took the Arlanda Express airport train before boarding a SAS flight for Paris, we opted for dinner at a restaurant close to our hotel. Fortunately most of the restaurants around our hotel, Hotel L’Echiquier Opéra Paris MGallery by Sofitel, seemed great, so we chose one of the closest; Chez Minnà, a Corsican restaurant.

We arrived at Chez Minnà around 9 pm and I was happy the restaurant was pretty much exactly how I always has been imagening a busy Paris bistro on a Friday afternoon. It was busy, loud (in a good way) and the staff was friendly and efficient in a relaxed way. After realising we did not speak French, they also presented us with an English menu, which we had not expected. The interior was cozy – you’re quite close to the next table. Not that close, though.

The food, then. First, we tried their croquettes. Stuffed with Corsican cheese and ham. The crispy croquettes were served on a bed of mixed leaves with a dash of a tasty vinaigrette and some standard cherry tomatoes. It was tasty and had nice texture.

For main we had the tagliata. Tagliata is sliced steak on a bed of salad, a dish I usually relate to Italy. In this Corsican version, the steak and salad was complemented by fried sliced potatoes and a pesto-y sauce made with Corsican cheese. Rustic and delicious. We had both dishes with a tasty Corsican red wine, that I unfortunately have forgotten the name of.

All in all, Chez Minnà provided an authentic Parisian experience with nice interior, good service and prices, and of course, most importantly: good food.

Price and website

We paid €70 for two with a shared starter, two mains, four glasses of wine and a large bottle of sparkling water.

Website (in French)

Lillördag at Burger and lobster Stockholm

One of the best lillördag aka Tiny Saturday (which is in fact Wednesday) activities in Stockholm in my mind is to combine restaurant Pocket by Pontus’ champagne Wednesday with lobster dinner at adjoining (you can actually walk between them indoors) Burger and Lobster Stockholm.

On Wednesdays Pocket by Pontus lower their price for a full sized bottle of Henriot champagne from 650 kronor to 450 kronor (priced 400 kronor at Systembolaget, the Swedish liquor monopoly). That means you fork out an extra 50 sek or kronor for an ice-bucket, table service and champagne glasses. That is in my mind quite great, and it is also very convenient for an office ‘after work’.

Yesterday we started off with dinner at Burger and Lobster. I had the always-delicious lobster roll. The fried ‘signature brioche bread’ is really tasty and stuffed to the brim with succulent delicious lobster meat and Japanese kewpie mayo. Included sides are tasty fries and a side salad to add some freshness to the otherwise incredibly rich meal. My last visit they also included a delicious lemony butter sauce, but that seems to have been removed.

For dessert, as mentioned above, we walked the 30 or so steps to Pocket by Pontus and shared a few bottles of Henriot.

Price $$$

The lobster roll is sort of on the pricier side costing 295 sek. On the other hand it is lobster, it’s really delicious and you probably won’t need any starter or dessert. The champagne at Pocket is priced at 450 sek a bottle during the Wednesday champagne-onsdag.

Burger and Lobster Stockholm’s website (With menu)