A weekend of eating in Helsinki with a visit to Ravintola Saaga

Last weekend I visited the Finnish capital Helsinki for a 70 year birthday party. Since Helsinki is such a short flight from Stockholm (approximately 45 mins) you can go straight from an (almost) full day work and still have a decent evening out. Many airlines fly this route so you’re usually able to score decent priced tickets during campaigns. We flew Norwegian and just barely had times to finish our sparkling wine before landing (not included in ticket). The only gripe is that Helsinki’s an hour ahead, so you’ll lose an hour due to the time difference, although you get it “back” on your return.

For our first night I was so lazy so I just scanned google maps for a good-rated restaurant near our hotel Glo Hotel Arts. I managed to find Ravintola Saaga or Saaga restaurant, which is a semi-fancy and sort of touristy Lappish restaurant. We started with a glass of sparkling wine topped with cloudberry liquor and some free nibbles from the kitchen consisting of reindeer jerky on rye crispbread with horseradish cream and pickled onion.

For main, fried sea pike with king crab from the Arctic Ocean, roasted butter sauce, cauliflower purée and crisp malt bread. I also had a delicious slow-cooked reindeer shank with mushroom purée as well as pickled mushroom, the picture of it in the dimly lit restaurant however, wasn’t as delicious.

For dessert we had iced cranberries in an ice bowl. The bowl was, as the name implies, made out of ice, which was a quite cool (sorry) feature. The caramel-liqourice sauce that came with it was delicious. The main problem with this dish was when the sauce started to cool (sorry) and was poured over the even cooler (sorry) iced cranberries. It of course did not defrost them as the general idea of the dish was, and that meant you had to eat frozen cranberries with cold caramel sauce for the last part of the dessert. Great idea though, and very tasty as long as the sauce was warm. Eat fast in other words.

We also tried the Lappish squeeky cheese with a pine-tar cream, cloudberry crumble and cloudberry sorbet. This was also a very clever and unique dessert with the tar flavour shining through the dessert’s different components, giving a tar-y smoky taste, contrasting the sweetness of the cream and sorbet. The cheese did not taste that much but had a nice texture.

Price for a meal €€+

Prices were semi-expensive, but not that bad considering Helsinki is a quite expensive city. We paid about €130 for 2 mains, 2 desserts, 2 glasses of sparkling wine with cloudberry liquor and a bottle of the least expensive wine on the menu.

Service was friendly but a little bit slow.

Website (menus and online booking in English available – through a form)

The rest of the trip was spent walking Helsinki (above is the beautiful Helsinki Cathedral) and attending the birthday party.

 

Where we stayed

We stayed at Glo Hotel Art a few blocks from the city center. The rate was about €90 and we had a very small but comfortable room with wifi, motorized bed, shower and flatscreen TV as well as breakfast included.

Website

Where to find the prinsessemla in Stockholm

The prinsessemla, or prinsess-semla, was recently invented. Now it has reached Stockholm and Konditori Vallmofröt in Hagsätra. The creation is a fusion between two classic Swedish pastries; the semla and the prinsesstårta (princess cake). Since both are heavy in their whipped cream content, the combination is a quite good one, with both’s main features remaining noticeable. I liked it very much, but it is indeed rich and you might want to share it if you want to stay awake post-fika.

Where to find the prinsessemla

Konditori Vallmofröt in Hagsätra. Click here to open their website (in Swedish).

Stockholm’s best semla?

During my early days of eating (eg. when I was a kid in one of Stockholm’s Northern suburbs) I did not really like the semla. The semla (one semla, several semlor) is a Swedish pastry, consisting of a soft, sweet pillowy bun that is filled with (hopefully) fresh whipped cream and almond paste. When I was younger, I found it too rich and without anything to really contrast the extremely sweet taste.

In my later years I’ve started to appreciate the semla however, and this season’s been my most semla-intense so far, with several semlor downed even before tomorrow, the 28th of February. As you may, or may not know, February 28th this year is Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, which also is semmeldagen or National semla day, in Sweden. This year I have found the wienersemla and it has brought my semi-new found love of semlor to a new level. Below are a few delicious one I’ve had lately.

The secret semla

Above is a hemla, which is short for hemlig semla, meaning ‘secret’ semla. The reason why it’s secret is, because the filling; whipped cream and almond paste, is hidden inside the bun. This one is from Wienercaféet.

The Danish pastry semla, Wienersemlan

Wienersemlan. My new favourite pastry, with a croissant-y or Danish pastry:ish bun (Wienersemla is from wienerbröd which is Swedish for Danish pastry) filled with whipped cream and almond paste. This one is bought from Magnus Johanssons Bageri. It is similar to a semla, and according to many not a real semla. So delicious though that it in my mind beats the traditional one (sorry traditional semla-lovers).

Semmelwrappen

Mention also to Tössebageriet’s delicious semla wrap, or semmelwrap as we call it. The traditional semmel bun has been smashed into a flat, semmel bun-flavoured wrap, which, like a semla, is filled with whipped cream and almond paste. Very delicious too.

What about normal semlor?

If you want to have a traditional proper semla however, the picture at the top of this post is from a breakfast dessert tasting of semlor the other day. The right one is a traditional one and was really delicious too. It’s like the wienersemla bought at Magnus Johanssons Bageri in Hammarby Sjöstad.

Update: A great traditional semla (pic above) can also be found at Älvsjö Konditori, just outside central Stockholm. The semla is one of the better I’ve had.

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.

Dinner at Bistrot Paul Bert in Paris



When I started researching after booking our Paris tickets, I thought of what I really wanted to eat while there. The first thing that came to mind was steak frites. From my early years, we often had steak with béarnaise sauce and some kind of potato sidedish for weekend dinners cooked by my mum. I learned to whip up my own béarnaise sauce somewhere around the age of 11, and since then, I have no idea how many times we’ve had steak, fries and béarnaise sauce. I think it is quite safe to say that it is one of my all time favourite dishes. So simple, yet so refined and so, so tasty.

When I googled “Paris’ best steak frites”, a name kept on coming up in my search feed: Bistrot Paul Bert. The Bistro seemed to be exactly what I wanted. It was decently priced, not snobby, but not too casual either. It felt like the essence of Paris to me. Steak, frites, wine, and rustic charm. We made a booking two weeks in advance and was given a table at 19:30 (when the restaurant opens) on Saturday evening. Since we underestimated the Paris Saturday rush hour, we arrived in our Uber about half an hour late to friendly welcoming staff.


Bistrot Paul Bert has a fixed menu with three dishes priced €42 a person. They also had a couple of off the menu specials written on a board. No dishes seems to be permanently fixed on the menu, as we had wanted to try their steak tartare, but it was unavailable during our visit. Anyway, we did a bit of mix and match and opted to start with a shared starter of “roasted French scallops with Kari Gosse butter”. This was really delicious as well as really simple. Sweet, succulent roasted scallops with great melted butter mixed with the seafood juices from the scallops. We mopped up the butter with bread and basically just mmmm:ed our way through the starter.

I’ve read about Paul Bert’s steak au poivre, or their steak frites with peppercorn-cognac sauce. Fortunately it was on the menu as a special in the shape of above medium rare beef fillet, excellent pommes frites and the best damn peppercorn sauce I’ve ever licked of a plate. Well I did not actually do that, since the frites were soggy enough (in a good way, they were crispy too) to use as vessels to transport the sauce to my mouth with. The steak was perfectly cooked and very tasty as well. But the sauce was the real star of this dish.


My partner’s flank steak with fried shallots and pommes frites. Also delicious. But not served with any sauce but the beef juices.

Almost as online-raved-about as the great steak frites were Bistrot Paul Bert’s Paris Brest. The Paris Brest is a classic French pastry, which basically is a choux pastry filled with a hazelnut praline-flavoured cream filling. Very rich, very delicious.

What I actually liked even more than the Paris Brest was the incredibly good Grand Marnier-flavoured soufflé. It had crispy edges, fluffy content and a delicious flavour of vanilla, and of orange from the Grand Marnier.

Our dinner at Bistrot Paul Bert was great. The place was buzzing, the food was fantastic, the service friendly and the wine potent. It was all I wanted from a Saturday dinner in Paris, and the best steak au poivre I’ve ever had. Very recommended!

Price €€+
We paid €120 for two, with a shared starter, two mains, two desserts, water and a bottle of red wine.

Website
I used my hotel to make a reservation since my French is non-existent. I however called to let them know we were late and they spoke good English. They do not seem to have a website, but they do have a Facebook page.

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)

Great Napoli style pizza in Stockholm at Meno Male

Recently, several Naples or Napoli style pizza restaurants have opened in Stockholm, which for me is great, since I love the chewy dough of these fast baked wonders.

The other day I tried Meno Male for a decadent office pizza lunch (via delivery). I had their pizza with spicy salami, fior di latte (sort of cow’s milk mozzarella), a sweet and delicious tomato sauce as well as basil. The pizza was actually really good, and not that far behind what I had at Da Michele, “world’s best pizza restaurant” that I visited in Naples about a year and a half ago. Not bad for a Stockholm pizza!

Website with menu

Dinner at Mosebacke Etablissement (Södra Teaterns Restaurang) in Stockholm


I recently visited Mosebacke Etablissement, the restaurant of entertainment venue Södra Teatern, situated at Mosebacke Torg on (or more like on top of) Södermalm in Stockholm.

The restaurant has a new menu that I was invited to try (eg. the meal was paid for by the restaurant). The menu has a focus on ‘aware’ comfort food, according to themselves. Most of the dishes are meat and fish free. However you have the option to add a supplement of 100 grams of meat or fish to any dish. Mosebacke etablissement serve ‘medium sized dishes’, meaning you’ll meed about 3-4 to get full if you’re decently hungry like me. We ordered from the standard a la carte menu, and tried most dishes. Above is the tastiest dish, grilled endive with a smooth and smoky Jerusalem artichoke purée as well as artichoke crisps. Delicious with great contrasting textures.

A mini pizza, served in an equally mini pizza box. The pizza was served room temperatured with a Västerbottens cheese crème, whitefish roe and pickled red onion. Delicious.

The fried feta cheese salad sounded great, and tasted good, but was less impressive than I had hoped for. Good quality lightly fried feta cheese, baked tomatoes, basil foam and a tapenade-y ‘sauce’. Also a couple of dried olives that we found in a few of the other dishes.

Beanotto (bönotto), was a risotto flavoured bean ragout of sorts. Beans, parmesan, shiitake mushroom, and smoked onion. Creamy like a risotto with nice al dente beans. The recommended 100 grams of grilled steak worked well with the beanotto.

Benedict. Brioche, smoked mushroom and hollandaise sauce. Tasty like a benedict should be. Probably works better for brunch than as a dinner dish.

The vegetarian take on Swedish blodpudding or ‘blood pudding’, which is similar to the British black pudding was quite cool. They’ve managed to make a beetroot version that was relatively close to the real deal. Served with lingonberries, fried apple wedges and browned butter. Yum.

When it was time for dessers, we decided to try all of the menus three options, for the sake of research, of course. First up was the raspberry ice cream with a licorice band, lemon meringue and sorbet.

Next was a chocolate brownie with passion fruit ice cream, a passion fruit ‘band’ and granola.

Finally, and most creative was the popcorn ice cream that was served with an apple compote and cinnamon. I think I hinted some extra browned butter in this delicious dessert.

The verdict

All in all, it was a nice, tasty dinner at Mosebacke Etablissement. It’s not Michelin food, but for 90 sek a dish it’s still a quite good deal considering it is both tasty and pretty dishes that are served. Some of them better than others. Next time I’ll have a Västerbottens cheese and löjrom pizza with a glass of bubbly finished with the popcorn ice cream.

Price

€€

Website (with menu and online table reservation)

Wapa Tapa restaurant

Our last night at the Palm Oasis Maspalomas, and on the south side of the island for that matter, we decided to head for the Wapa Tapa restaurant that had got some great reviews. 

Wapa Tapa is located in the touristy Yumbo shopping center, and was a little bit tricky to find among the other restaurants and shops in the mall. But there are signs pointing the way fortunately. When we eventually found the place we were immediately seated by the extremely, and I mean that in the best of ways, friendly co-owner that also gave us a run-down of the menu and also some suggestions of what to try. There was a chef’s choice menu with wine included for €40 a head, but we decided we wanted to choose ourselves.

Canarian papas arrugadas, the island’s ‘national’ dish. This one was made with a  breed of potatoes locally grown on Tenerife, that originally was from Peru. Served with great mojo rojo and salsa verde sauces. Both deliciously garlicky with a hint of cumin.

Hand-carved, acorn-fed Iberico pig jamón. That is, the best damn ham I ever had. So nutty, fatty, tender and awesome. To the right are a bunch of almost equally good cod croquettas (much like the bolinhos de bacalau we had in Rio last year). Crispy and delicious.

Another great dish: Grilled king prawns with a squeeze of fresh lime and sea salt.

There are plenty of South American references on Gran Canaria (or lots of Gran Canarian references in South America). Here was one of our faves from last year’s South America-trip: Grilled Provoleta cheese, that we had lots of in Buenos Aires. This was even more delicious with an amazing grilled cheese crust covering the melting cheese. Served with crusty bread and tasty tomatoes. Mmmm…..

Then it was barely enough space in my belly for a small dessert. This was a pot au chocolat with white chocolate shavings. We also tried their sticky toffee pudding. Both were muy bien, but not as muy bien as the spectacular tapas dishes we had. If you find yourself near Wapa Tapa, book a table (several drop-ins were turned away during our visit) and eat some of the best tapas you might ever have.

Price: €€

We paid roughly €100 for two, with 7 shared tapas, 2 desserts and 3-4 drinks each.

Location: Yumbo Shopping Center,

CC Yumbo Centrum Local 232-12

Playa del Inglés 35100

Wapa Tapa’s website