Wednesday, January 30, 2013

neighborhood recommendation #24: russian.

eastern european and former soviet cuisines were and are among my favorites ever since i lived in nyc. night visits to veselka are fondly remembered and just thinking about the little delis serving pierogis makes my mouth water. stuffed cabbage, blini, pelmeni, red peppers and smetana are all little pieces of heaven during the cold winter months.

helsinki, surprisingly, does not offer ukrainian food. russian is also rare: there are less than five restaurants in town although blinis are served during a certain, wintery time in the year all over the place.

however, there is pelmenit: a small, greasy and rather stinky place where the welcome is always warm but blunt, the food properly fried and you leave stuffed every single time. the selection varies, but there is always at least one vegetarian option on offer.

for the perfect comfort food craving, i wholeheartedly recommend.

veggie stuffed crepes. fried, naturally...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


i realized last summer that i had not had the opportunity to enjoy the holidays that i had earned. since i worked for a project that lasted only till the end of the year, i was presented with a few weeks of leisure. add overtime, and there was plenty.

last fall there were five weeks left, so on a plane i hopped to see a dear friend.

sandy had visited just a few days before, and i landed into a city that was moved by donation rallies, a barely working subway system, was to be hit by a blizzard only a few days afterwards and where everyone felt anxious about the coming presidential election. an exciting time to be in the heart of everything, then.

for me, the fact that manhattan was hardly accessible did not matter. only the j train was running for half the time i was there, but i am completely comfortable in brooklyn and ended up visiting the island twice: once to see a doctor for a strep throat that devastated me for a few days and once to see a friend and visit a couple of museums. greenpoint, williamsburg and bushwick were plenty and, most importantly, a walking distance from my base.

because i am fond of eating, i spent my days flaneuring and enjoying the incredible food. it is handy that i have a local foodie taking me around: the city changes constantly and it is incredibly hard to keep up. lucky me was instantly handed a list of places worthy of visits during the day, and at night we picked dinner and cocktail spots that were, truly, amazing.

here are some of my favorite places to stuff my guts.

toby's estate.

my daily javafix was taken care of either here or at blue bottle coffee (that i have mentioned before). toby's is better for hanging out: comfortable, spacey and inviting. (blue bottle is more of a visit to a lab which you leave with the perfect pour over.) they offer excellent single origins with enough information  to help you choose the perfect cup.
guatemalan single origin coming up.

hanging out at toby's.

el beit.

another small coffee shop where i liked to sip a hot drink and read my book was on bedford. perfect indie soundtrack, organic teas and beautiful fresh cakes, like my pear and ginger loaf served in an urban rustic setting.

for breakfast there is nothing more incredible than their ricotta pancakes. everything else is good, too. getting in for brunch on the weekends may take up to five hours, but is probably worth the wait – if you cannot make it in during the week, that is.

the ricotta pancakes. the size of the banana halves give you an idea of the portion. the dollop on top is maple butter. i am serious: this is heaven on earth.


for the perfect brunch that soothes every nerve in your body. organic and local, carefully prepared. served with a calm. and they give you crayons if the smoothness of everything gets a little too balsamic for your taste. just grab a color and go crazy on the tablecloth.

eggs rothko.

brooklyn label.

another great brunch spot is up in greenpoint. the chipped paint, the crammed bar and lines of locals who just grab a coffee to go make it homey even for a visitor. definitely not touristy, yet, the wait is still about an hour on weekends. a good tip is to walk in for the waiting list and stroll down the street to word for a great book.

artichoke mash and veggie sausage.

m shanghai.

for dumplings, there is really no need to go to chinatown. dough-covered yumminess is available right on grand, in the new location of m shanghai just a block from their original spot. the indie diner vibe is still there, as is the tattooed staff, and the food as sumptuous as ever.

samurai mama.

nothing makes me feel better jet lagged that a hot bowl of soup. udon with a fully flavored broth might just about cure all your ailments. no, actually, i am sure it will.

sansai udon.

café de la esquina.

although nowadays you can get decent mexican street food in helsinki, too, a proper fish taco experience is something i truly cherish on my trips to nyc. this old, glitzy diner brings simple and beautiful mexican tacos and quesadillas to the table. fresh and lovely.

pescado a la brasas taco.

lobster joint.

forget hotdogs, it's time for a little more elevated street snack. everyone in nyc seems to have been raving about lobster rolls for a couple of years now, but i finally had my chance with the scissory suckers. it is slightly more pricey than your average meat-in-a-bun, but here the value for money is definitely at its best: lots of lobster, fresh herb mayo, fries and a pickle. served fast, hot and to be eaten standing up. serious business, i say.

new england lobster roll.

the meatball shop.

don't let the name fool ya, there's plenty for a vegetarian to enjoy at the meatball shop. they serve great veggie balls, sliders, smashes and a mouthwatering selection of sides. and if you visited linnanmäki kattila last summer, you'll see where the inspiration for their meatball menu came from... imitation is the highest form of flattery.

we stumbled in during the blizzard and secured a seat without waiting. probably the only night out in brooklyn when everything was almost empty... perfect weather for some hearty food.

the blue stove.

i hardly ever eat dessert. my sweet tooth got snatched by the tooth fairy around the time i turned 22, and it's been awol ever since. however, on my trips i seem to get beside myself thinking about pie, cakes and donuts. especially pie. american bakeries and diners offer the most amazing pies with crusts that are never too sweet and where the fruit is tart and fresh. and then there is blue stove with a gazillion huge pies just waiting for me to turn into jabba the hut. decisions, decisions. i dare you to leave after eating just one slice...

pumpkin pie.

momofuku milk bar.

when sweet is not sweetness enough, there is crack pie. a heavy slice of sugar, butter, more sugar, more butter, some cream and milk and some more sugar. and a rather heavy pinch of salt, just to perfect it. once you have a taste, the name will seem natural. trust me.

do not let the looks deceive you. this is crack.

well, it seems ate my way through brooklyn.

neighborhood recommendation #23: bar.

ok, here's the news: i have finally found my bar.

when i moved to helsinki, my drinking dive of choice was slowly being strangled out of business. although the rumors were around, erottaja bar still closed abruptly and many of us felt stranded and without a base.

the worst thing still: nothing appeared to replace it. sure, we hung out at bars and met friends at various places. but nothing felt like home. none of them was quite right.

since i moved, i was aware of vaasankatu, a street of dread and debauchery. with its girl bars, massage salons, sex shops, etc. it had a reputation. i have a fairly low tolerance for the grimier things in life – i've talked about gentrification here before – but also firmly dislike nimbyism in both its elitist form and as a means of romanticizing slumming it. since i have actually lived in the bronx, it takes more than a few sex shops, winos or meth heads to unsettle me.

moreover, i did not realize the street was located so incredibly near my new apartment. and there it was: molotow.

it is a bar with comfortable collection of haphazard recycled furniture, oddities and the perfect soundtrack of new wave and britpop. beer is 3.80€, always, but they also offer an impressive selection of small brewery brews – in case you wanna splurge. the clientele is as eclectic as the interior, no attitude, no sneering, just a cosy place to sit down and have a drink or two.

Monday, January 21, 2013

neighborhood recommendation #22: lowkey eats.

with the new neighborhood come new recommendations. although my new hood was not a primary choice of location for me, but somehow just happened, i've tried to familiarize myself with its potential. so far, it's looking good.

it seems that wherever i go, some restaurants follow. first, there is tori – a recommendation i talked about here before – that opened a new establishment at the same time i packed my moving boxes. 

their new place serves pretty much the same menu as their punavuori location with the exciting bonus of being able to serve alcohol. while alppitori isn't a bar, i myself do enjoy a mimosa with my brunch or a beer with my burger. most of the fare is simple home cooking, real and honest food that leaves you satisfied.

fried baltic herring, beets and potato mash with sour cream. perfection.

my favorite is their veggie burger with avocado. there has to be something special there because my carnivore friends also prefer it to the meaty version. although they have the unfortunate habit of serving raw avocados (in small slices, thankfully) rather than informing you that there aren't any ripe ones available – happened to me at both their restaurants and several times –, the burger itself is a small wonder when the ingredients are as they should be. i've just acquired the habit of asking if the avocados are alright, and been able to avoid the situation since. sometimes i girl has to make a bit of an effort...

veggie burger.

the place has become a regular lunch joint for me on days that i work from home. they welcome dogs, too, which makes it even better. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


my new, tiny apartment has something i fondly refer to as the non-kitchen.

for someone like myself who likes to cook (in order to eat well, mind you, not for the pleasures of chopping, sautéing or doing the dishes) and enjoys a well-equipped area for anything daily, it has come as a shocker to realize that a small dining table acts as my kitchen counter and that i had to extend all storage of utensils, dishes and such to my already small living area.

let me be clear: we're not talking about an open plan kitchen. it really is a nook with a sink and a half of a stove with a cupboard on top.

as i do consider my living arrangement of the moment rather temporary, i did not want to invest into custom furniture or anything disposable. ikea all around was not an option although i did pick up some beautiful things from there, too. it was, nevertheless, important to have a space that i felt comfortable living in aesthetically and functionally: i still want and need to cook even with these challenges in mind. i also did not want to give up or store away most of the items i had accumulated throughout these past years of building a home.

thus, i looked towards finnish design shop and ordered a pretty little set of muuto shelving for my kitchen-out-of-the-kitchen. when i am done with this place, they will serve well as a bookshelf or even to divide space between areas – if i get to such a grandiose apartment as to need a divider.

hay flower pots act as utensils storage. little boxes from ferm living and ikea keep order near the entrance.

it turned out to be a rather subtle invasion, after all.

Friday, January 4, 2013


i took the two required minutes to read my blog posts of last year. 19 in total; more pictures than text, so unlike me.

i was not here. i was hardly present anywhere.

2012 started in the limelight at the senate square and my year was boosted and shadowed by the blue ball wherever i went. a rewarding ordeal of a year workwise. the hours put in taught in many ways more than the miles of books i read for my dissertation: if i ever was, now i am pragmatic and practically prepared for any ordeal to come.

otherwise i shattered, collected myself, crumbled again, reassembled what i could find of myself with a clingwrap that muddled with its thick layers but still managed to reveal everyone around me how broken i was.

pieces are lost forever. new ones will surely caulk even the most gaping holes.

nonetheless, there were moments of happiness, many of them. i traveled, alone and with friends. i shared meals and moments of drunken exhilaration. i read books on which i wasn't able to concentrate for the past years. i danced for hours.

blowing off some steam.

midsummer and one of the best guarded secrets near my summer cottage.

ruisrock with silver.


boldly go wherever i want.
lavender in stockholm.

roxy in stockholm with bff.


reminders, part one.

fountain and flow festival.

flow festival.

restaurant day and hillbilly haystack.

reminders, part two.

new pups.

city happenings: laughs, speed and tight curves. this time with my little sis.

crazy, impromptu fun.

new puppies.

everyday discoveries at suvilahti.

farmers' market at teurastamo.

lovelies moving to their dream home.

london. sitting in a fountain.

dear friends getting married. love.

iceland. a dream come true. freezing.
muru pops down in tytyri and finlandia vodka platinum launch.
williamsburg, brooklyn, right after sandy.

i did not make promises for the new year.

i decided that i would just concentrate on being. being present. being here.