Category Archives: Drink

Finland – a nation in love with milk

Yesterday I arrived to my parents’ place in Tampere, ready to spend some days without doing anything. Well, anything I don’t feel like doing.

Anyway, being at the parents’ place means that the fridge is always full of good stuff. When I open the door, which I do here a lot, it’s a very different experience than at home as to the variety and quality – my mom is an excellent cook and when the daughter is home so they make sure there’s everything I could ever desire. And I sure enjoy it!

Last evening I accompanied them to do the shopping for the weekend in a huge supermarket called Citymarket. Normally me and my boyfriend do our shopping in a small Alepa or K-supermarket next to our home, so it’s an eye-opening experience to go to these huge places and realize the choice they have – of everything. And in Finland the variety is still quite limited compared to many other countries. Especially in US I always get overwhelmed by the selection of all the products from cheese to sweets. It makes me immediately think do we really need all this stuff? Of course we don’t.

Anyway, this time I focused on the  variety of milk products – Finns love milk and consume a lot of yogurt, “piimä” (kind of sour milk) and “rahka” (kind of quark). Milk is a typical drink for anything: breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, salty, sweet… The speciality of Tampere is a creative combination of “mustamakkara” (blood sausage) with lingonberry jam and a glass of milk. Quite a surprise to my Spanish boyfriend! All in all, I would say milk is our national drink, though younger generations are not so much into it.

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Mustamakkara, the typical dish in Tampere, with lingonberry jam and milk. Here’s also the dessert – a doughnut.

Another thing is that there are as many tastes as there are kinds of milk. Today my parents’ fridge contains 5 different milk packs – all three of us have our milk + some extras. And this is nothing if you think of all the milks you can find in a normal Finnish supermarket.

Moreover, there’s a huge number of Finns who can’t intake milk lactose – for example myself. There’s even a joke that you know when you’ve lived too long in Finland when you become lactose-intolerant. So now they have all the milk products also with little (“hyla” or no lactose (“laktoositon”) And so the variety grows.

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My mom likes her milk semi-skimmed and “hyla” – with only little lactose, as she is a bit lactose-intolerant.

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My boyfriend wants his milk semi-skimmed and normal – as he’s Spanish, no lactose-intolerance involved.

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Today I like soy milk the best even if I drink skimmed low-lactose milk too. Depends of the moment…

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My father drinks normal skimmed milk – he’s not lactose-intolerant but on a diet.

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My brother wants to have his coffee with normal full-fat milk.

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Extras: sour milk – another speciality that is very good and healthy containing a lot of good bacteria.

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My favourite yoghurt – I like it simple, without any artificial taste.

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… and this is the yoghurt of my boyfriend. Danone Strawberry with lots of sugar and stuff.

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Quark – another milk product. I love the sour taste and the fact that it contains so much protein.

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My mom’s favourite. “Viili” is a type of yogurt (a mesophilic fermented milk) that originated in the Nordic countries”, Wikipedia tells.

Actually last year the milk consumption of the Finns went a bit down, as every Finn drank about 129 litres of milk in a year. Still it seems a lot, as not everyone drinks milk at all. Also ice cream was eaten a bit less last year – and Finland is the nation which most ice cream enjoyes in the world! Even if you wouldn’t believe it, as we have are surrounded by ice and snow most of the time  and eating something cold on top of that might not seem wise.

Yoghurt consumption is on the rise, too. Last year every Finn ate 24 kilos of yoghurt. Personally I love natural yoghurt and eat it every morning for breakfast with fruit and seeds.

Anyway, as there’s a very strong low-carb fashion in Finland right now, we consume more and more fat milk and butter (instead of margarine). Also cheese and quark are getting more popular. So I guess we’ll continue heavy consumers of all the white material coming out of a cow – and it’s derivations full of calcium and protein. Not that bad a habit, I guess, even if my vegan friends think it’s crazy to eat “cow’s food”. But even they love soy milk, rice milk, oat milk or coconut milk…

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Helsinki: design, design and sponsored beer!

Last Thursday my dear friend, who owns a growing illustrations agency here in Helsinki, published a book! The book is called “Keltainen Kaupunki“, The Yellow City, and it features seventeen Helsinki themed stories by prolific Finnish authors. These stories are illustrated by some wonderful illustrators from my friend’s agency.

This year Helsinki is the World Design Capital, and the book project is part of the year’s events. Honestly, I don’t know how many people know about this year outside Finland (and Helsinki) but at least inside the design quarters of Punavuori, Helsinki, it certainly is a big thing. A couple of my friends are working in the Design Capital office, so I’ve stayed more or less tuned on what’s going on. And the good thing is that many young, prominent artists get new opportunities thanks to this special year. I only hope the good things shall continue in the years to come…

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A new, still unfinished gallery in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki. Looks good!

Anyway, it’s always a pleasure to attend an opening or a publication party of any big project: observing the relieved faces of the people, happy of the luckily finished cooperation and, for us visitors, sharing their joy and catching up with old friends. The party was organised in an old factory compound in Jätkäsaari, the newest neighbourhood to-be here in Helsinki, at the moment still under construction. But there’s already some vivid cultural activity going on there.

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Carlsberg, good bread and cheese - all you need for a good party. Well, maybe some wine too...

My friend was even lucky enough to get the Danish beer Carlsberg as sponsor. To accompany the beer, we enjoyed some big fresh bread with cheese and grapes. Basic but so good – both for your eyes and palatals. Here’s another blog entry about the event – and the beer – by one of the illustrators of the The Yellow City.

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There was also a DJ playing some smooth music and on the second floor we could visit a photo exhibition about Finland – the big images looked great in the empty, unfinished loft space and some of them were quite impressive…

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Yes, in Finland people like to be naked. Sauna and all. A work from the photo exhibition in Jätkäsaari.

All in all, it’s great that interesting cultural things are going on in Helsinki. And what’s even better is that my friends are taking so active part in them! These moments I feel so proud of my city.

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Sausages, beer, pretzels and castles – you’ll find all this in…


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The typical Bayerian dish - white sausage, beer and pretzel. Served only in the mornings.

This time it’s not about my dear Helsinki but of Munich and Riga!

What’s the (only?) negative thing about spring? It doesn’t offer us workers any considerable holiday breaks. So I try to take advantage of any long weekend and travel around with my boyfriend. For Easter, we went to Munich and spent a night in Riga on the way.

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Riga panorama from a bar in a clock tower. The bar is a bit styless but the view compensates it.

My first ever visit to Riga was nice but brief. We wandered around, visited typical markets and slept in a hostel owned by Australians. Must go back in the summer, as Air Baltic offers very cheap direct flights from Helsinki.

Then Munich. Well, it never was a dream destination for me, but why not (the only cheap flights we could get for those dates with a coupon we had to spend).

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The best of Bayer: Neuschwanstein Castle. We were "lucky" enough to visit it in a middle of a snow storm - in April!

The Bayerian traditions sure are interesting. Like the rypical “breakfast”, white sausages and 1 litre of beer (with prezel, of course). Or the traditional costume dirndl sold everywhere – and people who so happily wear them on the street or in the traditional beer gardens.

Ah, the beer! Normally I’m not a fan of (Finnish) beer, but the Munich versions were excellent! Especially beer with lemon. I could easily drink a litre or two of that.

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The famous Hofbräuhaus Beer Garden in Munich. Here Hitler organized the first publicity and propaganda events in 1920.

Munich is the richest and the most expensive city in Germany, which you really notice. People look wealthy as do their cars. Munich is the home of BMW, and I really got a lesson on car history as we spent some hours in the BMW headquarters and museum – a deal we made with my boyfriend so we would later see some modern art  – well, in the end we skipped it for the lack of time. But instead I got some nice beer with lemon in the park.

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Our hotel remembered us with a bottle of wine. Nice. As my boyfriend doesn't like wine, well, a woman has to do what a woman has to do...

Still, after four days of Munich – and of snowstorms and rain – it was great to come back to the sunny Helsinki. The routine is not that bad when you get away once in a while. Yesterday we took out the bicycles from the winter shelter and tonight we had a great hot sauna. Now it’s just perfect to lay down on the home sofa with a glass of red wine, jamón serrano and picos. Not very Finnish but hey – mixing cultures is the thing of today. 😉

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Jamón ibérico de bellota (the best kind) and picos (Spanish bread snacks) for dinner. Home sweet home - Helsinki.

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The art of being sick – not again?!

It’s been a while since I blogged – the reason is that I’ve been lying half dead in bed for some days. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but at least I’m positive that my THIRD flu this year has been the worst one so far.

I noticed I wasn’t feeling too well last Thursday when I was having lunch at the university cantine near my job. It was this: pea soup and pancake (hernekeitto and pannukakku in Finnish), the typical Thursday dish here in Finland, no idea why. Wikipedia tells that in the old times eating pea soup (which contains pork) is said to be preparation for fasting on Friday. Anyway, the tradition still goes strong – and I love it!

My lunch last Thursday - the traditional pea soup with pancake and strawberry jam - notice the heart shape... And some salad to make it healthy.

Anyway, while I was eating I started to feel strange: totally exhausted with sore throat and runny nose – and without any appetite. Actually my appetite is still a bit gone. It feels strange not to get hungry when “you are supposed to”. So I’ve been eating light – except of the vanilla ice cream, as a doctor told me it’s good for your throat. Well, that was when I was 10 years old, but of course I still believe him.

The worst thing this time was getting sick just before the weekend! As they say, like the good workers do… You really should get compensated for losing your weekend. So unjust.

Today is the first day I feel normal, more or less – and it feels wonderful! Just sitting on the sofa with the afternoon sunshine, eating an apple that tastes of something again – and watching my boyfriend passing the vacuum cleaner around the house (hrm, I’m still a bit too weak to do some things… 😉

The sun makes me especially happy, as it gives faith that spring actually is on its way. It was already around the corner but then, suddenly, it started snowing a couple of days ago and the people of Helsinki got hysterical: what is this?!? Snow in April??!! Well, in the end it’s not that strange here in the North, but I understand them. After suffering a long winter you really grave for spring. So please: go away snow!

There are nicer things too, of course. Last week I discovered a great new bar just around the corner: Birds Cavabar. They have excellent  Can Paixano cava from a Barcelona producer – whose rosé is especially delicious. The next best thing is the price: 2,50 euros for a glass and 10 euros for a bottle (+ they give you free pistachios, not so common here in Helsinki…) They also serve fajitas (my friend tried and liked it) and salads for lunch. Highly recommended. And the place reminds me of the 6 months I lived in Barcelona… oh those times.

Birds Cavabar in Kamppi, Helsinki

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Restaurant Day – become a chef for a day

I enjoyed my dear  – and cold – Helsinki so much this weekend! On Saturday we had Helsinki Restaurant Day, a food carnaval, where anyone is invited to open a restaurant for a day. The concept was invented by a couple of clever young guys from Helsinki – it is an amazingly simply and just ingenious idea!

The restaurants can be anything, you can check out the Browse restaurants section on Restaurant Day webpage to get a glimpse… Only the founder’s imagination is the limit. Absolutely anyone can be a chef for a day, make some exotic or traditional culinaristic experiments and invite strangers to their homes, install a kiosk on the street or organise an open picnic in some corner of the city. Some of my friends, who are lucky to own a shop, convert them into tea lounges, muffin factories or even into a Brazilian-Iranian restaurant, as one of the shoe stores in Helsinki did on Saturday.

This Saturday morning me and my friend decided to visit as many as we could of these pop-up restaurants. The only two limits were: 1) your stomach is not limitless and 2) the weather was “a bit” challenging, almost -20C…

Actually, to fight the second condition, I got an idea to fill my termo with – surprise surprise – champagne! Haha even if it maybe wasn’t the most elegant thing to do with that expensive drink, at least it helped us to stay warm all day long and it cheered us up on the windy streets filled with snow! Here are some of the delicious things we saw – and tasted, of course.

Celebrating Restaurant Day with a style. Hipster muffins at Hiphip cafe, Punavuori - the hipster neighbourhood of Helsinki.

Parmesan cake at a home restaurant in a cool old stable in Punavuori, Helsinki. The cake? It was excellent! As were the chats with the other "clients" present in this nice couple's living room.

My friend's underwear shop Punavuoren putiikki was converted into a tea lounge - with a sweet atmosphere and even sweeter cupcakes.

Warm tea to keep you going in Restaurant Day

Muffin Top - more muffins and spicy tomate soup at a jewellery shop in Punavuori.

All in all, the experience was great – once again… The carnaval is organised about every 4 months and each time it gets more popular! Also the police (who at first disapproved all this) is now looking the event through it fingers. More of this kind of spontaneous community activities, please. By the way, the next Restaurant Day is celebrated in May… Welcome!

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Let it snow – but not too much!

This morning, well it was almost midday, I went out to enjoy the wonderful sunlight and snow  we have also here in the centre of Helsinki (and there’s a lot!) Then I crashed into this quite scary snowman that someone had created on our home street – it even had green colour. Not for children…

Not all the snowmen are "nice"

Anyway, the morning was beautiful and it was Sunday, so not even a scary snowman could stop me. We went with my boyfriend to see a beautiful documentary film Vivan las antípodas! in DocPoint, a marvellous documentary film festival organised every January in Helsinki. I love documentaries, and this one was interesting – telling about the opposite geographical places and peoples’ lives there… In the end we are all the same everywhere, that was clear once more.

After the cinema we did the typical Sunday walk of Helsinki people: around Töölönlahti Bay. It’s a beautiful nature area practically in the centre of the city. In the summer the paths are full of runners and even today (with -5C and a chilly wind) some brave (or crazy?) people were running around. Brrr.

Töölönlahti Bay in January

Töölönlahti Bay in January

To warm up our deep-frozen toes went up to have a nice warm drink in Torni (a bar with aview upstairs of Tower hotel). Well it’s a super touristic venue, but not without a reason: the views over Helsinki are amazing, especially from the ladies’ bathroom, but unfortunately so are the prizes. (A hot chocolate with a touch of Baileys = 10 euros) But we got ourselves warm and could continue our adventure in the winter wonderland.

in January 2012

Helsinki view from Torni

Helsinki view from Torni 2

Now we’re off to see another documentary film – and it will be a complete surprise! Sometimes it’s nice to take a risk and go to see a movie without having ANY prejudices. So we’ll see…

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Barhopping in Kallio

Kallio is the bohemian, cool neighbourhood of Helsinki. The place where poor workers used to live and which artists, students and hipsters have since conquered. Most of us have been living there at some point… But then when “the situation” changes (people start wanting more space, children, peace etc.) they go to live somewhere else.

One thing is sure: the best and the most original bars of Helsinki are in Kallio. So, last Friday we gathered 6 friends together and went to explore some of them – both old favourites and new acquaintances.

Here’s how it goes.

1. Rytmi. We started at one of my all-time-favourites, a bar near the matketplace of Hakaniemi. Rytmi is a place where all the hipsters go: during the daytime old gentlemen have coffee there and the creative workers create something big with their macs. In the evenings DJ starts to play jazz-etno music and you are sure to meet your friends and colleagues on the white tables. A relaxed place to start (and to finish) the night with. A big plus are the huge windows, art exhibitions and a mini terrace in the summer.

2. Sirdie. Luckily my friend is a good timekeeper, so after one beer and hour off we went! Sirdie is a tiny classic: a Kaurismäki movie styled place with friendly service and special atmosphere. Here “different” people meet, autentically.

3. Toveri. Some of us started to complain hunger. So we moved to Toveri, almost next door to Sirdie – as it was snowing a lot that night! Toveri is a very relaxed and quiet bar full of Brits (for some reason, that night) and nice tapas, filled crepes and a good selection of beers. On Wednesdays they organise a quiz -warning: it’s a very difficult one at least for me! With full stomach, we had energy to move on in the snow.

4. Abin baari (on Fleminginkatu 13). An interesting place packed with more or less drunken people (but in a nice way). The owner (a Moroccan guy?) has decorated the walls with a random selection of photos, pictures and items from all over the world. The bar has a very peculiar atmosphere (but better to stick with the beer, at least the gin tonic I was quite bad).

5. Kultapalmu. First time here! A small, dark place which seems to be very popular – for some reason! Like someone comments on TripAdvisor: “If I would get married, this would be the place for the wedding! Excellent company, excellet drinks!” Worth a visit – I guess getting to the mood of Kultapalmu (Golden Palm) would have taken a little more time…

6. Bar Molotow. First time here, too, an excellent new acquaintance! The place was really full of hipsters and fashion people and a nice music was played by a cool DJ. Well, the original reason why we entered just this place was that my friends noticed it was full good-looking men. 😉 As Molotow describes itself: a relaxed bar with 60’s decoration. Music ranges from alternative rock to punk and indie. Yep.

Well, 6 bars in a row, it’s an ok result for a Friday night everyone being very tired after the working week. More to follow when we repeat the tour – Kallio has a lot to offer!

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Thursday is for beer, pea soup and pancake

morning snow on Thursday, January 19, in Helsinki

Today we had a cool snow storm in Helsinki. Perhaps it influenced our minds too, as since the morning my colleagues at the office were restless and finally, after a 60-year-birthday party given for a colleague (with chocolate cake and cava) it was impossible to work.

Some opened a bottle of red wine. I tried to go back to work, in vain, so when a colleague suggested to have a beer – just one! – it was impossible to say no.

We explored a great Indian Bar Bhangra (Check Google maps, in Töölö, Runeberginkatu 28), decorated Bollywood-style and offering a nice selection of Indian beers, lassi, a shot roulette (scary) and Nepalese and Indian food. Also Bollywood music and movies, promises the bar’s Facebook page.

All in all, here comes the lesson: when a Finn suggests you “let’s go for ONE beer” in 99% of the cases it won’t stay in one. Neither today.

Luckily I was “wise” enough to leave home early… and when I arrived home, I just had to get pancake (pannukakku). Why?

For an unknown reason in Finland we have a tradition to eat pea soup (hernekeitto) on Thursdays. In the restaurant below my office too. The soup was good, but one thing was terribly missing – the typical, indispensable dessert to go with pea soup – the pancake! Typical for an unknown reason too…

Normally you enjoy pancake with strawberry jam and cream. Yummy. Here comes a photo of my masterwork – growing up in the oven… What is left over, I’ll take to the office tomorrow. Happy colleagues, happy work…

"Pannukakku", Finnish pancake growing in the oven

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