The Most Romantic Bar in Helsinki: BasBas

IMG_4050Do you hope for candle light, lovely old brick walls and delicious food combined with trendy Helsinkian? Go to Bar BasBas & Stuff  – you have it all there! Last time I visited the place I saw some Finnish top politicians, Finnish celebrity chef and local movie star there as well as non-celebrity normal Helsinkians. Nearby there is also great restaurant called Baskeri & Basso which Anne has written before – however, this time I write about the bar.

At Bar BasBas you can of course enjoy variety of drinks (there is wide selection of wines available) but also eat, not total dinner but small plates. I promise if you order many of those, it is enough for dinner. Food is super delicious and interesting – many seasonal delicacies. My favourite plate is Avocado-fenkoli bruchetta, shown down left in pictures below. I realize that is not seasonal at all… There is also a picture of lamb tartar – that is also must try if in the menu!

 

 

Even I said this is the most romantic bar, it is also suitable for friends and groups of people. You can’t make reservation, just pop by. Popping by possibility is exactly the reason I am going to visit the place tomorrow – friend is coming to Helsinki and I want to have dinner with her. We haven’t booked a table since we believe we’ll find table in BasBas.

BasBas is situated in  the back corner of Punavuori, exact address is Tehtaankatu 27-29. It is maybe 1.5 kilometre walk from Railway Station – trams go nearby so check www.hsl.fi and find out easiest way to get there!

Anna

 

 

Best Bakery in Helsinki

I believe Leipomo Keisari is the best bakery in Helsinki. They have several bakeries around Helsinki – I usually visit the one in Kamppi metro station near my home.  Why Leipomo Keisari’s bread is so delicious? Well, they must have the best sourdoughs! You see, when using sourdoughs you don’t have to use yeast at all (or only a tiny bit). And that surely have an great positive effect on taste! All baking looks also very pretty so to sum up – Leipomo Keisari is totally Paris level bakery!

It is good to know that Kamppi bakery is only selling out – you can’t sit down and taste pastries right away.  And how do you find Leipomo Keisari? It is in Kamppi mall – on ground level near Ben and Jerry’s and K-supermarket.

Anna

 

Crayfishing

Crawfish, crayfish, crawdad, Astacus Astacus — whatever you call it, rapu is a true Northern delicacy. Crayfish and crayfishing are steeped in tradition — while fishing, while cooking, and most definitely, while eating.

Crayfishing… wait, what?

We’ll get to the fishing bit later, but let’s talk about the feast itself. Typically, at least six crayfish per person starts the evening, followed by e.g. steaks, salmon or something more traditional, like Jansson’s Temptation. If you’ve got more than 10 crayfish per person to go around, they become the main course.

IMG_5759.JPGCrayfish are consumed slowly, and always in company. The cooked crayfish are allowed to cool in their broth for a few hours or more, and are served cold. We usually use only salt, a bit of sugar, and dill to season the broth (but you can also add porter in the mix.) This way, the delicate taste is preserved.

Each crayfish is like a miniature lobster, and is treated with respect. First the savoury broth is sucked out of the shell, the tail and claws are opened with special crayfish knives to get to the tasty meat, which typically is piled on buttered toaster bread,  sprinkled with freshly cut dill — and savoured.

The first tail is toasted with Vodka, or Aquavit (or whatever rocks your boat) and traditional songs are sung to further the merry proceedings. After the first tail, just keep on opening, sucking out the broth, assembling more claws & tails on your toaster bread…. and enjoying the company, the songs, and of course the booze, beer & wine.

 

Crayfishing 

The season starts yearly at noon on 21 July, and crayfishing is subject to licensing. Crayfish used to have a minimum length requirement of 10 cm (4 in) nose-to-tail, but not anymore. However, anything below 8 cm (3.5 in) should really just be released back immediately. With luck, you’ll meet them a few years later.

To catch crayfish, most use passive traps, although some prefer active crayfishing. As for the traps, there are quite a few models, but the two seen here are the most popular models.

As bait, most use either fish from the same lake or river or slices of beef or pork.An insider tip is to use bratwurst or frankfurters (like we do). A split crayfish will work extremely well, but it’s about as expensive as it gets. In the olden days, apparently village cats started to disappear towards the end of July…

IMG_2607The traps are set at a depth of around 2-3 meters and left overnight.

The next day, traps are checked, small crayfish are immediately released back, the bait is replaced and the traps are again lowered to the bottom of your lake, the riverbed or the seaside.

That’s about all you need. If and when you find a good spot, just put the traps back for the next night in the exact same location. Crayfish are competitive, so if you had the luck of setting your trap near a crayfish’s hiding place, and got a good catch, a new crayfish will take over that spot almost immediately. Crayfish favor a rocky bottom with plenty of places to hide in.

 

Sidenote: Finland and crayfish — success to bust to minor success
IMG_2602-EFFECTS
100 years ago Finland was Europe’s biggest exporter of crayfish, with a yearly catch over 10 times that of today. Finnish crayfish was widely recognized as a true treat. That, of course, was before the crayfish plague wiped out most of the crustacean population. And the introduction of the nearly as delicious American Signal Crayfish didn’t help either (as they carried the disease, quite possibly being the original vector). Stern measures have been taken to limit the spread of the disease, and the native crayfish population has been rising slowly the last decades. The best way to stop the spread is to never move your traps from one body of water to another. And if you absolutely must do it, you need to kill the plague spores — which happens by keeping the traps for 12 hours in a fully heated sauna (or by letting winter take care of business).

Picking wild berries and mushrooms around Helsinki area

One of my favourite things in August is probably harvest season. Lots of fresh veggies in stores, local fruits (mostly apples) and of course wild berries and mushrooms. My parents just got back from Lapland and brought back a buckets and buckets full of cloudberries (called hilla or lakka in Finnish) which they had picked from swamp – and I absolutely love them!

Since we have this cool thing called everyman’s rights in Finland,  you’ve got the right to enjoy outdoor pursuits regardless of who owns or occupies an area anywhere in Finland. This means that you are allowed to gather wild berries and mushrooms from the forest free of charge and you do not need the landowner’s permission for it. However, there are still rules that apply so I’d recommend reading them before going to the forest for the first time. For example Environment.fi has them written down quite simply on their website.

Cloudberries are mostly found from Lapland (even though I have heard someone found them from Southern Finland, too), but blueberries grow everywhere in Finland and you can also find wild raspberries and sea buckthorns around Helsinki area. A bit later in the autumn (around September) you can pick lingonberries as well.

Berries are quite easy to recognize but with mushrooms I’d be more careful and only gather the ones you know for sure. I usually stick with chanterelles, funnel chanterelles, ceps and different sorts of boletes. Best way to get to know them is to go to the forest with someone who already knows how to recognize them.

Usually the season starts already in July when blueberries are ripe. However, this year has been a bit exceptional since the summer has been somewhat cold. Most of my friends usually go picking berries and mushrooms to their summer house but one option is to take the bus to Nuuksio national park (Eero wrote about camping in Nuuksio two summers ago, too). It will take a bit of time to get there on public transfer but it’s still doable. I would also recommend trying out Porkkalanniemi in Kirkkonummi to which I would recommend renting a car) or even taking a walk to Helsinki central park.

 

Day trip from Helsinki to Porvoo – strong recommendation

Strong recommendation for day trip from Helsinki to Porvoo, a second oldest city in Finland. Porvoo has beautiful old town with narrow streets and picturesque wooden houses. Just perfect place to stroll around and enjoy feeling of old times. Many small shops around offering handicrafts, antiquities, cloths and toys. Also many pretty and tasty coffees shops, restaurants and bars. There is also a church to visit – old cathedral build in 15th century. Town is so lovely, I got marred there years ago and  I always have this really special feeling when visiting!

A week ago I once again visited this lovely town. This time we had lunch in Fryysarinranta – lovely restaurant by the river. We enjoyed fresh summer buffet with different kind of fish and salads. I strongly recommend to taste their fish soup. In Fryysarinranta you can sit on a terrace by the river or inside in old wooden house (middle picture above from there). I also visited Cafe Paahtimo – I had glass of wine in their lovely terrace by the river.

I also recommend you to try Restaurant Meat District – newish restaurant in old lovely building in center of old town. There are many lovely places around and easily found when walking around old town.

 

How to get to Porvoo? Well, Porvoo is situated 50 kilometers from Helsinki and it is easily reachable by car, bus or even bike or boat. Buses to Porvoo leave in Helsinki from Kamppi terminal and it takes around one hour. Check bus schedule here. If you want to bike, it is good to know that there is biking path for most of the way. However, maybe 15-20 kilometers there is no special biking path but that part is easy and safe to bike as well. Finest way to travel is to take boat Runeberg. Boat takes 3.5 hours and you can enjoy Finnish archipelago while traveling. Finest day you’ll have if you take boat in the morning, then stay in Porvoo as long as you please and in the evening take bus back to Helsinki. Porvoo is a small town so no need to stay over for longer time – day is enough.

Anna

ps. There is maybe cutest toy store ever in Porvoo. It is called Riimikko (sign in below picture). Very strong recommendation! You can find Muumi postcards there as well as shown picture below.

Best park for picnic in Helsinki, part I

My favorite park for picnic in Helsinki is Park Sinebrychoff (also known as Park Koff, in Finnish Koffin puisto). Maybe it is my favorite since I live near by – however for sure it is very popular park for picnic or just sitting and enjoying summer among locals. Location is great, near to see in the end of Bulevardi, so easy to walk there but also tram 6 passes by. Also city bike station is very close by. Exact address for park is Sinebrychoffinkatu. Park is quite big so you can always find a spot for you and your picnic blanket. Need something to bite? Then head for big grocery store S-Market near by (I wrote about this grocery store before). You can also find restaurant South Park in the park if you aren’t up for picnic and want to have a proper table instead.

For art lovers I recommend Sinebrychoff Art Museum which is in the park (the address is Bulevardi 40) and seen above picture (yellowish old building).

There is great playground for kids nearby – just walk the hill up and continue maybe 300 meters and you see the playground (ask somebody if you don’t find it).

And then – sometimes it starts to rain just when you are enjoying your day at park. That happened me last Thursday. When I realized rain is definitely coming I collected all my stuff and run to Hietalahti Markethall (Hietalahden halli). There is this great historical feeling of markethalls – you can feel there have been selling and buying for many, many years before you have been born. You can buy lunch, best milkshakes in town as well as meet, vegetables and souvenirs. Markethall is not open in the evenings (except Saturday and Sunday, opening hours below) – it is more place for lunch and ice-cream. So great place I recommend you to pay a visit there even not raining! In front of Hietalahti Markethall there is great flea market to wonder around – recommend that as well!

Anna

opening hours Hietalahden Halli aukioloajat

Russian Restaurant in Helsinki: Bystro

 

There are many great Russian restaurants in Helsinki. I truly recommend to visit at least some of them while here if you are not paying visit to Saint Petersburg right before or after Helsinki. Maybe my favourite Russian is very traditional, pretty price and authentic Saslik at Neitsytpolku 12. However, this time I write about my first visit to lovely Russian restaurant called Bystro which is situated near Kauppatori in the heart of Helsinki. Food is great, prices are reasonable (Saslik is pretty expensive) and atmosphere casual.  Address for Bystro is Eteläranta 16.

 

I was spending night with my friends, so we started with sparkling wine. Some of us took pickled cucumber and honey as a first course, some ready chosen “starter plate” with different Russian specialities. Both were delicious! I absolutely wanted to have blinis as my main course. In Bystro you get certain amount of roe, sour cream (smetana) and onion and with those you can eat as many blinis as you want. Blinis are totally “fresh” and so tasteful. I think blinis are absolute must have for everyone visiting Bystro. You can always have them as a beginning, if you have something else in mind as main course. Since it was Easter time, I chose pasha for dessert. It was modern and tasty (right picture below).

 

Bystro is not very fancy – you can basically wear whatever you want. You can have black lovely dress but as well jeans and nice shirt – customer are locals as well as tourists and from all ages. I recommend to make reservation in advance – restaurant is often fully booked.

When you step out from Bystro you see right away very lovey scenery shown below. If you want to continue having Russian night, I recommend Bar Mockba in Eerikinkatu.

Anna

 

Breakfast in Helsinki – Cargo coffee and vegetarian food

cargo_helsinki_vegan_breakfast_pancakes

For the past year I’ve walked by Cargo coffee every week but haven’t had the chance or a perfect time to actually visit the café. It’s been on our to-do list for a while but sometimes things that are too close (only a couple of blocks from our home) get forgotten. Today, however, we decided to actually do something about it and went for a Saturday morning breakfast at Cargo.

Cargo Coffee is situated just between Kamppi and Ruoholahti at Ruoholahdenranta. It’s built from sea containers and has a bit of an industrial look and feel from the outside combined with Scandinavian design inside. Tram no 9 stops right in front of the café (stop called Länsilinkki) but you will get quite close by also with tram no 6 or tram no 8. You could also continue a late breakfast at Cargo by walking next door to Clarion Hotel’s Sky Room for a drink or two to enjoy the view (opens at 3 PM on Saturdays).

cargo_coffee_helsinki-2

It came as a nice surprise that Cargo only serves vegetarian breakfast and food and there’s also vegan options on the menu. I decided to have a breakfast plate with yogurt, homemade granola and berry compote, hummus, salad avocado, bread and cheese, served with juice and coffee. The rest of the crew choose some vegan pancakes and hot chocolate and a parmigiano omelette. All were very happy with their choices. The omelette was excellent. And the pancakes with fruits &  got a convincing two thumbs up from a junior carnivore.

The breakfast is served from 7.30 to 11 on weekdays and from 10 to 3 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. During the week Cargo also serves vegetarian lunch and in the evenings there’s a separate dinner menu. The open terrace upstairs draws quite a crowd in the summer afternoons and evenings. They do serve wine, after all.

 

 

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Traditional Finnish pastries: Runeberg torte

runeberg-torte-1Today we celebrate Runeberg day, commemorating the birth of our national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (born 5 Feb, 1804). He’s the guy behind the lyrics of the Finnish National Anthem — Maamme or Vårt Land (Our Land) — and poems like Farmer Paavo (Saarijärven Paavo), which can be considered as an ode to Finnish Sisu, and the epic Tales of Ensign Stål.

So Runeberg is actually quite an important character in shaping the Finnish mentality. However, to me, his biggest claim to fame is his wife, the novelist & journalist Fredrika Runeberg, the woman behind the Traditional Finnish pastry called Runeberg torte (Runebergin torttu in Finnish). Fredrika made the torte famous even though she didn’t actually invent the recipe.

Runeberg torte is a cylinder shaped sweet pastry made from almonds, flour, bread or gingerbread crumbs, arrack or rum. On top of this juicy torte is a raspberry jam topping with a white sugar ring. You can bake them yourself, but during January and February you can buy them from practically any grocery store or cafe – so pay attention if you’re visiting Helsinki in January!

If I had my way, we would have Runeberg tortes available all year round. Unfortunately that’s not the case and anyway maybe it is better to have something to look forward also after Christmas :).

 

What to buy in Helsinki – groceries

One of my favourite grocery stores in Helsinki is S-Market in Bulevardi in Helsinki downtown (the actual address seems to be Hietalahdenranta 7, but it is situated in the end of Bulevardi next to sea). Surely one reason it to be my favourite is that I live nearby. But it is pretty good supermarket – not too big but big enough to have pretty good selection. I also appreciate that Hietalahti Market Hall (Hietalahden Kauppahalli in Finnish) is next to S-Market Bulevardi – very handy to visit both. Another very good supermarket here in Helsinki downtown is at Stockmann Department store -1 floor. You can read more shopping in downtown from this post – Stockmann mentioned there!

What to buy from Finnish Supermarket? Of course if you are hungry buy whatever you wish to eat. In Finland people speak pretty well English so just ask from somebody when you are not sure about what different items are. I collected here some Finnish specialities I think everyone visiting in Finland should buy and taste. First I want to introduce Karjalanpiirakka. It is Finnish snack – pie made of rice and rye flower. If you are hungry, just buy some of those and something to drink. Karjalanpiirakkas are normally found next to breads, you should buy those ones baked in store (they look like the ones in picture above).

At bread section you also find Finnish healthy speciality rye bread (ruisleipä). When tasting that, you should also buy at least some butter since rye braid just alone is maybe a disappointment. I LOVE rye bread and it eat every day – normally with some butter, cheese and cucumber (and with that I drink Coca-Cola but surely my drink is not Finnish (or healthy) at all:-) Cheese we cut here in Finland with “juustohöylä”, picture found of that above with other things mentioned in this section – this juustohöylä-tool is also found from S-Market Bulevardi. It is very handy when wanting to cut very thin slices of cheese. But back to rye bread – there are variety of different rye breads – pick whatever label as long as they are really rye! You can find also “rye bread chips” called “Ruissipsi”. If you need more snacks I recommend tasting Finnish yoghurt with some mysli. A+ yoghurt in the picture is my favourite!

And of course you have to hear about Finnish sweets as well. I recommend you to buy Finnish ginger bread (piparkakku in Finnish) – very delicious. These are very tasty just alone. But if you wish, you can also buy some brie cheese and put slice of that on top of ginger bread. In that case you need to buy also some red wine since those belong absolutely together. Luckily there is Alko next to S-Market. Alko offers wide selection of wines. In Finland wines (and hard alcohol) are only sold in Alkos – those you can’t find anywhere else.

I truly believe we have best candies in the world here in Finland. We have such a wide variety of different candies – you have to visit candy section in S-Mark.  The absolute buy is chocolate by Fazer – there are basic chocolate and also different flavours. Also I warmly recommend you to taste some black liquorice. That is absolute favourite for many Finns but I know it can taste a bit strange for foreigners. I think that is a great homecoming gift from Finland. There are also a lot more delicious candy – like TV Mix in picture. After tasting variety of candies you should try some Finnish Xylitol chewing gum – it is very good for your teeth (also found from candy section).

Anna