Helsinki Nova: The Exhibitionists

I have a new crush: The Exhibitionists Cafe in Töölö. An international, french influenced place with used books, very peaceful. Free wifi. Small, though, and they are also a little shop with some nicely designed paper items, coffee supplies and used books.

Last week I went there for the first time to recover after a visit to the hospital, during which an otherwise very nice nurse dug around in my arm for a vein unsuccessfully for a while before giving up and switching arms, as I tried to make her feel better about it all, while I submited to the drilling of my second arm. At least there was symmetry in the bandages. And wonderful coffee and food to follow:

Latte at the Exhibitionists

The show stopper was the lunch. Not pictured here: a giant pile of fresh herbs (mint, thai basil and cilanto). Yum!

Salad at the Exhibitionists

It held up to a second visit as well. And I like the music they play. They have aeropress, frenchpress, kalita pour-overs, and a nice tea selection, too.

On the road: Art Cafe

I have been doing some traveling. It is one of those weeks that has involved planes, ships and three different countries. But first there was Turku and a visit to one of my favorite cafés, Cafe Art or Art Cafe along the Aura River.

Coffee and archipelago bread

Free wifi, good coffee, lots of space. A wonderful place to work. I had an entire room to myself with a view of the river and cyclists zooming by…

Window if Cafe  Art

Their only fault is parsimonious hours.

Cafe Art, Turku

Brussel sprouts delicious

Brussel sprouts have the potential to be exquisite. These were incredibly simple. Hot oil, sprouts chopped in half, add to oil chopped half down. After a bit, put a lid on. Add a bit of water if needed to get the pan juices. Sprinkle with flakes of fine sea salt.

Sauteed Brussel Sprouts with Sea Salt

Sauteed Brussel Sprouts with Sea Salt

Cooked this way they get a sort of sweetness. Broth could be added instead of water. If you have no objection, I recommend trying this with duck fat, but butter and vegetable oils– including coconut oil– work as well. You can have it going while you cook something else. If only brussel sprouts were not so expensive!

Egg streak

Easy paleo and gluten-free friendly breakfasts full of vegetables:

Eggs and vegetables

Eggs and vegetables

2014.4Eggsboiledbroccoli

2014.4Eggsscrammushrooms

For a several weeksYet another egg dish,

This last one was served over baby chard– the only sort of chard available outside of high summer in Helsinki. I have been making something like this every morning. The possibilities are infinite.

Juuri– a second visit

A visiting friend invited me to Juuri for the first time last fall and it was fun. The food is presented well, but I think they make a wee bit too much of a fuss over their unique concept of Finnish tapas. This time, a group of us were coming in for a late afternoon drink and snack after a tour of galleries nearby. It was four in the afternoon, but the waitress still seemed to be pushing a bit for people to order a main course, or more tapas. That aside, it is a nice place and a favourite of visitors, since they have a lot of traditional flavours on the menu. One of the plates I ordered– the special of the day– was not too special, but the fish was delicious.

2014.4JuuriFish

Fennel for late spring

Spring is officially here. The late spring as the weather struggles towards summer can be rough, the body feeling depleted of nutrients, vitamins, sunshine. A couple weeks ago I got delicious organic fennel from my food co-op. It was Italian. Here are some things that I did with it:

Duck breast and fennel

Duck breast and fennel

Duck breast is really easy– pan friend, excess oil scooped out and used to cook the carrots and fennel. Then I put it all in the oven to get it extra crispy. The juices of the duck added to the vegetables when served.

It has also been asparagus season in Europe:

Asparagus and fennel

Asparagus and fennel

However, the most spectacular was an easily roasted chicken, using my slapdash interpretation of Marcella Hazan’s famous and foolproof roast chicken with lemons. (Here recipe is all over the interwebs, but that link is to a no-frills posting of it on the New York Times). My lemons were too large, so I had to cut them and only used one. The fennel was cooked beneath the chicken; this must be one of the best ways to cook fennel.

Spring vegetables

Finnish spring vegetables are finally starting to be available here, including beautiful radishes from the Lindroth farm near Turku.

2014.4Finnishradsandcucus

2014.4sesame

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I only buy those radishes when I can get them really fresh. The leaves are great to eat as well; I wash them in several waters and put them into a curry, or sauté them. It was wonderful to see the beautiful colours again!

This salad had a very very easy dressing, with sesame seeds toasted in macadamia nut butter, salt and a nice unsweetened rice vinegar. Yums.

Hoku on herkku

Lunch at Hoku

Lunch at Hoku

The other day I got to have lunch at Hoku , a little restaurant in Helsinki I had been wanting to go to for a very long time. It was so good that even though I was having lunch with someone I had just met and felt a little ridiculous I had to take a photo of the furikake encrusted siika over udon noodles. Siika is sometimes translated just as common whitefish. It is a medium sized lake fish with delicate white flesh well-loved in Finland.

Very nice people, too! Lunch was wonderful.

Musiikkitalo

Shadows of the light sculpture inside the Musiikkitalo

Shadows of the light sculpture inside the Musikki Talo

Musiikkitalo (literally: music building or music house) is one of my favorite places in Helsinki. Not only does it have a wonderful, innovative, and ambitious calendar of events, it has wonderful leadership. Recently I had the opportunity to hear the director Katja Leppäkoski speak and she talked about how they were seeking to make the Musiikkitalo inclusive and open to many sorts of people and interests. I love that it is open to everyone, with free wifi and more generous hours than most Helsinki cafes. It is a beautiful space in which to work. Many of the performances also have discounted tickets for students and people without work (about EUR 7.50– cheaper than a trip to the cinema). And the acoustics, even behind the orchestra, are magnificent; they were designed by Yasuhisa Toyota.

They also get amazing artists in, like Julia Lezhneva who is performing this coming Sunday. I would go if I could! Worth a try, even if baroque isn’t your thing. And if you’re not broke– these tickets are pricier.

Kale and Korean Mint

Kale and Korean Mint

Served with pan-friend salmon stakes. Kale, tomatoes, beautiful Korean mint, amaranth (quinoa might have been better), lime, salt, macadamia nut oil. This is Lacinato or Tuscan Kale, a bit harder to find in Helsinki. I found this at Citymarket Ruohonlahti. In the summer, one can find this kale, called mustakaali (literally, Black Cabbage) from Anton and Anton shops. Interestingly, in England this sort of kale is also sometimes known as Black Cabbage. In the United States, I have heard people call it Dino Kale. It is softer that standard kale and lends itself easily to raw salads when massaged with a bit of oil and salt. The salmon I served with it was seasoned primarily with sumac and paprika. It was very fast to make!

The korean mint came from Stockmann’s. It was from Mimis . Mimis salads and greens are expensive, but they are so fresh and spectacular. You can also find them at S-Market Bulevardi, and I think the prices are maybe a tiny bit better there, but the selection is also more limited.