Friday, 31 October 2014

Hot dog buns

As you already know, search engine optimization is for me a foreign territory equivalent to Mars. To a point it's silly. Don't believe me? Get this: as I started my blog, it never even occurred to me to include anywhere on the blog's data description "food blog". So, no wonder then it won't show up when people Google, say... food blogs. 

Luckily I have people in my life with IT skills. Which, I must admit, come in a lot handier on the completely computerized 3rd millenium than, say, languages that no-one has spoken in the past 4 that I decided to specialize in when I started my academic career with Egyptology...

Somebody else has figured this (and a lot more) out and as I was greeted with the title "the best hot dog buns in the world" I had to believe it. I mean, no-one would bother to lie on the Internet, right? The dating websites alone are a living testament to that!

Depending on the size this recipe makes 16-20 buns

5 dl full fat milk
75 g fresh yeast
11-12 dl all purpose flour
1 tbsp fine sea salt
50 g soft butter, at room temperature

For glazing: 1 egg (optional)

Dissolve the yeast in warm milk (37º). Combine salt with flour. Add 11 dl of flour into the milk and using a food processor's hooks , work the dough until it won't stuck to the sides of the bowl and is elastic. If it looks too loose at the beginning of the mixing, add some flour. Towards the end add soft butter in cubes.

Let the dough rise in the bowel, covered with a tea towel, for half an hour. Divide in 4 and each segment into 4-5 pieces (depending on the desired size of the buns). Roll into hotdog-shaped long buns and leave to rise on parchment. The dough is easy to work and doesn't really even need extra flour. Cover with tea towel and leave to rise for 2 hours. 

Heat oven to 225º. Brush the buns with beaten egg and bake for 10 minutes. Cut open and stuff with... well, anything really. With good sausages, pulled lambcrayfish salad, pulled pork, duck confitmarinated octopus... Sky's the limit! Go crazy!




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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Wine shopping on Viking Line

Viking Grace made its maiden voyage in 2012 and it is the pride and joy of Viking Line's fleet ( a real flagship ship!) And for a reason: grace it has. It is in great shape (yes, shipshape!) and offers modern, stylish setting for a minibreak that pampers those into good food and wine. 

Recent wine cruise provided plenty of opportunities to sample new wines - many of which found a new home in my suitcase. Some are the kind you can't get ashore, some are just a lot cheaper on board.

Á la carte restaurant Oscar wooed me with its surroundings, but also with equally elegant, knowledgeable and most importantly, very dignified customer service provided by the very professional staff. Adjacent Seamore Champagne Lounge is a wine bar where you have a chance to treat yourself with one of the several Champagnes that elsewhere aren't often available by the glass  - Laurent-Perrier, Pol Roger and Taittinger to mention a few. You can also indulge in varieties that you might have never even heard of. I myself fell totally in love with that Piper Heidsieck Rare Millissime 2002. Simply a divine Champagne with very distinctive notes of unicorns...!

Wine Spectator awarded this Champagne a whopping 95 points back in 2012 and the following year it was selected World's best Champagne. And the final detail that did it for me? That metal bit around the neck is a ring. Oh yes. And that decorative, filigree-like label? Turns into... a tiara! Seriously!!!

And how could I not feel enamoured with the Champagne of the day: Henriot rosé. And Taittinger, different varieties of which I got to sample the day after at the fair. Wonderful Champagnes all round with fantastic harmony and elegance.

Something's definitely happening to me. Instead of my previously preferred, Pinot Noir-based Champagnes I find myself increasingly drawn to lighter, more subtle Chardonnay-based ones. Is my palate evolving ? Am I actually starting to learn something? Or am I myself starting to calm down...?

And there's more. Tucked away in the corner there's a specialty wine shop where you can buy wines that you've fallen for at the dinner. Just imagine: you enjoy a great dinner for which the waiter has recommended an excellent wine you hear you can't get back on land and then, as you're starting to count minutes wondering if there's still time to rush down to the duty-free two decks below... you're gracefully guided to their own shop where you can take your time selecting which gems to bring back home with you. That could never happen in Finland. Owing to the stupid laws...

This American Syrah was a perfect match with elk tournedos and came home after a dinner exactly like that. So rich, yet incredibly velvety soft. This won't be opened for just any dinner, I'll tell you...!

And in anticipation or rich, meaty pastas some Chianti. This ones calls for a robust ragú that's simmered away for hours!

...and for those dark, dark evenings some Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore. Both soft in tannins and rich with notes of sour cherry sweetness. For Verrocchio I'm thinking beautifully pink liver or something gamey still red on the middle. Oh, and with that some roasted veggies caramelized with honey...

Mara packs a bit more peppery punch, so a rich ragú or lamb dishes are in order.

Probably the best thing on the cruise was a wine tasting exploring the lesser-known wine regions. It was kicked off with this Chilean beauty, which I couldn't believe was Chardonnay - not even after I'd tasted it. None of that dilliness; its floral acids made me think New World Rieslings. Wonderful mineral character and subtle toastiness which would compliment smoked fish. And apparently it's a perfect match with caviar, too...!

Another new friend I made at the tasting is this. Hailing from Alentejo, the coldest and apparently the poorest region in Portugal it has rather parfume-like (lilies?) bouquet and liquoricey notes that are clear in the taste, too, especially after it's had time to breathe a bit. Great as is, but will work well with roasts or a lighter lighter meaty pastas. The winery itself suggests pairing with chicken curry, too. 

Oh and oh. Travelling does broaden one's horizons. And the size of your one's wine arsenal... So there - yet another reason to run away to the seas... for a minibreak anyway. Oh, all the wonderful dinners we'll be having with these...!




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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Winecruising on Viking Grace

Yup - these past few days have been awash with wine, food and good life. After that tasting dinner at Faro we took a trip to Turku, where we were Viking Line's guests on a wine cruise hosted by #1 wine writer in the country. And the day after we returned back home? Wine Expo!

So, yes, I've had more than my share of treats of which the Instagram followers got to enjoy in real time. This time I'm not going to analyze every detail and instead I'm going to let these collages (Iphone quality, I know..) do all the talking.

Wine tastings, rare bottles being opened just for us, glorious meals, great company, superb Champagnes, fantastic conversations, observations, experiences, learning new things, lie-ins in the morning, bubbly-laced breakfast, lectures, exciting new wines,  interesting producers... and the first time I ever got to witness an actual "oh, waiter - there's a fly in my soup" - conversation.  Though in all honesty that soup was actually Piper Heidsieck Rare Millessime Brut from 2002...! (oh, I'm spoilt, I know...)

Fantastic trip - highly recommend!




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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Dining and w(h)ining in Helsinki: Faro

I was invited for an Alsace wine tasting, courtesy of Pierre Sparr wines, and a special dinner designed to accompany a hand-picked selection. The venue was Restaurant Faro, which I've visited on a couple of occasions over the years, yet have never left with a desire to return. 

The restaurant has changed hands (again) and I'm glad I went - we were in for a real treat!

Just another Tuesday......

The restaurant is located in Ruoholahti - over looking the beautiful views of Ruoholahti canal and easily accessible by pubic transportation (right next to the metro station!) 

Stylish details make for a stylish milieu, but they want to be known as a welcoming, low treshold neighbourhood bistro. Pop in for a drink or stay for dinner. On weekends they also serve brunch. 

It's all glass walls, so the views are great - throughout the year.

The wine list is customer friendly, too and most wines are available by the glass.

We kicked the evening off with a tasting. First some whites...

And then some Crémant d'Alsace.

And then we moved on to food. Innovative, beautiful dishes with well balanced flavours and textures.

Amuse-bouche for instance featured porcini dust.

The starter featured winter apple three ways.

Breads are not made on premises (owing to the limited capacity of the kitchen) but were delicious nonetheless.

Then some Arctic char and smoked venison for which Pinot Noir proved a great match.

Quail was, interestingly enough, served with Riesling. Another good match. The dish itself was to die for. 

Both the dessert and the wine it came with were equally superb: subtle, elegant...and such eye candy.

Happy tummies, happy bunnies!




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