A City Guide to Helsinki – Best Places in Town

The first time I travelled to Helsinki was two years ago, thanks to My Helsinki who invited me to experience the Helsinki Secret program. Since then I have been lucky enough to go back to Finland and experience Lapland in winter and the archipelago near Turku in summer – twice!

Frequent stops in Helsinki have allowed me to make friends who have introduced me to some of the best restaurants and bars in the city.

So, here is my personal city guide to Helsinki. Hope you enjoy it!

Breakfast / Pastries
Café Ekberg, best bread and pastries in town
The Cock, I know… And they open at 11am, but you’re on holiday, right?
Ipi Kulmakuppila, it’s in Kallio – the hipster neighbourhood of Helsinki – and it’s beautifully designed

Restaurants
Juuri, “Finnish cuisine with attitude.” Perfection in a dish. Impossible not to love it
Sandro, Middle Eastern flavours and a down-to-earth atmosphere
Fisken på Disken, looking for fish? This it the place
Savotta, traditional Finnish cuisine in front of the Helsinki Cathedral
Nolla, the best discovery of my last trip. Passionate owners, great chef and a food recycler compost machine – a must!
Vibami, quaint Vietnamese restaurant in the city center

Cocktails, beers and wine
Yes Yes Yes!, a perfectly designed and vegan friendly restaurants in a former McDonald’s. Sharable dishes and a fantastic selection of cocktails, wine, and beer!
Bier-Bier, good selection of beers from all over the world
Bar Bronco, local sports bar where you can watch hockey games
Holiday Bar, to pretend you are somewhere tropical even if it’s -10°C outside
Il Birrificio, if you are in the mood for craft beer and sausage
Soil Wine Room, good selection of wines and Spanish tapas

Coffee Shops
Andante, where Finland meets Japan (or viceversa)
Paulig Kulma, Finland’s most famous coffee roaster opened a coffee shop, a great place to get some work done!
El Fant, one of my favorite coffee shops. I usually get a green tea and an avocado toast. Trust me!

Hotels
Hotel Indigo, best location, friendly staff and nice rooms
Hotel Katajanokka, a former prison turned into a hotel
Aallonkoti, right next to the central station, it’s so comfortable you may not want to leave
Lilla Roberts, Art Deco hotel in the design district

 

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lauraA City Guide to Helsinki – Best Places in Town

Poke – The Original Hawaiian Recipe

I love Hawai’i. And I think we should respect the food traditions of other cultures. With that in mind, I felt compelled to do a short and educational post about poke.

In Milan we are currently living through pokemania, or as most places would write it—pokémania.

C’mon guys, it’s poke! Repeat it with me: pˈk/poh-kay with no accent!

Almost every new poke place here is called poké-something and it’s not just the spelling they’re getting wrong, many are also making a dish far away from the original recipe. I write this out of love for Hawaii, and because I’d like to find a good poke option in Italy, too.

In her wonderful book, The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary HeritageRachel Laudan posits that the original Hawaiian recipe for poke was created back in the 1960s. It may not be ancient dish, but its deeply Hawaiian, so we should try to get it right.

So, here are the essentials as I see them:

The meaning: Poke means to slice, to cut. Fish in this case. Raw fish. It’s a raw fish salad made the Hawaiian way.
Traditionally, it is made with aku (oily tuna) or he’e/tako (octopus). These days you’ll often see ahi (yellow tuna). Salmon and shellfish are other options, but not the rule. It doesn’t even have to include seafood, avocado poke and tofu poke are common vegetarian substitutes.

Cube shaped: The fish is cut into cubes, not thin slices like chirashi. It really affects the texture!

Seasoning: The fish should be seasoned with shoyu, green onions, and sesame oil. All of these three ingredients are mandatory! You can add more, but you can’t leave these three out.

Now, I’m not Hawaiian—only in my soul—so I’d love to hear what some Hawaiians, chefs, and poke fans think about what makes a great authentic poke.

Poke as it is served at Mai Tai Bar in Maui, Hawai’i in 2016.

For more about Poke, I found this article on The Honolulu Magazine really interesting – Poke: Past and Present
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lauraPoke – The Original Hawaiian Recipe

A City Guide to Milan – Best Places in Town

Lots of people keep asking me for a list of my favorite places in Milan. So this is a personal guide to some of the best spots in town. And I’ll keep updating this guide as I find new places here in Milan!

Breakfast / Pastries
Giacomo, great light and atmosphere in the morning, Palazzo Reale
Bar Luce, Wes Anderson designed bar, Fondazione Prada
Pasticceria Marchesi, I prefer the one in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
Pave Break, less crowded than the original one, Porta Romana
Taglio, best eggs benedict in Milan

Trattoria / Restaurants
La Madonnina, Ticinese/Navigli Area
La Crota Piemunteisa, Ticinese/Navigli Area
Trippa, Porta Romana
Giulio Pane e Ojo, traditional Roman food, Porta Romana
Giacomo Bistrot and Giacomo Rosticceria, Via Sottocorno
Rataná, best Milanese risotto in town, Garibaldi/Isola district
Erba Brusca, farm-to-table restaurant, outside the city center
Langosteria, best fish restaurant, Navigli Area
Taverna Moriggi, traditional Milanese food in a freshly renewed historical restaurant
Huan, Oriental bistrot with a good selection of cocktails

Bread / Pizza
Quei Due, Ticinese/Navigli Area
Dry, the best pizza in Milan paired with incredible cocktails, Brera
Sorbillo, lievito madre al Duomo
Panificio Davide Longoni, best bread in Milano, Porta Romana

Sushi / Japanese
Poporoya, Chef Shiro is a sushi legend and so is his chirashi, Porta Venezia
Casa Ramen Super, Luca is bringing to Milan the best of Japanese fusion cuisine with an Italian twist, Isola District
Tenoha, a modern Japanese restaurant inside a Milanese court, Navigli Area

Cocktails
Rita, by far my favorite one, Navigli Area
Mag Café,hipster hangout, Navigli Area
Carlo e Camilla in Segheria, the location is as great as their cocktails, Navigli Area
Bar Basso, birthplace of the Negroni Sbagliato, Porta Venezia

Beers 
Al Coccio, Navigli Area
Pave Birra, Porta Venezia
Birrificio Lambrate, since 1996 good craft beer made in Milan, Lambrate
Hop, the younger brother of Birrificio Lambrate a bit closer to the city center, Porta Romana
Bar Magenta, they say they invented the aperitivo in Milan, Corso Magenta x Carducci

Wine
La Cieca, Porta Romana
Il Vinaccio, Navigli Area
Saketeca, if you are more into Sake, they have wine, too!

Workspaces
Santeria Social Club, near the Bocconi University
Cascina Cuccagna, an old converted farmhouse in the city center, Porta Romana
Walden Cafe Milano, tiny and chill next to Corso di Porta Ticinese

Architecture / Design
Villa Necchi Campiglio, famous worldwide for Guadagnino’s movie, “I Am Love”, Via Mozart
Fondazione Castiglioni, best to book in advance to discover more about the father of functional Italian design, Cadorna
Laboratorio Paravicini, hand-painted tableware workshop in the 5 Vie Design District
Fondazione Prada, the best contemporary art foundation in Milan, Porta Romana

 

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lauraA City Guide to Milan – Best Places in Town

Chicken Mole Tacos

Mexican is on my list of best 3 food cultures in the world along with Japanese and Italian.

I can’t get enough of those flavours and spices and my addiction is only growing stronger after a recent trip to Mexico City, Chiapa de Corzo, and Oaxaca.

Santa Maria asked me to develop three recipes inspired by real Mexican food. After attempting a ceviche tostada and tlayuda, I challenged myself with the most traditional (and complex) Mexican sauce – mole!

Typical of the Oaxaca region, you can find thousands of recipe of this cocoa-based sauce. I made one I think lends itself to Italian tastes for this chicken mole taco recipe.

Ingredients for two people:

Chicken Mole Tacos

– peanut oil
– 500 g boneless, skinless chicken thighs
– 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
– 1 cup bloody orange juice
– onions, sliced
– 2 teaspoons taco seasoning mix
– 1 cup pistachios
– garlic cloves, to taste
– 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
– 1 teaspoon ancho chili pepper
– 1 teaspoon pasilla chili pepper
– 2 fresh green chili peppers
– 1/4 cup raisins
– 1 teaspoons dried oregano
– 30 gr Mexican chocolate – it’s dark and grainy. In Italy you can use chocolate from Modica to get the same result.
– fresh cilantro, chopped
– warm corn and wheat tortillas

Slice the boneless and skinless chicken thighs. In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.
Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and cook until lightly browned. Transfer the chicken into a larger pot, together with its juice.
Add the broth and the orange juice. Reduce heat to medium-low when boiling; cover and simmer until chicken is tender and cooked, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan. Add onions and cook until they are golden. Add pistachios, garlic, cumin, and chillies.

Transfer the chicken into a large bowl. Pour chicken and its broth into the onion mixture. Add raisins and oregano to the saucepan. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Let stand until chocolate melts and the sauce mixture cools slightly, about 15 minutes.

Blend the sauce mixture until smooth.
Serve your chicken on warm tortillas, add the mole sauce and sprinkle with cilantro.

Add some red radish and, if you like it, a dollop of sour cream – just whisk plain yogurt and lemon juice together with salt and pepper to taste!

Voila!

This series of three recipes is brought to you thanks to Santa Maria products, available in Italy. All opinions are my own.

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Oaxaca: A Living Still Life

I like random connections. I like meeting people through work and then seeing them again on the other side of the world.

A couple of years ago I shot a project in Milan with Stephen Torres, after we were introduced by Jackie De Giorgio.
After few days in Mexico City and a week in the incredible Chiapa de Corzo, my Mexican journey continued in Oaxaca.
There, this January, Stephen and I found ourselves enjoying warm days in Mexico, celebrating good food, music, and the launch of his new Mezcal at the beautiful Casa Oaxaca.


The light and the colours, the lines and shadows from the architecture – everything in the tiny capital of Oaxaca state feels purposeful.

Oaxaca: a living still life.

Here my personal recommendation if you are planning a trip to Oaxaca.

Start the day with a coffee at Café El Volador.
If you are into nature and succulents, visit the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca – unfortunately, you can only access the garden with a guided tour, but it’s still worth it!
Stop for a drink at Sabina Sabe. Get some tacos con mole at Las Quince Letras.
Treat yourself with a 8-course lunch at Criollo, designed by Javier Sánchez for the Chef Enrique Olvera.

Enjoy the beauty and the calm of Oaxaca.

 

Where to sleep
Un Sueño, Valle de Huajes
Casa Oaxaca

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