Tag: markets

food in finland, part three: the beautiful market square of helsinki

beautiful buildings and market square

I absolutely adore markets. I love farmers markets with overflowing stalls of freshly dug, dirt-spattered vegetables and sun-ripened fruits.  I love prepared food markets with sizzling grills and enticing smells and people shoveling food into their mouths on the street corner.  I love talking to producers and sellers and seeing what people have made and grown and created and trucked all the way in from the countryside in the middle of the night to sell to people as the sun rises.   I love how the identity of the location, the culture of the area and the possibilities of the landscape all come together in the items sold for consumption and enjoyment.

Unsurprisingly, I loved Helsinki’s Market Square.  Bags still in hand, I serendipitously stumbled upon this maze of bright orange tarpaulined stalls on my way from the central train station to my hotel.  Entranced by the brand new and exciting foods and the absolutely incomprehensible Finnish signage, I had to tear myself away to go check into my room and get some work done, my heavy suitcase bounce-bounce-bouncing forlornly against the cobblestoned streets as a reminder of all the tasks at hand.

But not to fear – over my three days in Helsinki, I returned multiple times daily to conquer the as-yet-undiscovered foods of my edible explorations. Next to the old world of blueberries lay the uncharted territories of mistletoe-red lingonberries and mango-bright cloudberries…

blueberries, lingonberries and cloudberries Read the full article »

food in finland, part one: the old market hall in helsinki

whitefish with rose pepper on rye bread

Thanks to the Old Market Hall in Helsinki, I started Thursday morning with a stunningly good Americano and an open-faced sandwich of whitefish, rose peppercorns, and fresh sprigs of dill on rye bread that looked like Christmas and tasted like the ocean.  Thanks to the Old Market Hall,  I purchased a variety of traditional Finnish delicacies and ate them on an island with a historical sea fortress and the only combination lighthouse/church in the world. Thanks to The Go Game,  I’m in Helsinki staying just a few cobblestoned streets from the Old Market Hall. Sometimes I have the best job in the world.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games and market-hopping as I’m just coming off  some intense work weeks with no time even for blogging!  And running on startup funds means a lack of finances to take advantage of the Michelin-starred gastronomic temples to Nordic cuisine sprinkled around the Finnish capital. As several locals mentioned to me, food is pretty expensive in Helsinki. But I most enjoy simple (and delicious) pleasures and am soul-satisfyingly happy buying a loaf of bread and a wedge of cheese and sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean and the Helsinki skyline. I don’t need  long-stemmed wine glasses and 80 euro tasting menus to experience Finnish food…not that I’d turn it down if someone offered. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

the old market hall in helsinki

Let’s  get back (figuratively) to the Old Market Hall, which I went back to (literally) every day I was in Helsinki. Our client fortuitously selected a starting and ending location across the street from the Market (also known as the Vanha Kauppahalli) and I was on my way to check out the venue when I walked by the Hall, idly glanced in a window, and noticed an abundance of hanging sausages. Unquestionably a detour was in order…
Read the full article »

random london encounters over beet marinated salmon and coconut shrimp

london is an absolutely massive city. the current population of approximately 7.5 million is almost exactly 10 times the size of my former city of san francisco, practically a quaint seaside town in comparison.  these 7.5 million people richochet across 650 square miles, hurtling from the west end to the east end, from north of the river to south of the river, encountering hundreds or potentially thousands of new faces each day. you’d think it would be nearly impossible to randomly run into the same person over and over again, that the likelihood of your path crossing over another person’s london trajectory must be fairly small. and yet, how often might we see the same people over and over again without really noticing?

take, for example, my most coincidental of london acquaintances, patrice. patrice, on the right in the photo below, runs  sauce á part, a culinary company creating french-creole cuisine with pacific and mediterranean influences that caters, produces food events, and runs a stall at broadway market.

patrice from sauce apart

a few weekends ago, on a perfect sunny saturday of people-watching, canal-walking, vintage-browsing, and of course obsessive eating, i dragged a fresh-off-the-plane annie to broadway market just up the road as soon as she got to the house.  we stopped at patrice’s stall to chat and she asked how we knew each other. and all i could say was, it was just one of those random london encounters.  i first met patrice at his broadway market stall about 2 months ago with my friend dan. and by ‘met,’ i mean that he offered me a sample of sumptuous slow roasted pork and i accepted (obviously) but was too full from a face-stuffing borough market trip to purchase anything.  i told him i’d be back sometime with an empty stomach. and then we moved on.

later that night, after an extended journey all the way across london to the opening of the pavilion at the serpentine gallery in hyde park and back east, dan and i quite unexpectedly found ourselves at the final evening of the double club, a congolese street market themed pop-up restaurant/bar/dance club/art installation in a huge warehouse behind the angel tube station in islington.  waiting in line for drinks, i ran into patrice again, who somehow remembered me from our 3-minute encounter earlier in the day. we talked food, we talked markets, we talked global cuisine, we talked more food, and i promised to return to his stall again soon. it was a lovely discussion and such an odd encounter considering the series of steps it took for us to arrive at the double club and how many times we almost got derailed along the way. how often might this path-crossing occur unnoticed or unacknowledged?  it’s fascinating to think about all the different ways in which people’s lives intersect and how we might be completely unaware…

i always find it interesting to consider these trajectories. of course, being a bit of an obsessive eater, they often lead back to food. i didn’t see patrice again for about two months but a few weekends ago, fate crossed our paths to bestow upon me this gorgeously hued beet-marinated salmon, vibrant with color like the petals of a tropical flower.

beet marinated salmon

Read the full article »

an early morning food adventure at the wholesale fruit and vegetable market

unsurprisingly, it takes quite a lot of carrots to make roasted carrot dip for 100 strangers. same goes for the eggplant, red onion, and zucchini needed to make somewhere between 18 and 20 pans of roasted vegetable foccacia. rather than pay regular prices and lug massive bags home from the supermarket, our crew of rambling cooks  – synnove, michelle, and myself – decided it would be efficient, cost-effective, and most importantly, fun to make an early morning trip to the wholesale produce market at new covent garden.

bags of vegetables

despite what the name might suggest, new covent garden market is absolutely nowhere near regular covent garden. in fact, the market is located on the opposite side of the river in the vauxhall area which meant we would need to obtain some sort of vehicle for food and person transport. luckily, synnove’s boyfriend pete generously offered us the use of his car and even more impressively, his services as driver at the ungodly hour of 5am for our fruit and veg quest.

Read the full article »

food tours with the hackney hostel: macaroons, focaccia, and one hell of a churro

macaroons from laduree in paris

we’ve had a steady stream of friends and family rotating through the hackney hostel over the past month, which has meant many a fantastic food exploration throughout london. having some of my favorite people in town has been wonderful, not in the least when your houseguests bring you delicious treats straight from paris like these insanely decadent macaroons from the famous ladurée shop.  from the top:  salted caramel, chocolate, rose, and pistachio. amazing. thanks chris and ant!

of course, no visit to the hackney hostel is complete without visiting several markets. we made the absolutely essential saturday morning hangover stop at the toasted cheese stall at borough market, then hit up the usual suspects like scallops and bacon, fresh oysters, strawberries and cream, lamb burgers, halloumi veggie burgers, and all those old friends. a new discovery was the focacc-with-many-deliciously-unexpected-ingredients like the one i purchased with leeks, pine nuts, and ricotta. i’ve started experimenting with making focaccia, which i’ll post about someday, so it was inspiring to see all the inventive combinations. my most recent visitors – anthony, dan, and christine – show off my focaccia here. you can’t really see the bread, but you can see their excitable foodie delight (especially anthony’s).

ant dan chris and the focaccia

Read the full article »

a brief interlude of cupcake glorification: violet cupcakes at broadway market are lovely bites of heaven

cupcake closeups

this  post is all about the best cupcakes i’ve had so far in london. i took kellin to visit the adorable and wonderful broadway market during her last hour in london before returning to italy. stuffed from our borough market visit, we brokenheartedly turned down wild mushroom risotto, ghanaian food, and roast hog with crackling sandwiches. but we decided to treat ourselves to ONE mini cupcake because they were so ridiculously cute, and obviously brownie mountains and fresh strawberries with jersey cream were not quite enough dessert for the morning.

so we stopped at the happy stall of violet cakes and bought the enticing rhubarb and rosewater mini cupcake, a pale  pink and perfectly formed little turkish dome of dessert.  it was, quite honestly, ethereally delicious. so light and smooth yet so intensely flavored, like having the essence of rose petals in your mouth. such a tiny bite yet such a concentrated burst of taste! we promptly returned and bought another.

Read the full article »

random food porn: salmon hand rolls, fried pig's ears, a belly full of tayyabs, and extreme scotch egg eating.

are you hungry? i am (shocker).  i’m currently roasting the potatoes, onions, and carrots from my organic veg box scheme in the oven with rosemary and sage from the garden (and by garden i mean five potted plants, two facing imminent death).  while those cook, i’m visually  stimulating my appetite, and hopefully yours, with photos of some recent things i’ve eaten.

we’ll start with the salmon, avocado and sesame hand roll from a sushi stall at the sunday upmarket at the old truman brewery.

salmon hand roll

delicious fresh salmon rolled right before your eyes! i’ve noticed there’s a lot more japanese home cooking here than in the states, where japanese restaurants are primarily sushi-focused. i went to an amazing okonomi-yaki (japanese pancake) place this week, which is apparently the only one of its kind in europe. post on that, plus videos, coming when i get my act together.

next up, fried pig’s ears! i have trouble turning down food items  that are: a) weird, b) things i haven’t tried before,  c) an unusual part of an animal, d) a local delicacy or traditional food and e) deep fried. the following item satisfied all categories (although some people might debate the use of the word ‘delicacy’), so obviously it needed to be in my mouth.

fried pigs ears from albion

Read the full article »

around the world in 80 million bites: roast hog, octopus balls and injera at the incredible sunday upmarket

truman brewery on brick lane

continuing my series of posts on london’s amazing markets, i’m now going to deluge you with photos and effusive/obsessive words on the fantastic global bazaar of eats available at the sunday upmarket at the old truman brewery on brick lane. chris and i have hit up brick lane every sunday since we moved to hackney, but didn’t make it all the way down to the upmarket the first weekend as we were distracted by various household and junk items at heavily discounted prices (read: dug out of someone’s attic or stolen off the back of a truck).

luckily, we kept walking south the next sunday and happened upon an adorable stall of japanese food. impressed by the setup and unable to turn down anything involving street food and a deep fryer, we ordered the special donburi of assorted fried items and a slab of salmon on a bed of rice with salad and teriyaki sauce. YUM.

japanese food stall

having happily filled our bellies, we then turned a corner and walked down a narrow alley lined with stores and restaurants  into ely’s yard,  a huge lot filled with picnic tables, food stalls and tons of people. we then realized that a whole new world of food was before us and i mean LITERALLY a whole world – i’ve never seen food from so many different countries and cultures in one place in my whole life.  off the top of my head, i recall peruvian, japanese, thai, sri lankan, turkish, argentinian, russian, ethiopian, moroccan, peruvian, tibetan, chinese, spanish, brazilian and caribbean. oh yeah, and mauritius island food. SERIOUSLY? the two of us wandered around for ages with our mouths open, drool spilling unattractively from the corners, wishing we were cows and had four stomachs to fill with international delicacies.

picnic tables at brick lane upmarket

since we were both stuffed with friedness, we just wandered and ogled and took mental notes of what to eat when we returned the next weekend. which is exactly what we did, eamon in tow and stomachs ready to do some global adventuring.

Read the full article »

more highlights from borough market and reasons why london is great: the second saturday

in what is quickly becoming a weekly tradition, i followed up last week’s vaguely hungover borough market trip with an even more hungover borough market trip the next saturday.  i already mentioned the enlightening food tour and the toasted cheese of the gods from this visit already, but wanted to share a few more photos because the market is just that awesome.

here are the highlights of this lovely saturday market trip, plus a few reasons why i am falling in love with london.

highlight# 1: the biggest vat of thai green curry with mussels ever seen.

biggest vat of green curry ever

if this isn’t a category in the guinness book of world records, it should be. then i could compete to be the person who consumed the most thai green curry with mussels ever. super stardom, here i come.

Read the full article »

eat my pies! i mean andy's pies. and his scotch eggs and pud baps…

hellooo scotch eggs

if you’re seeing this photo back in the States, you’re probably thinking, GOOD LORD mei, what in god’s name are you eating over there? well, my dear friends, welcome to the wonderful world of the scotch egg.  the traditional scotch egg, as shown above, is a hard-boiled egg removed from the shell, surrounded by minced sausage, rolled in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried. if you’re still recoiling in horror from that photo, come over here and try one, because it’s  really seriously delicious.

i should stop here and say that the traditional scotch egg is not always delicious and is quite often pretty nasty. as andy, the maker of this delicious scotch egg told me, they’re usually sold at service stations (gas stations) and overcooked, mushy, and full of scary meat. thank god someone is addressing this important issue and that someone is andy.  as the chef/creator behind eat my pies, andy is bringing back the retro british delicacies with an impressive attention to ingredients, an innovative fusion of food cultures, and an emphasis on the thoughtful preparation of well-loved but often poorly manufactured classics. he also referred to a slow food-like philosophy on making simple food with good ingredients, an idea that he says lost traction during the war when fresh ingredients were scarce and led to the overprocessing of ingredients and glorification of fast food. i’m hoping to chat more about this with him when i’m not staring distractedly at a bountiful array of deep-fried things i can put in my mouth.

andy of eat my pies

Read the full article »