Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Fika is the best Swedish habit

Fika is a mandated coffee break in the middle of the afternoon in Sweden. A coffee break to unwind, socialise with a friend or colleague or a casual date. But it is also acceptable to have a fika by yourself. The most traditional way to take a fika is to have a coffee with a cake or a savory snack. The most similar I have adopted taking fika in the afternoon when I need to unwind and have something sweet with a coffee. My favorite fika snack is kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon bun) or a chokladbollar (Swedish chocolate ball). 

When in Sweden, take a Fika! 

Saffransbullar paired with bryggt kaffe (black coffee) at Fabrique

Taking a fika in Malmö at Folk å Rock

One of my favorite activities is to take a fika and observe all the people around me. It is a great people-watching activity without the pressure of a full meal. Just a coffee and perhaps something sweet too. People watching in a cafe is a great solo travel activity. Fika is equally satisfying when shared with a friend. Having a good conversation over coffee and cake. We are so connected on social media and the internet these days that we forget to reconnect in real life. Fika is one of those activities that make it worthwhile to reconnect with another human being.

I high recommend that you check out this super cool documentary web series about Fika made by Fabian Schmid, a Swiss filmmaker who spent a lot of time in Sweden and interviewed the owners, employees, and guests of cafes in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, Lund, and Helsingborg. Its a super cool series that you should check out!

Chokladbollar at home is the best

Homemade chokladbollar with coconut

Homemade Chokladbollar with pearl sugar

I have been making chokladbollar at least once a month for the past few years. The recipe is fairly simple but you make your own variation to the original to make it that much better. Swedish kids grow up learning to make chokladbollar since its a no-bake recipe. I think the best chokladbollar has dark chocolate sweet, bitter, moist, and dry. The best chokladbollar I've purchased come from Östermalms Saluhall Roberts Coffee and NK Konditoriet i Nordiska Kompaniet department store in Stockholm. 

You can find Swedes taking a fika at home, at cafes, in a park, in the summer cottage. One thing is for certain it is a time to reflect, unwind, refresh, and reconnect. Sometimes we forget how to reconnect and life passes us by while we bury ourselves behind work, electronic devices, social media, chores, errands, that we forget to take a moment to stop and reconnect with the present moment. 

A savoury fika of lax, dill cream cheese, knäckebröd at home

Sometimes I don't feel like a fika with a sweet something so a little knäckebröd with lax (smoked salmon) and a smear of cream cheese washed down with coffee is perfect. Fika doesn't always have to be something sweet. Something small and savoury can be equally satisfying if one does not have a sweet tooth. 

Snickarbacken 7 in Stockholm

Snickarbacken 7 in Stockholm is part gallery, part cafe, part boutique, but so Swedish and makes the perfect place to take a fika. Located on a dead end street in upscale Östermalm district you would think that this would be a place that wouldn't have that chill vibe. With tall ceilings, quirky art on the walls (that are available for purchase), and a boutique in the corner; it appears to not have a holier-than-thou attitude. 

This cafe is in the documentary web series fika:to have coffee as one of the locations.

Fika is a wonderful Swedish tradition and taking a fika in the mid-afternoon slump can probably reinvigorate your energy levels. Fika does not have to be chokladbollar, kanellbullar, saffransbullar, chokladtårta, prinsesstårta, etc. it can certainly just be a banana, knäckebröd with lox, a piece of fruit, acai bowl, as long as it goes well with coffee, tea, or juice.

Fika is a tradition, a habit, a way of life of being present. To unwind, energise, restore, either in solitude or in the company of others. I like it. I've embraced and adopted it because coffee (especially a good cup of joe IS truly the nectar of the gods!)
Vill du fika med mig?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Wine Tasting in Singapore

Tasting the numerous wine at Wine Fiesta 2016

Drinking wine or alcoholic beverages in Singapore isn't cheap but going to multiple wine tastings for the sake of furthering my wine education is important and a much more cost effective way instead of buying dozens of bottles.

Sopexa: Understanding and appreciating Bordeaux 

Sopexa is a marketing agency to raise the profile of food, wine, and lifestyle brands based in Southeast Asia. 

This masterclass of Bordeaux wines was hosted in the fabulous Raffles Hotel for the wine industry and F&B. The focus of this master class was to demystify the exclusivity of French Bordeaux wines and pairing Bordeaux wines with Asian cuisines. A lot of Southeast Asian cuisine has a lot of spices and flavor infused into the sauces, marinades, cooking style that can be daunting for the establishment to find interesting wine pairings. The classic Bordeaux wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc full bodied wines but may or may not stand up to some of the more spicier foods available in Southeast Asia. However there's always exceptions and of course one must be experimental when pairing wine with Southeast Asian cuisine. 

In my personal opinion and taste, I love Bordeaux wines especially from the Right Bank of Saint Emillion. I was excited for Sopexa to host this masterclass. 

My purchases of the day :-)

This crazy festival hosted by Straits Wine was a free-for-all wine festival filled with winemakers selling old world wines (France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria) and new world wines (Australia, South Africa, China) as well as a few food vendors. There were free master classes during the festival and an opening dinner party (pre-booked dinner) to kickstart the festival. 

For $50 there were free wine tastings from 350 winemakers and free master classes. Sign me up! The winemakers were also offering discounts for their wines. 

I went on the last day of the festival and thankfully it was a bit of a rainy, cloudy day because this festival is held under a tent outside in Singapore's tropical heat and humidity! The rainy day deterred quite a number of attendees but it was still so crowded and cramped in that small amount of space. I was determined to try everything though despite my hatred for crowded places and anxiety when I feel claustrophobic. I value having space and time to be able to talk without straining to hear what the winemakers have to say about their wines.

With less than ideal environmental factors (and the sweating!), I managed to taste around 50 different wines and deduced my favorites to be the Hebrard Saint Emillion Grand Cru, Pasqua Chianti Classico,   Domaine de Piaugier Gigondas, and Fanti Brunello di Montalcino. I also tasted some delicious whites as well as a beautiful nutty natural Sauvignon Blanc from Australia (Pictured above). 

Would I go to another Wine Fiesta again? Sure but I hope they host it in a bigger indoor location next time to keep the stability of the temperature of the wines and reduce the sweating and body odors. 

PS cafe: New Zealand wines

PS Petit Cafe at Martin road hosts a month free Wine Tasting almost every month and I happened to be eating lunch there one day and noticed the flyer. This restaurant location of the PS Cafe chain is a beautiful relaxed space and one of my favorite restaurants in Singapore. 

A free wine tasting!? Why of course... 

I showed up that Sunday early for the event and was pleasantly surprised to an array of different wines presented by PS Cafe and the winemakers as well. The new world wines from Australia and New Zealand are a lot more affordable in Singapore to purchase than old world wines so a F&B establishment would have an easier time to sell bottles or glasses from this region. This particular tasting was focused on New Zealand wines. In my personal opinion, out of the two new world wine regions, I prefer New Zealand wines, particularly the Rieslings. The acidity, stone fruit flavors, mineral finish, with a hint of herbal flavors make the Rieslings particularly interesting and complex. 

WEA wines of Burgundy:

This event was a pretty good sampling of the wines from Burgundy hosted by WEA Wines. They host regular wine tasting events and dinners as well as sell wines from Burgundy, Champagne, Bordeaux. This was my first time attending one of their events and it happened to be their biggest week of winegrowers festival with wine dinners with the winemakers themselves. 

The standouts for me Gevrey-Chambertin, Meurseult, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru. The selections were quite well curated and WEA wine portfolio builds a solid case for the wine collector, wine enthusiast, wine fanatic, wine writers, wine alcoholics, wine snobs, etc. 

WEA Wines: Domaine Duroche Burgundy masterclass

The following night was a wine tasting by Domaine Duroche's winemaker. This collection is superb and the pinot noir offered were classic Bourgogne but had a beautiful delicate complexity, particularly the Lavaut Saint Jacques from 2014 (and 2015 for the previous night!)

The young winemaker is pushing the perfection and complexities with his wines that are taking notice among the winemaker circles. The wines are priced moderately high end for the Singapore market. (I'm always appalled by the prices of wine and spirits in Singapore)

This event was a nice casual wine tasting in the storage for Underground wines. This event focused on New Zealand wines. The winemaker for Unison wines was there to walk us through the wine tasting. Sometimes going to wine tasting events, you meet many people who are there to just drink lots of wine. I get a bit of weird looks when I use the spittoon to spit out wine. My reasoning for spitting is to make informed tasting notes without the blanket of being slightly intoxicated. Usually at tastings I try everything and then decide which are the standouts and may have a glass or two of vino. At this particular tasting, the place was certainly out of the way and I had to figure out where the actual office/storage unit was in the office building that was pretty much desolate by evening. I felt like I was part of some kind of underground wine club.

WEA wines: Natural wines of Burgundy 

Another wine tasting by WEA Wines. This time the focus was on natural Burgundy wines and Yann Durieaux. There were 4 wines at this tasting and the standout for me is the DH Rouge. This pinot noir  had a smooth rounded appeal with the flavors of candied cherries, hints of blackberries, and perfume. A lovely long finish with medium tannins and acidity. I have been interested in natural wines a lot more these days as there are added flavors to natural wines that are not as present in regular wines. I hope to try more natural wines in the near future.

Burgundy/Bourgogne pinot noirs are one of my favorite wine regions and the wines are beautiful, delicate, and very easy to drink! The complexity of the wines (chardonnay, pinot noir - are the majority grap varietals) coming out of this region are traditional yet there are winemakers such as Yann Durieaux in the natural wine category that is exciting to watch!