Saturday, March 25, 2017

6 of my favorite Capital Cities in the world

6 of my favorite Capital Cities in the world

1. New York City

New York City is where it all happens. Wall street, Fashion, Broadway, Hipsters, Food trends. Technically not the capital city of the USA but in my opinion its the capital city of the world. I had a beautiful love affair with New York City as my home. Just walking in a city that literally never sleeps and convenience at your doorstep (Hello Seamlessweb, Rent the Runway, Fresh Direct, Beauty services, etc.) or a subway/bus ride away, you can get anything and be anything in New York. Its a vibrant bustling city with the most talented and no-nonsense people you will find. You either love it or hate it.

My Favorite spots in New York

2. Stockholm

Stockholm has beautiful architecture, islands, people, food, culture, fashion, fika, and lifestyle. This city is stunning! From my first visit to my 8th - the experiences and memories were all different and according to the seasons. This Swedish capital morphs and changes according to seasons along with its residents. In the summer, everyone is out ALL the time and partying. When the leaves start to fall and the air gets a little colder, people prepare for the holiday season and head back to indoors-only activities. During the winter months, the days are short and the dark winter nights make walking around a bit chillier but has that mysterious air that is captured perfectly in Nordic Noir films.

When in Sweden, YOU must have a Fika

3. Amsterdam/Copenhagen

Quirky, weird, architecture, canals, coffee shops, liberals, art, Indonesian food, and eclectic. Amsterdam has the trappings of what I love. A capital city that acts like a town. This is a walking city (or if you're an expert city biker) and the trams are also easy to navigate. Residents are always on a rush on their bikes so get out of their way! However, if you find them in a cafe, coffee shop, restaurant, they are certainly a friendly bunch. I've used Amsterdam as a pit stop for a couple nights in most recent years whenever I'm traveling through Europe. The architecture is really quaint and you will want to constantly be taking pictures of every canal and bridge you pass through.

Summer part 1 in Brussels and Amsterdam


Copenhagen is another fantastic walking city that is lined with colorful buildings, Danish design interior furniture, cobble stone streets, castles, palaces, museums, and tons of Michelin starred restaurants and bars. Similar to Amsterdam, Copenhagen also has residents that are in a hurry on their bikes to get to their destinations so I would only recommend renting a bike if you're an expert city cyclist. A lot of innovation and creativity goes on in Copenhagen and you can see it in the food, fashion, design, and architecture. Always looking forward and innovating, the Danes have a great quality of life in a sense that they make sure they take breaks to refresh their mind before figuring out the next great design.

My journey to Noma

4. London

Oh London! You amaze me with your stunning old architecture and new skyscrapers. Winding little alleyways to riverside walks along the Thames. I have to be honest, the first time I was in London, I wasn't too impressed. I was in a weird headspace at that time and kept comparing London to New York. London is not New York. London is London. A British metropolis with traditions of standing outside the pub while drinking beer, eating fish and chips or pie on the way home, rushing around in the tube stations, walking fast and looking preoccupied, free art museums, beautiful palaces and gardens, thriving art scene, and very cool residents. The more I visit this fine metropolis, the more I adore it and simply want to discover different neighbourhoods.

Wandering amongst hipsters in Shoreditch

5. Vienna

Music, easy public transportation, urban, good food, palaces, cafes, museums, art, and good coffee, wine, beer, schnitzel! Vienna is a wonderful city and its no big surprise that its rated very highly as one of the most liveable cities of the world. With moderate prices, big wide streets, lots of bike paths (I did rent a bike and ride through the city here - with a lot of caution of course!), friendly residents, and just gorgeous architecture. I have been to Vienna only a couple times but I want to keep returning because there is so much to do and see in this beautiful city.

Summer part 3: Music, schnitzel, museums, and palaces in Vienna

6. Singapore

And now we've come to my birth country and where I hold my permanent residence card proudly. Singapore is a small island country off the tip of Malaysia very close to the equator. The tropical temperatures really get to me and I spend most of my days indoors in Singapore. I grew up here as an expat kid and went to an international school. Those were some good and bad memories. The food scene in Singapore is incredible with local food dishes to the multitude of hipster eateries and cafes, celebrity chef owned restaurants, and not to mention the cool speakeasies, cocktail bars, and pumping clubs. Its a love/hate relationship with Singapore for me at times because it isn't easy to be a third culture kid returning to a place that I once called home. I feel like an anomaly because I speak, act, and think differently from true-blue Singaporeans due to my background. My friends in Singapore are mostly other expats or globally-minded Singaporeans. Though most of these feelings are personal conflict, subjectively speaking... Singapore is a great place with skyscrapers, urban gardens, abundance of food, shopping centres, and the mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian, Expats, Tourists, make it an interesting multicultural country.

A bourgeois guide to eating, drinking, shopping, and pampering in Singapore

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Fika is the best Swedish habit

UPDATE! Purchase a signed limited edition copy of my cookbook "In search of the best Swedish chokladbollar"

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?