Tag Archives: travel

Street Food? So 2009. The Hot New Trend In Food Is Now Sailing Your Way…

Street food is big these days.  San Francisco has its Street Food Festival. New York has its street food Vendy Awards and its vendor turf wars. LA has taco and Korean BBQ trucks  so famous they’re getting profiled over here in London.

But I’ve just discovered the most exciting new movement in mobile food, coming to you straight from the South Harbor of Helsinki, Finland: BOAT FOOD.

this is sea food. boat vendors!

The smiling Finnish lady on the boat may not promote her whereabouts on Twitter, but she does a brisk business selling an array of smoked and fried fish off her quaint little craft. Despite a bit of a language barrier, she managed to convey her selection with broken English, pointing, and a bit of guesswork on my part: whole smoked whitefish, perch, and trout; burnished fillets of salmon;  and palm-sized morsels of fried herring.  I purchased a small piece of the herring with a very thin layer of crunchiness and a generous sprinkling of dill sprigs for the solid price of 1 euro.  It was the perfect street food snack: delicious, slightly greasy, very local, and ridiculously cheap.

fried herring from the boat vendor

Oops. Did I say street food snack? I’m still wrestling with the correct terminology for food sold from watercraft.  If we’re going for parallels, I suppose I should refer to the area about which these mobile food vendors hawk their snacks-on-the-go.  Food trucks move around the street. Food boats move around the water. But Water Food just doesn’t sound right. Sea Food? Ocean Food? Harbor or canal or river food? Bodies-of-water food? Although the exact nomenclature may leave something to be desired, I can’t get over the brilliance of this mobile fish snack vendor. Yes, I realize I have a somewhat overzealous love for boats.

But I’m certainly not the only one who likes boats  (T-Pain does too!). Boats make people happy and so does mobile food and more people should put the two together.  And there would be plenty of opportunities to sell…come to think of it, all of my favorite markets are located by bodies of water. The Ferry Building Farmer’s Market in San Francisco is on the Bay. Pike Place in Seattle is on Puget Sound. Here in London, Borough Market is on the Thames and Broadway Market is on Regent’s Canal.  Clearly, it’s time for all these markets to get with the program and adopt the newest market and mobile food innovation of the future.

Anyone else know of any boat food vendors? Or want to donate me a boat to kickstart this new movement?  I am accepting all generous offers and in return you can come snack on my boat.

Bodies-Of-Water-Food, your time in the spotlight has come.

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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…

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food in finland, part two: a market picnic on the islands of suomenlinna the sea fortress

finnish cheese and smoked reindeer on suomenlinna island

As if the Old Market Hall in Helsinki weren’t amazing enough on its own, it can also boast of a beautiful location just on the water overlooking the South Harbor. Enormous cruise ships loom as tall as skyscrapers and as large as city blocks, dwarfing the little local tugboats and ferry boats that zip through the harbor and around the coast and islands. In the helpful visitor’s centre just by the Market Square I bought a 24 hour travel card that included unlimited travel on the trams, buses, and most excitingly, the ferry to the islands of Suomenlinna. Let’s be quite frank –  I will never, ever, fail to be highly entertained by being on a boat

Of course lots of rye breadwhen setting off on an island adventure, one must always think ahead to provide sustenance for the daring and dangerous trip ahead. Unlike most other stranded islanders foraging for coconuts and dead bugs,  I had the luxury of departing from a ferry stop a mere four minutes walk from the Old Market Hall so I stocked up on Finnish treats for the voyage.

I started with a mini loaf of classic Scandinavian rye bread (100% ruis!)  and bought some strong Finnish cheese that I can’t even begin to pronounce but is spelled viinitarhurin.  Brushed with wine and aged for six months, the cheese reminded me a bit of a comte or gruyere with its smooth slices crumbling into nutty shards.  Add a bit of  deep burgundy colored and intensely flavorful Rudolph the delicious cold-smoked reindeer and it’s a ridiculously adorable little Finnish sandwich of love.

love is bread, cheese, and reindeer meat

Snacks in hand, I boarded the ferry for the 15 minute ride across the harbor to Suomenlinna

the ferry to suomenlinna island Continue reading

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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…
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chicken coops, award-winning bread, and buffalo milk at the organic food festival

saturday was a pretty eventful day.  chris and i got up at 6am, hopped a train to sunny bristol, ran a Go Game at igfest, then jumped out of a plane and parachuted straight into the organic food festival. okay, that last part is entirely untrue. but we got asked about 20 times if we had skydived directly to bristol, clad as we were in our unbelievably attractive trademark orange jumpsuits while wandering around the largest organic showcase in europe.

entering the organic food festival

it was one of those magical instances where the forces of nature align at the precise moment to allow for our attendance at the festival.  not only did it happen to be in the right city at the exact time we were already traveling there for work, but the massive marketplace of food activities was situated about 20 feet from our game location. ridiculous. thanks to the organic foodie gods smiling upon us, we got to tour the many stalls of farmers, bakers, ice cream makers, olive oil producers, brewers, and so much more.  most importantly, we got to eat lot of stuff. delicious stuff. stuff like this clown smile of cheese from the bath soft cheese company.

the bath soft cheese company

i am going to make my way to Bath (pronounced bawwth) just to eat more of this cheese.  sadly i don’t remember the name, but i think it might just be the fantastically named Wyfe of Bath, described on their website as ‘succulent and bouncy.’  ahahaha. are they taking the piss? did chaucer write their copy?  hilarious.

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amsterdam, part four: the greasy underbelly of the city’s food scene

oh so much mayonnaise

mmm…nothing like a blanket of mayonnaise to stimulate the appetite. lest you think tastes in the city of amsterdam are so refined as to produce only plentiful cornucopias of fresh produce and traditional artisan cheese wheels, i thought i’d share some photos of the darker side of the city’s gastronomic offerings.   if you despise the deep-fried, cringe at cholesterol, and fear fattiness in full force, shield your delicate eyes from the following gallery of wonders.

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amsterdam, part three: dutch hockey stadium food for the win!

fresh fruit cups at the stadium

in the wise words of the irish legend eoin flinner, the food at wagener hockey stadium in amsterdam is ‘absolutely savage.’  i don’t know if it’s a dutch thing or a european thing or we’re-not-in-kansas-eating-deep-fried-anything-anymore thing, but i’ve never seen food like this at a sporting event.  sure,  i’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for a good old fenway frank and garlic fries are part of the fun at A’s and 49ers games,  but i was seriously impressed by the freshly made sandwiches and the bountiful displays of fruits and vegetables. check out the mozzarella and tomato caprese sandwiches on huge baguettes below:

mozzarella tomato sandwiches at the hockey tournament

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amsterdam, part two: a quest to experience all the city’s local (and legal) specialties

what’s the first thing you think of when you think of amsterdam? what’s a specialty the city is known for that makes travelers from all over the world flock to this metropolis of canals and churches? what famous item is wrapped up in the identity of this global destination and truly makes amsterdam amsterdam?

obviously, it’s the raw herring. if that’s not what you were thinking of, it should be.

fresh herring in a bun

discovering local foods is one of my absolute favorite things about traveling. it’s a great excuse to talk to people, to make new friends with random strangers, shopkeepers and restauranteurs, to learn new things about food and culture and identity, and to sample some delicious and often deliciously weird things along the way.  sanne, one of our very gracious dutch hosts, recommended we try the fresh herring, which has generally been lightly salted or brined to conserve.  for you history buffs, apparently herring has played a major role in the historical and economic development of the netherlands dating back to the 14th century. unfortunately, we forgot to follow up with a recommendation for a good place to get the herring. luckily, the fantastic foodiefest street of haarlemmerstraat came through for the win as i randomly walked by a classic herring vendor on a bridge right near the apartment. turns out that stubbe haring is actually considered one of the best herring wagons in town. success!

stube herring for the win

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amsterdam, part one: exploring an amazing foodie street in a city of munchies

an insane array of cheese in the dutch cheese shop

i knew i was in a city of good eating when one of my first morning stumbles was into a shop called ‘cheeseland’ with wheels of emmenthaler the size of a monster truck tire or a dog bed for a large-ish golden retriever.  to give you a sense of scale, that wedge has a larger diameter than my kitchen table (not that you’ve seen my kitchen table, but it’s of a good size).  hellooo and welcome to amsterdam.

the reason for my cheese shop visit was thanks to a few days in holland hanging out with my friends rootster and flinner, two of my favorite people who live far away in chengdu, china, whom i clearly do not get to see often enough. these two party legends emailed and said ‘hey we’re going to be in amsterdam next week! come meet up!’ and i said ‘hmm….okay!’ and a week later found myself enjoying all of amsterdam’s myriad sources of entertainment.  i love living on a continent with affordable train travel, even when you live on an island. amazing.

since i got in on a fairly late train, my first real experience with amsterdam’s quality food came on a solo morning tour of the streets around our friend’s apartment near the central train station. i left root and flinner to catch up on sleep in a new time zone and ventured out to get coffee and munchies. and just so you know – it was 9am so i don’t mean that kind of coffee or that kind of munchies –  those came later in that day (remember mom, it’s legal there!). haarlemmerstraat, the street right outside our friend’s place must be some sort of gourmet thoroughfare because i visited two cheese shops, three bread and pastry shops, an olive oil store, a spanish and an italian delicatessen, a lebanese bakery, and two juice bars over the course of the trip.  i knew it was a good neighborhood when i immediately ran into this chocolate and sweets shop:

unlimited delicious shopfront

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it’s always sunny in scandinavia, part three: swedish food porn

you know a shop is selling something really spectacular when the number of people waiting outside is greater than the number of people who can actually fit inside. welcome to st. jakobs stenugnsbageri, a tiny little storefront in lund filled with the most mouthwatering pastries and breads.

at the bakery in lund

peter, my new swedish cousin-in-law, has just informed me that stenugnsbageri means ‘stone oven bakery’. mmm. walking to the wedding, cousin lexi and i stopped and did some drooling at the array of loaves in the window and i vowed to return the next day.  my belly is so glad i did.

rye loaves in the bakery

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