Week END?

Constantly building something, view of Admiralty
Constantly building something, view of Admiralty

My last weekend in Hong Kong couldn’t have been better, even if it had been sunny instead of raining! On Friday we had a delicious, (almost vegan) dinner in one of the best Thai restaurants in Hong Kong (Cafe Siam).
The following day, I ventured to more art and explored an area I hadn’t been before; the industrial, artsy Chai Wan hosted Chai Wan Mei, a satellite event to the megalomane Art Basel.

Master chef at home
Master chef at home

Part of Chai Wan Mei included Bread Elements, a new – you guessed it – bakery. This company’s bread is not the pillows and other “breads” you find in the supermarkets; it is real, rustic artisan bread, hand-made from premium ingredients. I was lucky to visit the open days of the old factory premises, and talk to the master chef and cookbook authorGregoire Michaud, who previously worked for for example The Four Seasons hotel for several years!

Gluten-free raisin loaf, made with rice -, and tapioca flour
Gluten-free raisin loaf, made with rice -, and tapioca flour

It was truly inspiring to exchange ideas and opinions about the essence and quality, or the lack of quality bread, and the methods of making bread. We discussed the current gluten free trend and the reasons for the increase of gluten sensitivities (low quality, processed wheat was the chef’s suggestion). What comes to bread – it’s my Achilles heel. I think that bread should always be highest-possible quality, made without any additives or enhancers. At Bread Elements, I got to see the Mother of the breads, the sourdough starter, which makes yeast unnecessary. And I got to say, that oh man these French know how to bake a baguette!

Now Bread Elements only supplies to high end hotel chains and restaurants, but maybe soon Hong Kongers get to enjoy real bread from normal stores, too! Oh, yeah, there was other stuff than food in Chai Wan, too. Like 3,000 red-covered diaries from the Revolution era.

The Governor?
The Almighty Governor?

Saturday was topped off with some more art, wine, tapas, cocktails and dancing the night away in some of the fanciest clubs in the city with some rather interesting new friends.

Chilling at the gym
Chilling at the gym. Notice the mosquito-eaten legs!

Sunday dawned too cloudy to go to a beach, so I opted for a gym and rooftop pool instead. The sun even peaked out to say hello!

I could do this more than once!
I could do this more than once!

Summa summarum: the weekend definitely left a positive feeling and good memories about Hong Kong. Who knows, maybe this won’t be the end for me.

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Eat Moomin

Usually people have no clue about what or where Finland is, but in Japan I can proudly say I am from Finland. In few occasions with my Swedish friends, the people asking our origin don’t understand the word “Suweeden”, but start “aahing”, smiling and nodding when I say Finland. Why is Finland so well known and popular? Not because of ice hockey or Angry Birds (which is not so popular to begin with). It’s Santa Claus and Moomin!

Moomin cafe, Tokyo Dome
Moomin cafe, Tokyo Dome

After seeing the Moomin cafe in Fukuoka, I of course had go to see the other two highly popular ones in Tokyo as well.

Tokyo Skytree, waiting time unknown
Tokyo Skytree, waiting time unknown

The verdict (without actually trying the menu):
All of the Moomin cafes are very adorable, and they have the Moomin atmosphere. The plush toys and books are comfy addition to the decoration, and the moomin background “music” surely reminds of the animation series (even though in Japanese and with different voice-overs).

Finnish color theme and happy customers
Finnish color theme and happy customers

My favorite of the cafes is definitely the Tokyo Dome one. Where as the menus in all of the cafes are similar, Japanified versions of something people might eat in Finland, in Tokyo Dome they also have a pretty decent selection of what seemed like pretty decent breads. Unfortunately, the bread buffet couldn’t be ordered without a meal. Having been bread-deprived for the last half year, I most likely would have gone overboard with the buffet alone.

I have never heard about blueberry coffee in Finland - and the "naminami" (yum yum) munkki doesn't sound familiar, either
I have never heard about blueberry coffee in Finland – and the “naminami” (yum yum) munkki doesn’t sound familiar, either

The menus in each cafe are a bit different, but all of them have cute “breads” (=sweet bread rolls) with Moomin characters on them. In all of the cafes, one can also enjoy (or “enjoy”) the Finnish Lapinkulta beer.

Moomins welcoming customers to come feel at home
Moomins welcoming customers to come feel at home

Visiting Moomin cafes is definitely interesting, no matter if you’re Finnish or not. If you don’t know what Moomin is, it will still be an experience. For me, the cafes were something familiar, yet something completely different from what we would have back home. The meals were kinda close to Finnish style food, but still very much like in other lunch cafes. The shops attached to the cafe sell more or less Finnish Moomin products for high prices, but at least some of the stuff (or Chinese versions of them) you can buy from other places as well.

Enjoy the Finland feeling and fall in love with Finland and the Nordic countries. From the land of lakes and snow
Enjoy the Finland feeling and fall in love with Finland and the Nordic countries. From the land of lakes and snow

Specialities

Japan is known for its’ peculiarities. Here are some of my encounters during the Christmas season. I have earlier mentioned the Japanese love for (Christmas) cakes and maybe their sweet breads as well, but it’s hard to believe until you see for yourself.

 

I can only imagine the flavor
I can only imagine the flavor of these elves

Christmas trees, elves, houses, snowmen and basically everything else can be formed as pan, which is the Japanese equivalent to bread, which is nothing like what we call bread in Finland. If you buy bread in Japan thinking it is the same stuff you get back home, you’ll be in for a surprise. You never know if there’s spaghetti, curry, sausages or cream inside the fluffy pillowy dough.

Japanese version of a gingerbread house
Japanese version of gingerbread houses

After a while, it is not so weird to see the different characters made of food: the beloved animation character Anpanman has a nose made of pancake, and the super popular bean-paste filled dorayaki pancake gets its’ name from another anime character, Doraemon! The Japanese do love their sweets. And they are big on seasonal treats and specialities.

Individual packing is more a norm than exception
Individual packing is more a norm than exception

After Christmas, no snowmen can be found outside the sale boxes, since now it’s the time for snake everything – this is the year of the snake, so decorations in food and everything else are of course matching the theme. I even found special shop dedicated only for snake year stuff!

 

Special limited edition Pepsi White, oh I am so lucky!
Special limited edition Pepsi White, oh I am so lucky!

Example of the speciality craze: Pepsi co. launched a special seasonal drink, Pepsi white, to be sold only during this season. This mikan (mandarine) flavored drink is/was available in 6 different snowman style for a limited time – gotta catch ’em all, eh? I had a sip, and that was it for me. Drinking something that was a) pepsi, therefore carbonated but b) white and c) mandarine flavored was just messing with my brain a bit too much. I do feel special now, and less disappointed for missing the summer’s Salty Watermelon Pepsi! I wonder what’s next, both on the beverage field as well as in the “bread” section.

PS: I have discovered the Japanese fondness of KitKat chocolate bars. In Finland, we only have the basic version, but after doing some research, I found quite many different kinds during my trip. So, maybe I will get into the chocolate bar craze later on. I also have interesting omiyage (souvenir) package pictures and texts to share.

“Little by little you will be filled with happiness when relaxing with these delicious sweets.” Who could say no to those Cheese cookies from Yufuin?