3. Things I love about Melbourne

This post could in theory be applied to whole of Australia, since my experiences so far are limited to good ol’ Melbs. Not for long, though! From Vappu onwards I shall be traveling up north, to escape the cold a bit and see what Byron Bay has to offer. I don’t know how long I will be away, which is good: I can come back when I feel like it; I do have to start from scratch but it is not the same as the first time around. Melbourne, I will be back.

1.1 The people, friends.
I have managed to make pretty good friends in the past 3 months. Australians sure are a friendly bunch of people, and I have managed to spend time with some amazing individuals.

Best trips are shared ones. Says the girl traveling solo. Oops.
Best trips are shared ones. Says the girl traveling solo. Oops.

1.2. The people, random.
From the vegetable delivery guy (the dry goods delivery guy is an exception to this rule) to the guy in the sneaker store, everyone is generally friendly and in a good mood. Train creeps aside, people will smile, say ‘hey how ya goin’ and even have a small conversation without a fuss. It feels damn good!

2.1 The coffee.
Yes. The daily brew is something to be taken seriously. And this is seen everywhere with coffee shops, restaurants and cafes all selling at least decent coffee. Even the worst brew here is better than the average elsewhere.

Long black and one of the aforementioned friends. Loving it.
Long black, Scandinavian minimalist design and one of the aforementioned friends. Loving it.

2.2 The food.
You can find almost any kind of cuisine, in several price ranges. Some neighborhoods have large ethnical minorities, and therefore they host a variety of special cuisines around the world. As an example: Richmond is also known as Little Vietnam, and few streets make Chinatown in the city. This food-loving includes the option of all-popular paleo restaurants, gluten free foods and the mighty Smashed Avo, that can be found in any self respecting food joint. High respects also to ethnic Prahran Convenience store that sells 12 pack of Questbars for $36!

I could have an overdosa of this.
I could have an overdosa of this.

2.2.1 The markets.
Victoria market being the best, largest and cheapest, there is also South Melbourne market where I buy my hummus, and Prahran which I frequent most often just for the atmosphere since it’s the closest to me. Also farmers’ markets make my favorite list, but they’re more scattered and I have only managed to visit one since I don’t own a car. Anyhow, good stuff! Fresh veggies and fruit and seafood, can’t say no to that!

St. Andrew's market, I guess technically in melbourne (almost 1hr drive from the city).
St. Andrew’s market, I guess technically in Melbourne (almost 1hr drive from the city).

3.1. The culture.
From comedy festival to Food and Wine festival, there’s always something going on. After studying Urbanlist and Broadsheet, the hardest part is to actually do and see everything you want to. My cultural highlight so far was probably seeing Adam Hill at the comedy festival, or CJ Hendricks’ 50 Foods in 50 Days.

modest Comedy Festival decorations.
Modest Comedy Festival decorations.

3.2. The exercise.
I think I am pretty good at optimizing the cost of expensive workouts: living in posh South Yarra has allowed me to test different yoga and pilates studios around the hoods for affordable prices: I’ve been to Core Candy (HIIT, Pilates and Barre 1 class per day for 2 weeks $50), Rise Yoga in Richmond (2 weeks of flow yoga, hot and yin yoga $25) and most recently One Hot Yoga&Pilates just around the corner from home (unlimited reformer pilates and slow hot flow and yin yoga $50). I have been more than happy with the trials, especially One Hot. Damn their playlist is like straight from my Spotify!

Damn hot yoga studio. I'll miss you.
Damn hot yoga studio. I’ll miss you.

Also as a bonus to this 3 part list is the architecture and neighborhood vibes. Places look cool.

True dat, Einstein.
True dat, Einstein.
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Australia brews

And by brews I mean coffee, even though there are some artisanal micro beer breweries around as well. Australia is well known for it’s high quality coffees and love for small, independent cafes and roasters. I was able to visit the Melbourne International Coffee Exhibition in Melbourne Showgrounds last Sunday, where I got properly buzzed with the different brews, beans and required paraphernalia, coffee lovers and meticulous professionals under the same roof. I also had a peek at the World Barista Championships, but didn’t stick till the end because more coffee was calling me.

Sampling Kenyan Gaikundo  from Z microloft, washed with 'clean, bright and sparkling syrup, with up front sweetness reminiscent of white grape, apple and lime supported by delicate undertones of kalamata olives and cherry tomato'.
Sampling Kenyan Gaikundo from Z microloft, washed with ‘clean, bright and sparkling syrup, with up front sweetness reminiscent of white grape, apple and lime supported by delicate undertones of kalamata olives and cherry tomato’.

Time magazine and New York Times both have touted Australia, and especially Melbourne, as the mecca of coffee. I cannot but agree to that, even though I have been exercising my mind strength and limited my cups mostly to wake-up drinks at work. Apparently there are around 300 coffee roasters in Oz, and about 40% of those consider themselves as direct traders, working hard to offer consumers high quality coffee. Sounds legit!

Cool-ass cups.
Cool-ass cups.

Why is the coffee in Oz so great? It all dates back to the Second World War, when Australia’s first green bean trader Ernest Singer found a customer base in the American soldiers stationed in Australia, who often visited Melbourne when on leave. The Italians also played a big role in the great coffee scene, since Italians started vigorously migrating to Australia in the 1920’s when Canada and the USA restricted their immigration laws. The Italians brought among them the love for espresso: while specialty cafes in Oz make more and more filter coffees, the majority is still espresso-based brews, unlike in Europe and The US where we often sip “house coffee” from the thermos, made in the morning and whenever the thermos runs empty. Australia is also acknowledged as the pioneer in the third wave of coffee or specialty coffee. Syphon, aeropress, pour over, cold brew and other methods are available in the neighborhood cafes, and it is not uncommon to order a coffee as you were ordering a particular type of fine wine; to discuss the flavor profiles and washing methods. You can have a 20-minute discussion over coffee and proper accompanying milk (organic, skinny, almond, soy; hot, flat, double) without no one blinking an eye.

Z's chillin' on the shelf.
Z’s chillin’ on the shelf.

This particular interest in origin, quality and atmosphere of the everyday joe made Starbuck close over half of its’ cafes in Australia due to “business challenges unique to the Australian market” in 2008. Ha! Unlike in Europe and the States, luckily in Oz the chain is not the king.

I drink my coffee black to get the most original natural flavors out of it, but I must admit I have spent quite some time watching latte art videos in Instagram and YouTube. Getting the perfect crema espresso and frothing the milk to form shapes is intriguing, and I haven’t had the possibility to practice in a long time now. One day I will make tulips and rosettas like tying my shoelaces. Until then, I enjoy the artwork of others and sip my cups black in small cafes where the varieties are carefully chosen and they know where their brews are from.

More Carnivals and few tips for Helsinki

Apparently my time in Helsinki was all about good people, cakes and other (gourmet) food! NB: This post includes links to recommended places in Helsinki, most of them are in Finnish. However, I bet you get the idea and I do recommend you to visit even though you don’t understand much of the interwebs info. Reality is so much better, anyways. And they do speak English.

If you ever go to Helsinki and you care about what you eat and drink, I highly recommend Johan & Nyström in Katajanokka. I have posted pictures before, this time around I went for some serious cake tasting. The place has a good selection on different raw cakes and pastries, and you can also get different kinds of quality coffees and teas. However, there are better places to get your caffeine fix: Caffi, Kaffa Roastery, Gruppo Coffee Lab just to name a few better than average places…Helsinki has much more brewing on than in Tampere, and I still have more places to check out!

After Eight (the winner), Raspberry licorice, and lingonberry cake (skip this one) at Johan & Nyström
After Eight (the winner of the tasting), Raspberry licorice, and lingonberry cake (skip this one) at Johan & Nyström

Last Thursday was The Night of the Arts in Helsinki, which included loads of cultural events around the city. Since I was busy with the Raw Food course, I couldn’t attend anything, I just had time to visit Teurastamo, an old slaughterhouse nowadays a culture space and a restaurant, which hosted a night market carnival event. Too bad Evira didn’t allow crickets to be served for some ridiculous reasons, such as not all species are edible (not all mushrooms are edible, but some are still eaten! Why are the Asians eating crickets and still alive?), I would have liked to try those. In stead, we had some delicious summer rolls from Rulla, and my dad enjoyed some frog legs as well. This was my first visit to Teurastamo area, which also hosts a solar-powered kitchen. Pretty cool atmosphere and area!

Carnival in a slaughterhouse
Carnival feeling
Creative rulla-combos served with a smile
Creative rulla-combos served with a smile
Hammocks, frog legs and graffitis in a slaughterhouse
Hammocks, frog legs and graffitis in a slaughterhouse

I am back in Tampere now, but can’t wait to go back to Helsinki to try out few other places. I already had a terrific lunch for a fairly reasonable price (9,7€ for mediterranean appetizer buffet, main course and fruits+coffee) in Krog Madame, which besides the delicious food and good looking staff also has a nice patio. Another place with a nice atmosphere: Cafe Köket (the Swedish name is a bit misleading) near the big church. Nice service and good breakfast in Finnish designer environment.

Take your pick and move to the buffet table
Take your pick and move to the buffet table

Since I seem to have so many new favorites around town I might have to dedicate a separate post to them all. But while I’m at it (or not really), check out Costo, the coolest hats I know and own. I might have bought 2 new ones this past week.

Something was going on in Tampere this weekend and upcoming week: DesignOn Tampere and Design market.

Finnish hats, jewelry, clothes and artisan stuff
Hats, jewelry, clothes and artisan stuff from Finland

I love happenings!

Upgrade Your Day: Chocolate cereal

Many people swear by starting their day with oatmeal, if not for its’ divine taste, then because of the various nutritional benefits it provides. I have got my share of porridge/oatmeal already in my childhood, where although not every day, I ate a lot of it. Always made with water and never with milk, eaten with a blop of butter in the middle and sugar sprinkled all over, or then with frozen berries, berry soup or cinnamon and apple. I could consider eating overnight oats or porridge made with other grains than oats, but I’d rather start my engines with something else.

Elovena, the image of Finland
Elovena, the image of Finland

Enter the fast, easy and cheap savior of all moms, common enemy of health freaks, the industry with plastic by-gifts and endless, more or less ridiculous and misleading health-claims: cereals, muesli, granolas and all the other sugar, fat and other additive-ladden grain products! I have to admit, I was once a junkie of the Coco Pops, Frosties and Honey O’s (the last eaten plain, without milk), then “upgraded” to the “whole grain family” of Special K, Fitness and mueslis. After realizing what crap I was eating, how un-nourishing and addictive it was, I started feeding my cravings with better stuff, i.e self-made granola. Success! The only downside with making my own batch of granola, no matter how healthy it may be, is that I have never been really good at portion control. Uh-oh.

With all this interesting history to my habits (listen to the coco pops pop, drink the chocolate milk and complain to my brother for wasting his milk), I present you an alternative to your morning routines and everyday-oats, in case you ever get sick of it. I am sure there are thousands of variations how to eat it, but stepping out of the box and into another bowl is sometimes in place. So, here goes:

Ultimate (raw) Choco Pop Cereal

– Cacao mass
– Raw honey, agave syrup, coconut nectar or other liquid sweetener
– Coconut oil
– Quinoa/amaranth/buckwheat pops or sprouted and dehydrated “buckwheaties”, if you’re super DIY
– Milk of choice (optional)
– Spices if desired, i.e vanilla
– Cocoa nibs, if you’re feeling indulgent or it’s the weekend!

IMG_9086

Melt the cacao mass in a water bath, and add desired amount of sweetener and a tad of coconut oil. Adjust the sweetness according to taste. If you want honey cereal, just skip the cacao! Stir in the cereal. If you want to make “rice krispie treats”, increase the amount of coconut oil, and add so much pops that the mixture becomes sticky. For regular cereal, you’ll know the right amounts when it looks like something you’ve seen in your childhood, yet less processed. Put to your breakfast bowl, top it off with desired milk (or eat plain), and go down the memory lane. It may not come with a toy and pop like rice krispies, but it’s still way better!

If you are a coffee drinker, I suggest swapping your regular bulk brew to at least an organic variety. You’ll taste -and know- the difference. If I ever get addicted to coffee and start drinking it at home, I will definitely get an aeropress.

Quality coffee at Johan&Nyström
Quality coffee at Johan&Nyström

If you are wondering where to get the amazing substitute cereal for rice pops and nutrition-stripped (GMO) cornflakes, you should be able to find amaranth/quinoa pops in health stores. In Finland, Stockmann Helsinki has a variety of different supergrain pops in the bulk section, and they’re way cheaper than anywhere else! I made a mixture of different pseudograins, and it definitely does the trick. Gluten-free, protein-packed and delicious!

How do you start your day? Do you have any childhood favorites?

Best of Hong Kong

Everything good ends at some point. I have now been away from Finland for almost a year, living in another continent, speaking different languages and doing many things I could or would not do in Finland. Now it’s time to say hello to Finland for a while. Here are some of my favorites from the past 4 months.

Nature.

There is much more to the city than just skyscrapers
There is much more to the city than just skyscrapers

It is unbelievable how much more there is to Hong Kong than just millions of people cramped in narrow streets between tall buildings. One can easily find amazing nature, from mountains to beaches and natural reservoirs, even in Hong Kong island!

Atmosphere.

Perfect Sunday: Relaxing at the East Island Markets
Perfect Sunday: Relaxing at the East Island Markets

By far, my most favorite place in Hong Kong was the Sunday market in Quarry Bay. The market is closed down for the summer, but will return again in September. I wish there was something like this in Finland – this farmer’s market really reminded me of New York!

Events.

Perfect Tuesday night: art, bubbly and nibbles
Perfect Tuesday night: art, bubbly and nibbles

There is always something interesting going on, whether it is an art gallery opening, birthday party or pop-up store. The only thing is to know where, when and what is happening.

Random statues.

Teddies in Heritage shopping area
Teddies in Heritage shopping area

HK is a huge shopping mall. Usually the malls have huge, quite random statues, that change almost monthly. Often the motifs of the statues are rather interesting, and worth taking a picture (or two).

Random street art.

Noodle time!
Noodle time!

Rather than ugly tags, one can encounter rather interesting pieces of art from the streets and alleyways. Tin Hau and Sheung Wan are the best bet for finding something interesting.

Fruit selection.

Sousop and something else
Sousop and something else

The amount, quality and price of fruit in Hong Kong came like a gift from heaven, after being seriously fruit-deprived in Japan. Here I have eaten tons of various fruit every day: lately especially mangos, since they are ridiculously cheap and usually sold cheaper if you buy 3 or 4. Other than mangos, I’ve been enjoying papayas, pineapple, some durian, mangosteens, dragonfruit, melons and the conventional apples, grapefruits, kiwi and oranges. Time for some Finnish berries!

Coffee culture.

Teakha in Sheung Wan
Teakha in Sheung Wan

Little coffeeshops offering top quality coffee blends and single-origin beans are popping up around the city, and there are several companies offering coffee tastings and other events. In stead of the Pacific Coffees and Starbucks in practically every corner, some of the best places to get your fix are: Coffee Academics (Causeway Bay), Coffee Corridor (Causeway Bay), Common Ground (Sheung Wan), Barista Jam (Sheung Wan), The Rabbit Hole (Wan Chai) and those moving coffee companies that frequent for example the East Island Market: 8 Grams and Moving Coffee, for example.

Food.

Delicious Chinese vegetarian cuisine, mostly with mushrooms
Delicious Chinese vegetarian cuisine, mostly with mushrooms

There is abundance of international food in Hong Kong. My favorite restaurant is Mana!, which serves organic, vegan and gluten-free wraps and salads as well as raw desserts and smoothies. Besides Mana, there are few vegetarian restaurant, and plenty of Chinese vegetarian cuisine (which is textured soy and often rather slimy to my taste). Sushi buffets are aplenty and affordable, Western food is more expensive than Asian. The Asian desserts were also rather interesting, maybe I’ll dedicate another post to that.
Mostly I cooked myself: various mushrooms and sweet potatoes were my favorites. I did try veggie dumplings on few occasions, but most Chinese restaurants had meat in their dishes even if it is not announced in the menu.

Transportation.

Back to the old times
Back to the old times

I definitely am a walker, but when you need a different means of transportation, there’s plenty to choose from. My favorite would be the Star Ferry to Kowloon side – fresh air, nice views and less crowded than the mtr. MTR is by far the fastest way of getting from A to B, but sometimes you want to relax and watch the hustle and bustle; the old-fashioned tram is perfect for that. The double-decker buses can sometimes feel like being on a theme park ride, since the drivers are rallying like on a race. The taxi isn’t a bad option, either: super cheap and easy to catch – the only problem might be the language barrier. I would not bike in Hong Kong island, but in Shatin there is even a bike route!

These are just a few things I will definitely miss from Hong Kong. I could also list the great people and sports opportunities (mYoga with it’s views to Victoria Harbor, oh man). What are your favorites?