Monthly Archives: October 2012

Beautiful Helsinki, Finland

On our way home from St. Petersburg we spent 2 days in Helsinki. We checked into The Kamp hotel in the center of the city. Very nice hotel and easy walking to all the local attractions. Helsinki is a small city, clean and easy to get around. We had lunch in the hotel and at once realized how expensive Helsinki was going to be. Carl had a club sandwich, $31.00 dollars and I had a small salad with tuna, $36.00 dollars along with my $16.00 glass of wine and Carl had a local beer.  The taxes the locals pay are close to 31% plus a vat tax on everything you buy. The country is run by all women and is doing the best of any country in the EU, so I guess the tax situation works for them.

We headed to the local farmers market by the terminal where the cruise ships dock. It is mushroom season and they were beautiful, several types of Chantrelles, hollow stem Chanterelle mushroomsalso huge piles of lingonberris, a small mountain type of cranberry. We had made reservations for lunch at a 1 star restaurant called “OLO” , www.olo-ravintola.fi , The head chef Pekka Terawa came out and showed us the local berry that he used to create our beautiful dessert, Sea Buckthorn berries. this is a must try if you go to Helsinki.

The rest of the day was spent just walking around the city. A stop in the huge department store to visit their super market, then headed back to the hotel for a nap, since the rain had arrived. That evening we went to a restaurant that a local friend had suggested called Seahorse. This is like a simple tavern, they had been made famous for their steak and onions. Not the best steak but I had the cabbage rolls and they were as good as my grandmother could ever make.

Our last day the sun came out so we just wandered the small streets then went to the contemporary museum. A simple musuem but beautiful  glass structure, many of the new buildings are showing interesting architecture worth just standing back and looking at.

Standing tall at the train station

Our last dinner was at The fish Market, a resturant located in the basement level  of a building about 3 blocks from the hotel. The restaurant served large portions so we could have shared the fish. The local white fish is served several ways, smoked or fried with lemons and sage were our two choices. The whole fish arrives at the table in a wooden box, no lid, along with a good sauce to dip the fish or the fries in.They also offer a huge fresh platter and if you are smart enough to order cray fish 2 days in advance you will have a real feast, this is a fall speciality.

Helsinki was clean and beautiful with plenty of shopping to take up your time.

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A visit to St. Petersburg

My husband, Carl, was heading to Russia to go fishing so we decided I would join him in St. Petersburg for a few days of exploring. We arrived to a cool early fall day and checked into The Grand Hotel Europe. The hotel is a full block long, they have several restaurants, cigar bar, shops and a spa. We made our reservations through platinum AMX so were given a nice upgrade .

We arrived around dinner time so the hotel directed us to an interesting restaurant close to the hotel called Terrasson. We were not thrilled with the Asian fusion meal we had but the space was interesting, the menu had a photo of each dish on a series of confusing pages.

The first thing you realize while walking the streets is there are no tall buildings. The city has no buildings taller than the palace, so 6 stories is the height of the tallest building. The city is built around a series of canals that are fed off the sea. The main attractions are focused around the museums and the amazing churches/cathedrals.

We hired a guide that spoke good english, Helen Zaitseva, zaitseva.helen@gmail.com, you may contact her direct and save the hotels fee. Helen and her driver gave us the grand tour, explaining the details in mosaic images in the churches. How the city survived the many wars and fun facts about the many bridges and why so many young brides were walking around the city getting their pictures taken in the rain, on a Tuesday.

The food in St. Petersburg is not the reason you go, however we did enjoy a few good meals. The Georgian restaurant that we had dinner in the second night was “Tarkhun” a couple of blocks from the hotel and worth trying. The next day was spent touring the Hermitage. We walked from the hotel via the amazing church called the Blood church. You stand in AWE as you approach for the grand exterior only to be overwhelmed when you enter the front doors.

We allowed 5 hours in the Hermitage and probably could have spent another 5 but ran out of steam.

Dinner that night was at a place called “Barbaresco” steak tartar was good but the pasta was

 

terrible. Guess you should stick with the Russian restaurants.   Next morning we did a trek to find the local market place to see what the locals eat. We walked about 15 blocks to a large building that housed their local farmers market, including meat and smoked fish.There was not much to buy. A few older people standing on the street selling fresh mushrooms that they must have gathered,

until the police came out and pushed them away. That evening we had a nice dinner in a Russian restaurant called “Gogal”. The restaurant is designed like the inside of a house with guests seated in several small rooms. We had a nice meal with the main course of Chicken Kiev like it should be served.

I am glad we had the opportunity to visit but happy to be home.

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Making mint sauce

As we all know mint will take over if not contained so I gave my mint a special area in my herd garden. With fall in the air I decided to make a large batch of mint sauce and thought others would enjoy the simple preparation.

1 cup fresh mint leaves, stems removed and chopped

2 tlb. sugar

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

dash of salt and pepper

Stir mint, water, sugar and salt and pepper in a pan to dissolve sugar. Add vinegar stir and remove from heat. Allow to cool for about 2 hours.

The mint sauce will keep up to 2 months in refrigerator. Be sure to store in a clean jar or container with with tight lid. Better to not store in a plastic container.

I serve in a small pitcher or bowl with ladle. This is great on fall lamb or firm fish.

 

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