Nonpareilled is very likely the best baking & dessert blog on the entire internet. How do I know? Because the blogger is a friend and I get to savour on the actual heavenly, sugary creations like the one pictured above on a regular basis. They’re impeccable. You need to follow this blog even if you’re not a dessert person.

Food Diaries: Jewish Naanpizza


The Jewish Naanpizza, by Gordon W. Imbiss, Berlin, might sound exotic on the menu, but once on your plate, starts to feel peculiarly familiar to a Scandinavian: with sour cream, capers, red sliced onions, and garnished with fresh dill, smoked salmon and a teaspoon of caviar, it sports many ingredients we can find in any Finnish restaurant’s summer lunch menu this July.

Santi Santamaría dies at 53

Legendary Santi Santamaría died on Wednesday, February 16, in Singapore. He was 53. He was the first Catalan to run a three-star restaurant. He was known for his Mediterranean-style dishes that made extensive use of natural and seasonal ingredients. In recent years he also became famous for his loud criticism of molecular gastronomy, and particularly Ferran Adrià, the owner of El Bulli, which has been named The Best Restaurant in The World multiple times.

Green With Red Spots

Here’s something I’ve thought about a lot lately. From Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times:

[…] Some people are trying to cut back on meat, but not give it up altogether. While it sounds simple, eating a little meat can sometimes be harder than eating none at all.

[…] Now there’s a new cookbook for the reluctant meat eater who doesn’t want to go vegetarian: “Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet,” by Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond (Ten Speed Press).

[…]Ms. Manning, who was a vegetarian from the age of 14 until 26, said the idea for the book began when she realized that she was eating a lot of processed “vegetarian junk food.”“I came to the conclusion that an almost-meatless diet was healthier, tastier, and more ethical,” said Ms. Manning, now 31. “I didn’t want to dive into the meat-centric meals that are typical of most non-vegetarians.” Notably, Ms. Manning said she lost weight after adding a little meat back into her diet.

It’s a good idea. This all should be elementary to anyone who’s at all interested in their health and the environment. Less meat than what an average person eats (a whopping 225 grams per day in the US) is definitely a good idea: around a 100 grams of meat and dairy a day is probably optimal for your health and your carbon footprint depending on the choice of meat. Cutting out meat and dairy altogether, however, doesn’t necessarily suit everyone or make the world a better place, so this sounds like a good solution and a concrete alternative.

Cookbooks generally don’t get taken out of the shelves to provide instructions for cooking everyday dinners, though, so this should be put into people’s heads in homes and schools as well. I banged my head against the wall for nearly ten years with varying forms of vegan, vegetarian, diets and could never stay within the normal weight range. I found it amazing how much fuller (not to mention healthier and more energetic) I felt without gaining weight when I gradually added eggs and dairy, fish, white meat and finally red meat back into my diet.

Had I never been a vegetarian I don’t think I’d know or understand much about food or cooking, though. Paradoxically, the variety in the dinner choices seemingly expands tenfold every time you have to leave an ingredient out, because then you really think about what you can prepare out of what’s left.

No Falling Stars

The Mighty Michelin Guide has been kind with the stars up the Finnish restaurant sky and decided to not let any drop. That means Hans Välimäki’s Chez Dominique keep their two, while Demo and Carma get to keep their one star.

It’s nice to notice that I’ve had the privilege of dining in all but Carma – and they were definitely all worth a detour. I especially liked Postres that one time.

In a time when fast food is about the only industry that does well it’s also good to see Helsinki retain it’s status as a capital in the Nordic Countries that has a two-star restaurant – like they all do nowadays.

I’m all for the star tradition. Maybe this will attract a tourist or two and help keep the places alive.

Food Health Weathercast

Anyone who finds it hard to believe that science is still light years away from knowing everything, you only need to take one look at nutritional science of the not-so-recent past. Especially lately, the nutritional recommendations have been changing at such a breathtaking, ever-accelerating speed that it’s simply impossible to ever know whether the latest bit of research finally holds any truth on whatever it focuses on, if it applies to a person with similar genetic background as yours, and whether the foodstuffs used in the research are similar to the ones you’re used to.

One recent example: it has been common knowledge for a long time that charring your steaks and vegetables produces a lot of carcinogenic substances which cause cancer when eaten regularly.

Until now.

The ever-changing nutritional science would leave anybody baffled with what we should or shouldn't eat 
The ever-changing nutritional science would leave anybody baffled with what we should or shouldn't eat

A Swedish study recently found that while carcinogenic substances indeed get created when steaks get their saliva-inducing streaks on the grill, the amounts are so low that they’re absolutely insignificant as to be dangerous. (Whether eating a leg of chicken with its marinade burned to a nice solid black is a marvellous culinary experience is a different matter.) Likewise, it has been known for some time now that the crust of the bread contains multiple times as many antioxidants as the fluffy inside.

Finds such as these are not uncommon. Some time ago a research showed that black rye bread, long having been touted as a much healthier option to bread made out of wheat flour of any kind, is actually not at all healthier than any bread made out of whole grains (like rye bread most often is).

All this, of course, affects the way people think about nutrition. Some years ago fats of any kind seemed to be considered unhealthy because they fatten you, so consuming so called “light” products was obviously healthier. It is, of course, now a little more commonly known that fats are essential. Just not saturated fats.

Except some saturated fats might not be as unhealthy. The reasearch is still out for whether the fat in the meat of grass-fed cows is healthier than that of corn-or soy-fed cows.

And, on a related note, some unsaturated fats might be unhealthy. Some time ago I overheard a couple of supermarket staffers discuss how they’d been thinking of switching from regular dairy products to soy milk products, because they’re so much healthier. But it is now known that the balance between different kinds of essential fatty acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6) has changed enormously in the last hundred years due to eating soy, corn and sunflower oil, among other things, or feeding livestock with soy and corn. This might be a cause for cardiovascular diseases. Maybe.

If there’s a conclusion to be drawn from all the nutrition research, it is this:

  • It’s best to eat as many different types of food as possible, raw and cooked.
  • Eat everything in moderation, including food supplements and the total amount of calories obtained from your diet.
  • The less processed the food the better.
  • Vegetables should dominate.
  • A serving, two at most, of alcohol should be consumed every day.
  • Make absolutely sure that you enjoy the food you eat.

And if, while following that advise, something in your diet doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. What’s good for someone might as good as lethal to someone else. If you feel better leaving out wheat, meat or beet, why keep on eating them?

Hunger (not Thirst) for Information

Lulu Grimes of Good Food has had an encounter with a mean sommelier. While my experiences with sommeliers are generally pleasant, a visit to one of Helsinki’s star-spangled gourmet joints lately left me and a friend wondering whether the wine that accompanies a dish really is such a big deal that it seems to actually surpass the food it’s served with in importance.

It might sound familiar: you’ve ordered a special menu and chosen to trust the restaurant’s choices for the wines to go with it. After a while the sommelier arrives and tells you everything he knows about the wine, the area it comes from, how it was made, grapes it was made from, the history of the winehouse, the producer’s name, his grandma’s name etc. He pours the wine and leaves.

Some time passes. Finally the food arrives. The waiter hurries through the list of components on the plate and disappears. “What was this green stuff here?” your friend asks, leaning over. “No idea.” “Tastes of a herb… What could it be?” Asking a waiter, they tell you to wait a minute while they go and ask, of course, eager to fulfill every request the customer makes. In a while the waiter returns and gives you the bit of information, but leaves you hesitant to also ask about the little red things you found under the potato after the waiter had gone.

Obviously it’s not a good idea for the waiter to spend 15 minutes going through a pedantic list of every ingredient in every garment on the plate while everyone, except for the one enthusiastic home cook who demanded to know what everything is, is waiting to get their teeth into the dish, but sometimes one gets a feeling that enjoying the food is somehow a very different experience from enjoying the wine.

Or could it be the wine enthusiasts that visit the gourmet restaurants who differ so much from us amateur gourmet cooks? Almost like it’s impossible to enjoy wine unless you know the second name of the producer or that the wine in question is expensive and rare enough. Who gives a toss about what the green jelly wrapped in the red stuff next to the lamb was made out of if it tastes good.

Pinching Pennies

Divine Caroline lists foods to satisfy your nutritional needs without blowing the bank.

All of these are available here in Finland, too, but some of them, like tofu, are maybe not as inexpensive as in US. I’d add salmon and chicken to the list, but then, good-quality salmon and chicken isn’t always easy to find or cheap, either.

Good Food’s Carol Wilson has a new year’s resolution: stop buying exotic, rarely used ingredients that mostly go unused just because some recipe tells you to add a pinch.

Going through our cupboards we found some ingredients that had passed their use by -date some time ago, but not many and nothing too eccentric. I’ve noticed it’s generally better to buy basic ingredients, i.e. nothing processed, and have a definitive idea what you’re using it for.