Seeking sunshine in Florida

Last year, Christmas awarded us three mid-week days off, so by taking a couple of vacation days we managed to get a long enough vacation to seek sunshine a little further afield. Our choice was Florida and more specifically Fort Lauderdale. We had booked a flight for the 24th as this was clearly cheaper than e.g. the 23rd. As we had a super-early morning flight to Munich and further to Miami, we decide to splurge on a hotel night near the airport on the 23rd. We booked a room at Scandic Helsinki Airport. We checked in at the hotel in the early evening and had dinner at the hotel restaurant. The food was good and once our stomachs were full, we did a test walk to the check-in area to see how much time we would need in the morning (the walk took around ten minutes). The following morning, we had an early breakfast at the hotel (they start serving breakfast at 3:30 am, which is really convenient for early flights) and then proceeded to the airport. We will definitely stay at this or some other airport hotel again next time we have a super-early long-haul flight.

Restaurant and bar at Scandic Helsinki Airport
The hotel had some fun decoration ideas
Part of the hotel used to be a police station and the old holding cells had been turned into meeting rooms with various themes.

We arrived in Miami around 5 pm, collected our luggage and picked up our rental car. Before heading to our house in Wilton Manors that we rented through Airbnb we stopped by a grocery store to get some food and other essentials for our stay. We eventually arrived at the house after 8 pm due to some difficulties with finding an open ramp to the interstate (the navigator kept telling us to head to the same closed ramp several times), as well as in finding the house as the navigator refused to recognize the address. Once at the house, we got settled in, unpacked, familiarized ourselves with the house rules, took a shower and had a bit of a bite before hitting the sheets.

Our little house for the week
Master bedroom
Second bedroom that we used for storage
Living area
Dining area
Kitchen

We had decided to spend the following day lounging at the house as it was Christmas Day and we assumed most places would be closed. We started the day with a hearty breakfast and then took a walk around the neighborhood to see where we had landed. It was a residential neighborhood that seemed calm and quiet. Back at the house, we jumped in the car and drove to downtown Fort Lauderdale to have a look around. We drove around for maybe an hour and then headed back to the house for some R&R. We spent the day reading, watching TV, making plans for the week, cooking dinner and enjoying the sunshine in the backyard. We had purchased tickets online for an airboat tour in the Everglades and that’s were we headed the next day, but more on that in my next blogpost.

Found this oasis just around the corner from the house.
Chilling in the backyard

Birthday dinner in Tallinn

Hubby’s birthday fell on a Friday this year and as we both happened to have that day off work, we decided to take an overnight trip to Tallinn and celebrate there. We hopped on the Eckerö ferry in Helsinki at 9 am and arrived in Tallinn at 11:15 am. I had considered booking lounge seats, but it turned out a cabin was cheaper, so I ended up booking a cabin for us both ways. That way we didn’t have to “fight” for seats in the public areas of the ferry, had a place for our luggage, as well as a private bathroom. It was raining when we arrived in Tallinn so despite the fact that our hotel was only some two kilometers from the harbor, we decided to utilize a taxi. I had booked one night at Metropol Spa Hotel in a superior room and we were lucky enough that our room was ready when we arrived at the hotel. Once we got settled in the room, the rain had stopped so we decided to walk to Fotografiska Tallinn that is located in the Telliskivi neighborhood.

Hotel picture courtesy of: http://www.visitestonia.com/fi/metropol-spa-hotel

The walk was nice, and we checked out the Balti Jaama Turg on the way. Our absolute favorite exhibition at Fotografiska was Alison Jackson’s Truth is Dead, which was both funny and thought-provoking. I also found Kirsty Mitchell’s Wonderland interesting and there were some extremely beautiful pictures that I would be happy to hang on my wall, but in my opinion it became a bit repetitive after a while. Once we had seen the various exhibitions it was lunch time. We ate at Kivi, Paber, Käärid (Rock, Paper, Scissors), which turned out to be an excellent spot to enjoy tasty food. We started with Tortilla Chips with Avocado Cream and Salsa and both had a soup to follow. Mine was Creamy Tomato Soup with Oat Cream and Roasted Almond Flakes and hubby’s Spicy Vietnamese Style Soup with Duck. If you are ever in the Telliskivi area, I can recommend Kivi, Paber, Käärid both for food and drinks.

Oustide market at Balti Jaama Turg
Inside Balti Jaama Turg
Spotted some street art on the way to Fotografiska
More street art
Lunch time

After lunch we strolled back to the hotel and once there utilized the spa facilities. The spa featured four different saunas (Finnish sauna, aroma sauna, steam sauna and salt-steam sauna), four Jacuzzis, a pool and a pool-side bar. We found the spa to be nice and relaxing and at least on a Friday afternoon it was not too crowded. Soon it was time to prepare for dinner and once we were all dolled up, we headed out again and walked to the restaurant.

Spa picture courtesy of: http://www.visitestonia.com/fi/metropol-spa-hotel

I had booked a table at Restaurant Tchaikovsky located in the Telegraaf Hotel. As we were a bit early, we decided to have a drink at the lobby bar. Once it was time for dinner the bartender took us to our table and brought our drinks as well. The restaurant was lovely and the service impeccable. We decided to try the six-course degustation menu with wine pairings. The menu consisted of Tsar Blini with a Trio of Caviar: Osetra Caviar, Golden Pike Roe and Trout Roe, Venison Tartar with Cranberries, Black Radish and a Cream of Horseradish, Truffle Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Scallop and Crispy Black Bread, Cod with Pumpkin-Quince Puree and Oyster Beurre Blanc Sauce, Roasted Pigeon Royal Filet and Confit with Grilled Sweet Corn and Madeira Sauce, and Plum-Hazelnut Chocolate Cream With Cardamom Sauce. We were also served a small amuse bouche to start and a palate cleanser after the fish course. The menu had just changed that very day and we were the first customers to have this new degustation menu, so the waiter was very interested in what we thought of the various courses. The wine pairings worked really well, and we appreciated that the pours were half pours, as sometimes when you have a wine package you end up getting quite soused. The menu was extremely well planned and for once the courses were small enough so that you could enjoy the whole menu without feeling stuffed already half way through. All in all, I must say this was one of the very best degustation menus and wine pairings we have experienced. We will definitely return to Tchaikovsky as we are very interested in seeing what their spring or summer menu is like.

Restaurant picture courtesy of: http://www.visitestonia.com/en/restaurant-tchaikovsky
Bread basket with truffle spread and caper spread
Tsar Blini with a Trio of Caviar
Venison Tartar
Truffle Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
Cod with Pumpkin-Quince Puree and Oyster Beurre Blanc Sauce
The palate cleanser was a pineaplle sherbet in olive oil (sounds wierd but it was delicious)
Roasted Pigeon Royal Filet and Confit
Plum-Hazelnut Chocolate Cream

We had a good night’s sleep and an adequate breakfast at the hotel the following morning. Then it was time to check out and walk to the harbor to catch the noon ferry back home. This was a lovely way to celebrate hubby’s birthday and a welcome little break from the daily grind.

Swedish and international cuisine

Finally, the post about what we ate on our summer vacation in Sweden. As I mentioned in my first post on Gotland, our first dinner in Visby wasn’t anything to write home about. It was a portion of fish & chips that swam in grease. Luckily, we managed to find far better places for lunch and dinner the next day. For lunch we stopped at Familjen Jessens Saluhall & Bar where we enjoyed an exquisite fish soup with sourdough bread. Hubby accompanied his soup with a beer, and I opted for a grapefruit lemonade. While strolling around the old town we found a nice outdoor café Krönet overlooking the sea and decided to sit down and enjoy a cocktail and the view. I had googled around for the best restaurants in Visby the night before, which lead us to a pizzeria called Mille Lire that serves Roman style pizza. We had a starter of bruschette miste, which was essentially a selection of their various pizza toppings on small slices of bread made from the pizza dough. The bruschette were delicious and really put our hopes up for the pizza, and I can tell you the pizza did not disappoint. I had a classic Tonno e cipolle pizza (tuna, red onion & mozzarella) and hubby enjoyed the Diavola (spicy salami & mozzarella). I enjoyed a glass of rose wine with my pizza while hubby stuck to beer. I can highly recommend this restaurant if you are in the mood for a tasty pizza.

The less impressive fish & chps, look at that grease glistening.
Lovely fish soup for lunch
Cocktail with a view
Refreshing
Bruschette miste
Pizza tonno e cipolle

The next day we ended up having a late lunch at the café at Lummelundagrottan where hubby ate a sandwich and I had a savory waffle with goat’s cheese. Both were nice and worked well for lunch. In the evening we had plans to have burgers at Brooklyn Burgers ‘n Bar but the place was packed, so we eventually ended up having burgers at Brygghuset Bar & Kök where we had nice burgers accompanied by local beers. For some reason I forgot to take pictures of the burgers, which were nice enough, although not the best I’ve ever had. Before dinner we had a refreshing drink at Bolaget. On our last day on Gotland we had pizza for lunch at Carlssons Restaurang & Vedugnspizzeria. For dinner we headed to Brooklyn Tacos ‘n Tequila. Here we started with some tacos; Camarones en taco and Baja Fish taco that we shared as they were served in pairs. As we ended up waiting for a server to come and take our order for quite some time, they also served us a third set of tacos, Taquito de langosta for free as an apology (a nice touch, as we had not even complained). After the tacos we shared a nacho plate with beef, cheese, corn, tomatoes & guacamole. We drank beer with the food and had margaritas for dessert. The tacos were super delicious, and the nachos were of average quality. I can recommend this place for the tacos and margaritas.

Fish tacos
Shrimp taco
And the free lobster tacos
Nachos galore

Once we were in Stockholm, we googled for a restaurant near the hotel for the first evening and ended up at a place called Taste of Vietnam roughly a block away from the hotel. Both of us chose a salad to start, mine was a mango salad and hubby’s a glass noodle salad, both were super delicious and suitably hot. For my main I had fried rice noodles with scampi and hubby had an entrecote wok. The mains were tasty but not nearly as good as the starters. I drank a house-made juice drink with lime and once again hubby had a beer. The following day we had lunch at Östermalms Saluhall which at the moment is undergoing a huge renovation and is housed in a temporary building. We ate at Tysta Mari where I ate fish soup with shrimps served with aioli accompanied by a glass of white and hubby enjoyed the Toast Skagen with a beer, both were excellent. For dinner I had booked a table at a place called Den Gamle och Havet (The old man and the sea), which is an Italian seafood restaurant. My starter was Scampi in Padella con Burro (lobster with roasted garlic, butter, and parsley) and hubby had the Carpaccio di Tonno (tuna carpaccio). Both were absolutely delicious as were the mains; Pappardelle e Funghi Trifolati (pasta with various mushroom, rosemary, white wine, garlic, pepperoncini, olive oil and parsley) and Spaghetti alle Vongole (pasta with Venus clams, garlic, pepperoncini, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and parsley). We both enjoyed a glass of white wine with dinner. The pastas were tasty, and the restaurant was a nice experience as a whole. If you are in the mood for good Italian food with a focus on seafood, I can certainly recommend Den Gamle och Havet.

Toast Skagen and fish soup for lunch
Scampi in Padella con Burro
Carpaccio di Tonno
Pappardelle e Funghi Trifolati
Spaghetti alle Vongole

On our last day in Stockholm we had a quick lunch at Gallerian at Café Coppola. We had a dinner reservation at Restaurant Pelikan. This is a traditional Swedish restaurant with a history of 110 years. The restaurant is housed in a big hall with high ceiling vaults and arched windows. The hall was nice but a bit noisy and the service was friendly. We started with a potato pancake with bleak roe, red onion and creme fraiche and Toast Skagen with bleak roe. These were followed by pan fried arctic char with crayfish & potato croquettes and trout roe sauce and Biff Rydberg (diced and fried tenderloin, potatoes, onion, mustard cream & egg yolk). Once again, I enjoyed white wine with my dinner while hubby had a beer. All the food was super tasty so based on the food, atmosphere and service I can wholeheartedly recommend Pelikan to anyone looking for traditional Swedish food while visiting Stockholm.

Enjoying a pink gin cocktail at the terrace of NoFo Hotel & Wine Bar
Potato pancake with roe
Toast Skagen
Arctic char (my absolute favorite fish)
Biff Rydberg

This Friday we head to Tallinn for one night to celebrate hubby’s birthday so a post on that will follow, but I might post another wine & food review before that.