October 17, 2014

Restaurant Taverna Bazaar

This is actually a restaurant I visited this past summer, but I didn't have a chance to write about them at the time due to so many summer events going on. So I thought that I would save them until the autumn. The restaurant in question is Taverna Bazaar; a new restaurant located on the square Järntoget in Gamla Stan. Stockholm obviously has lots of restaurants serving Swedish and New Nordic cuisine... but we also have great restaurants serving a wide range of cuisines from around the world.
Taverna Bazaar is a bit unique as they serve cuisine from the Eastern Mediterranean (a mix of Turkish, Greek, and Lebanese). These cuisines mix very well with each other as they use many of the same ingredients and spices. Another thing these cuisines have in common is the concept of mezes/mezedes. These are small appetizers, served warm or cold, and dips... similar in concept to "tapas" in Spain.
You will recognize many of them by name, like Tzatziki, Hoummus, Haloumi and Saganaki. The restaurant also has a tasting menu of mezes... which we took. Perfect to share and delicious! But it isn't all small dishes... they also have several larger fish & meat dishes prepared over a charcoal grill as well as other main courses like Souvlaki and their version of a hamburger.

The interior design of the restaurant matches the cuisine with lots of beautiful ceramic tiles as well as regional carpets, lighting fixtures and design details. During the summer months they have a nice big outdoor seating area on the square. It is just a 15 minute walk to the restaurant from the Rival Hotel. It is open daily for lunch and dinner and its location in the old town makes it a great place to take a lunch break when sightseeing. Click here for my other restaurant visits/recommendations.

October 9, 2014

"Sculpture After Sculpture" at Moderna

Yesterday I attended a sneak preview of the new exhibition at Moderna, Stockholm's modern art museum. "Sculpture After Sculpture" is the name of the exhibition and contains 13 pieces of work from three of the most important and innovative contemporary artists active in the medium of sculpture... Katharina Fritsch, Jeff Koons and Charles Ray.  
Fritsch's "Ghost and Pool of Blood"
Even if you aren't a modern art aficionado, you have probably at least heard of Jeff Koons. Besides his notoriety with certain artwork and performance art, he also holds the record for most expensive work of art by a living artist sold at auction... $58.4 million for "Balloon Dog (Orange)". Combining Koons with Fritsch and Ray in one exhibition is an intriguing move, not only for the similarity between the 3 artists but also for the differences. 
Koon's "Balloon Dog (Red)"
The entire exhibition is found in one large space at the museum which makes it, in my opinion, more interesting. As it is 3 dimensional works of art we are talking about, the art isn't just along the walls but spread out throughout the space. Upon entering the room, your attention is drawn immediately to the more well known sculpture, like Koons "Michael Jackson and Bubbles" or "Balloon Dog (Red)", and more imposing work, like Fritsch's "Elephant". However, you soon notice more subtle pieces. I especially enjoyed Fritsch's "Ghost and Pool of Blood" as well as Ray's "New Beetle". One word of warning... be careful where you walk!
Ray's "New Beetle"
This exhibition opens on October 11th and runs through January 18th, 2015. It is one of several exhibitions currently showing at Moderna... I recently wrote about another one entitled "A Way of Life". Otherwise you can click here for a list of other art exhibitions going on in Stockholm this fall/winter season. And if you are interested in sculpture and statuary, don't miss a visit to Millesgården when in Stockholm.
"Madonna" and "Elefant", both by Fritsch
The Moderna Muséet is located on the island of Skeppsholmen. To get there from the Rival Hotel, it is easiest by ferry from nearby Slussen. As we move towards "low" season, make sure you inform them at the ferry that you wish to make a stop at Skeppsholmen... otherwise they may not stop there on their way to Djurgården.
Koon's "Michael Jackson and Bubbles"

October 7, 2014

Stockholm Jazz Festival 2014

Jazz Soppa with Anna Karin Westerlund.
Swedes have long had a special love for jazz music, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that Stockholm hosts a great jazz festival. Once upon a time, this festival was held outside at one venue during the summertime... these days the Stockholm Jazz Festival looks a bit different. The festival has moved indoors and takes place from the 10th through the 19th of October, spread out between 30 different venues in the city. Some venues, like Fasching and Kulturhuset will be hosting many of the concerts, but there are also a wide range of other venues to visit during the festival to enjoy some jazz. All in all, there will be around 130 concerts played during the festival and artists include some international big names like Jamie Cullum, Wayne Shorter and Angélique Kidjo as well as lots of up-and-coming talent!
Angélique Kidjo will perform at Kulturhuset.
There is no "festival pass" which gives you access to all of the concerts. Instead you need to purchase individual tickets to each concert. Many of the concerts, on the other hand, are free! You can find out more information regarding individual concerts (including ticket info) by visiting their program page. Unfortunately, the main program is in Swedish... but if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, stop by and talk to me and I can help you with finding some good concerts. Otherwise you can also contact them at festival@fasching.se with any questions. They do have a quick guide in English (with many program points/venues) on their website. It is in pdf form and the link can be found on the left side of the home page.
Carefree, photo by Martin Taesler.

October 3, 2014

Restaurant Köttbaren

Great burger!
Last week I had a meeting with a colleague over drinks at Köttbaren and, as we stayed there for a bite to eat afterwards, I thought it would a great opportunity to blog about the restaurant. To start off with... the name. It is Swedish for "the meat bar" and it describes the restaurant very well! Not only is the menu heavy on meat & sausage, but there is also an actual butcher shop in the restaurant where they sell fine cuts of meat as well as sauces, spices and barbecue implements. The wait staff's uniforms (white butcher smocks) add to the ambiance.
Entrance from the street Tegnérgatan.
The restaurant is located in the downtown area and is actually the more casual, sister restaurant to Grill, which is lcoated right around the corner from Köttbaren. For an extra Concierge tip... Grill, which I have written about before, is where I celebrated my birthday with friends last night. Super yummy! But back to Köttbaren...
Mini-boutique with everything you need to grill a great steak.
One thing to keep in mind with Köttbaren is that they do not accept table reservations unless you are a group of 8 or more persons (and then only on Mondays through Wednesdays). So it is on a drop-in basis! We arrived quite early (5-5:30pm) and the restaurant was basically empty, but by 7pm it was full with happy diners with people waiting in the bar for seats. They have long tables for 8+ persons which you share with other diners, family style. They do also have counter space next to the window. This is a fun idea and the tables are wide enough that it doesn't feel like everyone at the table is privy to your conversation.
Dining room, pre dinner rush...
For dinner, I decided on their hamburger. It should be noted that gourmet hamburgers are the latest trend in Stockholm's culinary world. Some are actually calling it a "burger war" with restaurants putting forth their version of a gourmet burger (finer meat used along with fancier toppings, like truffle mayonnaise). Click here for a list of the best burgers in town (Google translate button in top right hand corner). I can report that the burger at Köttbaren was very good!

...and during dinner rush.
To get to Köttbaren from the Rival Hotel... take the subway (green line) from nearby Slussen, 4 stops northbound to the station Rådmansgatan. They will be expanding the concept in the coming months, opening a second Köttbaren on the street Vasagatan. Not sure on the exact location or when they will open yet. Click here for more restaurant reviews!
Butcher shop in the restaurant.

October 1, 2014

Stockholm's Affordable Art Fair

 "Buy on the spot, love forever". Yes, it is that time of the year again... the popular Affordable Art Fair (Oct 2nd through 5th) is back in Stockholm. The first Affordable Art Fair was opened in London in 1999 and these days you can find them throughout the world, including Singapore, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Mexico City and Seattle. The concept behind the fair is to show that you don't have to be either a millionaire or an art expert to purchase or enjoy great art. This weekend in Stockholm, 60 international art galleries will present thousands of works of contemporary art... from both well established and up-and-coming artists. The art presented is for sale and the price tags run the gamut from 500 to 50,000 SEK. So stop by and either enjoy the art on display or purchase your very own piece of art to take back home with you. Artwork preview!
The fair is held at Magasin 9, which is located in the Frihamnen area. The easiest way to get there with public transportation is to take Bus 1 from Stureplan to Frihamnen (final stop). The bus ride just takes a few minutes. Otherwise the Fair does have free busses departing at the top and bottom of every hour from Karlaplan, which is just six stops away on the subway from the Rival Hotel. More information: click here.

September 27, 2014

Fine Dining at Restaurant "Pontus!"

Birds-eye view of the dining room at Pontus! (Photo provided by Pontus)
Earlier this week a colleague and I tried out the new autumn menu at the restaurant Pontus!. The restaurant is run by the award winning Swedish chef Pontus Frithiof who has several restaurants in his culinary empire. I have already reported on his more casual eatery Pocket, which is actually located at the same address as Pontus!, but on this outing we were trying the Matsal ("dining room") which is their fine dining option.
Staircase leading from Pocket down to the main dining room.
The entrance to the Matsal is through Pocket and down a stately staircase. The interior design of the main dining room is quite well known to Stockholmers... with incredibly high ceilings and sky lights, the quirky wallpaper resembles book binders giving diners the illusion of being in an elegant library. The dining room is separated from the kitchen by a large glass window... so if you get bored with your dining companions you can always watch your meal being prepared.
4 of the 5 courses on the tasting menu (Call of the Wild".
While there is an ala carte menu, we opted to try one their 5 course tasting menus (Pontus Temptations). They have two different ones to choose from, both very seasonal. We chose the one called "The Call of the Wild". I was happy to see that the other tasting menu, "Terra Nostra", was completely vegetarian... filled with autumnal flavors. The "wild" tasting menu was very good with lots of yummy seasonal dishes like scallops, venison, char, bleak roe, reindeer, carrots, mushrooms and blueberries. Friendly and knowledgable service!
My own birds-eye view of the main dining room.
Pontus! is located in the dowtown area, just a stone's throw from Stureplan. The easiest way to get there from the Rival Hotel is by subway... 4 stops on the red line to Östermalmstorg (exit to Stureplan). Otherwise it is a 7-8 minute taxi ride. Click here for other restaurant recommendations.

September 25, 2014

Three Festivals Dedicated to Food & Drink This Weekend!

Source: Stockolms Öl & Vin AB. Photo: Örs Gubas
If you are coming to Stockholm this weekend and are interested in fine dining and/or alcoholic beverages... you are in luck! We have three festivals going on in the city that are dedicated to just these very subjects. First out we have two festivals in one... Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival and The Taste Experience. The latter festival is for wine, champagne, rum, cognac and tequila. Both festivals are are from the 26th through 28th of September (and then once again next weekend- Oct 2nd through 4th). They are both being held at the Nacka Strandsmässan (congress center) located just outside the city center.
Source: Stockolms Öl & Vin AB. Photo: Örs Gubas
The easiest way to get there from the Rival Hotel is by bus 71 or 443 from nearby Slussen (approximately a 15 minute bus ride). The entrance fee (250 SEK) gets you into both festivals. Click here for specific opening hours, ticket information as well as directions. These festivals are very popular with tens of thousands attending every year. At the festivals you will find tastings, classes, exhibitors, competitions, restaurants and bars. Please note that you need to be at least 20 years of age to enter the festival grounds.
Cooking class at Chef's Secrets, Taste of Stockholm
The third festival is called Taste of Stockholm. This festival runs from the 26th through 28th of September and is dedicated to the gastronomic world of fine dining. They describe themselves as "foodie heaven"! At the festival you can try the signature dishes of some of Stockholm's best restaurants as well as visit their farmers' market and see different exhibitions. Two program points not to be missed are the Electrolux Taste Theatre and Chef's Secrets. At the Theatre you can enjoy presentations from both Swedish and international chefs where they will either be preparing signature dishes or challenging themselves by preparing dishes with ingredients from a "mystery box". The Chef's Secrets are your opportunity to prepare a dish alongside a top chef. A unique experience! More information. The festival will take place in Wasahallen, located on the island of Djurgården right next to the Museum of Spirits. The easiest way to get to the festival from the Rival Hotel is with the Djurgårds Ferry. For more information on tickets, program and hours... click here!
Taste of Stockholm by Electrolux

September 20, 2014

Taxis in Stockholm... Be Careful!

I have written this several times over the years... but it is good information that bears repeating!
Click on above picture to enlarge!
Taxis in Sweden are not regulated. This means that it is free pricing and taxi companies can determine their own cost per minute/kilometer on their taxi meters. When the government deregulated the taxi industry, I am sure they did this with the best intentions (allowing smaller companies to be competitive). However, it has backfired. Small companies can legally charge double or even triple what larger companies do. As a Stockholmer, I know exactly which taxis to take or not. Unfortunately this means that the smaller companies end up preying on visitors who do not know better. This might sound a little bleak... but as long as you stick to rules above (checking the window sticker) you should be fine. Another rule of thumb is to stick with the larger companies, which all have similar pricing. Here at the Rival Hotel we use Taxi Stockholm among others. Other good companies include Taxi Kurir, Top Cab and Taxi 020. Another tip is to avoid hailing a taxi on the street and always have the hotel, restaurant or store call you a taxi. That way you are sure to get a "good" taxi.
And here you have some handy tips for catching a taxi at the airport!
Taxi Stockholm!

September 18, 2014

Fall Art Exhibitions at Museums & Major Galleries

The weather is getting cooler and there is a crispness in the air. Perfect weather for visiting an art museum or gallery when in Stockholm. Lots of different options to choose from! Something for everyone, as the saying goes...

At Moderna- Jeff Koons
Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988. Porslin 106,7 x 179,1 x 82,6 cm Astrup Fearnley Samlingen, Oslo, Norge © Jeff Koons 
These are just the highlights at the major art museums and galleries. Keep in mind that there may be other exhibitions going on at these venues that I haven't mentioned. Check by visiting the venue's website (all linked above). There are also many smaller galleries in the city. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, check directly with me for information about exhibits at the smaller galleries. I will definitely be visiting Moderna, Fotografiska, Millesgården and Waldemarsudde in the coming months... so check back for my reports!
At Sven-Harry's: Estrid Ericson's precious possesions.
Photo by:Lennart Nilsson/Svenskt Tenn 

September 16, 2014

Catholic Church- St Eric's Cathedral

Many years ago I wrote blog articles about different religious services in Stockholm (here and here)... but as I get mostly asked about Catholic services and the fact that I recently visited the main Catholic church in Sweden, I thought it was time for a new article!
Entrance.
While Sweden isn't a very religious country, the official religion is Lutheranism (Church of Sweden). That being said, Catholicism still has a large presence in Sweden, especially as many of the larger immigrant groups come from Catholic regions (especially South America, Poland and Croatia). There are several Catholic churches spread throughout Stockholm with the main church, St Eric's Cathedral (Katolska Domkyrkan), located on Södermalm and just a 10-15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel.
Interior.
While St Eric's Cathedral is close by, it is still a bit hard to find... mainly because it is located on a side street between two large buildings. Originally built in 1892, it doesn't look like much from the front, but it is actually much larger when you enter. This is because a large extension was added to the back in the 1980's as the church was then deemed too small to cater to the needs of Catholics who had moved to Sweden during the post war period.
Detail.
They do have daily masses at the cathedral and on Sunday they have masses all day long in different languages (Swedish, Latin, Italian, Polish, Spanish and Croatian). They do have special schedules, of course, during holidays like Easter & Christmas. Unfortunately, their website is only in Swedish. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, talk directly with me for exact times/languages. Otherwise you can contact them at sthlmdomkyrkan@katolskakyrkan.se.
Exterior.
No masses in English at St Eric's. But if that is something you are interested in, then I recommend a visit to St Eugenia Church where they hold mass in English every Sunday at 6pm (subject to change!). This church is located in the downtown area, near to the park Kungsträdgården. Interested in the main Lutheran cathedral in Stockholm? Click here.