Dining by the Bridge at Bistro Barbro

This past Friday my boyfriend and I went out to celebrate his birthday. We decided to eat at a place we hadn’t been to in a long time: Bistro Barbro.
Bistro Barbro is a small-ish restaurant situated almost underneath Liljeholmsbron in Hornstull. They have a distinct Asian theme with “tapas style” dishes and the point is that you order a couple of them and then share. I like that as it makes the dining experience a lot more relaxed and you can try different things more freely. They are also very accepting towards food intolerances/allergies and will tell you which dishes will be unavailable for you (that is, that they can’t adapt for you) as long as you have let them know beforehand.

Now, I love things that I can eat with my fingers and one of my favourite dishes here is one that you don’t need knife, fork or chopsticks for. It’s seared fois gras on top of deep fried lotus root with figue compote, pistachios and balsamic vinegar. It’s decadence in a single bite.

Anklever m lotusrot
Fois gras, deep fried lotus root, pistachios, figue compote and balsamic vinegar

The cooking style is a mix of Asian and European and it really works here. As always it’s all about balancing flavours and textures and at Bistro Barbro they know what they’re doing. A while ago it could be tricky to get a reservation here because it was so popular but they have now an area downstairs so as to make room for more visitors.

Their signature dish though I would say is the sushi. While they occasionally will change up the rest of the menu a bit the sushi stays pretty much the same. The attention to detail is just as present here with how the dressing is added and perhaps a scatter of tempura pieces on the top.

Halstrad laxmaki
Seared salmon maki with yuzu kosho, cream cheese, chipotle soy and tempura crisp

If you’re not a fan of sushi though I highly suggest you try their deep fried dumplings. I can’t eat them myself but my boyfriend loves them!

Friterade shiitakedumplings
Deep fried dumplings filled with shiitake, edamame beans and parmesan, served with a miso broth.

Like many other restaurants Bistro Barbro also a keep a list of signature cocktails where half of them are more standard combinations with European flavours and the other half are Japanese inspired. It’s a very nice touch as they all work well with the different dishes so they complete the dining experience.

Asiatiska drinkar
Cocktails with Asian flavours such as ginger and shoshu

Vanliga drinkar
Cocktails with a more European base including bourbon, lime, vodka, rosemary and elderflower

So if you like food to share as well as both European and Asian flavours, Bistro Barbro is the place for you!

Eating Out When You Can’t Eat Everything

Sorry for the radio silence these past couple of weeks, life has been a bit hectic and I have also been busy working on a draft for an upcoming post about taste. I’m still working on it and won’t post it until it feels perfect so in the meantime I’ll post some other stuff.

For this post though I’d like to talk about something that affects everyone with a food intolerance of some sorts, like lactose or milk protein intolerance, egg allergy, coeliac disease, soy allergy etc. Namely, eating out at a restaurant.
We’ve all been there. Trying to find a restaurant that will fit our desired budget while being able to cater to our needs and not cause us to leave the venue feeling horribly sick because someone forgot to check all the ingredients in a dish or thought that “it’s just a tiny bit, surely that can’t be too bad?” Well, in case you’ve ever been that person to have that thought here is a news flash: for some it can be near fatal.
And we as sufferers don’t always want to make demands because we don’t want to be seen as “difficult”. The trouble is, once we start seeing ourselves as “difficult” we stop living our daily lives and quit putting pressure where pressure should be put: on the restaurants, cafés and coffee houses. We are not difficult just beacuse we want to eat food that is safe for us.

I have coeliac disease and I am one of those who don’t experience symptoms when I accidentally eat gluten. I might feel a little tense but nothing more. On the other end of the scale I have my sister who gets terrible stomach problems when she eats milk protein.
When I first got my diagnosis I was deflated and though that I would never be able to eat out again. Today we go out to lunch or dinner every other week and it works totally fine. If you’ve suffered from a food intolerance/allergy for a long time you are probably, like me and have devised a routine for going out to eat. If your diagnosis is new, however, you might find these tips useful:

  1. Call the restaurant prior to making a reservation and ask what can be done in regards to your particular intolerance/allergy.
  2. State you allergy/intolerance when making the reservation. Some restaurants have an option where you can leave a special message after choosing party size, date and time, others will want you to send them an email if you have any special requests.
  3. Remind them on arrival and let them know who it is who has an intolerance/allergy. They don’t know that when you’re making the reservation (unless you write “I” instead of “One of us”) and it makes things easier for everyone when ordering your food.
  4. Ask about the menu! A good (even decent) restaurant should be able to either recommend which dishes you should go for or what could be tweaked in order to make it safe for you. While some things will be difficult to adapt to your specific requirement, other things will be perfectly safe. But if you don’t ask you won’t for sure. Knowledge is the key to everything, never forget that.

I also always check out the menu (if it’s available online) prior to the visit. Although this is mostly because I’m curious about what they have and what I might be in the mood for, it also helps me rule out dishes that I know they won’t be able to fix for me.

Eating out should be an enjoyment for everyone, no matter what you can and can’t eat. Restaurants are constantly getting better at seeing and understanding food intolerances and we as sufferers need to be better at letting them know what we want from them. If we don’t communicate they won’t be able to learn and improve.
And to all you chefs and restaurant owners: please don’t see us as a pain in the ass. All we want to do is to live our lives the same way everyone else does, and that includes eating. We want to have the same experience as all your other guests, nothing more. While I understand that easy route is to just remove the particular allergen, more often than not it is apparent that this is the easy way out. I want to be able to taste all the different textures my dinner company is tasting. Crunchy crumbles usually can be replaced with something else that’s crunchy, such as nuts and seeds. I don’t want to feel that something was left off my plate because it was “the simplest way to fix it”. Please ask us if you’re not sure what can be done. When you’ve had a diagnosis for a couple of years you learn things and we’d love to communicate our experience with you so the next customer will feel as happy as we did.

I love to go out to eat and will keep doing that for the rest of my life. And I look forward to see the restaurant world evolve and make it easier for us with food intolerances and allergies to eat out.

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Dessert at Ekstedt, June 2016, almond cake (instead of honey cake) baked in the wood fired oven with raspberries, birch ice cream and buttermilk cream.

Cooking as a Therapy

I do nearly all of the cooking at home. And it’s not because my boyfriend doesn’t like to cook or have some strange idea that I should do all the cooking, he actually enjoys it and would like to be in the kitchen more (I’m learning to let in him). It’s because I come home earlier than he does, sometimes several hours earlier depending on his work schedule.
This means I spend most of my kitchen time alone with no one else to keep me company except for myself and my thoughts. I don’t mind it though as this has given me an opportunity to talk the day over with myself, rant about all the things that have annoyed me and discuss whatever problem I’ve had or things that worry me. I find that if I say things out loud and not just think it a problem gets easier to solve and something that at first seemed like a huge worry cloud ends up getting a shrug and a “Whatever, it will work itself out somehow”. Add to that the fact that I always think better when I’m doing something that requires focus and I have my own winning combination. Cooking gives me the opportunity I need to think, philosophise and go over the same thing again and again until I either find a solution to my problem or just say “Screw it, it’s not my problem so I don’t care”. It has in a sense made me aware of how my own brain works and how I solve my issues.

Cooking has also made me more physically aware. I will go deeper into this in another post though, or else I will lose focus on this one. But I am more aware of myself, my breathing, how I move my fingers etc when I’m in the kitchen. In other words, this is my form of mindfulness. No matter how sad or angry I am, cooking makes it better – or at least easier to handle.
I think it all comes from my connection with food and cooking as something enjoyable, something that’s done because we like to do it, not just because we have to. If I do something that I enjoy, like reading, having a cup of tea or going for a walk I feel happy and at peace. That’s what I feel when I’m cooking. It’s a bit like yoga, I guess, calming, awakening, focused and strengthening. I love the smell of something frying in a pan and hear the bubble of cooking water, a sauce or a stew. It makes me smile to know that I’m doing something that I’m good at and that it will taste good once it’s done. All my problems go away in that one area of my home, the only thing that beats it is my boyfriends embrace, however cheesy that sounds.

Cooking is my therapy. Some years ago I used to write in my journal to get all my worry and annoyance out. Today, I cook and bake. If I come home feeling upset about something it immediately starts to feel better once I start prepping for dinner. Doing something as simple as chopping an onion helps me focus my mind in the right direction and I can see what has upset me in a new light. If I didn’t cook I don’t really know what I would do. I might write a journal again but sometimes I find it hard to find the time to sit down and just write on my own. Cooking is something I do nearly every day (that is, when we don’t go out to eat) and for me it has done my brain good.

 

My Foodie Story

Yes, I know the title sounds a bit pretentious but it was the best I could come up with for this post. It’s an important post for me to write though because I feel that if I want to set the stage for upcoming posts that might be more philosophical and questioning (there is one in the works as I’m typing this) I need to explain why I feel the way I do about food and what my own food philosophy is.

If you have read my very first post, you might remember that I wrote that I grew up in a very food interested family. This is no understatement, ever since I was a little kid food has been a huge part of my family’s life, it’s one of the things that keep us together.
All of my grandparents have cooked and baked. My paternal grandfather would make a yummie strawberry compote that I would eat when I visited them after school every Thursday. My paternal grandmother baked amazing biscuits and ginger bread that had the perfect snap. My grandmother on  my mother’s side though, she always made the best baked cheesecake and a complete turkey dinner on Christmas Day, a tradition my mother took over when she passed away and that my sister accepted responsibility over last year. While my maternal grandfather didn’t cook much (that was my grandmother’s domain) he loved cakes and would often make his own sponge cake.

My parents are no different, food is such a major part of their lives and something that they have managed to pass down to my sister and me. I remember my dad once telling me that if he had had the opportunity when he was young he would have become a chef. He loves to cook and makes the most amazing roast dinners, stews and casseroles.
While my mum has never expressed any similar wishes she has always been eager to experiment and learn about new flavours, cuisines and techniques. She is the more “progressive” and experimental one of my parents, my dad is more “old school” and traditional in his food preferences. I’m happy though that they are different in their views on food, for me it just means that I have got the best of both worlds because I love both classic as well as more modern cooking.

When I was younger I would always be in the kitchen helping out with the cooking and tasting sauces and casseroles but I didn’t start to cook for myself properly until my late teens and early twenties. I have always enjoyed watching cooking shows on TV. I remember Jamie Oliver’s “The Naked Chef” being one of the very first ones that I saw and at the same time felt that I could try my hands on the recipes.
As always when you first start doing something for real you make mistakes but I am a perfectionist in everything that I do so I never gave up. I kept on trying until I was happy with the end result. And that’s how I still do things. I do more research nowadays though to find the best ways to cook an ingredient or the best flavours that will go with it. And from that I create my own recipes, whenever I’m not using someone’s of course. My cookbook collection is ever growing as is the list of restaurants I want to visit – and these span all over the budget scale.
Because I don’t just love to cook, I love to eat. I always think about the next meal and food I want to try. One of my main interests (that I also share with my loving boyfriend) is to go out to eat. There is always a new place I want to try and I get incredibly excited when we manage to get a reservation. We have even discussed future travels on the basis of restaurants and food regions we want to visit.
I am a foodie in the respect that I love to eat all kinds of food, from rustic classics to super modern fine dining and molecular gastronomy. I don’t see one style as being better than the other, they all have their place in the food world. Although, if you don’t know your classic techniques how can you then expect yourself to produce ground breaking dishes? This is no matter your cuisine, all countries have their own techniques for certain types of food. Knowing your basics makes it easier to experiment and I feel that you can sense this on the food that is presented to you. If you know what you’re doing then you can do practically anything, the sky is the limit. But if you don’t, then be sure that your diner will call you out on it.

The only thing I really ask of a plate of food is that everything that is on the plate is there for a reason. It is there because the dish changes entirely if you take it away. Regardless of the dish one of my major pet peeves is when something is there because “it looks cool/modern/interesting/whatever” but doesn’t really do anything for the dish itself. My other one is when a certain allergen (in my case gluten as I have coeliac disease) is removed but not replaced with an equivalent. There are many alternative ingredients out there it shouldn’t really be an issue. And yet it keeps happening. Which is why I always get ecstatic whenever I get offered gluten free bread at a restaurant and/or gluten free components on a plate in exchange of the original components that contain gluten. It means my chronic illness is being taken seriously and that means a lot.
This is probably a reason why I have become more scrutinizing whenever I go out to eat. I see the details more and analyze for myself how they work together. It might be expensive in the long run, but hey, I’m doing something I truly enjoy so it’s all worth it in the end.

I feel like I’m rambling at the moment and this blog post is running the risk of becoming a massive wall of incomprehensible text. I hope that I have been able to explain at least something about my view on food but I suppose it will become more apparent in future posts.
So I will end this one with a photo of one of the best gluten free desserts I have ever eaten: a sugar coated deep fried socca with caramel ice cream and chili syrup at Ekstedt in 2015.

Foto 2015-06-04 19 40 27 (1)
Desserts at Ekstedt early summer 2015. Sugar coated deep fried socca with caramel ice cream & chili syrup (gluten free), next to what was actually on the menu, donut with flambéed peaches.

Clean and Natural at Restaurang Volt

Last year my sister took me out to dinner as a birthday present, something which since then has become a tradition for us (she decides a restaurant for my birthday and I decide one for hers). The restaurant she took me to was one that had been on my bucket list for a little while, namely Restaurang Volt. They received a Michelin Star a couple of years ago but they don’t let that put too much pressure on them. Instead they stay true to their form and beliefs in regards to food and cooking. The produce they use is mainly organic and they work closely with small farms and growers in order to get the best there is. Even their wine is organic from small vineyards all over Europe, including many eastern European countries.

The philosophy at Volt is to keep everything as clean and uncomplicated as possible and at my first visit there that philosophy really shone through. When a plate of charred beans with a sour cream dipping sauce arrived for us to nibble on we knew we were in for a treat.

1 Nibbles m bönor & dip
Charred beans with a sea weed flavoured sour cream dip.

At Volt you choose between two set menus, one with four dishes and one with six, and to that you can order a set of matching wines. We chose to have four dishes, something I think is a fairly good idea when you visit a restaurant with set menus for the first time. That way you get a good idea of what they can do while not feeling overly full. We also opted for the matching wines and were pleasantly surprised. Each wine matched its dish perfectly and when my sister at one point mentioned that she wasn’t that fond of Chablis they switched a planned wine for another one. Now that’s what I call customer service!
They also provided me with their own home made gluten free bread that was filled with blueberries and one of the most delicious breads I have ever eaten!

When you’re used to seeing complicated plating with lots of different elements and edible flowers everywhere going to Volt is like a breath of fresh air. The plating is clean, without any fancy shapes or spheres, and with the focus completely on the ingredients. The flavours are both subtle and intense without fighting each other. Everything just works and it all looks beautiful.

2 Röding m purjolök, gurka & tall
Char with leek, cucumber broth and pine

3 Fänkål m mandelmjölksglace & rivet späckBaked fennel with almond milk glaze and grated salted lard

4 Lamm m gröna tomater & basilikaLamb with fried green tomatoes and basil

5 Råmjölk m höparfait & vilda björnbärColustrum pancake (simply colustrum milk that’s been heavily reduced in a pan) filled with hay infused parfait and blackberry jam.

Even though I love an imaginative and surprising presentation I also love it when restaurants dare to go uncomplicated and just focus on the components at hand. And if you prefer simplicity over elaborate then Restaurang Volt is the restaurant for you.
Myself, I feel that a new visit is long overdue.

A Swedish Taste of Japan: Omakase Köttslöjd

On the 1st of June my love and I celebrate our anniversary and we always go out somewhere nice for our anniversary dinner. We like to try new things and at the moment we are very fond of Japanese and Japanese inspired food. So this year, to celebrate our ninth year together, we ended up at a place we had been looking at for quite some time: Omakase Köttslöjd. “Omakase” is usually translated as “I’ll leave it up to you” and basically means that you let the chef decide what you should eat, there is no menu to choose from. And that is the premise here. The chefs working here decide what to put on the set menu and that can change from day to day depending on what’s available. At Omakase Köttslöjd they work exclusively with Swedish ingredients and they work very closely with their purveyors.

The restaurant doesn’t advertise itself that much. You enter through a hotel lobby and past a wine bar (The Burgundy that is owned by the same people who own Omakase Köttslöjd) and at the far back is a door that leads to the restaurant itself. It only has room for 15 people but the main number of seats are placed along the bar so you can see the chefs at work and talk to them. This is something I love and every time we manage to get seated at the Chef’s Table I’m very happy. On this occasion we were the first to arrive so we got to choose our seats ourselves, of course we took our place at the bar.

Seeing the chefs work is always so much fun and here we really got close to the action, which also meant that it was very easy to talk to the chefs and ask a lot of questions about the dishes.

Foto 2017-06-01 18 32 21

The team at work, two chefs and one sommelier

I sometimes prefer smaller venues like this, just because I like to see what’s going on. And when everyone is friendly and service minded it makes the evening all the more enjoyable. It is actually a bit contagious because at a certain point of the evening you just can’t help but get in a conversation with neighboring guests. I don’t mind though, every chance I get to discuss food and restaurants is a good one.

Omakase Köttslöjd is a fairly unique experience, although there are more Japanese style restaurants for all budgets popping up here and there. What I really love here is their attention to detail. It can be something as small as spraying gin on a plate before plating up a piece of perfectly cooked fish with pickled rhubarb, leek roots and a buttery shellfish sauce.

Foto 2017-06-01 18 36 25

Pike-perch, pickled rhubarb, leek roots & buttery shellfish sauce

You can tell that they put in a lot of work, thought and effort when they create their dishes. Everything that is one the plate is there for a reason. Of course, I would have loved more cloud berries in the dessert, but I am on the other hand a complete cloud berry maniac since I have my roots in the north of Sweden where the best ones grow.

Foto 2017-06-01 20 21 52

Yogurt ice cream, almond creme, cloud berries & meringue shards flavoured with charcuterie salt

This is definitely a restaurant to my taste and I am very happy that we managed to eat here before they close the whole thing down, which will be now during Midsummer. But if I have managed to make you curious about this place then fret not, because the owners and the chefs are launching the next omakase phase at the end of the summer. This new restaurant will have the same address as Omakase Köttslöjd and will go under the name of Flickan (“The Girl”). The concept will still be omakase but this time they will bring the entire world into the kitchen.

Personally, I can’t wait to try it!

Welcome to Pharmarium

For my first restaurant post I want to treat you to one of my favourite cocktail bars in all of Stockholm: Pharmarium.

You find it in Gamla Stan at Storkyrkotorget, right opposite the Nobel Museum. In the summer you can sit outside and look at the tourists and in the winter this remade old pharmacy is buzzing with life, music and happy people. There are many reasons why I love this place, one of which is that they have worked really hard to keep the old interior with the drawers that used to be full of medicinal ingredients. It gives the place a true vintage feeling which is enhanced by the lighting, decor (lots of old rugs everywhere) and a beautiful art deco marble bar top.

The other reason is, of course, their cocktails. Yes, they can make all the classics, just like any self-respecting mixologist/bartender should. But their strength lies in their signature cocktails. The menu changes a couple of times a year and always has a set theme (right now it’s called “Hocus Pocus”, inspired by voodoo, old magic and the American South). It’s never hard for me to find a favourite. The previous menu had the Tonka & Tonic, a G&T flavoured with tonka bean and their homemade blueberry tonic, it was to die for!

Tonka Tonic & In The Woods

In The Woods and Tonka & Tonic

Being primarily a cocktail bar also gives them the advantage of letting the cocktails decide what food to put on the menu. Because at Pharmarium they don’t just make signature cocktails, oh no. They also make a signature dish that is perfectly paired with one specific cocktail. For example, the Tonka & Tonic was paired with duck breast that was served with a variation of beetroot, pickled onion and the best blueberry red wine sauce I’ve ever had.
One of my favourite dishes to date though is the carrot that was on the previous menu (seriously, that entire menu was probably their best so far!). Basically, it was baked carrot with carrot puree, shaved carrots in different colours, pickled rose petals & rose pepper, carrot leaves and a burned cream sauce flavoured with sea buckthorn. Simple, beautiful to look at and flavours working together in perfect harmony. Even my sister, who is quite picky with her food, loved it! I took her here for dinner last month and while she admitted that I was challenging her taste buds she also appreciated it and the craftsmanship very much.

Avocado, Elevation, Morot & Planet Caravan

Back: Avocado with coriander and Elevation cocktail. Front: Baked carrot with burned cream sauce and Planet Caravan cocktail.

I’ve been coming to Pharmarium since 2015 with both my friends and my boyfriend. At this point we have come to know some of the staff really well, which makes a visit all the more fun. I have enjoyed following their journey this far and it will be interesting to see what their future holds.

Oh, and if you ever get the chance, make sure you book a table. I promise you won’t forget it!

Amortentia & Bad Juju

From the summer menu 2017: Amortentia (front) and Bad Juju (back)

Welcome to Philosophia Cibi – the Food Philosopher

The first post is always the most exciting one to write, and also the most difficult one.

Hello, and welcome to this blog! This is Philosophia Cibi, literally translated as “philosophy of food” (yes, I had help from a Latin teacher), a blog about my favourite thing in life: food.
But this is not going to be another food blog like the many thousand others out there (at least, I hope it won’t be), I want this to be something different than just food pictures, recipes, food hacks and whatnot – you know, the things that make us all interest in a particular food blog.

But I’m starting the wrong way around, a little presentation of myself would probably be nice.
Well, I’m a 31 year old lady who is obsessed with food. I love to eat, cook, read about food, watching cooking shows and learning about food. I don’t work with it though, I have a fairly nice office job instead. But I love everything that has to do with food and learning new things.
I come from a family where food has always played a central part. There has always been family dinners and special treats (my mum, for example, makes a killer French chocolate cake) and we have always talked about food. Me, I started cooking properly in my 20’s and I quickly found a love for it. Now I can’t stop trying new techniques and flavour combinations. A celiac diagnosis seven years ago has both been a major learning curve, not just for me, my family and our cooking but also when it comes to going out to restaurants and cafés. Luckily though I live in Stockholm where the food scene is constantly growing, learning and evolving so it’s been easy to find my favourite places.

But enough about me for now, I’m sure you’re all dying to know what this blog will be about (apart from the obvious one: food). Here is the list of what I’m aiming to write about here:

  • Restaurant visits (NOT reviews! I will not give out any scores but will focus more on the experience as a whole). I will write both about new visits as well as older ones.
  • Recipes. Because you can’t really have a food blog without posting a recipe or two.
  • Food philosophy. Exactly that, my own philosophy regarding food, ingredients and sustainability.
  • Food aesthetics. I’m not just talking about plating and colours but bringing in aesthetics as a philosophical concept regarding food. I hope to be able to go back to my own studies for this in order to bring some proper substance, but there will probably be a lot of my own thoughts and ramblings as well.

These four topics will be this blog’s corner stones and I hope that you will be with me along the ride in discovering each one.

To end this post, here is a photo from one of my favourite restaurants ever: The Fat Duck. I will post a proper experience post about this place later but for now, enjoy this photo of the “Mock Turtle Soup”.

The Fat Duck15