Jan 312011

Blog-memes seem to be rather rare beasts, and mostly replaced by notes in facebook these days.

However, this “list 15 important bars”-list was attractive enough a topic to catch up on.

I’m pretty sure the list is more or less accurate, but I’m leaving spot #15 unfilled just in case there happens to be a pub that I’ve gracelessly forgotten:

  • Kuparipannu (first beer ever, long gone from Korkeavuorenkatu and replaced by multiple pubs and restaurants since – currently Gastone resides in the location).
  • Tavastia (my first ever genuine bar gig was in the biggest Scandinavia’s biggest rock’n'roll club, and I’ve been back plenty of times since).
  • Rendez-Vous (the not-so-hot-pub in Forum was the first place I ever got tossed out of ).
  • William K @ Annankatu (the first proper beer bar I got introduced to – the widening horizons beyond eurolager have deep roots here).
  • The Pie (the closest beer-serving location to the campus at the U was a frequent haunt during the exchange year of 1993-94).
  • Talentti (inception of SIG, a group of like-minded co-workers, conveniently next door to the office on Valimotie).
  • Macondo (SIG 2.0, after the move to Hiomotie facility, far grungier, but had reasonable opening hours).
  • Base (SIG downtown these days [albeit rarely] and a fine rock’n'roll bar, with a respectably metallic soundtrack).
  • Sling In (forcibly introducing the concept of tall and borderline sweet drinks).
  • American Bar (the finest in Helsinki).
  • Kaisla (still my #1 choice of a beer bar in Helsinki).
  • King City / Mr. Lau (neighbourhood joint for a decade).
  • Plevna (the second most common extra-curricular location in Tampere, after Swamp Music).
  • Boston Beerworks (always something truly interesting on tap).

Purposefully left out a couple of good candidates.

The bars in Ruoholahti are not that common haunts yet (though both Amsterdam and One Pint are pleasant indeed), there’s no bar worth a mention in Espoo (might change on the first visit to Gallows Bird).

Sep 022008

The week is barely two days old, and already there’s been two quality dinners at zero cost.

The trend is unlikely continue tomorrow, sadly.

On monday had the very first crayfish of the year at Saari. Only four of them, as appetizers for a nice chunk of a mallard. Had to eat inside, since the autumn is definitely on the threshold, and the winds were high.

Today had another corruption dinner at Bossa. Quality brazilian food, accompanied by quality liquids. Had a cocos/shrimp casserole, paired with the very first ever taste of Uruguayan wine, a properly tasty pinot noir. The neighboring A21 lounge was devoid of people on the way out, so a dip into the allegedly best bar in Finland got postponed to another day.

Both experiences good, but probably not good enough to entice to return in the immediate future.

Jul 162008

Viisi Tähteä has selected the top bars in Finland. The selection is not by vox populi, but voted on by 100+ bar-business professionals. Nonetheless, the picks seem not totally off the mark.

1. A21 Cocktail Lounge, Helsinki
Haven’t visited. But will, soon enough
2. American Bar, Hotelli Torni, Helsinki
An old favorite – the staff can whip up a mean mojito and a brilliant bloody mary. Not in seconds, because true craft takes time.
3. Sling In, Helsinki
Another old favorite – though it’s been a while since I’ve been here. The selection music of music used to be very much on the pleasant side.
4. Olutravintola Pikkulintu, Helsinki
Haven’t visited. Definitely a white blotch on the map.
5. Kämp Bar & Club, Helsinki
I think I’ve had one beer (off a flute-like glass) on their patio. Seemed too posh.
6. St Urho’s Pub, Helsinki
Another old favorite – beer selection borders on awesome, and the food is good as well.
7. Kaisla, Helsinki
And the old favorites are just piled on – one of the very few places that consistently impresses with their selection of quality beer. And luckily enough the audience keeps coming back, as evidenced by the recent annexation of the old Teerenpeli facilities in Kaisaniemi.
8. Panimoravintola Plevna, Tampere
A good pit stop in Tampere – hefty food cannot mask the quality of their own products (which go way beyond the norm with the likes of smoky lager). Will quite quite likely pay a visit during the Finncon 2008.
9. Grotesk Bar, Helsinki
Haven’t visited yet – heard good things about it, though.
10. Mecca, Helsinki
Ate here once – moleculargastronomy-ish menu, haven’t yet delved into the specials offered by the bar.
11. Shaker, Helsinki
Haven’t visited. Looks like a second-rate copy of Sling In.
12. Rymy-Eetu, Helsinki
Been here once. The lacklustre music, thin crowd and passive staff didn’t really vouch for the “party place of the year”-reputation that this place has. Nice selection of german beers, though, that must be said.
13. Ateljee Bar, Hotelli Tornin yläkerta, Helsinki
A classic, an overpriced and crowded classic. With tightly winding stairs as a bonus for inebriated visitors.
14. Café Kuluma, Oulu
No clue.
15. Oluthuone Leskinen, Oulu
Been here once. Avoiding pouring rain was not a chore here.
16. Teerenpeli Kamppi, Helsinki
Surprisingly big on the inside. Their own beers are worth a visit (or two), and the toasts the biggest in town.
17. Ravintola Teatteri, Helsinki
The last place I’ve been thrown out; due to attire (black shorts) and attitude. Very pleasant patio in summertime.
18. Vltava, Helsinki
I hope this refers to the upstairs bar only, the ground level facilities are rather sterile.
19. Gastropub Tuulensuu, Tampere
Haven’t visited.
20. One Pint Pub, Helsinki
Haven’t visited.

Pleasantly absent entirely from the list are all the bars owned by Sedu Koskinen.

Nov 092007

The best kind. Unplanned and unexpected.

  • Good intentions of getting home early. Check.
  • Multiple sentences beginning with “guys, I probably shouldn’t say this, but …” Check.
  • Worthy superiors praised, less than optimal beaten down. Check.
  • Late-night snack whose preparation consumes valuable sleeptime. Check.
  • Wondering whether all the new beers in Kaisla would be worth trying out. Check.
  • Not very productive day at work. Check.

And the world is definitely a tiny smidgeon better place.

Jun 212007

Nokia/NSN summer party in full swingAnnual company summer party was held traditionally on the wednesday before midsummer.

Actually, this was a doubleheader party, as both Nokia and the brand-spanking new Nokia Siemens Networks had a joint shindig.

On account of the usual location being a humongous crater, the party had been moved – to Kaisaniemi, closer to downtown you cannot easily get a playing field for thousands and thousands of attendees, that’s for sure.

Yeah, the location. Not bad at all, featuring such components as non-level ground, grass and trees. Almost enough to shield the participants from the goings on on stage.

You see, this year’s occasion continued the cluelessly cruel selection of artists. And in 2007, the headliner was the finnish tango king emeritus: Jari Sillanpää. Who, thankfully, did play other stuff than his zillion-selling schlagers. Katri Ylander (runner-up in finnish idols some years ago) was missing in action, and replaced by Nina Autio, another artist who took the “I’ll sing harmless classics”-option out of a potentially hard situation.

View from Lux's balconyBut music has never been the main idea in these parties. And neither has the freely flowing beer, though this year’s crop did service as a useful social lubricant for the thousands of variably repressed engineers. Nope – it’s the meeting of friends – those whom work has tossed into other niches in the company, schoolmates, and just people with whom occasional encounters do not regularly turn into flaming agony. Lots of friends sighted, though a couple of conspicuous omissions happened.

Nachspiel took a turn for the weird – visited Lux not once, but twice. First shot was a “quick” in-n-out trick (using the word quick in the loosest and most inappropriate sense, since merely queuing in took almost half an hour), but on the second ended up in the private section, away from the hoi polloi, music pumped out too loud, glass shards on the floor and just plain the things why I purposefully avoid Sedu Koskinen’s oeuvre in general.

Jan 102007

Dined in Ratskeller in downtown München.

For the fourth time in a row.

At least I think this is where I had a sausage-filled dinner back in 2003, and know for certain that on previous three trips I’ve ended up here.

Sure, it’s a horrific tourist trap – but it’s centrally located, and the food is both good and reasonably priced. And the two novices on this trip were rarin’ to taste some Bavarian specialities. Which were indeed offered in the form of a mixed pan of sausages. Went for surf’n'turf instead (it’s not good if the entire table has the same meal), which was pleasant enough – though the pea-based sauce with clippings of said vegetable’s pods was on the odd side.

Capped the evening out with a liter of Helles in Hofbräuhaus. Again at the request of those who hadn’t been there before. Nothing had changed in three weeks – the place was still loud, packed with tourists and had an expectant atmosphere.

Dec 192006

Hofbräuhaus coaster on a heavily defaced tableSpent three days working in Munich without access to network. TMO’s hotspot utterly failed to co-operate with my thinkpad at the hotel, and the days were just too busy for any extended experiments.

Mayerhof Hotel on Dachauer Straße was small, clean, right next to a tram stop, and apart from the niggling failure to access the net, pretty much an optimal selection.

Visited Tollwood, the humongous christmas market in Theresienwiese on sunday evening. The area is packed with both crafts and mass-produced fare – fortunately concentrating on the latter. Browsed a few, picked up a nicely challenging three dimensional wooden puzzle and settled in for a couple of glühweins with some finnish expatriattes (served with a sugarcube doused with rum and set on fire). Late dinner in the Augustiner brew-pub was in the shape of a schnitzel, and very agreeable in taste.

Monday evening’s entertainment consisted of limited shopping (the big Saturnus shop can keep their Gorillaz dvds and queues stretching to infinity), walking in the Marienplatz christmas market (crafts and eats) and trying to locate an italian restaurant. Last step utterly failed, and in the rapidly chilling evening had to resort to Ratskeller, a very centrally tourist trap. Their selection of sausages proved to be good indeed. Capped the evening with a visit to an even more tourist-catering place: the Hofbräuhaus. It hadn’t changed since the previous visit: loud, packed with tourists swilling from hefty tankards, and harried waiters carrying overflowing plates of food. Dancing brits were an unexpected bonus.

I’m pretty sure the Outlook Inbox will be overflowing tomorrow morning.

Sep 242006

Attended a friend’s birthday party, and the connected sports event: a darts competition organized already for the twelfth time.

Hadn’t thrown a single dart in almost a year, didn’t know the rules offhand (game’s called Kangaroo, and rules are indeed available).

Didn’t suck, totally, and managed to stay off the last place. Barely.

Hadn’t been to Manala in ages, and the place had been neatly renovated. The upper floors, on the other hand, were just as they’ve always been. As they should.

Sep 142006

Herding Cats on stage in the RoxySpent the evening in the official conference party.

Held in Roxy, very conveniently almost next door to Radisson.

Roxy is a multi-floored mid-profile club, which was not uncomfortably full when I got in (fashionably late, obviously). No coat check, which meant lugging a jacket in a warm environment a necessity.

The band of the evening was Herding Cats, definitely a quality cover-band from Seattle. Played three (if not four) extended and enthusiastic sets with very varied content: ranging from Jamiroquai to AC/DC via Elton John and Blink 182.

The band was loud, as were the DJs who seamlessly segued in after the band went on their breaks. Discussion in the main club was pretty much impossible.

Missed most of the food due to late arrival (mental note: these things seem to start on time), but plates of appetizers were carried around for a while by waiters, which eased up the situation slightly. The buffet tables were in the darkest areas of the club, and thoroughly raided already.

Thought the visit would be much shorter, but enjoyed the band’s versatility and stayed till they finished.

Sep 102006

Evening scene on Charles RiverHad a four hour stroll around Beacon Hill and Back Bay to stave off Mr. Sandman’s advances.

Walked on the Charles River esplanade and was quite impressed by the activity on the river. Sailors, scullers and a few gondolas (equipped with punters wearing silly hats).

Visited an outdoor festival next to the river – no idea who the female vocalist was, but the few songs were definitely pleasant to listen to.

Had dinner in the Cheers-pub next to the park. Contrary to expectation this was not the authentic set used in the tv-show, but a real pub with its own nooks and crannies. A pint of Sam Adams and a real gourmet cheeseburger took care of the most immediate needs, sitting down brought a pretty good understanding that sleep is not far away.

Logo of the Cheers pub An inside shot of the Cheers pub

Jul 162006

Toscanini has very decent mushroom risotto. And although their menu is on the short side, there are multiple interesting dishes on offer.

The new Aussie Bar next to Kamppi (in the Presidentti-building) has a decent selection of antipodean brews. Sadly Steinlager is not as good as I remembered.

There is room enough on the stage of Molly Malone’s to play a slide trombone. Even when the band has five other members.

Jul 082006

Hidria Spacefolk on stage
Went to “celebrate the long-awaited release” of Pink Floyd’s Pulse-dvd in Virgin Oil Co. Long-awaited in the sense that the recorded concert is more than ten years old. Accompanying the release party was a gig by Hidria Spacefolk whose output I’ve liked.

Turns out that the release party consisted of nothing else but playing the dvd on a big screen. At a high volume. Technically the concert was exquisitely reproduced. I guess, wasn’t present, but impressive both aurally and visually. Sat perplexed with Mr. Musicnaut, sipping beer from a plastic cup. Yes, plastic. Everything was served in plastic cups. Even Corona. But you did get the requisite lime wedge in the cup.

After playing the first disc of the two-disc affair, the stage was given to the band. Who proceeded to play very well indeed. The music is hard to describe – progressive rock’s probably a wide enough base (the band themselves use astrobeat, which is probably good enough as well). Absolutely no idea which songs they played.

Hidria's lightshow

Very enjoyable show, but a bit too late, had to leave before they finished to catch the last bus out. This was the second time I visited the Virgin Oil, and the first real concert (the samba evening does not count). The stage’s pretty good, the hall fits a lot of people, and all in all the facilities are in good shape. And the plastic’s ubiquitous in the other live rock’n'roll establishments as well, so it’s not a differentiating factor.

Pulse’s a definite buy for saturday. Or monday, if the shops actually honor the official release date. And certainly have to look into future Hidria concerts, this was a very enjoyable experience. And I seem to own only a single album of theirs, so there’s some catch-up to play, soon.

Jun 222006

Another annual company-sponsored summer party gone by.

Decent artists (cover bands, mostly), scorching sunshine, stale beer and lots of friends not seen in ages. Pretty much what I expected.

Official nachspiel quickly deteriorated into a diaspora – ended up watching the rather boring Netherlands-Argentina game in O’Malley’s, and a few quicker visits to other establishments.

No adventures with Long Island Ice Tea and a suitably early exit meant that today was actually a semi-productive day at work.

No idea what the looming merger with the Siemens Networking bits means, perhaps we get to enjoy both this occasion and an oktoberfest-equivalent in the future.

Mar 262006

A hard movie demanded a pint of dark beer to mull over what was just seen.

Spent an hour at Molly Malone’s, most of the time listening to Razamanaz, a swedish cover band at an excessively loud volume. They went through a selection of classic and not so classic songs, only occasionally straying from the original.

Nothing new there. Such bands play the venue almost every week, and most of them manage to have a bit more hibernian tint to their music.

Nope, the roistery bit comes from the frontman of 5.15, who, after having been spotted in the audience, joined the band on stage for one song. After taking of his shirt, boots and socks. And managed to put on a good show.

The show, however, was not entertaining enough to dissuade from taking an early exit and heading home towards an early morning wakeup call.

Mar 132006

On a two-day work trip to Tampere.

Did the mandatory record shopping at Swamp Music, who are undergoing some severe plumbing renovation. In the resulting chaos missed several discs I was looking for, but managed to spend the per diems easily.

Had dinner at The Grill, a new steakhouse next to the Siperia-reworking of the old Finlayson factory. Calamari was drowned in wet dough, but the steak itself was nothing short of great. Noted that Siperia has a bunch of interesting things inside, but browsing the spy museum and viewing an enormous steam engine have to wait till next time. Capped the evening by with a pint at Plevna, their new smoky beer called James was quite a pleasant discovery.

The Scandic hotel next to the railway station turned out to be very well renovated. Room was effectively decorated and clean, and the free wifi-connectivity an unexpected bonus.

Feb 192006

Biggest upset in the olympic hockey actually happened before the Finland – Czech Republic game had its opening whistle blown. Switzerland beat Canada 2-0. Despite them having already won the Czechs, this was a surprise.

The finns’ game against the czechs was the first real test of the team, the previous two (Italy and a surprisingly quiet Switzerland) having been just trial runs.

From the beginning the game had all the makings of a classic. Extreme pace, with dangerous situations in both ends. Finland came out on top, with two beautiful and two ugly goals against the two by the opponent. Then again, it’s worth remembering that this is not a sport where style in scoring matters, and all goals are counted.

Stylewise, however, the finnish team got a big black demerit from Jarkko Ruutu’s ugly smash on Jaromir Jagr. No concussion nor broken bones thankfully, but blood on ice meant a 5-minute no-comeback penalty. Which was killed effectively. The game did not suffer further violence (apart from a token brawl), without a tight leash by the referee this might have turned into a much less enjoyable game.

It was a great game and today’s followup against Canada ought to be interesting, especially when the adversaries are incensed over having lost to a minor country.

Watched the game in Chelsea, a sports bar packed to the gills. Had good visibility on multiple screens, only occasionally marred by bystanders. Had a ten-minute forced stay outside when a fire alarm tripped during the first period. The place was emptied, and customers allowed back inside only after the first goal had been scored.

EDIT 26.8.2008: NBC no longer stocks the olympics-related news.

Jan 282006

Major office party in Dubrovnik lounge. Good food, plentiful good company, a great movie and several sessions worth of accompaniment by a good band, what more could you ask for.

Escaped with minor damage only, as got hastily bored in the nachspiel in (once again) Bakers. Somehow that place’s just not compatible with me.

Dec 232005

Yet another annual just-before-christmas movie with a couple of high school friends just went by. Chose the Narnia movie on a hunch, and while wasn’t exactly thrilled by it, wasn’t really disappointed either.

A lot of the reviews concentrate on the biblical allegory in the film. This one won’t touch the subject after the following sentence. Yes, Virginia, it’s a re-telling of the gospels – get over it.

It’s a good fantasy film, taken from the first novel of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. And unlike the previous fantasy blockbusters (LoTR and Potter), the book is short – and thus the story is told uncut. Or actually it’s told in a bloated form. Some scenes have been added (I think, it’s been ages since I read this), as well as characters (or how else is the constant presence of semi-annoying beavers explained). Pace is kept slow, with just a couple of crescendos.

Visually the movie is excellent. The final battle is given a lot more time, space and especially rendering power than in the book, but in a post-Jackson world the treatment is worthy. However, it’s the first scene after transition between the worlds that’s the highligh of the whole two hour epic: a winter forest lit up by a flickering streetlight, with a faun trudging through the snowfall with an umbrella and a lapful of packages.

The child actors succeed in being bearable, Tilda Swinton is appropriately icy as the eponymous Witch, didn’t recognize Liam Neeson as her main adversary at all until the credits rolled in.

While this has not been a total box-office blowout (nor a flop), there’s decent potential for a franchise. After all, there’s still six books left in the series.

Noted that Teerenpeli’s toasts are far more pleasant when the pickle-relish is left out. It ought to be an add-on option, and not the default. Especially when most of the topping-combos are in direct conflict with that, tastewise.

Sep 182005

In Boston for a couple of days.

Eventless flights. Had a bit lengthy layover in Stockholm, but a very conveniently placed diners club lounge made the wait a lot more bearable.

First time ever on Icelandair. The Keflavik airport is on the small side, and the planes a bit long in the tooth. But nothing to get too excited about. The earphones for in-flight audio take the cake in being the worst ever, ones that you’re supposed to hang onto your ears as opposed to be supported by a metal strip. Painful. But the movie, Guess Who?, is not enough to entice me to wear them.

Accommodation is in trusty old Sheraton Commander on Harvard Square. Very nice room in a corner on the fourth floor, with views in two directions and a bigger bed than the length of my spread arms.

To combat jetlag, I took a cab to seek out Matti in the Boston Beer Works, a more than decent local brewery/restaurant. And quite a quest it turns out to be. Decided against public transportation, and grabbed a cab. With a cabbie who was pretty much clueless as to where the place is. After two fruitless rounds in the neighborhood, and mistaking left for right, I decided to bail. After paying, of course. And reminding that the extra bucks are not a tip, but a pointed exhortation to get a map. Now.

The food (two appetizers split) is sufficient, the beer doubly so. Finally got to taste their Pumpkinhead Ale, brewed for Halloween. The eponymous vegetable is indeed present in the taste, as is a rich selection of spices. Definitely something to try out, but a single pint is definitely enough.

A brief walk to the metro station, and a quick trip home prepare for a night that is bound to be cut short by an early wakeup. Some things just never change.