Oslo Weekend

Oslo: An incredibly expensive city that we will never return to.  On Friday afternoon, we boarded a ship in Copenhagen and relaxed while listening to the hum of the engine. One picnic, two movies and 15 hours later, we arrived in Oslo at 9:30 the next morning.  We had no expectations except to see Snohetta’s Opera/Ballet house, taste some Norwegian salmon and drink the coffee of the World Barista Champion, Tim Wendelboe.
Lamb411 Oslo Weekend
The population is 600,000 in the greater Oslo area, which means, it’s tiny. It’s a sleepy backwater of a ‘town’ which I would equate Oslo to London, Ontario in size.  There are a few affluent pockets which look like the upper east side of New York without all the retail, one artsy-up and coming neighbourhood, a modern new redevelopment mixed use project (retail, commercial/residential/institutional) on the waterfront and a downtown core that is falling apart/neglected and empty.  There is nothing going on here except for busing tourists in and out,  fishing, oil and putting oil dollars to work with new construction projects- the new harbour (it’s stunning!)- that and mediating global conflicts which the Norwegians are apparently quite good.
Lamb411 Oslo Weekend
August 2013 CPH and Oslo2
Tumbleweeds role by in the downtown core.  We’re talking a total ghost town. Where do people go on the weekend?  It was visibly lacking people.
Perhaps people come to Oslo as a gateway to nature, or that Norwegians vacate the city to their summer homes every weekend.  The lady at the front desk assured us that this weekend was busy in the city because the Europeans were still on vacation.  This was in good weather- sunny 21 degrees. When the weather turns to winter- what happens? We were wondering where all the people went at night because it sure wasn’t in the city.  The harbour had people, the artsy neighbourhood had people, everywhere else was empty!

The raw fish, which is hands down, the best/buttery/melt in your mouth goodness, is only matched by the quality of coffee in the city (my husband’s observation- I am still a tea-only drinker).  My travelling partner must have consumed three coffees a day and we were only there for 36 hours.  We visited four major micro-roasters (Tim Wendelboe, Kaffa, Fuglen and Supreme Roastworks– there are two others that I could count)  in the city who are in fierce competition with one another, which keeps coffee quality high and clients caffeinated. I suppose coffee tourism could bring in dollars- now at $7 a cup- it’s a reminder why you should brew your own at home.  Speaking of cost- Copenhagen looks like a discount in comparison to Oslo.

August 2013 CPH and Oslo3
August 2013 CPH and Oslo4

I read in PHAIDON’s Where the Chefs Eat book, that one stand out spot in the city was an American diner called The Nighthawk Diner.  I thought it would be neat to eat at an American diner in the artsy part of town and have a bit of a break from new Nordic cuisine.  One tuna salad, one pulled pork sandwich, and two ice teas later our bill comes to $70. Mini heart attack!!    Enthralled by the experience and hungry for more “comfort food” we decide to return the next morning for brunch.  Two blueberry pancakes and two teas later our bill comes to $50.  Double heart attack.  Even one of the many pastries we sampled, you could not walk out of a bakery for under $10/$15 for two pastries. Nevertheless, it is part of the experience and a reminder why 36 hours in Oslo is more than enough time to go broke.

August 2013 CPH and Oslo5

August 2013 CPH and Oslo6

August 2013 CPH and Oslo7

One standout part of the city was the Gustav Vigeland Park- Vigeland was a Norwegian sculptor (died 1943) who specialized in bronze, granite and wrought iron. He made an odd arrangement in the city after his house burnt down- where the city would grant him”free housing/studio” as long as he agreed to donate all subsequent works to the city.  Over 20 years he crafted 200 sculptures, which all belonged to the City of Oslo and are sitting in a massive sculpture park in the nicer part of the city.  His most famous works include the Monolith – there is a photo of a totem pole of people climbing to the top all carved out of one piece of granite- the angry baby, which I could not shoot because it was mobbed by Japanese tourists both times we visited the park, and his circle of life bronze sculpture. It was beautiful and worth visiting.

August 2013 CPH and Oslo8

August 2013 CPH and Oslo9

The best way to end off an evening in the city is to climb the roof of the new Opera/Ballet house and watch the sun set over the harbour.

Lamb411 Oslo Weekend

My Oslo Weekend Map:



Weekend in Hamburg Part II

Can you believe  it’s September?
I wanted to post a few more pictures from my weekend in Hamburg:
There are a few options when planning a trip from Copenhagen to Hamburg.  You can fly, you can train, you can boat or you can do a combination of training and boating.  My husband and I opted for number three.  We boarded a high speed train in Copenhagen and four and a half hours later were in Germany.  The neat thing about this train ride was a portion of the route was over the Baltic sea.
Lamb411 Hamburg Weekend
To cross the sea, the train boards a large ferry and for 45 minutes the ferry carries the entire train and the passengers across the water. During the ferry we got to exit the train and head upstairs to enjoy the winds/wind turbines and sunshine on deck.  Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and an important port city in Northern Europe. The city has a collection of really interesting architecture (both modern and old), beautiful tree lined streets, mediocre food (except breakfasts and Turkish food of course- Germany has the largest Turkish community outside of Turkey ) and rather confusing bike lanes.

July 2013 CPH Marbella Hamburg11

I loved walking through this city as it offers many examples of light industrial buildings that have been converted or re-purposed for new use.  (I love looking at industrial conversions).  I would say, every neighbourhood in the city seemed to have its own collection of low-rise, red brick industrial buildings that are now occupied by theaters, creative businesses, restaurants, galleries and stores.  There is also a visible design/craft scene with a slew of small businesses making cool stuff in graffiti-ed buildings. If you’re into a grittier streetscape, this is your city.
 Our trip coincided with Hamburg’s gay pride parade.  A real treat- I was really moved to see a float dedicated to marching for all the other countries in Europe/Russia/the Middle East who did not have gay rights like Hamburg and many other cities offered their citizens (a big deal if you have been following the news on Russia’s gay rights laws).

July 2013 CPH Marbella Hamburg12 - Copy


July 2013 CPH Marbella Hamburg13 - Copy

July 2013 CPH Marbella Hamburg4

If you are familiar with Toronto- my comparison is that I would describe Hamburg as a series of Parkdale neighbourhoods that sit on the periphery of a touristy Yonge and Dundas area.   One of the most impressive areas in the city is a district called HAFEN- the real estate project took over a decade to plan and build.  The land used was a large piece of industrial/shipping waterfront land which was transformed into a series of new mixed use environmentally friendly buildings along side the beautiful old brownstones.  HAFEN city brings together museums, businesses, residential, retail, schools, parks and the symphony- all of which is walkable, bike accessible and kept low rise (for the most part).

July 2013 CPH Marbella Hamburg5

July 2013 CPH Marbella Hamburg6

July 2013 CPH Marbella Hamburg7

July 2013 CPH Marbella Hamburg9

Right down by the main shipping area, there is a phenomenal furniture design district- there must be three or four large buildings that serves as the hub for a lot of industrial design/furniture stores and art galleries.  One of the buildings we stopped into also had a decent place to get some gelato- a bonus as it was about 33 degrees that weekend.

July 2013 CPH Marbella Hamburg10


breakfast in hamburg and the European diner

For all you breakfast lovers out there, listen up!  If you find yourself in Hamburg, here are two great spots for breakfast. I am slowly collecting a list of European breakfast spots and sometimes feel a bit like Guy Fieri in the television show, Diner’s Drive In’s and Dives! I’ve eaten breakfast in over 20 cities in the past two years, so the “experience” is mounting.  When you find a keeper, I call it the equivalent of finding a good American diner in Europe.  They have good, reliable food, good energy, often a unique decor, and a menu that includes a few local specialties (most important).

I spent three days in Hamburg and prior to my trip, read through several blog posts, newspapers and online review sites to figure out where I should have the most important meal of the day. My first and third stop was none other than Cafe Paris. Cafe Paris is located in the center of Hamburg and is housed in a space that dates back to 1882.  The original slaughterhouse was later converted to a turn-of-the-century French cafe and today is beautifully adorned with iconic French cafe decor features such as its dark wooden tables, Art Deco posters, banquette seating, a long bar with wooden stools, floor to ceiling subway tiles and a jaw dropping Art Nouveau ceiling.

Cafe Paris Hamburg Breakfast

The menu features standard French fare such as hard boiled eggs, croissants, baguettes, jam, cheese, juice, Croque Madame, and Croque Monsieur. It also includes a few breakfast twists including a “Moroccan” version of French toast topped with roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and orange marmalade, an “American” breakfast that comes with a pancake, a fried egg, peanut butter, and syrup and the local “Hamburg” which consists of a piece of toast, crab salad, herring, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs with chives and a glass of Hamburg’s local Holsten pilsner (a brewing company founded in 1879 in the city’s Altona-Nord quarter).

July 2013 CPH Marbella Hamburg1

On my first visit, I tried the Moroccan and on the second visit, I opted for something a bit lighter (just some muesli and a hard boiled egg with green tea). I must note, I returned twice to Cafe Paris (out of three breakfasts) for another bite of their croissants. The baguette was nothing to write home about but their croissant was some of the freshest, butteriest, light viennoiserie that I have tasted outside of Paris.

I will post about my second breakfast at Mutterland in a follow up post- equally worth it.

July 2013 CPH Marbella Hamburg2

Other breakfasts worth a visit around the continent in addition to Cafe Paris in Hamburg, include Cafe Savoy in Prague, Cafe Schwazenberg in Vienna, Cafe de Flore in Paris, or the modern Cafe George in Amsterdam, close your eyes and let your senses observe the hum of a well oiled dining institution hard at work and churning out diner classics European style. If you have any other suggestions to add to this list of where to find a decent breakfast at a ‘European diner’, please share your suggestions in the comment section below.  I am always up for exploring new places that are worthy of “diner” status.

Cafe Paris, Rathausstraße 4, 20095 Hamburg



Where I am headed…. + Google Map Frustrations

View Hamburg 2013 in a larger map

Google Maps- why do you frustrate me so? I have a love hate relationship with this program.  I am en route to Hamburg for a few days where I will be doing some work for Issue 05 of Countlan magazine and taking a good look at this cool city just to the south of Copenhagen that has been on my list of places to visit for quite some time.

I made this Google Map of Hamburg with a list of places that I would like to visit and I can’t stand how it looks. I wish I had an option to customize icons beyond what is offered in the Google Map program (every time you see a swimmer does not mean there is a swimming pool).  Likewise, when you go to print the map, half the addresses don’t show up on the left side panel- you only get names of places.  This means, I have to get back online to search the address to plug into a new map.  So annoying! Any solutions out there that you would like to suggest?

You can follow along on Instagram or Everplaces if you’re interested in what some of these places look like.

I will share some photos next week.


A trip to Höganäs and Magasin 36

A few weekends ago my husband and I were invited to celebrate our friend’s 35th birthday in the quaint coastal town of Molle, in Sweden.  Molle is just across the Straight and accessible by ferry from Helsingor (just north of Copenhage- and also where Shakespeare’s play Hamlet takes place in Kronborg Castle), so we decided to rent a car and make it into an exploration weekend.


The ferry transports cars, people and bikes and takes about 20 minutes to cross from one side to the other. I can’t remember the last time I drove a car onto a boat to cross a body of water, but it’s a blast.  On land, you wait in line until the ferry docks and then you are signaled to drive onto the boat.  Once on the boat, you park your car in a line behind all the other cars on deck and get to exit the car to go upstairs on deck.  This particular ferry was more like a mini cruise ship.  It had multiple cafes and restaurants, beautiful lounge seating and duty free shopping.  I’ve never seen a longer line to buy liquor and candy in my life.  My favourite was sitting outside on the deck.

Once across, you are motioned to return to your car and continue your journey to your next destination.  Simple as that.


Our first stop was to check into our beach hotel, the Kliterrhus, in a town called Ängelholm.  Driving up to the main building reminded me of a beach hotel in New England (in the US).  The hotel was very pretty  with it’s light wood furniture, white and blue beach decor, and accents of seashells, old photographs and wainscoting.  Our room looked right out onto the beach.




Unfortunately the weather was not conducive to a day on the sand.  Scandinavian summers are known to be changeable.  We saw, sun, we saw dark clouds and we saw rain in 48 hours. The temperature also went from hot to cold.  Being outside and enjoying the view was good enough for me.

On the day of the birthday celebration we decided to spend the day exploring the city of Höganäs as we weren’t expected until late afternoon. Höganäs is a town in Sweden that developed a reputation for its ceramic production.  Perhaps you are  familiar with the ceramic brand that bares the same name, Höganäs Keramic?  In Höganäs, we had two spots on our agenda for the morning: Magasin 36 and the Iittala Outlet.

Magasin 36 is a smart and exciting re-purposed piece of industrial real estate  in town that has become quite popular with the locals.  The building dates back to 1835 where it was used as a factory for salt-glazed utensils and also housed a few large kilns.

Today, the property has been converted into a fabulous mixed use retail, restaurant, cafe, grocery store, museum, office and artist studio space with a focus on vintage and gastronomy.

It’s a breathtaking space and a lot of fun to visit.  Magasin 36 is split over two levels and what looks like two buildings.  There is a cafe on the ground floor when you enter the space  and you can order lovely baked goods (cinnamon and cardamom buns – I went back both mornings for a cinnamon bun and a tea).  Behind the cafe you find the stunning local-focused grocery store called Hoganas Saluhall with tons of organic produce, freshly baked artisan breads, local farm products from around Skåne (the south western region of Sweden), meats and other specialty food delicacies.  We picked up a lemon sourdough bread and a few interesting flat breads to bring to the birthday party later that afternoon.




Magasin 36 also houses a number of furniture, antique, clothing, art gallery and home accessory stores.  On of my favourites was a shop/gallery called Hoganasgrouppen that made neat ceramic “puck-looking” coasters to protect surfaces from heat. Butiken Hoganas also had several cute items. I could have purchased one of everything!!





Another interesting part of the building is the re-purposing of the old kilns into a museum to show what the area became known for. In this section of the building, you can walk right into the kilns to see what they look like as well as visit the adjacent ceramic studio/store where tableware pieces and flower pots are still being produced and sold today.









Walk up a large set of stairs to the second floor and you find a large restaurant build around the tops of the ceramic kilns that looks down onto a portion of the grocery store.





Lamb411 Hoganas Magasin 36

And if that is not enough food and excitement in one building, on the same property, around the corner from Magasin 36, you’ll find a car garage that was converted into a 1960s American (Swedish) gourmet burger joint/bar.  We stopped in for lunch and had one of the tastiest burgers in a long time.  The meat is local, the buns are handmade on premise, the beer is also locally brewed.  A lot of thought, care and consideration was put into the menu and ingredients used at this burger garage.  It was also very busy on a Saturday afternoon with locals lining up for pints of beer and burgers.

If you happen to be passing through Skåne, Sweden’s equivalent of the Hamptons, the town of Hoganas and Magasin 36 is not to be missed.


The Bubble Tea Conundrum


When I moved across the Atlantic Ocean, do you know what I craved the most?  It wasn’t bagels and lox and it wasn’t kreplach.  It was bubble tea.  From my first sip, I developed a love affair with the Taiwanese beverage.  Toronto just so happens to be an incredible city to satisfy a bubble tea fix.

Bubble Tea Lamb411


Drive north of Sheppard Avenue, on Yonge Street and you’ll find one bubble tea house after another.  If “905” is more your style, drive east along Hwy 7 between Bayview Avenue and McCowan Road (try Go For Tea for an authentic experience) and you’ll be covered.   Downtowners, don’t have to look past the Spadina and Dundas/OCAD area. But what happens if you leave the confines of Toronto and venture off into the world?


I was having a bubble tea conundrum when I discovered bubble tea was not a universal drink, particularly in EU countries.  To double check, I spoke with a few business school classmates who were posted around the world.  It’s confirmed: Bubble tea is not universal.


So what did I do to satiate my craving?  I researched and travelled.  Wherever I was due to travel to a new European city, I purposely sought out a bubble tea cafe.  Hot or cold, green or black tea, with or without milk, and filled with all the dark brown, chewy tapioca balls I could suck through the oversized straw.  I was determined to sample them all.  However, I draw the line at those popping boba; the ones that burst upon mastication and splash sweet syrupy juice onto your tongue.  I guess you could call me a bubble tea purist.


What I discovered was fascinating:  Bubble tea was in fact, alive, kicking and even thriving in certain cities.  Leave it to the UK, Germany and Austria to lead the pack.  London’s Bubbleology, a bubble tea café themed after a science experiment, has five locations in the city, while Baburu Bubble Tea in Vienna has six shops and Berlin’s Boobuk also has six outposts in the creative city that never sleeps.


Stick with Western Europe and you will find bubble tea emerging in Barcelona, where Wow!Boba is not too far from La Rambla, and in Paris’ 5th arrondissement where you can sip le bubble tea at Bubble Fever.  Even Copenhagen has the Mad Hatter Bubble Tea Emporium in Norrebro.  I didn’t stop there.  In eastern Europe, you have Bubbletea 7 in Warsaw, tongue twister, Bubu Bubble Tea in Budapest and my personal favourite, Tea & Go in Prague, which opened in Karlin (Prague 8), by three Chinese Studies students from Charles University who share a passion for Chinese and bubble tea.


While the availability of bubble tea in European cities may not reach the same scope as in Toronto, there are plenty of good options at home and abroad and I look forward to continuing my taste test through the continent.  By the way, if you are new to bubble tea, may I recommend trying a litchi green tea bubble tea, cold with tapioca.  It is the perfect summer drink.



A CPH Made trip down Jaegersborggade

Jægersborggade is a great street to visit in Copenhagen.  It’s not a particularly large street where you would spend hours, but it has an interesting mix of local CPH made businesses that add to its vitality and draw.  Over the past four or five years, the Norrebro street has gone through quite the gentrification process, cleaned up its retail scene and re-focused as a destination for food (Coffee Collective, Relae, Manfred & Vin, Grod, Mikkeller + Friends beer bar is around the corner from Jaegersborggade)) and shopping.

Last Tuesday, I went on a one hour CPH Made tour of Jaegersborggade and got to meet three artisans/entrepreneurs who have been located on the street for several years doing what they do best.

I visited: Karamelleriet Inge Vincents, and  Ro Chokolade (pictures below).

Lamb411 CPH Made Jægersborggade

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All three owners gave our small group a nice talk and shared their experiences about working in the neighbourhood, what has changed over the years and a bit about how they got started in their respective lines of work.  For example, Karamelleriet is a business started by three members of a candy making family that spans multiple generations.


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Instead of sticking to the main strip of Copenhagen, there are many interesting streets in the neighbourhoods that surround Copenhagen K.  It’s worth exploring and venturing out- plus by venturing out you tend to stumble on a lot of the small artisans and craftsmen who are not into paying high rents to be located in the centre of the city.





Around town in Copenhagen

You’ll have to excuse the low volume of posts recently.  Things have been quite hectic around here between lecturing marketing classes online, producing Countlan magazine and a couple other small projects.

Now it’s time for a Copenhagen update.  First off, the sun has finally come out in Copenhagen and the city has come to life. It’s quite amazing to observe how people really use a city when the weather is good.  There is life on the street and it seems the new pastime for Copenhageners is to chase the sun and take in their daily dose of vitamin D.  As I walk to and from yoga, I see people sitting on benches, sprawled out on the grass in the park, and basking in the sun on bridges.  I understand why and  I have also tried to get into the vitamin D hunting spirit and make sure I get out for a walk after work.

Lamb411 Copenhagen May 2013

I love how the detail oriented Danes share some of this creativity on the street in small, hardly noticeable ways.  When I walk around, I find there is always something small and surprising to notice if you look close enough.  You see little works of art woven into the streetscape.  I’ve tried to include a few shots of my favourite artistic embellishments in Copenhagen that I’ve passed by.

Copenhagen May 20134 Copenhagen May 20135

Secondly, I”ve been doing a lot of cooking.  I have a few cookbooks that are keeping me busy testing new recipes for fun and for the magazine.  I am particularly in love with Yotam Ottolenghi’s book called Jerusalem.  I think I’ve made half the book over the past two months.  I have posted more pictures on my Instagram feed if you are interested in checking them out and following along.  I cook weekly from the book and will not stop until each and every recipe has been made/eaten. All delicious despite the sometimes long list of ingredients.

Copenhagen May 2013

Then of course there has been a plethora of new restaurants, date nights and guests staying with us.  By the way, if you were wondering where the Date Night series went, it did not disappear but the lighting is so dim and mood-lit that I can’t capture a shot worth posting.  This does not prohibit me from writing a verbal account but I would prefer to show and share at the same time.

To catch you up, most recently I’ve dined at Geist (New Nordic, slow service/long meal, but they served cotton candy for dessert, and the dishes were very innovative), Fiskebaren (Meat packing district, fish with a few non fish options, leisurely), Lele (Vietnamese street food, can’t go wrong), Cafe Nice (Just like Provence, great goat cheese salad, cash only), Mad Klubben Vesterbro (not worth it, hectic restaurant but very cool decor) and BROR (My table of 4 decided this place was a 6.5/10 at most- despite the fact that both chefs are ex-Noma).  I also checked out a Chang Mai themed Silver Spoon Dining event a couple weeks ago that was held on the top floor of an office building.  It was a really cool- underground dining experience and I look forward to checking more out in the future.

Copenhagen May 20131

Finally, I have discovered there are some lovely spots in the city to take in a bit of nature and piece and quiet (or at least feel like you are not in a city and are somewhere north).  Kastellet, the home of the Little Mermaid, is a beautiful green walking/running circuit that looks out onto the water.  It can be very touristy but I by-pass the mermaid and stick to the higher grounds of the fortress.  Serene, green and quiet.

Copenhagen May 20132

Up next, I will be travelling to Istanbul and Hamburg in the next four weeks, plus be adding to the restaurant list as more guests come out and visit.

I can’t wait to share Issue 04 of Countlan magazine with you in early July.  The magazine is small and nimble and is slowly growing a following.

Until the next post. I wish you a great week.

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