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Cafe Pequeno – a little slice of Latin heaven

Empanadas and coffee – an undeniably delicious combination!

Cafe Pequeno is a fairly new addition to the bohemian Kallio district – and it’s pretty hard to miss! Vibrant outdoor umbrellas with multi-colored chairs are enticing, while the interior is bright, warm and inviting. Here you will find lovely, locally-sourced coffee served with a friendly smile – along with other delicacies like: traditional Mate (south american tea), carrot cupcakes, alfajores and salty cashew fudge. In addition to that, Cafe Pequeno offers a fantastic breakfast and brunch – with fresh ingredients – from a simple, small kitchen.

This versatile cafe also shares it’s space with a salon and beauty center, which is sure to boost your experience! Having the option to sip on great coffee whilst being beautified is a pleasurable pairing — a royal pairing.

Over a light breakfast bowl of granola, berries and yogurt, I got to speaking with the owner, Urito. Here’s what he has to say about life in Helsinki as a cafe owner:


ML: What’s the story of Pequeno?

U: We had a kioski in the city before we opened here in Kallio. I was not heavily into coffee a while back, I used to only drink tea. I thought Finnish coffee was pretty bitter and lacked flavor. After running the cafe and realizing how much coffee people consume in Finland, I saw how to make it taste better. I love the social aspect of running a cafe – sharing food and drinks with people is what I love to do. The feeling of community is great!

ML: What about the idea of Cafe Pequeno? Conceptually?

U: Conceptually, we just wanted to create a place where people gather to feel good. The concept was to hold the aspects of Finnish minimalism with a vibrant touch! Kallio itself is densely populated – it’s a place people migrate for work. It’s a place people live, and it’s also a popular place to eat and drink. We have picked a great location – it has an “away from the center” feel, however, it’s easy to find.

Liisa Takala

Photo : Liisa Takala / nyt.fi 

 

ML: Please tell me about the coffee? I don’t know extensive details about the process…

We source our coffee locally, and from some specialty farms. I appreciate the process of coffee – from cherry to bean to roast. There is a scale that “specialty” coffee follows in order to be called “specialty,” and the beans go through quite a process. We have respect for the coffee and the process it goes through to get to our customers. The trending coffee right now seems to be dark roast. It’s what we offer in our morning cup! It has a richness and sweetness to it, giving the coffee layers of flavor.

ML: Tell me more about the beauty treatments within the establishment!

U: We offer various massages (sports) and beauty treatments (facials), ecological products, manicures/pedicures, eyelash extensions, and the list goes on. We are a family business which reinforces the sense of community I would like to have – the sense of learning new things – and discovering the neighborhood. The clients are taken care of with proper customer service. We want people to feel comfortable to ask about products and services, and we want to provide some intimacy within our walls.

ML: What do you love about Helsinki?

U: I love that you can really do what you want, but you gotta push for it. You can accomplish anything with the right level of activeness. I love that Helsinki is urban with a relaxed atmosphere…there’s a feeling of privacy. There’s a lot of passion happening in Helsinki right now – people pushing for the best. Not only in the cafe scene, but the restaurant scene as well. It’s exciting! If you don’t take risks, then that’s limiting – and it kills inspiration. Finding and capturing the soul of your own establishment is important to me!


If you have an insatiable appetite for good coffee prepared by good people, then this is your place. It was an absolute pleasure speaking to Urito, and discovering the diversity, culture and community within this little district of Helsinki. There’s not much more I want in a cafe, and gracias for bringing some Latin flare to Kallio!


Cafe Pequeno 

While in the Neighborhood

Kahvila Savy

Kallio Second Hand

 

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Farewell to Festivals – until next year FLOW

Featured Image : Flow Festival / photographer : Kimmo Metsaranta


While desperately trying to avoid redundancy, this year’s FLOW festival was pretty close to perfection.

The weather was cooler than normal for a typically hot mid-August, even by Helsinki’s notorious standards. Yet, with cooler temperatures came cooler vibes – along with pockets of trickling rain. But that’s Helsinki, if it’s not raining and above 15 degrees, you’re doing pretty good.

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Flow Festival / Photographer : Samuli Pentti 

 

About

I was clear-eyed and focused on the task at hand – trying to absorb as much of a multi-day festival as I could. Visually, this festival is flawless and well-executed. Everywhere you turn there are interesting things happening. If you are not astounded by the musical performances alone, then you can stimulate your mind in countless other ways : exploring the light installations, grabbing a delicious snack from top Helsinki chefs or wandering into a space that is unexpectedly amazing…that is the true beauty of moving with the current.

Tackling a city festival of this magnitude is no easy feat. I imagine it takes countless hours of calculated measurements, and ideal management. For a festival that started small and grew steadily with each passing year, the management behind FLOW have found ultimate fluidity amongst detailed logistics. The transformation of the grounds alone is mind-boggling enough. It turns from rustic, run-down factory (Suvilahti) to tantalizing subsections of fun.

Once the sun set below the lofty smokestacks of Suvilahti, a nice level of intimacy set in.

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Flow Festival / Photographer : Andrew Taylor

A short chat with a member of the FLOW staff revealed that, “The working environment is the best – there’s great people, good energy and music. It’s fantastic.”


It should be noted that FLOW is a uniquely individual experience despite the camouflage of crowds traveling about in packs. Remember when we mentioned the vibrations of FLOW not staying confined to the premises (in the last article)? Well again, the surrounding Helsinki areas were full of festivities. There was boisterous laughter filling the parks, lively people on every corner and random street food to indulge in. It reminded me of precisely why I love this city…Helsinki will come alive during crucial times of the year, especially when positivity must trump the end-of-summer blues. 

Attendees

This is happily a crowd I would stand in. A crowd of the somewhat “against the grain” sub-cultured. This term is easily identifiable for the often misunderstood whom run outside the box of societal normalcy. These people comprise a pillar of society that’s always existed – where many talented people shine bright. The recurring attendees that grace the festival grounds each year – from artists to bankers and everything in between – will find something to satisfy their soul even if the music itself is not enough. There are positive overtones, the experience is memorable, and it definitely gets better every year… 


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Iggy Pop / Flow Festival / Photographer : Niklas Sandstrom

 

Afterall

Henry Rollins stated in a recent interview that, “if you want to see humanity at it’s best then one should attend a music festival,” and in my heart, he couldn’t be more right.


Flow Festival 

Feel the Flow 

Festival Photo Bank 

 

 

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Feel the FLOW

Featured Image : Flow Festival / Photographer: Jussi Hellsten 

“When I am feeling exhausted from battling and bargaining with the bipolarity of Finnish weather, a local festival that remains in the bohemian heart of Helsinki is wondrous!”


Finland impresses me. The lack of light and introverted tendencies that plague us during winter all cease to exist in the summer. Finnish summer is three months of extroverted, over-indulgent behavior that borders on decadence – and I’m happy to partake when the feeling’s mutual.

Festivals. Finland definitely knows how to festival. Every year I am amazed by the choices, genres, line-ups and locations of all things festival, and I am hard-pressed to choose my poison. Flow Festival is a special case. This annual three-day, avant-garde music and arts fest brings the essence of “festival-ing” right to a rustic old factory, Suvilahti (the venue). When I am feeling exhausted from battling and bargaining with the bipolarity of Finnish weather, a festival that remains in the bohemian heart of Helsinki is wondrous!

 Flow was sold at the audacious Iggy Pop, but then again, the whole bill platter is pretty uncanny. I have a sneaking suspicion that this year will be epic.

Furthermore, It’s important to note that it’s not just the festival grounds at Suvilahti whom are solely “flowing.” All surrounding districts hugging the venue are ricocheting good vibes and positive energy – expanding this festival far beyond the confines of the factory.

Finally, I am intravenously strapped and ready to get my dose of hip-tastic Helsinki culture. Fulfilling my need to ingest live music without traveling long distances is a combination I graciously accept. I will be back next week with a featured piece about my experience…until then –  stay safe, remain lucid, and enjoy your FLOW.

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Flow Festival / Photographer: Jussi Hellsten


 

 

 

 

photo credit : Sushilounge

Tasty Tikkurila

Unexpected sunny days call for impromptu excursions outside the city. One fine afternoon I found myself in Tikkurila – home to Heureka Science Center – and what I assumed to be not much else. However, I was taken aback by the large scale of construction going on there, and it seems Tikkurila is a budding, up-and-coming (small-scale) inland empire.  

The reason for my journey was Sushilounge. Sushilounge is an Okinawan and a Finn who partnered up to create an impressive take on Pacific cuisine, and congrats to Shugo and Ville! I watched these guys slave over every minute detail while preparing to open this place, and with each bite I immediately appreciate the effort they bring to the table. The lunch selection is diverse, ranging from Okinawan soba noodle with slow-boiled pork to rice bowls topped with unagi (glazed eel). Don’t fret! You will find some familiarity in the maki and sashimi department, or perhaps some bravery to try new combinations! In addition to the food, Sushilounge offers a modest and tasteful selection of wine and bottled beer. The interior is modern and clean, allowing the food to take centre stage under watchful bamboo palms…another total plus!


Happily full, a chat was in order….

Shugo and I casually chatted over coffee. He mentioned the challenges of opening a restaurant in Finland – as a foreigner – and his desire to create a welcoming and memorable experience for people. He described himself as incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to share his Okinawan heritage abroad, while delighting Finnish palettes young and old.

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On what keeps Shugo going as a chef:

“It’s the mutual discovery between the customer and myself. I subtly introduce new concepts and combinations to our returning clientele, and experiment with different ideas. Bringing new flavors to Finnish palettes – that makes me passionate about what I’m doing. I remember being in Finland 15 years ago as an exchange student in High School – there were NO sushi restaurants…a lot has changed, and I am happy to be a part of that change.”

On Sushilounge being featured in a “top picks” Helsingin Sanomat article:

“Yes! We got an unexpected call from Helsingin Sanomat discussing the article – and of course we’re overjoyed! It will be about places to eat while traveling through Finland – and we were Tikkurila’s pick! We are so grateful and happy to have some advertising around Helsinki – and that people like our food!”


Engage these guys in a conversation and see where it leads – go outside your comfort zone and digest the pleasures of “slightly outside Helsinki.” My unplanned sojourn tickled all of my taste buds, and left me salivating for more. I will be coming back to Sushilounge to collect more of what the owners promise – great pacific cuisine with a side of atmosphere.

Sushilounge – Ratakuja 1, Vantaa

Sushilounge Facebook

Heureka Science Center

Sushilounge 1 (1)

 

Photo credit : Ingemar Raukola

Rebecca Clamp : Key to Her City

Rebecca Clamp is an amazing musical anomaly. She is a true artist in every sense of the word. Rebecca has taken the English language, gently smashed it together with piano, and composed some stunningly profound music that encapsulates a moment in time.

I remember walking into Mbar in the city center and hearing her track “Kallio”. I knew the song – I knew the artist, and I was thrilled to see her music being played at hip spots around town. Admittedly, my daily routine is saturated with music. Music is an artistic medium that speaks to me on elevated levels…from established artists to newer artists – young and old alike – I am always looking for the next soul-piercing song. Rebecca’s music demands total attention. It evokes emotions you generally keep hidden in the vault. These easily avoidable yet sensitive areas of the heart are often impenetrable, but can and will be penetrated by Rebecca Clamp’s talent for songwriting. Composing by her side is Hans Wessels. Hans is a multi-faceted musician who sings backing vocals, plays all backing instruments on Rebecca’s recordings, and assists in song structure. Hans and Rebecca softly complement each other’s strengths, and have proven to be an unstoppable musical duo.

Rebecca and Hans

photo credit : Rebecca Clamp

 

While I urge you to listen to Rebecca’s entire discography, her release “Key to the City” nestled itself right in my {often impermeable} heart. This stylistically brilliant album is an ode to Helsinki city – an ode to Rebecca’s city – and it creates just the right level of anticipation for her next release!  

Highlighted tunes:

Kallio, Arkadia, Parasites, 100 Cold Kisses

With all that said, I was able to bug Rebecca for answers! Here is what she had to say about life as a musician in Helsinki:


ML: I have to know your musical influences, because it interests me greatly! :

RC: I like all kinds of music, but the music my mother played to me when I was growing up I think has been quite formative in my style. Some key artists back then were Billie Holliday, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, John Martyn and Tom Waits. In recent years, The Weakerthans and Christine Fellows have been important. Hans is also a big influence, he’s constantly playing me new music in a variety of styles. Since I started working with him my songs have become simpler and more spacious, to fit his compositions better.

ML: How do you like living in Herttoniemi? We love this neck of the woods! :

RC: My first spring and summer in Herttoniemi have been quite magical, I feel like I’ve found a place that embodies the reasons that I moved to Finland all those years ago. The philosophy behind the architecture in the old part where I live has so clearly been designed for people to have very good lives without having to have a lot of money, and I appreciate that. The communal sauna and laundry room in my building make me happy, my neighbours are friendly, and it’s wonderful to live on the edge of a nature reserve and still be so close to the city centre.

ML: What are the new musical projects you have been working on? Can you tell us a bit about Hans Wessels?

RC: Three years ago Hans and I started working together and we immediately started recording and doing gigs. Initially Hans just asked me if I needed ukulele on any songs, but now he plays ukulele, drums, guitar, synths, sings harmonies, and has made some beautiful arrangements, as well as writing some of the songs himself. We’ve almost finished our album now. Every song has gone through multiple incarnations as we developed our style, adding and taking away different instruments, but now I think we’ve found the final arrangements and hopefully the {new} album will be ready for release next spring.

Rebecca II

photo credit : Ingemar Raukola

 

ML: We talked a little bit about what inspires you to write music – things weighing heavily on the heart – what are your favorite things to write about?

RC: I like trying to capture moments as accurately as I can. They may be moments I have experienced, or imagined, but I try and capture them as visually as possible. Most of the songs are about people that have moved me in some way, and the moments we’ve shared.

ML: Please tell us you will perform live again soon!!! When and Where:

RC: We’ve got a gig coming up at Cafe Rio in Roihuvuori on 6th August!


Here at Helsinki:now we thank Rebecca for providing wonderful music that comes straight from her warm heart!

Links:

Rebecca Clamp Artist Page

Rebecca’s booking contact – Headfunk 

Roihuvuoren Rio Cafe {upcoming gig}

photo credit : Roihuvuoren Rio

Rio in Roihuvuori

A selection of contemporary art books and canvases adorn the walls and window of this chic cafe right in the heart of Roihuvuori. Roihuvuoren Rio opened its doors over a year ago, and with a cool combination of colors, friendly people, plants and delicious coffee, this place keeps me coming back! The modern ambiance mixed with eclectic taste creates an all-around lovely experience – not to mention the great selection of vinyls always spinning!

Rio vinyls

photo credit : Roihuvuoren Rio

My personal favorite touch to Rio is the array of plants enlivening the space. I am a proud {amateur} plant nerd – and I truly appreciate the bustling garden. Rio’s hidden terrace sits amongst a luscious green landscape, offering peace and tranquility coupled with some equally rewarding aromas. It’s my new favorite spot, and not just because of its proximity to my doorstep!

Rio I

Rio Highlights

  • sweet and savory pastries from 3 different sources
  • forget the coffee – they had me at Big Wave Golden Ale!
  • breakfast porridge buffet and lunch soup
  • kind people with a community feeling…I am always elated to get warm service and feel welcomed! Who isn’t?!
  • live music on selected dates

Don’t forget to bring your bike to ride off that coffee buzz…a gorgeous view of the sea awaits!

rio 4

photo credit : Roihuvuoren Rio

 


https://www.facebook.com/roihuvuorenrio/

Other hot spots in the Roihuvuori hoodz

 

Honky Tonk in Helsinki – The Hilland Playboys rock Juttutupa every Monday

hilland playboys

Merle Haggard. Patsy Cline. Dolly Parton. Johnny Cash. These artists are more than just infamous names representing classic country music – their names (and more importantly, their music) live on every Monday night in one of the hottest multi-purpose venues in Helsinki – Juttutupa.

The Hilland Playboys are fronted by two amazing guitar-pickin’ men – Pauli Halme and Antti Vuorenmaa – but the guitar is not all they play. During the three hour set, they have various line switches – from guitar to pedal steel – thus delivering a stellar performance coupled with a fun-loving country spirit. With the angelic voice of Martta Valkeus on the front lines, singing epics like “Luxuary Liner” and “Jolene,” prepare to be transported right back to the heartland. Watch out for guest musicians appearing with these guys, who showcase an array of talent within this somewhat underground country music scene in Helsinki.

Prior to Juttutupa, these guys had a weekly spot at Boothill Rock Club in central Helsinki. My first impression after seeing their set was, “how the hell have I missed this every Monday?!” I was blown away by their level of musicianship. Their current venue – Juttutupa – is a venue/restaurant in the heart of the Hakaniemi district in Helsinki, and is home to much diversity in the world of entertainment. You will find a lovely blend of people from all walks of life (and all ages) who come together to watch incredible musicians at the top of their game. Many famous names have graced the walls of Juttutupa, and these walls broadcast a powerful sound.


In an attempt to get more information on The Hilland Playboys, I was lucky enough to snag a few words with guitar-strumming, vocal-humming Martta Magdalena Valkeus…and here’s what she had to say:

ML: What have been the overall reactions from people since you joined The Hilland Playboys?

MMV: Very positive. When I joined, I was the only woman in the band and many people came to talk to me after the gigs to say how nice it was that there’s a woman and female voice in the band! They said that it was exactly what the band needed, and it’s lovely – which has been very supportive and nice!! Well, I’m sure it might have been a surprise for many as well that a diploma-carrying cellist from Sibelius Academy suddenly wears a cowboy hat, plays guitar and sings American country music in a band. It might not be the most usual combination – but overall the reactions are very positive, and people are so interested about this.

martta

Martta Valkeus photo credit: Leena Valkeus

ML: Why country and western music?

MMV: I am a real country girl! I’ve lived my first 15 years on our family’s farm in Etelä-Pohjanmaa, listening to American roots music that my parents also love. I’ve always loved the sound of pedal steel, telecaster, dobro and those heavenly country music style vocal harmonies…and being a country singer has been my dream for many years! I got to know western swing more after I joined Hilland Playboys, but I really like it too…it has been positively challenging to learn to play western swing on a guitar. I just love the simplicity and warm spirit in country music. You can sing about the biggest or most difficult things in a few simple lines and do it in major with three chords, and it goes straight to the heart and gives you goose bumps every time. That’s just great. That’s country music.

ML: Music is the window to the soul I believe, who influences you the most as a musician?

MMV: There are so many great musicians that I admire – and who have influenced me – but perhaps there are two above others: Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton. They are both extremely talented and great musicians, not only as singers but players as well, with beautiful unique voices and songs that really touch the heart. Allison Krauss is the kind of singer whose music can also be very healing and comforting, and Dolly is a real master in making songs. Two great idols I think!

ML: What are the drummer and bass player’s names, and are they rotating – or permanent?

MMV: We finally have permanent bass and drum players, but they used to be rotating. Our drummer is Sami Laakso, and bass player is Saara Metsberg. They are both just great musicians and we are so happy to have them in the band!

ML: Who are some other musicians within the country music scene in Helsinki to watch out for?

MMV: The super talented trio ‘Iron Country Sisters’ are really something to check out, I just love them! Country band ‘Luxury Liner’ has definitely some of the best country musicians in Finland, and there is a young guy named Janne Kaunisto (Johnny B.D.), whose voice and charisma won’t leave anybody cold! I’m sure he will be a big name in the country music scene one day.

ML: I have always related to the “whiskey-drinking woman”…who typically is portrayed as a strong, vibrant, free-thinking and independent woman, who’s not afraid to get dirty…what are your thoughts? Do you relate to this kind of woman at all?

MMV: Well, my usual drink before a gig is whiskey on the rocks. Year by year I can relate to this kind of woman even more!


David Allen Coe once said “it ain’t a perfect country and western song if you don’t sing about whiskey-drinking, mama, prison or getting drunk,” and with that said, The Hilland Playboys have picked an amazing repertoire of songs to present from all walks of country and western music…with a changing setlist to boot!

Cue the cowboy —- Jeeeehaaaaa!


Live country music every Monday – free entrance
Juttutupa – Helsinki
Sparbankskajen 6
8-11pm, band tips graciously accepted!

Other links:

Hilland Records

Hilland Playboys on FB

Hilland Country Festival