This week we sample some bottles to help you stock your cellar this December, share some shopping tips for gift ideas in Helsinki and a winter playlist to keep you warm. Plus: we share a delightful dumpling recipe and ponder a less-frenetic life in pretty Santander. First, Tyler Brûlé shares the latest from Japan and Zürich.
The return to Zürich on Thursday was marked by a dull thud – equal parts 777 making contact with a wet runway, soggy skies and the quick onset of PJD (post-Japan depression). I have suffered bouts of PJD for nearly three decades now and have found that the best way to combat the funk is to start planning a return trip, find a Japanese song to keep the spirits genki and harness all the good inspiration and energy, applying them wherever possible in daily life. In practice, this meant provisionally booking an Asia tour (last stop Tokyo) for mid-January, listening to Miki Matsubara’s ‘Stay With Me’ on heavy repeat and getting our bar team to experiment with some new cocktail recipes with the bag of shikuwasa citrus that I brought from Okinawa. After a few hours of experimentation, they came up with a very tart take on a French 75 that I plan on replicating at some point later this evening. Before settling down in front of the fire and planning for an epic week ahead, however, the Monocle Christmas Market is getting underway here in Zürich, in somewhat of a revised format (more on that in a moment). Across the Atlantic, our team in Toronto will soon be up and at ‘em to prepare our stretch of College Street for a round of Chrissy cheer.
This year the ever cheery local authorities told us that we weren’t allowed to host a revenue-generating Christmas market (the assumption being that we should dispense festive tidings and treats free of charge) on our part of Dufourstrasse and had to stick to regular café operations. For the briefest moment I was so annoyed that I considered abandoning our Weihnachtsmarkt altogether until my colleague Raffi suggested that we speak to the landlord and explore the possibility of using the underground garage for a more bunker-like take on a traditional market. With a few sketches from our colleague Guy, we had a plan for putting stalls on the ramp and bringing the parking area to life. While it’s not the cosiest setup that we’ve ever created, the good news is that it snowed all night and this will now be our first ever white Weihnachtsmarkt. National weather service MeteoSchweiz promises that temperatures are set to stay below zero today and, by the time you’re reading this, Zürich will be under dazzling sunny skies. If you’re passing through the city or live close by, the market runs all day Sunday and we have a full line-up of local makers, merchants and bakers selling their wares. And in the event that you can’t join us, not to worry. We’ll be anchoring a special edition of Monocle on Sunday with Georgina Godwin in the co-hosting seat, with contributions from voices wise and witty, new and regular. If I don’t see you here in Seefeld, then make your way to Marylebone next weekend when the Monocle Christmas caravan rolls into town. Cheers!
We start our spree with a visit to Chjoko, a much-loved chocolatier producing handmade confections with a Finnish twist. Flavours such as cloudberry and lingonberry mixed with high-quality dark cocoa are guaranteed to put you in the Christmas mood. Next, we head to Kaurilan Sauna, which, as the name suggests, is a line of natural beauty products inspired by the most sacred of Finnish traditions. No trip to Helsinki is complete without a visit to the city’s famous design shops. Beautiful tableware by Iittala and Arabia can be found in their interconnected shops on the leafy Esplanadi boulevard, with another iconic local design brand Artek’s (co-founded by Alvar Aalto) flagship just a short walk away.
Be sure to also check out what Finland’s contemporary designers have to offer. There’s no better place for this than Lokal in the design district. To stock up on delicacies such as the korvapuusti cinnamon buns, cured Arctic char and artisanal cheeses, we recommend a visit to the recently renovated Hakaniemi Market Hall. Fashion lovers won’t be disappointed either. A trip to the iconic local brand Marimekko’s flagship is a must, with their colourful and ornamental patterns instantly recognisable wherever you go. For menswear, we recommend our friends at Frenn, whose sleek jackets, shirts, coats and knitwear are both elegant and sustainably made. Our tour finishes at Nide, one of Helsinki’s most loved independent bookshops, with a well-curated selection of rare titles from around Scandinavia and beyond.
Paris-based calligrapher and graphic designer Noémie Pottiez creates intricate lettering for the likes of Diptyque and Dior (writes Liv Kessler). After studying at New York’s Shillington School, she launched her studio 12 years ago, hoping to tell stories through her work. Here, she tells us about her tea ritual, her favourite weekend getaway and her obsession with Paris’s Marché Saxe-Breteuil.
Where do we find you this weekend?
I travel a lot but I’ll be in Paris this weekend. Sometimes I visit friends in Fontainebleau or I just take my bike and go to Compiègne on the train. It changes every weekend because I’m not a routine person.
Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Sunday is my day to recharge. I’m obsessed with markets and my favourite is the Marché Saxe-Breteuil. I have to walk for an hour along the Seine to get there and it’s a very different vibe from my neighbourhood but I love the view of the Eiffel Tower.
What’s for breakfast?
I like to read with a good black coffee, a bowl of fruit, kefir and nuts. I know it’s cliché but I love a buttery croissant too.
Lunch in or out?
I have a very light Sunday lunch because I have a big breakfast. Afterwards, I love to have a goûter (afternoon snack) at 16.00. I stay away from sugar most of the time during the week but on Sunday I will have a pastry – it has to be very good quality. I often go to Fou de Pâtisserie, which is a shop that sells pastries from different Parisian chefs. And I love to match the pastry with the right tea, which is currently chestnut tea by Lupicia.
Walk the dog or downward dog?
Downward dog. In Paris, I love to walk to my favourite yin-yoga class by Parc Monceau and have a relaxing walk afterwards; gorgeous, no matter the season.
A Sunday soundtrack?
“Self” by Cleo Sol and “Weak for Your Love” by Thee Sacred Souls.
Sunday culture must?
Exhibitions are mostly busy on weekends so I tend to go during the week. In Paris, the best time to go is during the nocturnes – the late-night openings. Otherwise I’m simply doing what we call flâner, which means walking with no goals. That’s a Sunday luxury.
News or not?
I only read news to reflect and process. I never watch the news on TV because, like many young Parisians, I don’t have a TV. I’m so happy about that.
What would you like to find under the tree this Christmas?
A train ticket for the next day to a city that I’ve never heard of; ideally somewhere cold and snowy at this time of the year. Or a new camera.
Best and worst presents you've received?
The best Christmas present was Faustine, my niece, who came into the world on Christmas Eve. The worst present is money: I’d rather have a cheap, meaningful gift than cash.
Do you lay out an outfit for Monday?
No, I dress according to my mood and I can’t predict it the day before.
Dumplings are a mainstay of the German-speaking world but Swiss chef Ralph Schelling admits that his favourite place to have them is in Austria. “If you’re in Vienna, go to Zur Herknerin,” says Schelling. “It’s the best. Unfortunately, it’s closed more often than it’s open,” he says of the unassuming restaurant in Wieden (the 4th district). Failing that, here’s how to enjoy a riff on that fine fare at home.
100g jam sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of half a lemon
500g plums, halved and pitted
500g low-fat curd cheese
30g butter, melted
4 tbsps semolina
2 tbsps cornstarch
2 tbsps icing 100g breadcrumbs
1 pinch ground cinnamon
Add the water, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the plums and turn the heat down. Stew over a low heat for 10 minutes until soft. Remove the cinnamon stick and leave to cool.
Mix the cheese curd with the butter and eggs. Add the semolina, cornstarch and powdered sugar, and mix together until it forms a soft mass. Leave to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Using your hands, shape dumplings into even-sized balls. Cook in a simmering pan of salted water for 10 to 12 minutes.
While they’re cooking, fry the breadcrumbs in a medium pan with the rest of the butter, stirring constantly. When they turn golden brown, take off the heat and add the ground cinnamon.
Roll the drained dumplings in the toasted breadcrumbs. Arrange, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with the stewed plums.
In Santander, a city of 172,000 on Spain’s northern coast, nobody is in a rush. If you’re late for a meeting, call ahead and surrender to the pace of the locals ambling along the harbour promenade. Defined by its low- and mid-rise apartment blocks stacked up a sloping peninsular, the Cantabrian capital has narrow streets on which you’ll find an assortment of cafés and restaurants. It’s the sort of enclave where the terraces are packed with customers sipping vermut at 14.00 on a Tuesday. Historically known for its fishing and shipbuilding industries, the port city has increasingly benefitted from tourism and the fact that Banco Santander has its institutional headquarters here. Young start-ups and restaurateurs are tapping into the low cost of living, the city’s cultural scene and the connectivity afforded by its international airport.
“I live here because of the quality of life,” says Berta Betanzos, a retired Olympic sailor who now co-owns Tanndem, a gym near the bay. When Monocle asks why Betanzos, who grew up in Santander, decided to stay, she says that the city’s sheltered location and mild climate lends itself to endless recreational opportunities. There are seven beaches within walking distance of the city centre and the distant peaks of the Cantabrian mountains surround the bay. Architect Jacobo Gomis took advantage of this outlook in 2012 when he opened Centro de Surf, a geometric concrete building on the popular Somo beach near Santander, which has become a hub for those in need of lockers, surfing lessons or a beer. “I grew up surfing here,” he says. “Now I take my children.”
Entrepreneurs such as Carlos Zamora Gorbeña, who runs La Caseta de Bombas restaurant with his sister, Lucía, have also tapped into the outdoor lifestyle. “People are connected to nature here,” he says. “Everything is a short walk away.” One of the restaurant’s patrons, Katherine Browne, is looking out across the bay with an aperitif. “People are friendly and there’s a good work-life balance,” says Browne, who moved to Santander from Ireland 20 years ago and owns a jewellery business. “I’m happy here. I feel safe.”
Monocle’s latest issue, December/January 2023/2024, includes a rundown of Monocle Radio’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco favourite 100 songs to enjoy this winter. Whether you’re after a playlist for an early morning workout or a soundtrack to your festive dinner party, this global music mix has got you covered. Today we share a few of those tips: 20 tracks to get the blood pumping as the mercury drops.
1. “Suspira” by Robson Jorge & Lincoln Olivetti
2. “Ready Baby” by Jeanne Added
3. “Jeg Ka’ Rigtig Godt Li’ Dig” by Andreas Odbjerg & Ida Laurberg
4. “Plage Érotique” by Rêve Blanc
5. “Life is a Flower” by Ace of Base
6. “Carrossel do Tempo” by Polo & Pan feat. Abrão
7. “Fade to Grey” by Visage
8. “Palco” by Gilberto Gil
9. “Voyage Libre” by Thievery Corporation feat. Loulou Ghelichkhani
10. “Décla” by Nina Lili J 11. “Romantic World” by Brenda Fassie
12. “The Gentle Rain (RJD2 Remix)” by Astrud Gilberto
13. “Once” by Virna Lindt
14. “Soleada” by Adiós Amores
15. “Get Over You” by Sophie Ellis-Bextor
16. “Pure Shores” by All Saints
17. “Elevation” by Braxe + Falcon feat. Sunni Colón
18. “Soft Life” by Lady Donli
19. “Keep Your Hold on Love” by Yatte & Duett
20. “Super Ego” by Babe Rainbow
Every exciting opening, outstanding achievement and promising proposal always seems to go better with a good bottle of wine. Chandra Kurt selects a few appetising bottles to stock up on this December.
1. Château d’Auvernier Neuchâtel Blanc AOC Non-filtré 2022
This unfiltered chasselas from Switzerland’s historic Château d’Auvernier estate cleanses the palate like spring water. Dry and crisp, it can be enjoyed with tapas or antipasti. The ideal aperitif.
2. Vino Gross Korže Haloze 2019
Central Europe is full of surprises, such as this Slovenian blend of sauvignon blanc and furmint vinified by Austria’s Gross family. A salty, spicy white from Korže’s limestone and marl terraces.
3. Château Grand Village Blanc 2021
Bordeaux whites deserve to be trumpeted, especially this crisp blend of sauvignon blanc and sémillon. Expect lean and racy aromatics of green apple with a delicately salty aftertaste.