Burrata May Not Save the Country, But I’m Going to Keep Acting Like it Might

Since Donald Trump was elected President in November of 2016, I’ve ordered burrata off of a menu at least 72 times.

But let’s back it up. If you don’t know what burrata is, A) my soul weeps for you and B) I urge you to go fix that by purchasing and consuming some immediately. Burrata is a gooey, buttery cheese made from a mozzarella shell stuffed with stracciatella and cream. It is the richest cheese I’ve ever tasted, and second to the Pizookie(™) is the only food item I value before my own life.

The account that’s about to follow is part love letter, part manifesto, and best appreciated by non-vegans.

I can’t speak for the rest of the population, but in New York it’s seemed like Burrata has been on every other menu since 2015. You have burrata with tomatoes and bread, bruschetta style, burrata atop pizza, burrata served with peaches and figs. Warm burrata, chilled burrata, truffled burrata, burrata with cracked black pepper and olive oil. Never have I met a more versatile food that felt so complete, so equally idyllic no matter how it was prepared. Burrata is the elixir of [my] life. When the Greeks spoke of Ambrosia, they meant burrata.

I loved burrata before the election, but I had not fully embraced its healing powers until the U.S. was turned on top of its head. Now, I know I’m hardly the first person to talk about stress eating in the wake of Trump, but at a time when the higher powers of government are crumbling—nay, combusting—all around you, suddenly the power of a homey comfort food quadruples.

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In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, he attributes much of the success of the world’s most powerful people to timing. Timing also allowed for my one-sided love affair with burrata. I graduated college in 2015, the same year that the goopy miracle cheese began regularly cropping up in NYC’s Italian and farm-to-table eateries. After graduating I really began to get over my obsessive eating habits, thus allowing myself to finally eat full servings of cheese. In 2015 and 2016 I dipped my toe lightly into the pool of burrata offerings, testing out the temperature. And mark my words, it was like a Caribbean ocean every time. New York’s booming burrata scene meant that restaurants were trying to outdo each other when it came to taste, inventiveness, and presentation of the cheese, and there I was, caught in the middle of the most delicious competition known to humankind. I also suffer from classic millennial money spending habits—like spending too much dough on avocado toast to ever be able to afford a house. Replace avo toast with burrata and no foreseeable reason to seriously settle down in the future (I’m a freelance writer-actor-cellist terrified of being tied to one city for the rest of my life, why would I ever need to own a house?) and voila, my lifestyle was essentially written for me.

This oceanside truffle burrata was not consumed by me, but I wish it was.

Then comes election night 2016. I began the night, like so many others, hopeful and preemptively celebratory. The friend who hosted me for the event broke out the champagne fountain from her wedding, ready to be loaded with a bottle of bubbly once the glass ceiling was shattered. As the results rolled in, we became increasingly anxious and relocated to a Greenpoint bar that was serving cocktails called NeverTrump and Madame President, thinking that being around other people would reassure us that a Trump victory couldn’t be real. The bartenders would convince us that this is just what happens—the results skew in the red direction for dramatic effect before bouncing back to blue.

But then came Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina, and when people in the bar kept asking each other if they were seeing the map correctly, no one knew what to say. I tearfully ate pierogies from the food truck in the bar’s garden where a group of Russian students told me it wasn’t going to be that bad.

The election was a political wakeup call for me, as it was for so many other coastal millennials. Before Trump I cared about politics theoretically, sure—I knew how I felt about the big issues, I was registered Democrat, and I knew I should know more about my local officials. But I had come of age during the Obama era. I’d had the classiest President and First Lady role models a teenager could hope for. The worst thing I’d heard a candidate say was “binders full of women.” I felt safe in the system because even if the scale tipped red after eight Democratic Obama years, it was never going to go thatred. Trump was a joke, and as infuriated as I became listening to his debates, I held onto a naive faith that even the most frustrated, looked over rural voters would see through the massive pile of bullshit that was his campaign.

New Yorker cartoon by Paul Noth

After the election I became furious at the antiquity of the electoral college. I joined protests, I called and wrote to and even faxed my representatives. I made customized jewelry and donated all of the proceeds to human and environmental rights organizations. I tried to engage in productive conversations with a few Trump voters, and realized there was so much about America that I didn’t understand.

As much as I could try to do to affect change, there was still the matter of existing day-to-day in a country whose leader condones sexual assault, issues racist, homophobic, and transphobic comments and policies, and whose total lack of competence is enough to send someone into cardiac arrest. I could and would fight, but when I put down my sword I needed something to make everyday existence enjoyable.

In came burrata.

My first post-election burrata was courtesy of my favorite local pizza restaurant, Milkflower, in Astoria, Queens. It remains a regular staple. Then came the Women’s March in D.C, followed by the gooey appetizer at Frank. The Muslim travel bans and JFK protests graced our country but a week later, and R’a’R bar put the cheesy wonder on the menu. And so it continued. Trump’s paper towel throwing and lack of action after Puerto Rico: Burrata eaten alone (though Andrew Rannells was sitting noticeably close by) at Aria Wine Bar. “Shithole countries,” a fried burrata special at Westville. Trying to keep transgender folks out of the military. Murray’s Cheese Bar. Withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement. Nytorget 6 (I was in Stockholm, and found burrata amongst the meatballs). The repeal of DACA. Obicà. His limpness in the wake of gun tragedies. La Bionda. Healthcare. Bar Primi. Taxes. Supper. I could go on. I hate that I could go on.

Thankfully for my waistline, I’ve never followed him on Twitter.

Burrata-topped pizza at La Bionda in Berlin

When actions feel like they’re not enough, I remember the 2018 Senate elections. They’re coming so soon, and hopefully they’ll make an impact. I make monthly contributions to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and Everytown for Gun Safety. I read Lauren Duca’s column.

No, the country was not immediately nuked by North Korea when Trump was elected. And my life, on the whole, was not drastically affected. I am cisgendered and white. I am not an immigrant. I am young, I am able-bodied, I am still on my parents’ healthcare plan. I do not depend on government welfare. I can afford to eat the occasional disaster burrata thanks to my two jobs + freelancing.

But too many people’s lives were altered and shattered by Trump’s policies. And for those of us still standing, the fact remains that an abhorrent human whose critical faculties are wanting, to say the least, who says cruel, inexcusable things, who cheated on his pregnant wife with a porn star, who is disarmingly unqualified holds what used to be the most prestigious position in American government. He may not be the worst or cruelest leader the world has ever seen, but he’s the most unacceptable leader America has ever had.

America will regroup after Trump. The White House will be restaffed. Bills will be passed and policies will be altered. We may not have the first female President for many years to come, but we will, at least, award the seat in the Oval Office to competent politicians. We hope.

Until then, we have random acts of kindness. We have dogs. We have books and a free press and national parks. We have our communities, we have our voices, we have art. And we have sinfully decadent dairy-based dishes.

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An As-Comprehensive-as-Possible Guide to Budapest

Budapest, made up of the two former cities of Buda and Pest, is one of the most fascinating, beautiful places I’ve been to date. Its history is vibrant, dark, and complicated, with plenty of architectural reminders of wars and occupations. If there’s one thing Budapest has a monopoly on, it’s totally unique cultural phenomenon, the likes of which have tried to be copied but fail anywhere else.

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Fun fact: Budapest is situated atop over 125 natural thermal springs, making it a bathhouse wonderland. We happened to be in Budapest in the frigid winter, which made the appeal of the hot pools that much higher. Budapest has a few bath house options, and we checked out the massive Széchenyi Baths and art nouveau-style Gellért Baths Széchenyi offers a touristy beer spa, much more Czech than Hungarian, and though it was tempting we chose to spend our day in the Buda-based Gellért Spa. My favorite attractions were the hottest thermal pool and the rooftop bath, which required a freezing dash to get to but was so worth it once we were submerged. Having forgotten to pack bathing suits, we splurged on some retro Hungarian swimsuits that seemed all too appropriate amongst the timeless decor.

Ruin bars, also called ruin pubs, are one of Budapest’s cultural claims to fame, and rightfully so. Housed in abandoned WWII bombed-out buildings, ruin bars are a mish-mosh of art, furniture, plants, and beverage service, of course. They’re huge, taking up entire buildings. Szimpla Kert is the oldest ruin bar and one of the most touristy (ruin bars used to be a rather underground operation, but word has definitely gotten out), but it’s absolutely worth paying a visit. With people filtering out of rooms and plenty of local drink options, the place feels like one giant party with cozy pockets in between. There are plenty of ruin bars to visit in Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, some chicer than others. I’d recommend at least starting with Szimpla to get a feel for the phenomenon. Packed as it can get, there’s still something about the experience that feels rebellious and grungy.

By some miracle, Christmas markets were still up in Budapest even though we arrived on the 28th of December. Most markets go down the day after Christmas in Europe, a real travesty since they’re far superior to America’s (sorry Union Square Holiday Market. You tried, but you’re crowded and expensive and your gluhwein is non-alcoholic). Budapest’s markets were the best of our trip, full of so much glass and cinnamon cake, brimming with hot drink options, and even offering some crafts that didn’t look mass-produced. As lovely as I’m sure Central Europe is in the summer, Chrismas time is something out of a fairy tale.

Budapest’s history makes it a stellar candidate for a walking tour, where a local knowledgeable guide can answer your questions and point out Soviet vs. pre-Soviet architecture. If you take one, as we did, make sure you hit these next few sites:

Hero’s Square

Hősök tere features the Millenary Monument, the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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The Shoes on the Danube Bank

A heartbreaking monument to the Jews shot into the river during an awful instance of Nazi violence. Jews were linked together in threes and the person in the middle was shot in the head, propelling the other two to drown and sink with them in the river.

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Buda Castle

This is THE castle in Budapest, home to former Hungarian kings with some of the best views overlooking the Danube.

The Opera House

Though nothing was playing when we visited, the architecture makes the building well worth a visit.

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Vajdahunyad Castle

This Transylvanian-inspired castle, built in 1896, is an amalgamation of Romanesque, Gothic Renaissance, and Baroque architecture and looms over a lake that offers boating in the summer and skating in the winter.

St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Synagogue 

Budapest has some stunning houses of worship, including the second largest synagogue in the world. Unfortunately the only photo I took of the synagogue was dark and blurry, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

The Museum of Terror

A wild look into Budapest’s decades of fascist occupation.

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Starving as you’ll probably be after the tour, stop off at Getto Gulyas for a modern take on traditional Hungarian goulash, a convenient few blocks away from Szimpla.

 

Bests of Berlin

Berlin is one of the most open, accepting cities in the world, a fact that exists almost in direct contrast with its sordid history. From the rise of the Third Reich to the imposing Berlin Wall, the city has endured a lot of pain. Berlin acknowledges and memorializes its heavy past, ensuring that the history is remembered as the city evolves into one of unparalleled nightlife, art, and inclusivity.

 

When visiting Berlin, there are a number of historical sights that demand a visit. The East Side Gallery, housing the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall still standing, is famed for its panel-like paintings commissioned from artists around the world after the wall fell. It’s rare for a city to boast a site that contains history, art, and a beautiful atmospheric walk all in one, but the East Side Gallery does just that and is a perfect introduction to Berlin.

 

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Also unmissable when it comes to art is the Berlinische Galerie. This modern art museum, one of Berlin’s newest, features a standing collection as well as rotating exhibits of Berlin art from 1870 onward. A visit to Berlinische is well worth it, and usually less crowded than the touristy Museum Island. The first Monday of every month entrance is only 4 Euros, a nice treat for your travel budget.

 

Berlin has some excellent walking tours, and most will take you around Brandenburg Tor and the surrounding monuments. It’s definitely worth spending extra time wandering amongst the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The memorial, designed by architect Peter Eisenman, is a field of gray concrete slabs that rise in height towards the center, invoking feelings of claustrophobia and oppression. The memorial is controversial for many reasons, but I was extremely moved by it. A formal Holocaust museum stands adjacent to the concrete slabs and is also worth visiting, though be prepared for hour-long lines at peak visiting hours.

 

 

Two neighborhoods stood out during this particular Berlin visit. Kreuzberg, where we were lucky enough to stay with a friend of mine, was reminiscent of some neighborhoods in Brooklyn with its abundance of thrift stores, cocktail bars, and multinational restaurants. Some highlights were Limonadier cocktail bar (happy hour until 8pm for some of the most inventive drinks you’ve ever tasted), Dolden Mädel brew house, and La Bionda pizzeria. A whole burrata arrives atop the Nona pizza, and there are very few things I wouldn’t do for a whole burrata. The leftovers make for the perfect breakfast food as well.

 

Mitte, the city’s middle area, is home to all of the shopping your heart could desire, plus some amazing restaurants and the grand, imposing Volksbuehne theater. For breakfast or lunch, Strandbad Mitte and House of Small Wonder will fill your appetite and your aesthetic sould. House of Small Wonder has a flagship location in Williamsburg (of course we would travel across the ocean to visit a New York cafe) and will probably have a wait, so if you’re starving, head to Strandbad first. Their traditional German breakfasts are filling and delicious, and definitely shareable.

 

Lebensmittel in Mitte was probably our favorite meal in Berlin. The traditional German fair is served on large wooden tables with giant candles burning between guests, making the whole place feel like someone’s homey Bavarian dining room. From traditional gulash and schnitzel to schupfnudel, a kind of potato pasta I’d never had before and am dying to eat again, the menu is hearty and warm with a familial, cozy feel to it. Lebensmittel has an amazing selection of local wines and beers, as well as an unbelievable fruity cakey ice cream-adorned dessert, the name of which I can’t remember because our friend Yannic ordered it for us and I was too busy salivating over it to ask.

 

Last but never least, Berlin has some of the best street food on the planet, period. Make sure to eat at least several doner kebabs and try a currywurst, superior to bratwurst in my opinion. These local foods are easy on the wallet and will definitely sustain you for several hours of city trekking. Don’t forget to wash them down with some gluhwein.

 

New Year’s Eve in Berlin

Germany is known for wild NYE parties, like the massive open-air party surrounding Brandenburg Tor in Berlin. Think the NYC Times Square party but with alcohol and fireworks allowed in the streets.

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Photo by blog.hostelbookers.com since we avoided this scene at all costs

We did not go to this party. I must admit, it does look beautiful from a safe indoor distance.

Honestly, the whole legal fireworks thing was kind of… terrifying? They are loud, they are everywhere, and they made the woman sitting next to us at dinner shriek with fright.

I had been to Berlin before in the summer, but as any Berliner will tell you the city feels like two opposite places in summer and winter. The summer boasts beer gardens aplenty and parks full of people lounging, playing instruments, probably smoking weed. Biking, to an outsider’s eye, appears to be Berlin’s primary method of transportation.

Then there’s the winter. The streets are gray and likely raining, and people hide amongst huge coats while dashing from place to place. Before coming to Berlin, I Googled what happens to beer gardens in the winter, thinking they might cover them with giant plastic tents an install space heaters. Nope, is the answer. There just are no beer gardens in the winter.

Doug and I stayed with my wonderful German friend Tatjana in Kreuzberg, one of the coolest neighborhoods I’ve seen. More on that another day.  When we arrived on December 31 she immediately took us to ORA for brunch, an über-hip eatery in a former pharmacy building. The decor gives a generous nod to the building’s previous life with medicine bottles lining the dark wooden bar shelves and old-fashioned chandeliers lighting the space. Every hipster bone in my body immediately felt at home here.

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The food itself was simple but delicious, things like local eggs and wide-cut bacon served on thick brown German bread. An excellent post-plane, pre-party meal.

We took a quick walk around Alexanderplatz and the Museum Island after brunch, because in Berlin the metro comes so often that it’s no problem to hop into the middle of the city after brunch in the southeast. If we’d had brunch in Williamsburg in New York and then someone asked if I wanted to go check out Times Square, I would have sent them on their weekend MTA journey alone and prayed they made it back by midnight. But thanks to Berlin trains coming every five minutes tops even on Sundays, we got a nice little pre-tour of the city before it was time to come home and change.

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To avoid becoming incinerated by street fireworks, we picked one locale for the entire evening, a move which I highly recommend. (“It’s amazing that people don’t die setting off their own fireworks,” I told Doug. The next day he looked it up—two people did die this year, and ten more needed amputations. Germany is just… aight with that?)

Our evening began and ended at BRLO Brewhouse, situated nicely overlooking the Spree river. BRLO (which I kept pronouncing “brillo” but is probably, I’ve realized, “berlo”) featured a NYE fondue dinner special of either meat or cheese fondue (Meat. We chose meat.), a welcome cocktail and two house beers, and unlimited sides. There was so much food, and like an amateur I filled up on the insanely good mashed potatoes. But we took down most of the meat and sides like champs, and laughed at the notion of anyone actually cashing in on the “unlimited” part.

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The beers themselves were delicious, and I half-joked that we should go back the next day to sample more. Between the two of us, we tried the Helles, the Berliner Weisse, the Red Ale, and something else that Doug got while I’d moved onto champagne (a cream ale maybe?) Regardless, all were specific and tasty and among the highest quality beers I’d tasted.

At 10:00, the bottom level of the brewery was turned into a dance floor that played hits of the 90s, 00s, and now. Seriously, the DJ knew what he was doing. Just before midnight partiers were ushered outside (we foolishly forgot to grab our coats first) to watch the fireworks over the river. To be clear: There was no grand organized firework show like we’re used to in the states, just the locals saving up their personal firepower for the midnight finale. It felt like the whole neighborhood was participating in the same party, and BRLO and its guests were invited.

As a server, I especially appreciated the fact that the BRLO employees looked like they were genuinely having a great time. They were fun and looked, at least, like they got along really well. The staff celebrated with the customers at midnight, and when we asked our server how she felt about working on New Year’s Eve, she said she’d much rather be at BRLO for the night than out amidst the explosives. Should I ever move to Berlin, BRLO’s the first place I’d look for a job (after learning German).

Winter in Stockholm

Yes, the locals thought we’d lost it when we decided to visit Stockholm in January. Nineteen hours of darkness be damned, we booked a flight home through the Swedish capital and loved it. Besides trying every local beer, there’s plenty to do during Stockholm’s (admittedly freezing) winter.

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I hear that Stockholm has some lovely parks. We did not visit them.  We did, however, manage to take a stroll through Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. Gamla Stan is small and therefore perfect for briskly walking in between hot tea breaks. The cobblestone streets and old architecture are as charming and lovely as you could want in a European city. Stockholm’s royal palace (not to be confused with Drottningholm Palace—coming up soon) is also in Gamla Stan, and if you’re lucky you might catch the changing of the guards. In the summer, apparently, the parade includes a full band on horseback. Not so in January, but the tradition is impressive, particularly because I stood watching it in a full parka while the guards’ military uniforms looked less than toasty.

From Gamla Stan, a ferry will take you to Djurgarden and the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is a Viking-era ship that sunk unfortunately in Stockholm Harbor, 30 feet away from its point of departure. It was then excavated and preserved in the museum and is a vast, awesome vessel despite its flaw in engineering. Plus, the museum is heated.

Stockholm has lots of excellent food, and definitely some great warm dishes. We stayed in hip Södermalm where we could not get enough of the local fare. Meatballs for the People is the ideal place to try traditional Swedish meatballs (better than IKEA’s, I promise). They have a selection of seasonal, sustainable meatballs, including a veggie option. They also make a lingonberry drink that is perfect for washing down your balls. (I mean what I said.)

Nytorget 6, conveniently named for its address, is another excellent eatery and apparently where all the cool Swedes go on a Friday night. We were lucky to snag a table in their basement which used to be some sort of theater and has retained a funky, cozy ambiance. The dishes are modern takes on Swedish traditionals, like a smoked perch taco and pork potato dumplings. Nytorget 6 is considered a reasonably-priced meal as far as Stockholm rates go, but the tasty small plates definitely add up if you’re not careful.

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Also in Södermalm is Fotografiska, the Swedish photography museum, aka one of the coolest museums I’ve ever seen and my current favorite on the planet. The museum houses work from international artists, and during our visit featured exhibitions by the Chinese photographer Chen Man and British photographer/x-ray artist Nick Veasey that I expect to remember for years to come.

The grand Drottningholm Palace is an easy train-and-bus ride away from Stockholm Center. I mean that sincerely—having to take a train and then a bus anywhere from New York would almost certainly deter me from going, but Stockholm’s transportation system is much quicker and more reliable than I’m used to. I love palaces and learning about other countries’ royal histories, and the palace gardens were beautiful even in their winter barrenness. 10/10 would Drottningholm again.

Despite the chilly temps, I found it wonderful to walk around some of the more notable streets and areas. Kungsträdgården has an ice rink if that’s your thing, and the ritzier Östermalm district is definitely worth walking around. Though the Strandvägen‘s boat shops and restaurants are closed for the winter, walking this street was undeniably beautiful and one of my favorite parts of the city.

Yes, I would love to come back to Stockholm in the summer (and with about 50,000 more dollars to my name). Did I love it in the winter, and do I recommend going despite the limited daylight? One hundred percent.

Beers You Must Try In Stockholm

Ah, Stockholm. The lovely, colorful Nordic city surrounded by water and prime healthcare. If, like me, you happen to make the questionable choice of visiting Scandinavia in the winter, you’ll be faced with the fact that daylight ends at 3:00PM. I’m told that Stockholm has some beautiful parks, and the next time I visit in the summer I’ll have to check them out. This winter, I spent Stockholm evenings the way many Swedes do: indoors, drinking beer.

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I really did love Stockholm for a number of reasons other than the beer – more of that to come. For now, let’s stay cozied up in Södermalm, Stockholm’s hip southern hub deemed one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world by Vogue. The northernmost part of the island is home to Akkurat, one of the greatest beer halls in Scandinavia. Akkurat boasts a huge selection of local and imported beers, with an impressive collection of lambics and vintages for the true connoisseurs. I don’t know enough about beer to pay for the good stuff, but I can at least appreciate funky and unique ones.BEB3424A-2AFE-4791-BA2C-EC8686DB9FCC.jpeg Akkurat has relationships with a number of breweries that make beers exclusively for them, including a tiny one man operation underneath a grocery store on an island to the west of Stockholm. This very brewery makes a beetroot IPA called the Red House Ale, only lightly hoppy and full of bizarre, delicious flavor.

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One of the best ways to explore bars, in my opinion, is to ask bartenders where to go next. The bartenders at Akkurat assured Doug and I that we were already in the best place, but if we had to try something else, Omnipollos Hatt around the corner was the next best option. Omnipollo is a local brewery, its name meaning something like “all-present chicken” in sort-of Spanish. (The logo is a magician’s hat, so I thought omnipollo meant magician in Swedish. Nope. All-seeing chicken.) The Hatt has a daily rotating list of Omnipollo’s out-of-the-box beers. When we went, most were sours and IPAs with a few stouts thrown in. Our first round was the One Ton Of Blackcurrant sour and the Raspberry Pavlova Smoothie IPA. For the Smoothie, the bartenders freeze the beer’s foam into a slushie machine which they dollop on top of the draft. Both beers were tart and delicious, the raspberry so tasty and unlike anything I’d ever had before that I have literal dreams about it.

 

 

The bartenders at Omnipollos Hatt recommended Akkurat (lol), and said another cozy place to try was Katarina Ölcafé. A short walk into Södermalm’s uber-hip Katarina-Sofia neighborhood brings a series of boutiques, restaurants, and this cozy beer bar that serves, ironically, New York Jewish deli-style food. We passed on the Reuben sandwich but did try Katarina’s local lager and sour. Their selection is less extensive as Akkurat and not as experimental as Omnipollo, but for quality Swedish beers served by friendly, engaging bartenders, Katarina was a win.

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Our final quest took us, as per the Katarina bartender’s recommendation, to Mbargo wayyy on the west side of the island. Mbargo has a TON of local beers – it might even rival Akkurat if you’re counting purely Swedish varieties. We opted for some Dugges sours (because thanks to this trip, I guess I like sours now??), Doug especially thrilled with his Mango Mango Mango brew. 0E1A88AE-EF23-4B37-BF27-539C57501BFESince we did not want to collapse, we called it a night after Mbargo, and I have to hand it to the Swedes: bar hopping and talking with the bartenders certainly took up most of the dark hours. I must say, though, beers in Stockholm, like all things in Stockholm, are expensive. I thought that coming from New York no price could shock me, ha! Stockholm was having none of that. Set aside some dough for your beer budget ahead of time, and you’ll be good to glug.

Cold Weather Travel With Only A Carryon

The last time I wrote a post about packing tips, I stressed my love of carry-on luggage and my reluctance to ever check a bag. That was during the summer, however, and my last winter trip had been to balmy Southeast Asia. Packing light is decidedly easier when your suitcase is mostly full of tank tops and light skirts.

On Friday night (Saturday morning, technically), I’m flying to Central Europe for the holidays. This trip will take me through Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Berlin, and Stockholm; none of which boast particularly temperate weather in December and January. With so much travel comes multiple plane and train trips, most of which require one to pay for checked luggage. As someone who absolutely certainly does not want to pay for checked luggage, I am determined to make the carry-on lifestyle work.

Behold, the vessels that will contain all possible possessions for the next sixteen days. But Tallie, you say, how will you bring enough clothes to keep you warm for so long? The answer is in my favorite clothing technology.

25564877_10155248506561045_246210348_n Heat tech. Heat tech is Uniqlo’s solution to packing heat into fewer layers. The shirts and leggings pack perfectly into these little bags, and heat tech socks are the only socks I’ve found that properly insulate my feet. (My extremities get very cold very quickly. I’m that friend with the perpetually cold hands.)

This little jacket number is Patagonia’s down shirt, and it is one of the warmest pieces of clothing I’ve ever owned. It is unfathomably light, which makes it perfect for layering under a bigger sweater and extra perfect for sliding into a carry-on. Seriously, the heat this shirt packs is mind-boggling. Something this light and flexible SHOULD NOT BE SO WARM, but it is. A+, science.

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Now, how about all of those cute cozy chunky knit sweaters you’re dying to wear all winter? Tough luck. Pick one. One is the magic number when it comes to the heavier outerwear: one big sweater, one hat, one coat, one scarf and one pair of gloves, most of which will be worn on the plane or at least used as an extra in-flight pillow. Roll up plenty of light shirts to wear under the one heavy option (plus your aforementioned down shirt). Also probably count on taking advantage of your Air Bnb’s laundry amenities.

I’m wearing one pair of weatherproof boots (np) the whole trip, with one pair of black flats packed for the times I absolutely need a nice shoe. Winter travel is no place for heels. Your feet and limited suitcase space will undoubtedly thank you for that one.

 

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When traveling for the holidays, gifts will sneak their way into your precious packing space. I’ve done my best to make this year’s small-ish and portable while being a tad more personal than gift cards. Thankfully, there’s plenty of room in my backpack for all of this holiday cheer.

The rest of my travel essentials also fit in my bomb backpack. (Reminder: make sure to pack a travel size of conditioner if you’re headed abroad since many foreign hotels or Airbnbs offer shampoo only. This will always baffle me, since so many European women have impeccably soft, silky hair without supposedly using conditioner.)

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Finally, I’ve also packed one skirt that’s versatile enough for a night at the symphony in Prague or NYE in Berlin. It rolls to a deliciously small size, to boot. If I’m lucky, I might just have enough room for the souvenirs I don’t need but will undoubtedly buy.

Happy holidays, and happy packing. Let me know where you’re headed this winter, and if you have any other tips and tricks!