Not to be trite, but the best word to describe Finland is magical. Both the natural wonders and cultural heritage that make up this country are certifiably mind-blowing: You can spot the neon wash of the Aurora Borealis up to 200 nights a year; take in the mind-rattling, reality-bending Midnight Sun throughout June and July; enjoy a remarkable 188,000 clean lakes, relax in over two million saunas (hell yeah!); and — of course — bask in the serene simplicity and playful color use that characterizes Finnish design.
From Jackie O’s trademark Marimekko dresses to Alvar Aalto’s architectural creations around the world, Finland has been setting design trends for decades. Let’s just say they know what’s up when it comes to creating beautiful pieces. Among our favorite contemporary design authorities in the country is Samuji, based in the country’s capital, Helsinki. Samuji is a creative studio specializing in women’s ready-to-wear and home interior products. Its work focuses on a love of necessary things designed with simple functionality and kindness.
Below we chat with Suvi-Elina Enqvist, head of sales and marketing at Samuji. With over 15 years experience in fashion PR and communications, Enqvist has built a global network of sales across more than 25 countries for Samuji. And while she’s worked in both France and the U.S., Helsinki is home for Enqvist, so we got her to spill on the city’s best places to eat, drink, shop, and more. Forget Tripadvisor and read on.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT LIVING IN HELSINKI? Helsinki has a distinct and charming atmosphere where minimalistic architecture meets Slavic influence. The city’s pallet of seasonal colors — fluctuating between vivid summer green, intense Baltic blue and the crystal white of Nordic winter — makes Helsinki a truly special place year-round. It’s a metropolis with finesse, especially in the summer with the “nightless” nights.
IS THERE SOMETHING NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT THE CITY, BUT SHOULD? The solitude. Even if you are in the center of the nation’s capital, you can still be the only passenger on the train.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE HELSINKI STYLE? Colorful and diverse. Clothes reflect one’s personality and values. Individuality is important.
BEST PLACE TO EAT? There are restaurants all around the city that are really great, presenting pure and innovative dishes using local ingredients that you can only experience in the Nordic countries. I recommend Grön (Punavuori district), Ask (Kruununhaka district), Kom Theater (Ullanlinna district), as well as the old time classic Savoy (downtown).
BEST PLACE TO DRINK? For the best bartenders and drinks you should head out to Helsinki’s meatpacking district Teurastamo and to a place called Tislaamo Distillery Bar.
BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE WATCH? Sompasaari Sauna — a place to meet interesting locals, bathe and relax while enjoying the views towards the old parts of Helsinki, Katajanokka and Kruununhaka districts.
BEST PLACE TO SHOP? Hakaniemi Market Hall for an authentic grocery shopping experience. Artek and Lokal for contemporary Finnish furniture and homeware, and Samuji House, our store that combines elements of a gallery, boutique and home. I also love R/H and Arela, Finnish designer clothing and accessories brands.
TELL US ABOUT THE SUMMER HOUSE CULTURE IN FINLAND. WHERE DO YOU ESCAPE TO ON THE WEEKENDS? The Helsinki archipelago is an endless source of inspiration and accessible for everyone. Just a fifteen minute boat ride from the city and it feels like a true getaway. You don’t have to leave the capital area to find peaceful scenery.
Summer cottage (mökki) is a must for a true Finnish lifestyle experience. The cottages are everywhere and they are not just close geographically, but also philosophically and socially too.
It’s hard to not love San Francisco. Sitting on it’s very own peninsula up the northern coast of California surrounded by three bodies of water, it’s pretty much a landscape dream. Not to mention, it’s just a drive away from Silicon Valley, a quick flight (or fun road trip) to San Diego, Los Angeles and Arizona. And, in spite of its 40 rolling hills, you can walk or bike everywhere making exploring all its unique neighborhoods easy peasy. It’s really no surprise this cool city is filled with so much creativity and talent. We happen to know some of the best: the boutique owners and designers. Just look at the six rad ladies above, showing off the gorgeous city. These San Francisco designers make the most beautiful clothing and accessories that we obviously love to wear on the daily. We wanted to find out more about the city and the hidden gems no Trip Advisor would know, so we asked all our SF pals for the best places to eat, drink and people watch. You may as well check your Air Miles now.
From left to right: Danielle Colen designer of Waltz,Sharareh Koehler designer of Lotfi, Anna Chiu designer of Kamperett, Nikki Garcia designer of First Rite, Valerie Santillo designer of Kamperett, and Karen Potesta designer of Micaela Greg
WHERE TO EAT
From drool-worthy seafood to the most comforting Italian dishes, San Francisco has absolutely no shortage of good eats. “I have so many favorites! At this very moment it is Cotogna (above). Such delicious Italian food and a really beautiful space. Plus, their cocktails and wine selection are fantastic,” reveals Sydney Pfaff owner of Legion.
Tiffany Tam from Refined also admits that the city is filled with endless gems. “There is so many… it’s hard to pick just one.” But she was able to narrow it down to her top four: Tartine Manufactory, Liholiho Yacht Club, Bellota and Ju-ni. Sharareh Koehler, designer of one of our favorite bag lines Lotfi, also has a soft spot for Tartine. More specifically, “a loaf of Tartine bread.”
Mira Pickett, boutique owner of Mira Mira, has two must-go places. “Traditional Dim Sum is always a good idea, I love Ton Kiang on Geary, and Bar Crudo (above) is probably my favorite spot on earth. Can’t come to SF without having seafood.” Okay, that platter looks amaze.
“If I am going to go out to dinner, I love to go out for sushi, and one of my all time favorite places I discovered when I first moved to San Francisco years ago is a tiny place called Sushi Zone. It is a bit of a hidden gem off of Market Street in the lower part of the Mission. With only two tables and a few seats at the bar, you really have to get there right when they open or be prepared to wait, but everything is so fresh and delicious it is totally worth it,” reveals Valerie Santillo, part one of two of the womenswear label Kamperett. The second design half, Anna Chiu, has more than one favorite spot. “Seed + Salt for clean, organic and locally sourced food that’s quick and easy, Plow for brunch, Rich Table for dinner, Taqueria Cancun for the best burritos.”
“15 Romolo (above), hands down,” reports Sydney. “They make the best drinks around. I’ve lost a lot of hours (maybe more like days) to that bar.” Just by looking at that drink we know that would totally happen to us, too.
Tomra Palmer from Gravel & Gold recommends one of our all time favorite places: “In the park on a blanket on a warm day.” She then added, “But since heat waves are rare here I’ll take a bloody mary at the classic Zuni Cafe or a wildly strong margarita at the dingy but charming Latin American Club. Also, (local tip!) the Local Cellar wine shop has free tastings on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. They sell and serve lots of groovy small batch CA wines.” Meet us there.
“Our street is a danger zone. There are two fun bars within crawling distance of the shop. Latin American is a real old school, legit Mission bar. Their margaritas are lethal weapons,” says Mira. Okay, this bar is definitely on our list now.
When looking to grab a drink, Valerie likes to stick close to home. “If I am going to go out for a drink, I usually like to stay in my neighborhood in Bernal Heights. One of my favorite local bars is The Royal Cuckoo. I like the dim, loungey vibe, down to earth atmosphere and their greyhounds are on point. They have a live band (including an organ!) on the weekends and otherwise they only play vintage records which keeps in line with the low-key ambiance.”
Heading over to the Mission district we have two favorite drink spots. Marie Potesta, co-designer of Micaela Greg, choose the ABV. A trendy bar with all your favorite cocktails, beer, wine, plus a beautiful large-scale mural to admire while you sip on your drinks. Danielle went for the Lone Palm. A nice and cozy bar with the best selection of vodka. Sign us up.
“Dolores Park (above) definitely is the place to be on any sunny day. Kooks from every walk of life, all on the same grass. There is an actual map of the park itself, each area is represented by a different SF crew. It’s kind of funny (and sad) how accurate it is,” explains Mira. Daniel, Valerie and Anna also all noted Dolores as their favorite place to people watch. Must be a gem.
Tiffany heads to Hayes Valley: “the weather is always nice there so grab an outdoor seating at a local cafe.”
Sydney suggests, “Washington Square Park in North Beach. I live nearby and it’s always a pretty entertaining people-watching spot. Such an eclectic neighborhood with a lot of characters.” Tomra also loves this neighborhood. “At first glance you might assume it’s overrun with tourists but it’s full of family run, legacy businesses and old timer residents that have been there for many many years, holding down the alternative/outsider vibe of this city.” She has three spots in North Beach to hit up: Washington Square Park, Specs and Caffe Trieste.
Marie is also a fan of North Beach. “Mario’s Cigar bar in my hood in North Beach (above) is a nice outdoor corner spot by the park to sit and watch the summer tourists.” Sharaeh loves to go to Four Barrel on Valencia street. A sleek and rustic coffee shop that specializes in drop coffee. Nothing better than a cup of Jo and some good ol’ people watching.
Toronto has it all: an unstoppable creative scene, bustling neighborhoods that span from one end of the map to the other, and it is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. You can experience different foods and cultures literally within blocks of one another. One stop on the TTC and you’re in Little Italy, next you’re in Greektown. Plus, there are over 140 languages spoken within the city limits. With so much to do and see, we knew a proper edit of the best had to come straight to the source: our boutiques and designers. We asked them to reveal THE best places to eat, drink and people watch in the Six right now. Get your woes ready. (Sorry, we had to).
WHERE TO EAT
“The simple ask of ‘where should we eat?’ when you live in Toronto is a question that could go unanswered for a long, long while; not unlike some of the most complex philosophical questions of our time. The options are plentiful, vast and one could quite feasibly travel their way around the planet on a plate – just eating their way around the city,” explains Bianca Goldman, founder of lifestyle boutique Bibelot & Token. She did narrow down a couple of her favorites though: Superpoint, “for a most fantastic buttery tomato sauce slice”, and Grey Gardens (above) a “new spot that’s a little bit of sunshine on the grayest of days.”
Anne Seally, owner of Task, is all about Bugigattolo Kitchen. A “cozy-tiny place in Liberty Village with an open kitchen and an outdoor patio. They serve Southern Italian food and do all-day breakfasts, lunch, and dinner. The menu changes daily, the food is very fresh, simple and tasty, the decor is laid back and unpretentious, and the service is warm and personal.” She also adds Tori’s Bakeshop (below) to her list of musts. “They have a half dozen tables (the best one being in the front bay window). Along with delicious baked goods and good coffee they also serve light lunch fare (soups, sandwiches, biscuits, etc).”
Lindsay Reeve, co-founder of Undone, narrowed it down to her top three. “I love Bar Isabel. Their sister-shop Raval is sleeker (and the place to go for mid-morning coffee and refined snacks), but there’s something homey about Isabel that just feels right to me. The food is both light and a bit rugged. Then there’s Côte de Boeuf, which opened as a butcher shop but has fully morphed into a local cave à manger. Cheese and charcuterie are the things to get, but they also do a few bistro classics very well. Thirdly, you’ll want to hit up I Love Pho Forever – the place with pink walls and all the plants in the window. Don’t be deterred if there’s a line, it moves fast.”
“If I’m looking for something laid back (or slightly hungover), all day dim sum at Noble on Spadina is my go-to,” admits Elizabeth Arlow owner of Bodega Thirteen. “It’s super inexpensive and in my opinion the best dim sum in Toronto. Definitely get the wonton soup.” We’ll meet you there.
Altaf Baksh owner of the contemporary men’s clothing shop Muddy George swears by Seven Numbers. He promises that, “Mama Rosa will take good care of you” when you go. Bonus: they are on Toronto’s 25 best bowls of pasta list!
Brittany Haavaldsrud founder of Fjordlife loves to hit up La Cubana (below) in Roncesvalles for a Cuban breakfast. She also recommends “Montgomery’s on Queen Street West, Bodega Henriette for brunch, and Figo for the decor.”
Our pals over at Livestock, Kevin Pham and Adrian Campana, gave us a handful of go-to spots based off of various cravings (you’re welcome in advance): Odd Seoul (Korean tapas style), Kingyo (Japanese), Norling (Tibetan), Big Crow (BBQ), Mamakas (Greek) and Milagros (Mexican).
The design duo behind the jewelry line Alynne Lavigne, Eve Tobolka and Alynne Lavigne, love heading to the Rhum Corner (above) for a quick drink (or five). They also admit that when it comes to having a drink they love, “any sunny balcony, front porch, backyard… or park, but that would be illegal (wink!).”
It’s round two for Grey Gardens. Allison Skinner from Distillloves to go there for both their food and drinks. “I love the room – palm print painted cinder block wall, pretty linen towels, farmhouse sinks, pink cookware and brass details. Good crowd too, not douchey.” Well, that’s always a bonus.
Zai Rajkotwala, owner of the dreamy lifestyle shop Easy Tiger Goods, has a solid list of drinks spots: Midfields Wine Bar, Pharmacy, Pretty Ugly, Communist’s Daughter, and Unlovable. Owner ofRoom 2046, Kumala Nio, also chose Unlovable as her favorite place to kick back and have a drink. It must be good.
“We love Midfield Wine Bar,” reveals the team at Mary Young. “They have a great patio (which Torontonians love to take advantage of when we can), a robust wine selection and super friendly, knowledgeable staff.”
The Slip (above) sits on Toronto’s beautiful waterfront at Harbourfront Centre and is one of Adrian’s favorite places to go when craving a good drink. Also on his list are: 416 Snack Bar, Cold Tea and Mascot Brewery – especially the rooftop patio (so good it’s the first photo at the top of our story).
“Black Dice on Dundas West has a great drink selection – my fave is the ‘Cherry Jerry’, Sailor Jerry and cherry coke,” reveals Elizabeth. “They also have an extensive selection of Sake if you’re into that. It’s a smaller spot, self-identified as a ‘Japanese Rockabilly Bar’ but super laidback.”
Brittney has two recommendations: “The Local in Roncesvalles for live music and Hole In The Wall.” If you’re into exposed brick, classic cocktails and a rotating list of craft beers then Hole In The Wall is for you. Plus, they have a small stage at the back of the bar where music starts every night at 10pm. Oh, and delicious eats with a menu that changes weekly.
“Dundas West has a great mix of newer bars, restaurants and shops, but has retained its Portuguese roots – good mix of characters to watch with a coffee,” explains Brittney. She adds, “in the warmer months I’m partial to an iced coffee and a good stoop session. Tucana (above) on Dundas West hits all the marks – female owned (!), staff is super cool, coffee is high quality but affordable, and they have a bench outside.” Bonus: dogs love it too! Altaf also loves a coffee shop for people watching. He often heads to Casa Coffee in Kensington Market.
Kensington Marketis a actually a top spot for many. Anne loves the area for “its eccentricity and quirkiness.” Kevin and Adrian recommend heading there on the weekend. “It’s the best since you get such a variety of people walking through all day and there is live music usually playing.”
“Hard to believe, but I’m recommending the Toronto Reference Library, because everyone now goes there to soak in its post-modern aesthetic,” explains Lindsay. “It was designed in 1977 and supposedly influenced by the hanging gardens of Babylon, but to me it’s pure retro-futuristic paradise. I’m also a bookworm, though!”
“It’s the most obvious answer, but once the sun comes out, even just a little bit, Trinity Bellwoods Park is where a most satisfying cross-section of Toronto is on display at all times,” says Bianca. “Claim a patch of grass, a picnic lunch from Sud Forno, gather a group of friends – and you’ll catch a glimpse of everyone and everything that’s best about this city.” Fun fact: Sud Forno is one of the top 10 most Instagrammable spots in Toronto.
Alynne, Eva, Brittney, and Zai also suggest Trinity as the best place to people watch. Zai particularly loves “a coffee shop near it: Sam James (above).”
Two of Toronto’s busiest spots are also great for people watching. Kumala goes for the Pearson Airport and Allison loves the ferry terminal. “You see all walks of life while waiting for the ferry in the summer—hippies, hipsters, families, couples, loners—all gathered together to take a trip to the Toronto Islands,” she explains.