“Oh, we were hoping to get a drink at the bar, but it looks like it’s full?”
The bar was incredibly inviting — hexagonal tile on the floors, dark wood at the bar and dark leather on the booths. Huge mirrors reflecting the electric light. A necessity in Stockholm in January, when the sun sets at 3:30pm and there are only 6 hours of daylight. It may seem CRAZY to travel to Sweden in January, but Hen found cheap tickets, so we hopped a plane and set off for the Scandinavian north.
And you know, even in the winter, Stockholm is a beautiful city — crisp and clear and bright. It was cold, though. This is how my iPhone announced the weather one morning:
Frigid. The official weather forecast was frigid. Weather like that calls for one thing: frequent pit stops into shops, bars and cafes in order to warm up.
The shops in Stockholm close at 5pm — cocktail hour. The restaurant on the corner seemed the perfect place. We opened the door, ducked our heads past the “keep out the cold” curtains — and saw that the bar was packed. Filled to the brim. The dining room was empty, but this was clearly the type of place where a table was for dining — if you just wanted a drink, get to the bar. It seemed we were out of luck.
“Can I help you?”
The bartender came out to see what we needed. He was a large man (in hindsight, the only truly large man I saw in Sweden) with a hooked nose, two chins and piercing, deep-set eyes. The kind of man you don’t mess around with.
We explained our situation — hoping for a drink, but it looks like you’re full, so thanks anyway — and the bartender looked around his domain. “One moment,” he said.
(Everyone in Stockholm speaks perfect English, of course. It makes you feel ashamed of the American education system.)
We watched the bartender walk across the room and up to a table in the bar area. Three men, talking, laughing, enjoying some beers. We watched the bartender speak to them for a moment. We watched him bring the check — we watched the men hurriedly finish up their beers — and then watched as they got up, put on their coats, and walked past us and out the door, giving us the stink eye. I mean, OF COURSE they were throwing the stink eye. The bartender just kicked them out for us. It was clearly and obviously what had happened.
“Did he just kick them out?” I asked Hen.
Before she could respond, he was back. “This way,” the bartender said.
We followed (what else do you do when a table has been forcefully cleared for you?) and took a seat. The bartender put down drink menus and returned to his station.
I took a trip to the bathroom, and when I returned, Hen had ordered a drink. I asked her what she got.
“Something with bourbon,” she said. “I told him I like bourbon, and he said he knew just the thing and he’d make it.” She told me all this as if she hadn’t had much choice in the matter.
I took a quick glance at the menu — but then he was back, bearing Hen’s drink.
“And you will have?” he asked me.
I looked down at the menu. “Gin gimlet.” The bartender nodded, took the menu, and went back to the bar.
“I don’t know if that’s what I really wanted,” I told Hen. “But it’s the first thing in the menu, and somehow it didn’t seem like I could say, ‘I’m not sure.’”
The bartender brought over the gimlet — pale green, a tiny bit frothy — nodded, and left. I noticed the cloth tucked into his apron — white herringbone with red trim, just like the Swedish cloth my aunt gave me, hanging in my kitchen back home in Seattle.
The gimlet, I will say, was one of the best I’ve had. Clearly this guy knew his stuff, I’d give him that (even if he did kick out patrons on a whim). Hen and I drank, chatted, and decided that here was a good a spot as any to have a bite of food. When the bartender came back over, we said we’d have the special — crayfish with what was described to us as “farmer’s bread.”
“Should we get one or two?” I asked Hen.
We debated for a moment before the bartender put his hand on my shoulder. “Get two,” he said. “It’s very nice.”
We quickly agreed. “What wines do you have?” asked Hen.
“With the seafood, a nice white.”
We nodded. Sounded good. Besides, this man had a way of saying this — you couldn’t say no to him. His was the definitive answer: this, this is good, and you will have it.
The crayfish came, tasting like a cross between crab and shrimp, mixed lightly with dill and lemon and piled high on chewy dark bread and topped by a dollop of orange Swedish caviar. And the wine? Perfect, as promised, with the crayfish.
By the time we finished our meal, we’ve been sitting for quite a while. The entire restaurant was packed now, bar and dining area, and we could see people queuing up at the door. “We’d better get going, empty up the table,” Hen suggested. I agreed.
When the bartender came back, we asked for the check.
“Dessert?” he said.
Oh no, we said, we see there are people waiting, we don’t want to take up the space — we’ll get going.
He shook his head and furrowed his brow and repeated the question. “Dessert?”
I’m not sure what the qualification is to be kicked out of a table, but apparently we didn’t meet it. “Well, alright,” we said.
He told us the special – a dense, flat chocolate cake, paired with a scoop of house-made licorice ice cream — and we told him we’d take one.
“With two spoons,” he added. Not a question.
With our dessert, the bartender brought out two small glasses filled with amber liquid. “On the house,” he said. “Special aged Jamaican rum. Very good with chocolate.”
He was right, of course. Every sip of rum complemented the chocolate perfectly. You couldn’t say no to this man — but why would you want to? No trip is complete without a weird, random adventure — and Stockholm wouldn’t have been complete without the bartender.
The reason we FREAKED when we landed on a Ballograf pen for STMT X Sweden?Because pretty much, Ballograf = Swedish design. Simple, stylie, and always keepin’ an eye on the little details that add up to somethin’ BIG
These pens are made in Gothenburg, over on the east side of Sweden. Only the best for these ballpoint bad boys – stainless steel tips, tungsten carbide balls, archival acid-free ink. All of Ballograf’s pens come with a lifetime guarantee and get the Nordic Ecolabel, too. (We noticed the Swedes take all-things-green very seriously. Can’t blame ‘em with such a beautiful country!)
AND AND AND – a few years back, the Ballograf Epoca (that’s the one in your kit!) was voted #2 out of 21 top pens by an Austrian magazine. (And Austria 9 seems pretty hooked on ‘em, too – anyone translate??). If you’re keepin’ count, that’s the second award-winning pen to be featured in an STMT Kit – the first was Italy.
If you haven’t gotten your hands on one of these pens yet, grab one now in the STMT X Sweden Kit!
The Lunar New Year is right around the corner (January 31, to be exact) and you know what this new year is? The GOLDEN HORSE! Ummm helloooo?? RAH’s golden Italian Stallion?? Can’t just be a coincidence – we’re takin’ it as a sign of a full year of awesomeness for RAHstrs! To kickstart the awesome, we got a special promo for y’all. Enter promo code “GoldenHorse” at Checkout and get 15% off your order. BOOM. Just like that. Offer’s good through January 31, 2014, so get crackin’!
RAD AND HUNGRY was born out of my love of office supplies and travel – but my ORIGINAL love was pencils. All kinds, all colors. A bonafide pencil collector by the time I hit 3rd grade, maybe even sooner.
My family lived in the north end of Seattle – but the extended family all lived in Queen Anne. All my mom’s siblings and their immediate family, along with my grandmother, immigrated to Seattle within a one year period. Everyone settled in Queen Anne except for my family. They all lived within a 4 block radius – two families even bought homes on the same street with only one house separating them.
Family portrait taken shortly before moving to America. My mother is standing in the back, on the right.
During the summers, all my brother and I could think about was heading to Queen Anne so we could hang with our cousins. It was a pair of brothers that we bonded with the most. We, the Gang of Four, were inseparable come summer. We’d spend weeks at a time together, swapping homes every other week. And when the run would end and our parents came to pick us up, my brother and I would hide in a closet, hoping my parents would forget about us and head home. But of course they never forgot us. It was hide-and-seek at the worst – my parents wouldn’t even pretend to search for us! They’d find us instantly and when they did, I’d cry and my brother and cousins would pout.
We spent our summers camping in the backyard, staying up all night playing Dungeons and Dragons, watching a nonstop stream of karate movies, walking to an arcade to play video games… and we always stopped in at the corner pharmacy. Sometimes up to 3x a day. It was run by a pharmacist and his family. They knew everyone – it stood on the corner and held reign over the neighborhood. My brother and cousins would head straight to the candy aisle. Me? I was one aisle over, checking out their stationery. I’d pick up the notepads with four different colors of pastel paper (remember them?). I’d shake a box of paper clips and wonder, does this small box really hold 100? (100 seemed so infinitely big back then.) Why is the box so light if it’s holding 100 paper clips? MIND BLOWN.
No matter how excited paper clips and stationary got me, pencils were next level shit. All the colors, the glitter, the holographic images… pencils with toppers? OMG. OMG. SO MANY OPTIONS. I methodically went through their entire inventory and every visit, I’d leave with one more pencil.
Fast forward to the present and guess what? I got a dream job – I travel the world hunting down pencils.
I don’t remember how, but I discovered David on August 24th, 2011. I immediately shot off an email to the RAH posse about him…
Me: holy f’in shit! Laura: Ummm that is frickin awesome. You go, crazy dude.
Yup, that pretty much sums up how excited we were to discover David. We’ve been wanting to send him a pencil since then, and over the last year we’ve had multiple RAHstrs contact us about David, requesting a collab.
And then on September 19th, 2013, I read an article suggesting that David may be calling it quits. First I felt sadness, then panic. In full-on do-or-die mode, I headed over to his site and placed an order.
We all knew the perfect pencil to send. The very first pencil we purchased for RAD AND HUNGRY – USO General from Colombia. It’s a goldenrod #2 pencil with “Colombian Pencil” stamped in silver foil. We read the name as “you so general”. It makes us laugh, it’s like our inside joke. This pencil was included in our first kit, STMT X Colombia. It kicked off our world tour of hunting down daily-diet office supplies. This pencil is far from being general – it’s our inspiration, it embodies what we do and why we do, it’s our unofficial mascot.
We sent it off and it returned bottled in a tube, shavings in a bag, accompanied by a certificate. It now feels magical. Are we gonna use it? Hellz no. We’re gonna keep it safe. Frame it and display it proudly. Some people rub Buddha’s belly for good luck, others carry a rabbit’s foot, and now we got us our own tradition. We’re gonna blow kisses to our USO General pencil!
Our last Denmark Kit was a RAHstr favorite, selling out in record time. Husbands and wives even fought over the notebook! It’s one of our fave STMT Kits, too, because it introduced us to the super rad Viking company. Viking office supplies made us melt on the spot both for their stylie ways and totally legit quality – oh, and did we mention that one of our favorite things about Viking is the owner? Jens is AH-MAZ-ING and it’s people like him that make the World Tour one big nonstop hi-fivin’ party.
(Oh, and P.S.? You can’t find Viking goods in the States. So snag ‘em up now!)
THAT’S A WRAP, y’all! The Third World Tour was SLAMMIN’. We added 7 new countries and traveled over 100,000 miles. We’ve now hunted for lo-fi goods in 28 different countries, released 36 STMT Kits, and been travelin’ nonstop for over 40 consecutive months. And best of all? You’ve told us time and again over this past World Tour that you think the kits are just getting better. So POP THAT BUBBLY! Bootyclappin’ goin’ down this month to celebrate all the awesomeness (and coffee) from the past 3 cycles.
RAH keeps growing (yay!) and lots of amazing opportunities are opening up for us. And we’re gonna explore ALL THE RAD. We’re gonna host workshops with some cool folks, we’re gonna put together some pop-in shops, we’re gonna release our first ever RAH-branded notebook (with a brand y’all already LOVE). The way we see it, there’s only one direction, one way to go – and that’s up. And in order to get there and bring every RAHstr along for the ride, we’re makin’ some changes…
The RAH World Tour is now a 10-month cycle. WHAT?! What does this mean? Yearly Subscriptions are switchin’ up. Goodbye, June and December issues! We’ll no longer be introducing new STMT Kits during those months (but other goodies? Stay tuned…). Going forward, new Yearly Subscribers get all 10 kits in the cycle (and um, bonus! It knocks’ $46 off the price!). If you are a current Yearly Subscriber, you’re still gonna receive 12 kits (you think we’d leave ya hangin’?). Semester Subscriptions and Quarterly Subscriptions stay the same – and Single Kits are still available. Check out our Subscription page for more info!
We recognize how special RAH is – we get to do what we love and have kickass RAHStrs supporting us every step of the World Tour. We’re gonna continue writing letters to everyone, we’re gonna keep improving the STMT Kits, we’re gonna invest more love into everything we put out. Let us know how you’re feelin’ ‘bout these changes, because your feedback always helps shape our growth!
Buckle up for the Fourth World Tour, y’all – we’re throwin’ back the pisco sours and ready to go!