EatAndTheCity´s pilot project with Süddeutsche Zeitung is live!

EatAndTheCity´s pilot project with Süddeutsche Zeitung is live!

süddeutsche zeitung



We are proud to announce that our pilot project, Satt und Glücklich, with Süddeutsche Zeitung is live!
Finally, Munich has an innovative restaurant discovery platform with high-quality content.

Along with City Dev Labs, we are the proud developer of this large media site for SZ, a very important client for us in Germany.
We are looking forward to developing further innovative digital tools to generate new revenue streams for media companies.
This project has been a good proof that WordPress is a great platform for media purposes too.

Read more in German here.

Satt und Glücklich

Modena & Balsamico

Arriving late to Modena, I look for a glass of wine to put my spine back in order after travelling all day on the train. I’m sure to find a bar near my place in the center. But at 01:00 (Friday night) they are all absolutely and very closed.

Saturday morning I awake to glass recycling, followed by violin. I head immediately to the Mercado Albinelli, the regional food market open mornings. 

At the deservedly famous Bar Schiavoni I eat a sandwich of local sausage and “green sauce”, which is a revelation on the genre. The bread melts in the mouth. It’s not filling. And no single flavor dominates. Everything in that sandwich collaborates on delicate comfort. Daily, the list of 5 sandwiches changes according to the owners’ improvisation, which might be a way to keep the joy in hard work. And I eat here every day.

Of course, with the sandwich, Lambrusco, the local wine, sparkling from light pink to dark red, and good with every food or none. Now I understand. If you start drinking at 13:00, you have had enough by 01:00.

I buy 9 kinds of cheese at the Mercado. 

On Saturday night the entire town becomes a street party hosted by “The Comune” (city government), with live music or loudspeakers at most restaurants, LED balloons, roving brass bands. At 01:00 the people go quietly home, leaving not a single piece of trash in the streets.

Here’s a tip: If you visit Italy, do not go for “a weekend”. Everything good is closed on Sundays. By definition, if it is open, it is for tourists. They may be Italian tourists, but still tourists. 70% of everything (and all the good restaurants) are also closed on Monday. Prescription: Arrive on Tuesday, go home on Saturday.

I am invited to dinner by a friend born and having lived his whole life in Modena. It’s Monday. He cannot identify an open restaurant. We go to La Lambruscheria, whose owner serves us a Lambrosco with a flavour as light as the color is dark. He recommends a restaurant which has only one foreign tourist in it (me). The outdoor seating is in a covered deck built into a parking lot, with overhead lighting appropriate for working in a warehouse, and urinal smell drifting in. 

I watch the 2 mature couples at the adjoining table eating “gnocchi fritti”. I’ve learned by now that it has nothing to do with gnocchi. It’s fried layered bread, puffy when fresh, eaten either for breakfast plain with coffee or, at dinner, used to make small sandwiches by hand at the table, with proscuitto, and possibly some sauces/dips, accompanied by a bowl of raw vegetables (carrot and celery sticks and cherry tomatoes). One of the women asks a lot of questions about the sauces to her dining companion. I ask mine “are they from another part of Italy so they are just learning about this food?” He listened to the voices “no, they are from Modena. But they are receiving it with a lot of interest and attention because they are having a spiritual experience.”

Balsamico is made by a process of seasons: Fall: harvest the grapes, cook the juice to release the alcohol and crystallize the sugar. (This is “saba”, a great product on its own, which Nicholas Beckman taught me to dribble over a slice of Fuyu persimmon with a blanket of Burrata.)

Put the syrop in large chestnut barrels to ferment. In the winter, the fermentation stops. The spring bacteria enter the unsealed barrels to transform alcohol into acidity.

Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (DOP) Balsamico to be certified by the “consortium” (and receive its label and €10/ml price) must age for 25 years through a “battery”. Nevertheless no balsamic has an age, because the barrels are never emptied or cleaned. They still contain the sediment of hundreds of years. Giusti produces 250 l/year. A DOP-rejected batch may be resubmitted the following year.

Giusti also reserves their 50- and 100-year balsamicos for non-corsortium sale at €27 and €49/ml.

A battery contains 5-7 barrels of decreasing size. Each year the smallest barrel’s evaporation is replenished by the next largest barrel, who must also be made of a different kind of wood. The second barrel’s evaporation is replenished from the next largest, and so forth. The new “syrop” is only added to the largest barrel each year, and travels for 5-7 years through the different barrels and woods until it reaches the smallest.

The balsamico companies are also permitted to produce Indicazione Geografica Protetta (IGP) aceto, which is also inspected, but is permitted to include directly wine vinegar and the syrop aged together only one barrel.

The DOP-destined batteries are kept in the attic of the house, with temperature and humidity entirely dictated by the season. The smell is so rich and sublime that it actually compares in intensity and pleasure with the taste. The IGP production is made in a modern temperature and humidity-controlled room, which has an entirely different smell.

The company may sell a range of such acetos with different ratios of sweet (syrop) to acid (wine vinegar), but my perception at the tasting is that it is the taste of wood which is missing from the IGP.

Sometimes, tradition is worth it.

In the US, “Italian food” and “candlelight dinner” are synonymous. My last headache-inducing floodlit restaurant meal is so top-rated (not only by bloggers but also by locals), that I squeeze a precious 30 minutes from the packing juggernaut (kilos of cheese, 6 salami, 5 balsamicos, and delicate pastries –my favourite is the rum-soaked Rosine– already weary about the trip) to try one more time for epiphany, but end up advising another pair of American honeymooners (not to be afraid of Lambrusco and that the tour of Giusti Balsamico is really well worth it for the smell alone) while I watch the waiter squeeze caramel sauce from a commercial plastic bottle onto my panna cotta. 

I do not pay good money to do or eat anything under this sort of lighting, especially not industrial caramel sauce. 

I accept that there is some other lesson, some other Italy, who has something to say to me. Not the one I came for. One I do not imagine.


The cycle of temperature and humidity not only dictate the process of the balsamico, but also the process of the day. I feel the tendrils of heat creep in, and as they do the sounds of the city recede. Then as the breath of the afternoon returns, slowly the sounds of life as well. This surrender to nature has a certain beauty, and perhaps it explains, psychologically, the surrender to the industrialization of food. Or surrender to life. Surrender to the ravages of the global economy.

Every Italian is proud, especially of their home town, especially of the food. And yet that pride does not form vigilance. And like the almost imperceptible arrival of the heat of the day, that industrialization is devastating. 

Aware of the distortions of tourism and the market value of “authenticity” indistinguishable by those tourists. I had asked the duena of my departamento where I should buy the Parmigiano Reggiano to take home, and the balsamico. I knew that I don’t yet have enough of a palate to discern for myself really high quality, and I want to make sure that I learn the standard from the best. 

“Well the Consortium is a Mafia.” She begins. “But I did the certificate as a balsamic taster.

“Go to the Mercado and find the stand named M____ , next to the F____.Don’t talk to the salespeople, ask for the owner. Tell him you are my friend, and ask for HIS OWN balsamico and Parmigiano Reggiano. 

“Now you realize it’ won’t have the label,” she emphasizes.

I understand that the Consortium’s DOP Label is what we call a “symbol-scheme”. ‘Organic’, ‘Fair Trade’, and ‘DOP’ are ways of assuring quality to the customer. But there are many producers who do the same quality and ethics but don’t pay the extra fees and run the administrative juggernaut to get the prooving symbol on their label. 

“I understand, that’s fine for me.” 

Mr. ______ listened to me and then reached behind a pile of wine bottles to pull out his Balsamico. It was humbly labelled, about 1/10 the price of the consortium’s and totally delicious. Then the parmigiano, which was epiphanic. This was no tongue-tinglingly sour parmigiano. It was delicate and nutty. He offered 24- and 36-month, different and equally delicious. On my insistence, he cut me “small” 1/2 kilo chunks. I asked him where I should buy salami. He dragged me across the market and pointed at his favourite vendor. 

This all added up to less than €25.  Back in Berlin I wished I had gone for the regular/family-size quantity of Parmigiano, at every age.

EatAndTheCity among the most innovative companies in the Nordics

EatAndTheCity among the most innovative companies in the Nordics

EatAndTheCity is a Finalist for the Serendipity Challenge 2018

EatAndTheCity, offering a unique 3-sided platform combining the restaurants, media and the end users has been chosen as a finalist in Serendipity Challenge, the annually organized entrepreneurship competition and tech venue for the most innovative companies in the Nordics. The Serendipity Challenge -competition highlights entrepreneurship and the final event, culminating in the venue in Almedalen, functions most of all as a meeting point for entrepreneurs and startups to connect with business leaders, investors, media, politicians, and partners and to showcase their products and services on a public arena.

Serendipity Challenge mainly still concentrates on Swedish businesses and industry, yet is open for all future-oriented and most innovative start-ups and growth companies in the rest of the Nordics. Among the 50 finalists, those including also other three Finnish companies; Altum Technologies, Naava and Vainu, EatAndTheCity competes for being awarded as the “Startup Company of the Year”. The finals take place in Silicon Valley of Almedalen in Gotland, Sweden from the 2nd to 4th of July. The jury evaluates companies and business ideas based on their uniqueness, scalability and market potential, team competency and global applicability.

Here, we believe EatAndTheCity can stand out of the pool of participants as we notably differ from them industrywise and have a unique scalable platform with great global growth prospects.
–Ilkka O. Lavas, the CEO of EatAndTheCity

Serendipity Challenge enhances companies´ international growth plan

Being one of the finalists is a great honour for us and indicates that the global potential of our extraordinary business model has been recognized by competition organizers; revolutionizing restaurant e-commerce and media field by working with the top media around the globe.  We are proud of being able to say, that our future plans are greatly in line with Serendipity Challenge’s aim of promoting the Nordic region as a tech hub for innovative, emerging enterprises that transform, improve, and develop industries on a global level.

Our journey towards becoming a global trendsetter in restaurant e-commerce and media industry is close to its breakthrough. Winning this competition would greatly support our goal of accelerating fast growth in the future. To foster our international growth plan we are also planning to open a Series A round at the beginning of 2019.
Ilkka O. Lavas, the CEO of EatAndTheCity



EatAndTheCity is part of the City Digital corporation which consists of, for example, table booking platform TableOnline, restaurant search engine,
ad network Improve Media and the City Magazine. 
EatAndTheCity is a restaurant discovery platform founded in 2016 operating in several cities in Finland,
Germany and Estonia.

Saving the Almond

Saving the Almond

I’m addicted to Netflix’ series about Chefs (Chef’s Table, Mind of a Chef, and Ugly Delicious). These are not cooking shows. They are biographies, of chefs, and of cuisines.

The chefs struggle with tradition, to find their voices, and with the multifaceted challenges of producing in a new way.

Throughout these series, chefs emphasize that it’s the ingredients who inspire them, and that without superlative ingredients they couldn’t do what they do. (The ingredients don’t do it by themselves, either.)

Alain Passard, whose restaurant Arpège has had 3 Michelin stars for 20 years, reached a point of crisis. “In 1998, something changed in me. Working with meat became painful.” He removed meat from the menu and told Michelin “I’ve made my decision. Now you make yours.” He still has his stars and is credited as one of the progenitors of the “farm to table” movement. “My garden saved my life.” (Chef’s Table France Episode 1)

One of the most touching stories is of a 4th-generation gelato-maker, Corrado Assenza, who inherited Café Sicilia in Noto, Italy. Here’s the transcript from Chef’s Table Season 4 Episode 2.

Granita is a sweet dish, made of flavored ice, like a sorbet. Almost all Sicilians eat granita and brioche for breakfast. And there are two different groups of people: those who eat almond every morning, and those who eat lemon every morning. And they don’t change. I prefer the almond.

This is the place where we grow the best almonds in the world. We use the entire almond to make the granita, and you taste the difference. The richness of taste, the notes of sweetness, it’s the touch of something which refreshes your palate, but simultaneously refreshes your mind…

Caffé Sicilia was important to the village, a landmark for many. It has been passed down in my family for four generations. But the laboratory was entrusted to the only pastry chef not from the family, Mr. Roberto Giusto. He lived to work and was recognized as important by the whole town. I’d play in the laboratory with Maestro Roberto… Roberto would give me little chores like in a house, like in a family: bringing a kilo of flour, bringing the almonds, bringing the honey vase He started to teach me about life in Noto and at Caffé Sicilia. He said the work of the pastry chef is to make the classic Italian pastries. But it isn’t enough to know kitchen techniques. You have to recognize raw materials in nature and respect the land…

I asked myself, “If Maestro Roberto was here now, what would he do?” I thought about what he taught me, how to make the basic recipes with quality ingredients.
But the most important ingredient was at risk.
So, while the Romana almond has become the most famous almond of our land There’s very few of them.I needed to figure out what was happening.
So, I went to the farmers.
They told me that the big problem was the traders, who decided the almond was not worth investing money in. As a result, the farmers abandoned the land.

It was a massacre. Without the almond, I couldn’t make almond granita. The taste of Caffé Sicilia was disappearing.
I had to do something. So I put together a plan to save the almond. We would cut out the traders, so the farmers could sell the almond directly to us. We started to spread it among the farmers. I had to convince them to fight for the almond because it’s a cultural heritage. Because if it disappears, it will never come back. It was a long and slow process, but eventually they wanted to work with us.
We brought [the almond] to the taste expo in Milan. From that moment on, the world knew of the existence of our almond. Then, I went back to the laboratory to work on a new recipe to highlight the almond…I rediscovered my purpose, to preserve my land, my Sicily…

Franzo, our great shepherd and ricotta producer, works from 2:30 a.m. to midnight, hand milking over 500 animals to make the ricotta perfect. Franzo is a person of quality, extremely serious and rigorous. But the public doesn’t know anything about his work, and that’s a huge regret for me. I want him to succeed in giving a future to his family and his farm. So I made my friends appreciate Franzo’s products, cooks, pizza makers, pastry chefs, and now they buy his cheeses. He always thanks me for what I am doing for him, but it’s me who should constantly thank him.
The gelato I make with the ricotta, flavored with rum and chopped pistachios, would be impossible without Franzo’s work. It’s my duty, if he gives me his perfect ricotta, to make the perfect gelato…

Over time, it became increasingly difficult to focus only on the work inside of the kitchen. Sicily had become commercialized. Where there were once vegetable gardens, those lands were used to build shopping centers. Fake cities, where you don’t buy fresh. You buy preserved. And you call that civilization? This is ignorance. I knew there was still quality everywhere in Sicily. I needed to make the world understand the difference between a commercialized product and the quality born in this land.

You can sweep away tradition in a short period of time, and substitute it with something else.
I can’t do that.
I have deep roots here in Sicily, my land where I live and work.
The clear air, the blue sky, the strong yellow of the wild dried herbs.
The light, the sounds, the colors a spectacular landscape that produces the best ingredients in the world.
It inspires me to create from nature, to understand what is good and can be transformed into food.
This is how you build a recipe.
I want to protect and share our culture, to honor our traditions.
In every expression of our work, bringing to the world a perspective that belongs to this land.

The Italian organization, Slow Food, helps products like the Sicilian Romana almond to survive through its “Ark of Taste” (1999–), established as a Presidium system (2008–).

Season 2 of Mind of a Chef follows Chef Sean Brock, who describes his work as “restoring cuisine” in the American South. He works with Glenn Roberts, founder of Anson Mills, whose lifework is to “repatriate the landrace varietals” such as Carolina Golden Rice. Here’s an article that tells the story.

This Chef and Seed-Saver are Resurrecting the Flavors of the South

Flavor is an aperture…. To quality, culture, artistry. To economics, ecology, and ethics.

Not by ingredients alone…

Not by ingredients alone…

In truth, these days I mostly eat raw vegetables, chopped just small enough to fit in my mouth, without dressing. Not for any kind of puritanical food ideology, but because it’s fast, cheap, and clean.

But when I go to Italy, I want food culture. That means, intervention. Cheese. Cuisine. Ingredients. Tradition.

I would also like to have candlelight, but apparently the Argentine preference for headache-inducing overhead lighting so the waiters can keep an eye on you is straightup traditional Italian. So anyway. So there we are under the stage lights, which certainly do make it easier to read the menu.

I looked for the “typical rustic polenta” of this region, and lake fishes, like in the photo.

The restaurants were carefully selected, recommended by Slow Lake Como and Slow Food Como. For example:

Host our guests with spontaneity, simplicity and gusto…Indeed our first aim is to research natural and tasteful products. Therefore we love travelling in order to discover local artisans who work with passion and patience and are not likely to accept the compromises of the large-scale production. We have known them for quite a while and we regularly visit their realities. This has enabled us to build solid relationships based on mutual confidence and respect…According to our philosophy, it is very important to enhance the tradition and culture of Italian gastronomy through the choice of genuine products: our cured meats are free of artificial preservatives, our cheeses come from local producers who breed their animals respectfully and all the ingredients we use in our kitchen are from organic and biodynamic agriculture.

Judging by the cheese and charcuterie plates, the ingredients were indeed of superlative artisan quality.

But the cooked food was inedible. Because the ingredients did not meet a trained chef between the farm and our table. Beautiful lake fish and fresh pasta overcooked, oversalted, unrefined.

The passionate serving staff did provide lectures about the commitments to culture, region, and producers. But we were hungry, and unfilled by lectures.

Nature is abundant. Agriculture is the craft of husbandry to nature. But the human-nature interaction doesn’t end there. The farmers’ bounty needs further care. Cellaring (of wine, cheese, and preserves) is a skilled and necessary craft. “Technique” is the methods for eliciting the ingredients’ best flavor, adjusting to seasonal and daily changes in ingredients’ character.

Gnocchi di Ricotta… succulent…tender dumplings … But since fresh ricotta varies in texture, flavor, and moisture content, depending on the season, what the animals are eating, who is making it, and how long they drain it, we often need to tinker with the recipe, adding more Parmigiano-Reggiano for flavor, or butter for richness. If the cheese is particularly wet, we add a little more egg, or we hang it overnight in cheesecloth, refrigerated (or we do both). –Judy Rodgers, The Zuni Café Cookbook

And a chef who works with seasonal and regional commitments needs great sensitivity and creativity. At his 3 Michelin-starred restaurant, Arpège, Alain Passard does not write down recipes. He improvises daily, with what arrives in the morning from his two farms. The most important moment in the life of the restaurant is the ritual of the arrival of the vegetables. Passard says “I spend the day taking risks” and my only goal is to “love what I do more every day.” (Chef’s Table France, Episode 1)

A chef is not enough without ingredients. An ingredient is not enough without a chef.

And a restaurant is not enough with only ethics (or candles, for that matter).


EatAndTheCity is a finalist for the 2018 Red Herring TOP 100 Award

The globally growing restaurant discovery platform, EatAndTheCity, has been selected as a finalist for Red Herring’s Top 100 Europe award, a prestigious list honouring the year’s most promising private technology ventures from the European business region. EatAndTheCity is part of a Finnish media corporation, City Digital, which originally built up around a legendary Finnish City magazine, City.

According to Ilkka Lavas, the CEO of City Digital and evangelist of EatAndTheCity, the nomination is significant for the company’s future: “Being selected as one of the finalists is a natural step in our journey towards becoming a global company. We already have significant clients in Germany, and one of the biggest media houses in Germany, Süddeutsche Zeitung, has helped us to open doors to other major distribution channels in Germany. Together with, for example, Berlin Food Week and Capital we are developing the modern restaurant culture.  We’re also opening an office in the UK this summer, and we already have an agreement with a notable British media house”.

Being one of the finalists will bring new opportunities

“This year was rewarding, beyond all expectations,” said Alex Vieux, publisher and CEO of  Red Herring. “There are many great companies generating really innovative and disruptive products in Europe. We had a very difficult time narrowing the pool and selecting the finalists. EatAndTheCity shows great promise and therefore deserves to be among the finalists.  Now we’re faced with the difficult task of selecting the Top 100 winners of Red Herring Europe. We know that the 2018 crop will grow into some amazing companies that are sure to make an impact

Being one of the finalists will bring new opportunities and makes it easier to secure funding for accelerating growth: the plan is to open a Series A round at the beginning of 2019. The finalists are invited to present their winning strategies at the Red Herring Europe Forum in Amsterdam, April 15-17, 2018. The Top 100 winners will be announced at a special awards ceremony on the evening of April 17 at the event.

A pioneer in Finnish marketing know-how

“We have been noticed around the world. I think it says something about the high-level marketing know-how in Finland that even one of the biggest media houses in India has heard good things about us”, Lavas says.

EatAndTheCity is a restaurant discovery platform founded in 2016 operating in several cities in Finland, Germany and Estonia. EatAndTheCity is part of the City Digital corporation which consists of, for example, table booking platform TableOnline, restaurant search engine,  ad network Improve Media and the City Magazine.

More information:

Ilkka Lavas
The CEO of City Digital /