So much has happened on the Helsinki food scene since the ’90s that some call it a revolution.
All current Michelin-star restaurants in Helsinki have been created since 2003 and none of the current Bib Gourmand restaurants existed before 2009. In addition to Russian, Tex-Mex and Mediterranean restaurants, which were some of the first international cuisines to arrive in Helsinki, choices keep growing. There is now a Kosher deli. A Peruvian restaurant opened earlier this year. Two young chefs mix Korean, Japanese and North-Chinese flavors. Hakaniemi neighborhood has turned into a bazaar of ethnic grocery shops. The Restaurant Day concept, born in Helsinki in 2011, has now spread to more than 30 countries. The first street food event was organized in March this year. And the list goes on. Indeed, Helsinki has never been as welcoming to foodies as it is today!
As someone who left Helsinki in the mid-’90s, I am intrigued by the latest food scene developments of my old hometown. During my last visit to Helsinki in May this year I took this passion even further and spent an entire day touring the Finnish capital with a professional food guide. Read further to see why this day was fantastic!
I met my lovely guide Veera in front of the Hietalahti Market Hall, which was our first stop. According to an urban legend, this 110-year-old covered market was used as a horse stable during the Russian rule.As visiting Finland is nothing without discovering local fish, our first stop was Fish Shop Marja Nätti. We had a chance to run into Petri, Marja’s son, who proudly explained to us that the sandwich we are eating is their newest recipe: cold-smoked salmon and asparagus on malt bread topped with caviar-infused Hollandaise sauce. Wow. It was as delicious as it sounds like and yes, it was eco-friendly caviar grown in the heart of Finland’s lake district.
Indeed, respecting the ecosystem, traditions and small fishermen were the words that kept appearing in Petri’s talk. He revealed that this summer Marja Nätti will co-run a fish and chips restaurant at the entrance (outside) of the Hietalahti Market Hall. One of the items on the menu will be a fish burger made of those Finnish fish (roach, pike, etc.) that have been ignored for a long time by chefs.Just as we were leaving, Petri grinned and asked “are you adventurous“? Curious as we are, Veera and I responded yes and Petri brought us another new product: fried salmon skin, a Finnish delicacy from the ’60s and the ’70s. I was a bit skeptical before tasting it, mainly because I am not a big fan of fried food, but it was lighter than I thought. And very tasty. My guests in Paris, are you ready for fish skin starters?
Our second and third stops were chosen by Veera because they are true representatives of the classic Helsinki: Lasipalatsi and Fazer. She explained to me that in spite of all sorts of exotic tendencies that hug Helsinki at the moment, these two places have maintained the market position thanks to their excellent, traditional products and loyal customers. At times when so much new comes to the market every week, people like to return to the roots from time to time, she added.
Lasipalatsi is an architectural masterpiece, a perfect example of Finnish Functionalist architectural style from the ’30s. Originally built as a temporary office building, Lasipalatsi is today one of the main landmarks of Helsinki and home to a well-known retro restaurant and a busy cafe, as well as other businesses.“The best cafes of Helsinki are located in the residential neighborhoods but Café Lasipalatsi in the heart of Helsinki is one of the rare exceptions” Veera told me. She continued to explain that helsinkiläiset (residents of Helsinki) are very fond of this institution, making Café Lasipalatsi a meeting point of different generations. As we were walking out, I snapped some quick photos that in my opinion portray well that particular atmosphere (very Kaurismäki some may say).Our third stop, Fazer, needs no introduction to Finnish readers. To my foreign readers, let me start by saying that Fazer is a confectionery and food company, created in 1891. Whenever there is a ranking of the most-loved Finnish brands, Fazer and its products are on the top of the list. For example, if you ask a Finn living abroad what she misses about Finland, she/he will probably tell you “Fazerin Sininen” (Fazer’s most popular milk chocolate).We stopped for a cup of coffee but Veera reminded me that I should try to come back to enjoy Fazer’s famous brunch. Apparently reservations are sometimes needed a month in advance but this seemed understandable to me. Who would not salivate over these sandwiches? From the city center we moved to a charming neighborhood called Kruununhaka, and this is where I got a little bit lost. I know Helsinki very well, and could have guessed the previous stops, but suddenly I had no idea where I was walking. Suspense!Anton & Anton, where we stopped, is a lovely grocery store created out of love. The founders, previously unknown to each other, met and decided to create a super market that specializes in personalized service and sells the kind of food they would want to eat themselves. Conveniently, they both had a son called Anton, and that resolved the problem about the shop name. Cute, isn’t it!While we were tasting different types of cheese (with fantastic fig and rhubarb jam!), I learned more about the everyday business of Anton & Anton. Veera told me that the idea of Anton & Anton is not to sell exclusively organic food, but simply good food: seasonal products, handpicked artisan products, food that comes from respected origin, grown by passionate small farmers, etc. Some products come from Finland –many from the Åland Islands I noticed– but there are products from abroad, too. Before we left Anton & Anton I made a note to self: fill your picnic basket here next summer.
Our next and last destination required catching Helsinki’s funky orange metro. It was a nice ride by the sea and this time I knew where we were going: Teurastamo alias the Abattoir. Yes, this lovely ’30s building made of brick was indeed a place of blood until the early ’90s. Veera was taking me around the Abattoir complex but I had to stop her to confess something. “Veera, I do not understand what the Abattoir is about. It seems to be work in progress but where is it heading to?“, I asked her. Veera laughed and said it was well said. She continued that indeed the Abattoir is an urban concept still looking for its identity, but that basically its role is to provide premises for different activities (often ad hoc) including city gardening, food-related lectures and festivals, flea market, concerts, exhibitions, etc. One can also book a sauna (of course, after all we are in Finland!) or simply use the premises for a private barbecue party. The main guideline of the Abattoir is to keep it easily accessible and available to everyone.
In addition to aforementioned activities, there are a wholesale market and some restaurant-bars. We visited Jädelino, an ice-cream bar run by a Finno-Italian couple. Valerio, the Italian side of the love story, served us amazing pistachio and divine chocolate ice cream. He explained that he has no previous experience in ice cream making but that a kind man in his home town taught him all the tricks. Last November Valerio was ready and Jädelino opened its doors to serve ice cream and sorbet of Finnish and other flavors. When Valerio mentioned that some customers come from really far away just for his ice cream I was not surprised –I will return from Paris for his pistachio! And I will definitely return to the Abattoir. For me, it is one of the most interesting things happening on the Helsinki food scene at the moment.
… places visited during the tour:
The Hietalahti Market Hall: http://www.hietalahdenkauppahalli.fi
Fish Shop Marja Nätti: http://www.kalaliikemarjanatti.fi
Lasipalatsi Restaurant: http://www.ravintolalasipalatsi.fi
Café Lasipalatsi: http://cafelasipalatsi.fi
Karl Fazer Café: http://www.fazer.fi/kahvilat-ja-leipomot/kahvilat–ravintolat/karl-fazer-cafe/karl-fazer-cafe/
Anton & Anton: http://www.antonanton.fi
Teurastamo (The Abattoir): http://www.teurastamo.com
- chunks of roasted chicken
- chunks of grilled artichokes
- chunks of melon (I used Cantaloupe)
- avocado slices
- almonds and walnuts
What you need for the dressing:
- wheat germ oil (the best available natural source for vitamine E!!)
- sesame oil
- balsamic vinegar
- black pepper
Mix and enjoy! And do not forget to check out Pearlspotting on Facebook, too.
Surely every tourist already knows this, but when you visit Paris (or any other French town), do not miss a food market! I go to the Bastille Market every Sunday and love it. For less than 10€ we buy seasonal fruits and vegetables that last entire week. Not only the Bastille market is very affordable, but the atmosphere is particular, too. Vendors shout at each other (and you) and everyone is from somewhere. A true melting pot of French regions. Fish comes from Brittany, cheese from Normandy, snails from Burgundy, beef from Limousin, etc. Even if we have our usual suppliers, every Sunday we meet new ones. Like this kind fishmonger from Brittany who took time to chat with us.As you can see, visiting a market is fascinating, but it is also très sympa to walk home with several kilos of tomatoes, melons, onions, mint, lemons, carrots and salad. Not forgetting a bottle of Côtes de Provence rosé to celebrate the beginning of the summer! Bon appetit everyone! It is 6 o’clock and I will have Greek for a late lunch.
It was a fantastic evening full of sinfully enjoyable Billecart-Salmon champagne, mouthwatering amuse-bouches and eccentric characters approaching us with more soirée privée invitations. Very Parisian indeed!The collection was stylish and cheerful. It really seemed as if the objects had been chosen for the purpose of making gardening, cooking, playing, cleaning etc. an enjoyable moment!
Indeed, the colors and the presentation of the collection put me in such a good mood that I returned again yesterday afternoon to absorb more energy from this lovely, happy collection. What do you think, does it get any more French and Parisian than this?
PS During two more days, benefit from a 15% discount on selected items! Where? Here: http://www.conranshop.fr/ How? Use this promotional code: LOVEFRANCE
PS For months now, my husband has been buying gluten-free chocolate biscuits made of rice flour from Bio c’Bon –healthy alternative to croissants…
Note: Due to a problem on WordPress, you probably missed the last post Perfect Weather for Hamburgers.
Maybe it has something to do with yesterday’s Last Days of Summer film (who knows in what way), but tonight I went jogging, got home, looked out of the kitchen window and decided that it is certainly the most perfect weather for making hamburgers!
For more random and less random stories, why not to follow Pearlspotting on Facebook too?
Do you still remember our friend from the Red Fort in Delhi? The charming character in the Religion Talks at Lal Qila post? The fine young man from Jharkhand region. Well, I have to admit that I have been thinking about him. Not because of our religious exchange but because I am a tiny bit ashamed of myself. This may be hard to explain but I will try.
At one point during the visit to the Red Fort our friend stopped walking and looked at my parents who were a few steps behind us. He looked at them and asked me “are you parents farmers?”. For few seconds I didn’t say anything but then I cracked up laughing. Soon I was laughing so hard that I was crying. I translated the question to my parents whose reaction was pure astonishment. They looked at me for an explanation and the situation grew awkward. They asked me if they look like farmers and if their clothes made them look poor or something (indeed they were wearing some worn, old clothes…).
I found the situation –the question of our friend and the idea that my parents own for example cows– funny. I continued laughing but at this point my friend was overwhelmed with shame. He looked very uncomfortable and started apologizing millions of times. I am sure he would have disappeared if he could have.
Eventually I had to stop laughing and told our friend that there is no need to apologize. He kept saying “I am so very sorry” but calmed down when my parents started laughing too. In the end we were all laughing and for the rest of the journey I jokingly asked my parents about their (imaginary) cows.However, ever since this funny incident I have been feeling a bit guilty. Why did I crack up laughing? Why did I find it funny that my parents could be farmers? Why did my parents feel the same way? Were they influenced by my reaction? Why did we all feel as if being a farmer were an insult? Why do we perceive that farming is something old fashion and therefore inferior to how we “should” make our living?
Furthermore, how much of our initial reaction can be explained by our background: that Finland was an agrarian country until very recently, and that agriculture is often associated with the period before modernity (i.e. associated with the period where no one wants to return)?
Lastly, was our friend biased, too, because he comes from one of the poorest regions in India where farmers probably belong to a lower social class?
Whatever the answer, I feel bad because I behaved against my beliefs. I truly believe that agriculture is an integral, vital sector of the economy, everywhere in the world, and should be treated with respect. And respect is not what I showed when I cracked up laughing.
What is your take on this?
Some background: I am a principal author of a policy-handbook publication (http://www.oecd.org/investment/psd/ImprovingSkills%20(3).pdf) that aims at improving the agribusiness sector in the Kyrgyz Republic by different means, and one of the means is to market agribusiness as an attractive career option.
Marketing something begins with small steps, and one of them is to show respect and admiration to something.
Again, shame on me.
Six weeks of globetrotting is over and every place I saw during my travels was rewarding in its own way.
India was fantastic, as always, and so rich in everything: culture, history, people, food, religion, architecture etc. This was my fourth one-month-long trip to India and I enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed my previous trips. Definitely The Place to be in for me –I am very attached to India and miss my dear friends terribly. Will be writing a lot more about India in the weeks to come (hope everyone enjoy reading about India??)!
Unfortunately I was a bit sick in Dubai so I could not do as much as I had planned, but I did manage to squeeze in enough shopping and pool time. And super delicious Iranian kebabs, but more about that in another post.
My last destination was Finland, my country of origin. The country returned to winter last week and I saw snow, sleet and hail. All this felt almost pleasantly exotic after the tropics but unfortunately I was not prepared clothes-wise for this weather shock (from 38C in Dubai to barely 8C in Finland…). So, the weather directed me toward indoor activities and I took advantage of visiting museums and doing a food tour of Helsinki, but more about all this a bit later.
Now back to Paris. What is it like to return after six weeks? What did I do upon arriving at home?
First, I put fish in the freezer. My father is a keen fisherman so I usually bring “home-caugh” pike-perch and burbot to Paris, just like my parents do when they visit us in Paris (Bringing a little bit of Finnish Christmas to Paris).
Second, I checked upon flowers and plants on the balcony. Prior to travelling, we had spent a lot of time (and money) planting pansies and other plants so it was important to find them in a good health. And judging by the photos, I think everyone agrees that they were doing well!
Third, I installed a little bit of India at home. The nine-kilo marble Nandi statue that we purchased in Varanasi found its place on the balcony. It is now part of our small Hindu temple where Nandi gets showered by flower petals and candles. We have been searching for a beautiful Nandi for a long time and are happy to have finally found this elegant piece. Furthermore, to ease Nandi’s homesickness, we placed it toward the East, India.Another object we have been looking for a while is a brass bowl (urli). After a lot of exploration we finally found a lovely one in a rather touristic shop in Bombay. Urli is placed on our bathroom sink and looking very good. Moreover, this is a great way to have fresh flowers in the bathroom!
A lot of photos about flowers, but I guess it is a good sign: summer is almost here!!
What are your thoughts on these Franco-Indian decoration ideas? Do you tend to bring design objects from your travels and does mixing styles always work? Would love to see links to your homes!! Until then, have a great week!
Sarnath to Buddhists is what Varanasi is to Hindus, but many people forget that Sarnath is also an important pilgrimage site to Jains. So important, that a careful observer can spot some very devoted Jains visiting the Sarnath complex. In fact so devoted that some of them are naked.
What? What do Sarnath, nudity and Jainisn have in common?? Continue reading to find out more.
I had just finished touring the Archaeological Museum of Sarnath (a really fantastic, small museum!) and was drinking water outside the museum entrance when my brain registered something “weird”. There they were, five fully-naked men, walking toward me. They were tanned, I noticed, and they wore absolutely nothing (I had to look twice to be sure). The only accessory each one of these men had was a beautiful, rather big brush made of peacock feather.
It was one of those moments when my brain didn’t register very well everything happening around me. I looked at my husband, wondering if he had seen the same thing but I was also simultaneously asking myself if my water could have been drugged. My husband looked at me, and without hesitation we returned to the museum –partially fascinated by the most amazing appearance of nakedness, partially embarrassed of our brains that were sending signals of “strangeness”.
Indeed, why did we label nudity strange? Why were we astonished while the men seemed so content and at peace? Were our brains too narrow-minded and “western”?
We followed the footsteps of these men during ten minutes and there was a lot to admire. Their courage to walk around naked. Their muscled bodies that had no tan lines. Their super elegant peacock brushes. Their deep concentration in front of the 2500-year-old statues. Their capacity to ignore people like us who could not take their eyes off them.
Eventually the men left the museum. They could have been transported away by flying peacocks and it would not have surprised me any more.
They left behind peace. We were smiling –no longer at the nakedness but at the beauty of this world and the diversity of India.
Note: Obviously I did not ask these men to pose for a photograph, so instead of naked men you will have to look at my legs!
The peacock fan in the photo is not identical to the one these Jain men had.