Food and Wine in Finland: The Quiet New Revolution

Vegetable market in Helsinki, Finland.

Finland may not be on your culinary map – yet – but there is what’s known as a “quiet” revolution happening in the cuisine of this northern land. Famous for aurora borealis, saunas and wacky competitions (Wife Carrying World Championships, anyone?), Finland is now becoming a gastronomic player.

The one thing that pops up on the menu most is reindeer. Similar in taste and texture to venison, you can rest assured that Santa’s helper has been treated with dignity and humanity before arriving at your table as animal rights legislation is strictly enforced. Plus, the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners represents a production area that uses renewable natural resources in a sustainable and economical way.

The meat is usually prepared with berries. Nope, not straw or blue or rasp: think the arctic cranberry, also known as lingonberry, or cloudberry, salmonberry and bilberry. Enjoy over a plate of game meat prepared “tartar” (raw.) This may not be for the faint of heart, but the quality is sublime.

The Finns love their liquor, evidenced by their famed Finlandia vodka. Toast in between bites of pigeon or locally farmed Artic char. After dinner, warm up with a glass of glöggi – reminiscent of mulled wine – with spices and topped with brandy or rum. Feeling adventurous? Try salmiac – a licorice-flavored vodka that is really an acquired taste.

In capital Helsinki – you’ll find numerous restaurants crafting new interpretations on Finnish classics. Using organic ingredients including a dash of creativity and verve, you’ll work up the courage to try something raw and natural. Two words that perfectly describe not only meat, but all of Finland.

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