30/05/2014

PEOPLE FROM HEL: VILLE RELANDER


Ville Relander has quite the title. He is the Project Manager of Culinary Culture Strategy of the City of Helsinki. Since three years he’s been THE guy, who’s work is all about food in Hel. Roots in hospitality industry, former post CEO-ing local real food shop Anton&Anton. International, multitalented, food enthusiast. A really nice guy, I must say.

Someone in the city government must have been a brave visionary to have hired him. And I don’t mean hiring especially him, but having the balls to convince someone higher in the rank, that city would have great use for a post like this. And for a guy like this.

Ville has said, that he never thought he'd end up working for the city government and I think that is what it’s all about. He defines his role as being about promoting, encouraging and inspiring. Something that is usually not thought to be the first priorities of city authorities and officials.

I asked him to name some achieved goals from the past three years he’s especially proud of.
Streat Helsinki was definitely the highlight so far, it was a positive knock out that showed what this city could be and what great food does to people. However The Abattoir aka Teurastamo is a great project too, I just wish we could speed up the development of this area.”
Radio Helsinki's recent move to the grounds must be some of the speeding up he means.

Helsinki might appear as a cool food destination, but when booking tickets for a city trip, there’s also the tough Scandi competition nearby. And since Ville is so in in the scene I wanted to know his opinion about what makes Helsinki special, in comparison to Stockholm and Copenhagen.
“I don’t see this as a competition, it’s more of a Nordic movement where we collaborate with the food community. Well, I have to admit that we are over here an underdog that is now starting barking and we might not be as well groomed. Helsinkians are really curious nowadays and thats probably very inspiring, and it pushes, for our brave and creative food entrepreneurs. It’s no secret that our location next to Russia and Estonia gives an edge too.”

When asked to name three food related recommendations for a first-time Helsinki visitor, the public servant in him comes up: He couldn't stop at three but named five. And there's no doubt the list could have gone on and on and on.

1) Get here during a Restaurant day weekend (next one is Aug 17!)
2) Try one of the old school restaurants too, such as Kosmos or Sea Horse.
3) Have a coffee at Freese Coffee.
4) The food markets are a must, especially the “Old Market Hall” (re-opening early June) and if you get a chance go foraging too.
5) I cant stop..check out one of the foodie street such as Kolmas Linja or Vaasankatu/Flemingkatu.

26/05/2014

RESTAURANT DAY MAY 17TH: VANHA SUOLA COMEBACK


Organising a dinner party is my kinda party. All the planning ahead and shopping tours and preparations in the kitchen lead the way to the D-day's H-hour.

Organising a dinner party for 24 guests in a location where you have two wine glasses in the brand new kitchen cupboards, and one cooking pot, which doesn't quite match with the induction stove though, is also my kinda party, but a mad amount of work too.


Starting from where to get all the dishes needed for five courses for the 24 guests, double cutlery meaning 48 knives and forks, glasses for wine, and damn, for water too, food itself and drinks of course. Flowers, candles and table cloths, let alone all the tables and chairs.

With good connections and friendly stuff-loaning-people all can go smoothly. But then you still need to drive around the city and pack the car and then unpack it again. And I'm not talking about a fully equipped catering van, but about a 7-seater family car where you first have to take all the child seats out before starting to pack the 24 chairs or the 8 handy Ikea bags full of stuff you need for the cooking. Also you need to carry everything to the 4th floor, and then whole thing reversed few days after.

While making the preparations, you might even here the infamous four-letter word (five in Finnish actually) every now and then, or see people swearing that it will be the last time to do something like this.


But here we go now, more than a week since the last Restaurant Day and our Restaurant Vanha Suola evening. Memories grow sweeter with time. I'm lovin' it.

24 people, some couples, some not. But still people, who for the most parts hadn't ever even met before. It's just amazing how cool it is to see people bonding over food and wine.

We served 5 courses and live music. Both, the song choises of our amazing host & even more amazing singer/guest and the courses, followed the life of Freddie Mercury. Starting with a soup from Stone Town in Zanzibar where he was born and ending with the oh so goosebumpy version of the These Are the Days of Our Lives song. 


Plus some Rick Astley encore. (Maybe we'll do a Rick Astley themed evening next time. Or wait, does he sing anything else than the "never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you..."? Though it sounded pretty good with the 27 voice choir.)



Next time we do it, I'll make sure we've got someone there, who's getting his dinner free for taking some photos. We have no pictures of the food. Simply because we had no time to take any.

Oh stop, I'm lying: After all the dishes were back in kitchen and the kitchen cleaned so far so good, I had a moment to snap a shot of my dessert table:



I'm so gonna do it again. Hopefully my partners in crime feel the same way too. Carrying the tables and chairs all by myself wouldn't be that much fun.

Once again, thanks all you dear guests, thanks Juho & Mårten. Had a blast.

14/05/2014

RAVINTOLA NOKKA & KITCHEN KOKKA


My favourite kind of cooking is the weekend kind. Having a glass of wine and either enjoying some good music and my own company or having some great company to do the cooking with (plus the wine glass of course). Last Thursday I must have had a pre-weekend, since I spent the evening in kitchen, with great company and as great wines.

I was invited to Restaurant Nokka, or to be more precise, to their Kitchen Kokka. We got to taste their brand new Nokka Goes Wild menu, but before that we got to prepare part of it with a little help from Nokka's chef Ari Ruoho.










One guest peeled white asparagus, the other chopped colorful vegetables. And third (that would be me!) standed on the way and took pictures. My dear colleague from work worked her magic with filleting a pike-perch, the Visual Recipes author/photographer Marina chopped the smoked vendace almost like a pro, Koemaistaja food blogger Anna nailed the egg boiling and Herr Niki Moser of the Austrian winery Sepp Moser, got to pull peas of their pods while presenting his Grüner Veltliner and Riesling.


The menu itself follows of course Nokka's philosophy of the use of high quality ingredients from small farms and local suppliers. And damn, the food was really good. Not to mention the four biodynamic viticultured Sepp Moser wines paired with the dishes.



Great Austrian whites I've had some before and maybe that's why I was most impressed with the red one, Zweigelt Hedwighof. (Also available in Alko's sale-to-order selection, unfortunately from my not-for-every-weekend price category...) It might also have something to do with the superb dish it was served with: Air dried eastern finncattle, Syrjähyppy goat cheese and deep-fried lichen. H-e-a-v-e-n.

The other, rather surprising part of the menu was birch granite. The summery smell of the birch whisk used in sauna transformed into a freezing cold granite. Apparently that is possible too.




RAVINTOLA NOKKA
Kanavaranta 7 F
Nokka Goes Wild menu available until 19.6. Menu 74 € + wines 59 €
Menu
Asparagus with organic egg and smoked vendace from Saimaa
Air dried eastern Finncattle with deep-fried lichen
Pan fried wild fish, with vegetables, nettle puré, and smoked perch roe
Birch granite
Parsnip cake with strawberry and rhubarb sorbet

KITCHEN KOKKA
The private kitchen is suitable for 8-12 persons.

06/05/2014

NETTLE PESTO


Having spent 11 years with my husband, I've slowly started to recognise some birds. Although he'd love to dress himself in head-to-toe forest green Fjällräven for a small forest walk, he certainly is no true twitcher. But he's father knows his birds pretty well and therefore the hubby's basic bird identification skills are somewhere above average. When we met, I still thought that a jackdaw (naakka for the Finns) is a baby crow.

Well, we're past that phase and nowadays while taking a drive towards countryside, I keep on twitching. And proudly say out loud, "A-haa, a hawk! A goshawk perhaps?" or "Did you see that, a raven!" or "Hey kids, look, a crane on the field!".



Next step would be wild herbs then. Two years back I bought the Wild Herb Cookbook by Sami Tallberg and decided to start learning about the wild herbs. I've completely failed myself. I just can't recognise any plants.

Except the nasty stinging nettle. That I can identify.


NETTLE PESTO

200g nettles (raw young nettle tops)
2,5 l water
1-1,5 dl olive oil
35g pine nuts
35g sunflower seeds
20g parmesan, finely grated
pepper & salt

  1. Add the nettles to salted boiling water and blanch them for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  3. After they have totally cooled, squeeze as much water out as possible.
  4. Toast the pine nuts and sunflower seeds on a pan. (Separately, because the one toasts faster than the other). Set aside to cool.
  5. Place the nettles in a bowl of a food processor and add ca. half of the oil. Process until the mixture forms a paste. 
  6. Add the cooled pine nuts and sunflower seeds and pulse a few times more.
  7. Mix in the rest of the oil and finely grated parmesan.
  8. Add black pepper and salt to taste.