Monday, 7 October 2013

Taste of Helsinki

Having spent my formative years somewhere else (read: at the Arctic Circle) I'll never be a true stadilainen. That's a particular breed - someone born and bred in Helsinki. But my adopted home has proved to be a place I truly love living in. We've been getting to know each other for 15 years now so I think I can vouch for this love being for life. Helsinki to me is a collection of colours, smells and noises.

Back when I was working in the vicinity of the Helsinki Cathedral I would sneak out on my lunch break (ok, cigarettes might have been smoked as well) to the courtyard of Cafe Engel where I'd close my eyes and listen to the sounds of cutlery clinking and crockery clattering flowing out of the windows of the restaurant's windows, opened in the middle of the hottest summer.  Another sound that fills my heart with such riotous joy is the seagulls. I don't think I could even imagine living somewhere not by the sea.

As far as smells go, there's one above everything else: the ancient rollercoaster of Linnanmäki at lit by the lanterns at the darkening evenings of the late summer's evening.

Taste on the other hand is something I've never been able to put my finger on. Would it... could it... might it be herring? On a number of occasions over breakfast in a kosher hotel in Israel I have witnessed my companion smear their eyes in disbelief: "what kind of a person eats pickled fish for breakfast?" The answer: an ashkenazi. A lot more than that I've had to witness The Gentleman's puzzled eyes examining my fully loaded breakfast plate at Hilton in Stockholm: "what kind of a person eats that much pickled fish for breakfast?!" The answer: a Scandinavian.

So when the annual Baltic herring fair hits the town... so will I.

I came back home with some of that wonderfully dark and sweet malty bread they make in the Swedish speaking archipelago (at 34 is it too late to become a Swedish speaking Finn? Like, for real?), along with curry herrings (delightful), lobster herring (do I really need to say anything about that?), lemon herring (which really took the cake) and lime and pepper herring. Man, oh man. I might have gotten just a tad carried away. But on the bright side - I won't have to wonder what I'll be eating for the next 5 days...

And as is the case with all parties in Finland - political ones had found their way there as well...

Spoiled by the Helsinki sun and the selection of the market and the autumn both at their very best the only way to finish the day was  Salutorget restaurant. Over Viña Esmeralda, a wine we first discovered in Alhambra. Longing for Andalusian sun... and The Gentleman.

The herring festival continues until October 12th so if you're in town... go to town! Open Sun-Fri 7am - 7 pm, Sat 7am-3pm.




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