Thursday, 11 May 2017

Taste of Helsinki 2017 - sneak peek behind the scenes

Having sampled several of the dishes available at this year's Taste of Helsinki I can promise you're in for some serious treats!

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This year I'm one of the six ambassadors of Taste of Helsinki which means some serious feasting. And I mean serious

While it's still snowing in Finland (in May! What's that about ?!), I've been busy getting ready for what this year, too, will be one of the absolute highlights of my summer. 

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The first dishes I sampled at the press launch (more of that on the blog over here) and a couple of days ago I took part in the traditional Restaurant Safari, during which we visited every single restaurant taking part from Helsinki.

6 restaurants, 8 dishes. Oh, and the wine pairings. Ok, and that Champagne tasting. 

Yep - not too shabby at all this ambassadoring business!

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Our first stop was Restaurant Grön, voted as the Restaurant of the Year. 

This is the second time they're taking part in the festival and they are in it for real: this tiny restaurant which only sets 24 will remain closed for the duration of the event allowing them to focus on nothing but Taste of Helsinki. 

And boy, will it show. 

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Each restaurant will have a menu consisting 3-4 dishes along with a signature dish. We sampled Grön's signature dish: steak tartare, kale with mustard, smoked bone marrow fat and lovage; a dish that in one form or another has always been on the restaurant's menu (and, according to the chef, will continue to do so).

Excellent dish, as was the wine pairing: Planeta Etna Rosso (100% Nerello Mascalese) ,which you've been introduced to on the blog, too (here, here and here). 

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According to Barry MacNamara, the man we have to thank for this exciting endeavour, the festival aims to lower the treshold and make fine dining accessible to everyone. 

No wonder then that one of the mosteagerly anticipated restaurants is Savoy; traditionally the hallmark of fine dining in Helsinki.

Out of Savoy's 4-course menu we got to try their signature dish vorschmack: lovingly stwewed for 3 whole days. 

While Savoy's is a very good and balanced one, vorschmack just isn't my thing. The herring dish on the other hand that I sampled at the press launch.... oy. 

And their dessert (lime and basil posset) really couldn't sound more inviting either.

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Passio is one of this year's first timers. Located in Kalevankatu they've never done had to do any advertizing -their reputation has preceded them so well you really need a reservation to get in here. 

No wonder - the food is that good. 

Rustic and comforting, yet with a fresh and creative twist. 

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We for instance were served delightfully summery gazpacho sorbet (as I said - fresh and creative).

Wish it were summer. 

Wish it were even spring...

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Andre Clouet continues to be the festival's Champagne partner for the third summer running.

Being hard-working, multi-talented professionals, we also managed to squeeze in time to sample their products (yes, hard, hard work...)

In Passio we also tried another one of their dishes: sausage and potatos (lamb sausages, new harvest potatos, fried blood pudding). 

After I first dug in, I immediately sent a message to Cat Blogger, notifying her to start the fast as this is a dish we'll be going back for seconds and thirds. 

Do not let the homely appearance fool you - this is going to be one of Taste of Helsinki's hottest tickets. 

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After this gem Pastor's Ensalada con tomato y alcachofa (marinated artichoke hearts, heirloom tomato and ponzu sauce) didn't stand a chance, though it did delight with its sauce's deep, rich umami tones. 

Pastor is also one of only two restaurants with octopus on their menu (their signature dish is Pulpo con causa y huevas de trucha; grilled octopus, potato terrine and cold smoked rainbow trout roe), so you can count on finding me in their queue.

So, come say hi while at it!

(and do bring some wine!)

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Our safari squad consisted of food writers and bloggers and as such we're quite possibly the most gracious audience one could imagine - starting with the fact we eat absolutely everything. Even from the neighbour's plate...

Plates' content, acidity, complexity, balance, fattiness and appearance however were scrupulously scrutinized, as Passio's staff quickly learned. Let's see if our suggestions will be incorporated into the final dish...!

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The other restaurant serving octopus is Toca. This time around, however, we feasted on Bianco, Rosso, Verde - a dish that's a tribute to the owners' love of Italy. 

Their cheese-filled raviolis served with basil sauce and tomato dust were a hit both because of their wonderfully light pastry but also the sophisticated citrusiness. 

(and hey - cheese! I ate cheese!)

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Toca's lemon, white chocolate and chamomile dish was the first dessert of the evening. So completely, totally, whole-heartedly my kind of a pud.

Our jury did end up revamping the appearance (deemed too humble) so it remains to be seen what kind of a dish you're all in for at the festival!

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We continued with another dessert at Shelter, whose marinated rhubarb, elderflower sherbet and toasted white chocolate dish wasn't a hit wiith all of us.

I personally liked the almond croquant-like toastiness of the oat element but would have to agree that overall the dish was a bit bland.

Their signature dish (gravad wild white fish, white fish roe and new potatos stewed in browned butter) however sounds like something I absolutely need to get my hands on. 

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And here is the complete list of this year's Taste of Helsinki menus:

Bistro o Mat:

Smoked beetroot with crispy rye and goat cheese créme (v) -5mk

Organic grilled pork with asparagus and farrotto -6mk

Apple sorbet, roasted white chocolate and salted caramel -6mk

Signature dish:

Organic beef tartar, watercress crème and nuts -10mk


MEAT- charred onion filled with chicken liver cream, wheat and crispy chicken skin -6mk

PLANT- roasted buckwheat bread with sorrel flavoured potato salad, grated wild sorrel butter and wild herbs (v) -6mk

WILD- parfait flavoured with spruce shoot vinegar, sunflower seeds, lactic acid and spruce shoot caramel -5mk

Signature dish:

Raw dry aged beef with mustard flavoured kale, lovage and smoked bonemarrow fat -10mk


Organic corn grits, cold smoked carrot, cranberry muesli and dark sauerkraut sauce (v) -5mk

Bream Wallenberg, new potatoes from Rymättylä, bouillabaisse mayonnaise and pea shoot sauce -6mk

White chocolate cremeux, malt crumble, birch sap foam and sorrel ice cream -6mk

Signature dish:

Beef tartar, celery-cucumber salad, brioche and mustard hollandaise -8mk


HERRING TARTAR marinated flat onion / apple / sour cream / rye bread -6mk


VANA TALLINN” strong beverage -5mk

Signature dish:

SPRAT & CHIPS” smoked crisp / salted cucumber / wild garlic mayonnaise / french fries -12mk


Gazpacho sorbet and little bit of vege (v) -5mk

Asparagus Soup and Iberico Tempura -6mk

Sausages ‘n’ Potatoes, Lamb Sausages, Black Pudding and New Potatoes -6mk

Signature dish:

Passio Kiss -7mk


ENSALADA CON TOMATO Y ALCACHOFA- Marinated artichoke hearts, heirloom tomatoes, ponzu sauce -6mk

BISTEK TATAKI CON SHIITAKE- Black Angus beef, shimeji mushrooms, pickled shiitake mushrooms, red jalapeño, soy mayonnaise -6mk

TRES LECHES- Vanilla cake, milk sorbet, dulce de leche, lemon meringue -5mk

Signature dish:

PULPO CON CAUSA Y HUEVAS DE TRUCHA- Grilled octopus, potato terrine, cold-smoked salmon roe -8mk


Black currant seasoned Baltic herrings Escabeche, potato pearls and dill crème -6mk

Mousse of grilled goat’s cheese, rosemary and honey almonds and romesco sauce (v) -6mk

Lime and basil posset, white chocolate crystals and strawberry and lemon balm sherbet -5mk

Signature dish:

Vorschmack à la Savoy -7mk


FOREST MUSHROOMS- Emmer wheat porridge with forest mushrooms, cream of Brazil nuts & sprouts with mushroom vinaigrette (v) -6mk

LAMB- 24h braised organic lamb belly, pickled chanterelle & smoked yogurt -6mk

RHUBARB- Marinated rhubarb, elderflower sherbet & roasted white chocolate -5mk

Signature dish:

WHITE FISH- Sugar salted white fish & white fish roe, new potatoes cooked in brown butter & pickled apple -8mk


Octopus with parsley garlic mayonnaise and smoked potato -6mk

Toca’s vitello tonnato -6mk

Lemon, white chocolate, camomile -5mk

Signature dish:

White, red, green

Ravioli filled with cheese, basil sauce and tomato powder (v) -8mk


Rye with Jalotofu and Violet (v) -6mk

Fish terrine with yoghurt and Wild herbs of the season -6mk

Beesting blini, Resin cream and Fermented buckwheat honey -5mk

Signature dish:

Captain Grillheart and His magic herbs -9mk

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So... so far out of 40 dishes available I've eaten my way through 11. Trust me - the hunger just keeps growing and I can't wait for June 15th!

Have you purchased your tickets yet? You should and here's where you can do it!!

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In collaboration with



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