As Alex works his way south, drinking the best wines southern Finland has to offer and eating raw lamb, so I work my way north. Finns and ardent followers of the Eurovision Song Contest will know which city I'm in from that title. As the saying goes, "When in Rome...", so it's time to sample some of the local wildlife. On a plate.
Two minutes walk from my hotel (good sauna, cold but deserted swimming pool) there is a restaurant specialising in all kinds of Finnish and Lapland cuisine. The place is a vegetarian's nightmare (thankfully I am not one); if, at some point an animal had a pulse, it's probably on the menu.
The meal started badly, with a complimentary small wooden pot of something innocent looking. Aha, aperitif. I had a sip - and nearly passed out. This was the single most disgusting thing I've ever tasted (and considering I ate many kebabs from a dodgy van run by a now-convicted felon when a student, that's saying a lot). It turned out to be Snow Crow (as in a small bird) soup.
Quickly I ordered something strong - maybe that was the ploy - to get rid of the taste, and quickly chewed away at the flat Lappish bread that was also handed out liberally.
For starter, Piene Taimensalaatti, which is smoked wild trout on a warm beetroot salad. Excellent, and a good portion for a starter. Then, the main dish:
Paroa kaksi tapaa. That's two pieces of reindeer (saddle and silverside) in a thick reindeer stock, with Lappish baked cheese potato and carrots on the side. Excellent dish; the meat was well done but not charcoaled, tender, dark, and with a surprising but pleasant fruity taste (possibly Rudolph had been eating a lot of berries?).
(btw that small pot in the top of the picture is the foul Snow Crow soup).
Onto dessert. Leipäjuusto: baked Lappish cheese, covered in a white chocolate sauce, with some cloudberries on the side. A strange texture to the cheese, being so elastic (but still perfectly edible) that it audibly squeaked in a rubbery way when bitten into and chewed:
To end, a coffee with Jaloviina (Finnish brandy), cloudberry liqueur and cream. Slightly disappointing, being little different from a touristy fancy coffee served by some UK restaurants.
As I waddled out of the restaurant, I considered it a sumptuous meal (apart from that soup) and also not expensive by UK standards. Apart from booze, most things in Finland - especially food and public transport - seem cheaper than in the UK. Though that's of little consolation to Rudolph (no presents for me next Christmas).
Now off to Lordi Square, then a bit of a pub crawl. Damn, this country is good.