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In the Twin Cities there’s a lot of Scandinavian influences. Today we came across an awesome one: The American Swedish Institute’s FIKA cafe. We came for dinner- meatballs are awesome (too good for me to slow down and take a photo but here is a photo of the cafe
After the meatballs we had an awesome cardamom dessert (laskianen pulla in Finnish). Amazing!
The top should be full but I started eating right away and thought to take a photo just before finishing the top half. Cream filling. Awesome! Grabbed a pulla roll to go for morning coffee tomorrow (photo tomorrow- great for watching the Thanksgiving day parade)
Then to the gift shop. And this was amazing- FINNISH CANDY!! My favorite! I have a big sweet tooth and this hit the spot.
Tons of Swedish stuff but the design, treats, etc blurs with Finnish so we were loving it!
Found a great cookbook I hope to order from Amazon ($10 cheaper than store and I am a grad student after all) It’s called The Nordic Bakery Cookbook. Can’t wait to try some recipes out.
Ready to watch some TV with my candy.
When I made my first trip to Rovaniemi many, many years ago, I quickly noticed the following scene:
If you couldn’t guess from the photo, you are looking at a row of slot machines. This is not an arcade, it’s not even a casino. This photo is from the local grocery store. And the scene is everywhere- either a group if 5-10 as above or single slot machines at local restaurants like Kotipizza (below)
The major company in Finland regulating slot machines is called Ray. Money earned from slot machines and other gambling under Ray (there are local casinos and online play opportunities as well) goes to support health and social welfare groups (more than 250 million euros in 2011 to approximately 800 groups). Even on their website they advertise Ray gambling as a way to support these organizations.
Personally I’ve never been a fan of gambling. BUT, when I’m waiting for pizza or folks to finish shopping at the grocery store, or even waiting for a flight at the airport, it really is a great way to pass the time. But don’t get too excited- this isn’t Vegas and payout aren’t the stuff of movies. I have turned a couple euros into over 20 before though
Here’s a photo of the exterior of a casino in the Sampokeskus shopping center
What is the experience like? We took a video of a recent play (below). It’s long but cycles through a few different games on one machine. You can see at the bottom of the screen in the video that English is a language option. This is new. I’m familiar with the Finnish language ones- made it more exciting- I really had the excuse that I had no idea what I was doing and therefore couldn’t be at fault for a loss. Those times are no more. You will be happy to know that Ray does its part in supporting responsible gambling though. They provide a link on their site to test if you have a problem. I couldn’t find an option for English on the page so I guess I’ll never know: Link to gambling problem support
Enjoy the video!
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
I threw on my “tourist” hat today and ventured out to capture some sights from downtown Rovaniemi. It was quite “sunny” so I took advantage of some good lighting (it’s sad but today was the equivalent of “sunny”). Beautiful day!
First up, Lordi Square. The middle of the city. Sampokeskus shopping center is behind me.
This is Sampokeskus shopping center
Arnold’s- great place for doughnuts!
R-Kioski (below) is kind of like a 7-11 or similar corner market in the U.S.
McDonald’s is here too.
Fun fact- Rovaniemi, Finland is home to the world’s most northern McDonald’s! I’ve never found it to be greasy enough though for my American tastes though- I think they actually clean out the french fry vats every night- tastes way too healthy.
Hope you enjoyed a little view into downtown Rovaniemi, Finland. More later!
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
It’s official! On Tuesday, Feb. 9th Google Street view was released for Finland. You can now search for addresses in Finland and by clicking ‘street view’ zoom into street level to see your search results as if you were walking down the street. I’ve noticed in most places (all so far) that the street views are from Spring/Summer/Fall (having seen any snow in places ) But it’s pretty cool. Same objections are likely to rise up regarding privacy concerns for people who live in those areas (in the U.S. and pretty much every country other country that has street views it’s happened) but for travelers it really is a valuable tool.
As I mentioned in a previous post, classes and research are keeping me REALLY busy this semester so I’m making posts on a very sporadic basis when I find the time and something very worthy to post. Found something today that meets that requirement. Good Morning America, a popular morning talk show here in the United States for those of you reading abroad, did a feature on Finland this morning during a visit to the country by Diane Sawyer as part of their BIG series.
Follow this link to read about their visit and be sure to check out videos from Finland including a swim in the Baltic, Finnish food (cloudberry and reindeer), the Ice Church, Sauna and a little bit about their health care and education system (though don’t believe too strongly in their mention of Finnish children knowing three languages by 7th grade- they study them but I’ve never met a Finn fluent in Finnish, Swedish and English As we all know about languages- if you don’t use it…it’s hard to maintain it- the reason I can’t speak Spanish anymore (though I might if I spent as much time in Spain as I have in Finland!)
We fly out from Rovaniemi, Finland early tomorrow morning (Tuesday) so I’m getting in a few last posts before I continue from the U.S. (so many things that require a little more time such as Santa Claus Village and other local places that I want to post in their completed form so they have to wait.) You’ll notice by looking at my YouTube Feed or Flickr Feed that I’ve posted photos on some of these things, I just haven’t gotten around to writing about them…but in a week or two I’ll get to it all). As one of my final posts from Rovaniemi (sniff..) I wanted to round out my posting about gifts and souvenirs FROM Finland. I’ve posted about gifts to bring to Finland, gifts Finnish people might give so I figured I would round things out with gifts to bring for yourself and others when traveling away from Finland.
For me, this is my sixth time to Finland so I get to be really selfish and bring mostly stuff for myself- since I’ve brought souvenirs for just about everyone I know at this point. Souvenirs from Finland include about four things- especially since we know we’re always coming back- kind of changes your mind set when you aren’t questioning how long it will be to obtain that unique thing on a visit in the unknown future. These things include: Rye Bread or Ruis Leipä in Finnish, Candy (karkkia), Chocolate (suklaata), coffee (kahvia), and Golden Cap cider (ciideriä). I guess that comes out to five things, huh? Some might say chocolate is candy but to me the categories are a little different when you’re talking about Fazer chocolate- deserves it’s own mention. Why these five items? Easy answer- they are some of the best pieces of Finland and you can’t get them in the U.S., well, some you can such as Fazer chocolate from FinnStyle in Minneapolis, MN when it’s in stock but everything else you typically need to ship FROM Finland. We’ve done that but the shipping charges can get a little crazy.
To understand the significance of each of these items you really have to taste them for yourself but I will provide my opinion. The candy and chocolate might not excite people as it does me but I have a HUGE sweet tooth and Finnish candy is a amazing. True Finns will talk non stop about Salmiakki and it’s hard to find a bag of candy without Salmiakki- it’s as Finnish as candy gets. Kind of like black licorice on the lighter end but it can also be really strong- you really have to taste it to understand what I’m talking about and it comes in so many different forms. There is a good post on Wikipedia about Salmiakki and readers might find interesting. In the photo below you can see two bags on the left- the one on top is black licorice the one on the left is full of different forms of salmiakki. The huge bag on the right is all fruity!!! We’re about to head to City Market to buy more- the idea is to get as much as possible to last for months- these bags would last through February at best so we’ve gots tons more to buy!
Chocolate or suklaata? Don’t be afraid, but we got a little crazy with Fazer chocolate and liquer filled chocolates this year between gifts and our own purchases. BUT, like the candy, it will all be gone before summer because we just LOVE it!
Up next is coffee or kahvia. Nothing to say other than the taste is just unique and Finns love their coffee- similar to the British and tea. Served all day, everyday for every occasion! We prefer the Paulig coffee but there are tons of different varieties.
And then there is the Rye Bread- a Finnish specialty that you can’t get ANYWHERE in the U.S. unless you make it or order it, just ask any Finn, they miss it terribly when away from Finland. I hate to suck it up and admit my fault but…I must admit that I have made a complete 180 degree flip on my stance of Finnish rye bread. The first time I tried it I felt like I was eating card board. Like actual card board. Not like rice cakes or similar taste that you think might be card board but you can eat it. No, this was terrible at first (and second and third bite) for five years I completely rejected it- so very unFinnish of me. BUT, this past summer in the U.S. I hit a health kick and switched from wheat bread to Wasa Crackers. Difficult at first- also in the card board family but I adjusted. And wouldn’t you know it, after 5 months of Wasa crackers, rye bread began tasting oh so very good. And it is ridiculously healthy being 100% rye! I LOVE it, can’t get enough of it, will fight my boyfriend for it. Guess I became one step closer to becoming Finnish though I know I have a LOT to make up for with my negative comments over the year. We’re taking back five bags to keep in the freezer and pull out once a week or so. We’ll ride it out as long as we can and then long for our next trip to Finland to stock up again. Or, I might try to make it if desperation sets in mid summer!
And the cider? Well, my previous post will do this justice. Read my “Ode to Finnish Cider (Golden Cap)”
And that’s it, 14 hours and we’re off to Helsinki- maybe a post or two left and then back to Minneapolis. It’s been fun!
We’re in our last few days in Rovaniemi which means our last meals. Thankfully, last meals are (typically) represented by the best of the best foods. In our case on this trip that includes Reindeer stew (or sauteed reindeer, no official name for reindeer over mashed potatoes) as well as blueberry pie! I’ve posted MANY times on reindeer stew but this was the first time I caught all the action from the very beginning, well almost, the VERY beginning includes hunting down the reindeer and that doesn’t sound like something I would find all that appealing. There is a mixture of photos and video from the process of making reindeer stew, enjoy!
First, the reindeer pieces are cut from the large hunk of reindeer slab. Here, they keep the huge slab frozen and cut off pieces from the semi-frozen mound as they need it so it can continue to stay in the freezer. One huge slab can serve about 30 or so people. Here are photos of the slab, the knife used and a little video of cutting these raw pieces of reindeer.
After the reindeer is cut, or at the same time if two people are making the reindeer- the entire bowl is filled with reindeer first so you can imagine that cutting from a frozen piece might take a while. Bacon is cut into pieces and added to the pot to cook before adding the reindeer. In the grocery store, the bacon is called “American” bacon
Then, after the bacon has had time to cook and the flavor is brought out, the reindeer is added and they are mixed together with pepper and seasoning. Below are photos of adding the reindeer and the pot simmering. Why a wooden spoon rather than metal? No idea, but that is actually the norm I see with lots of cooking here. I would never call myself a chef or a cook so I’m not sure of what else one might use.
Once the reindeer and bacon and spices have had time to cook- a good 30 minutes or so (could be more, could be less, I went out for a quick run in the middle so actual timing I’m not sure of 100%), but anyways, it is now time for the secret ingredient- beer. NOTE- this is not a “standard” recipe and you will most likely find many households who don’t cook it this way, but this is an ingredient my boyfriend’s mother uses and not only does it seem to do the trick, might contribute to why I feel it is the best reindeer EVER. Anyone who cooks with wine or other alcohol knows that the actual alcohol cooks away and it is the flavor that is valued in the recipe. Regular old Lapin Kulta beer is the brand.
And that’s it, about an hour to cook and simmer with all the ingredients and you’re done! Below is the finished product- tastes as good (or better) as it looks- or if you think it doesn’t look good, oh boy does it look 100% better then. It’s really amazing and a must for ANYONE traveling to Finland (or any other place in the world where you can get reindeer! I will so miss this until the next time we make it back to Finland.
Christmas 2008 has now come and gone and as I write one of my last posts of 2008 I wanted to provide a recap of the past few days that has resulted in quietness and relaxation (and close to zero blog activity.) By the way, here is the Christmas tree that will be up for about one more week.
Now, a recap of the presents. I recently made a post about gifts to bring to Finland so it seems fitting to post about gifts received from Finns. This Christmas santa had some pretty good things in store for me. Below is a photo of most of the things I received this year and if you click on it you’ll be able to roll over each item for quick descriptions of what I’m about to reference.
At the top of the photo you see a Halti box which includes a new pair of long underwear. I swear by these. It is the Active Dry model and they are awesome, especially in really cold weather and fit great under jeans and other pants. To the bottom left are two boxes of the gifts that just keep on giving: Fazer chocolate. One box of milk chocolate pieces and one box of liquer filled candies- YUM- these are coming back to the U.S. with me! At the top right is a Marimekko travel bag along with Lumene soap and lotion. Marimekko is to Finland as spaghetti is to meatballs (tried to think of the most universal reference to mean that Marimekkoe IS Finland! This is awesome and compliments the smaller make-up bag I use. In the center of the photo you can see a square thing with the name Jääkaappirunous written on it. This is a package of Finnish refrigerator magnets. These are awesome. We bought a couple of packages last Christmas when we were in Finland but we found that the package, though FULL of tons of words, only has one or two of some frequently used words so a second package is AWESOME. You can get these from just about any Finnish book store and maybe online- I tried to find them online with no luck about a year ago. To the left of the refrigerator magnets is something I wrote about took a video of from Finn Fest 2008. Pitsinnypläys (Finnish knitting) creates things like this bookmark you see. I have one from my boyfriend’s aunt who makes them and asked for another one as I find myself in the middle of multiple books at one time. I am told that the shape in the middle is in the shape of the Finnish national Flower.
The bottom few items contribute to keeping me warm. When I came to Finland this year, I forgot the one item that I should never be without anywhere in winter, Marimekko slippers. The first trip I made to Finland I bought a Marimekko Nimikko robe and matching slippers. My slippers are awesome, so awesome in fact that I was wearing them up until the day we left and zipped up my suitcase probably still wearing them…so I forgot them. I tried for 4 days to convince myself I didn’t need them BUT, I had to get a new pair and I love Christmas time when Marimekko has sales. So, it was perfect for a Christmas gift that will STAY in Finland so I’m never without them again when I visit. On the right of the slippers are by far the two best pieces of clothing I’ve ever had and the main reason I’ve been able to establish an outdoor running routine this year. Under Armour cold gear is God’s gift to runners who do outdoor workouts. Combine these shirts with this Nike tight fitting fleece and we’re in business. On top of these two items I only need to wear a light wind breaker soft shell and no part of me is cold. My boyfriend hit the nail on the head with these- AWESOME!
And last, but not least, both my boyfriend and I received what we were told were the “hip” and trendy Helsinki gift this year- Svea hats. I have no idea what it means, who wears them and their significance but apparently they are sold out everywhere! We’ll take them back to the U.S. with us and try to think of something creative to tell people about their meaning. According to Wikipedia: Svea is a Swedish female name. The name was a very popular girls’ name during the first half of the 20th century. It is also the name of the Swedish national emblem, Mother Svea.
And, a little bit of food items. On Christmas Day, December 25th, also known here as the day AFTER Christmas…strange to me, dinner is a combination of food from the previous “Christmas Day” meal on the 24th along with some new stuff. I’m not sure if it is tradition or not but it seems like we always have the same thing- it’s a meat stew, typically moose but this year it was pork, beef and one other meat. GOOD!! Tastes just like the pot roast my mom makes. Soft baby carrots, served on top of mashed potatoes. REALLY good!
Also, this was the first year she tried it but my boyfriend’s mom turned the previous days plum pudding into a pie for dessert, spreading the pudding on top of a gingerbread crust. It was AMAZING. Something tells me there will be a repeat next year. I’m having a hard time remembering what day we had this- either later in the evening on the 24th or on the 25th…Either way, it was good.
And, one of the most traditional though terribly disgusting desserts in Finland- cloud berry over cheese. I hate it and I’m not gonna lie! The cheese tastes like rubber, the berry on top is just…strange…I’m not a fan. But, it’s beyond a tradition here so it was a must for everyone else- I had fruit cocktail!
And, that’s it for the few days after Christmas. The weekend was spent “Doing Christmas” with extended family, sleeping, reading, sauna, a trip to the movies, absolute relaxation- explaining the lack of blog posts, I did nothing but read! Look for one more blog post in 2008 as we prepare our dessert to take to our New Years Eve Party!
Sorry for the late posting but after dinner last night we all kind of passed out from being so full and when we woke up later in the evening we did presents then spent time “playing” with presents and then we finished up with some late night treats and tea before bed. So, to recap the end of our Finnish christmas let’s talk about the meal. Wow, always a treat, similar to what I was used to growing up actually but the day of significance is different. Growing up, we always had a big dinner on Christmas eve (the 24th of December) and then we celebrated Christmas on the 25th with presents and brunch like food in the morning and all day lounging as relatives and friends stopped by.
In Finland, as I’ve mentioned, Christmas and all of its traditions are celebrated on the 24th so, the big meal is the 24th for them- similar spread to Thanksgiving for all you American readers who want a comparison. I’ve got TONS of photos and was able to set it all up on Flickr with descriptions of each item (be sure to roll over the photos of the food for descriptions of what everything is on the table) I’ll start with the pig- traditional Finnish meat of the meal. HUGE pig, started cooking on the 23rd and by dinner time on the 24th (around 3pm) it was ready and perfect. Here is the transformation from oven to dinner plates.
Here is the pig after just coming out of the oven, you can see the big plastic bag it is in. This is how it was cooking in the oven. The magic temperature is 77 degrees Celsius (170.6 F).
It them comes out of the bag and is covered with wax paper. Not sure why, this is just the process. Should probably inquire one of these days!
Then it is put back in the oven to get all roasted and a little crispy and the seasoning is put on the outside (again, call me uninformed but I don’t exactly know what the seasoning is)
And that’s the pig, the main dish. Now, to the rest of this great goodness. Here is our table for Christmas dinner.
And here are two different variations of plates of food. On the left is the “full” plate of most potential options for Finns (be sure to click on it to go into Flickr and roll over what each item is). And on the right is my actual plate, you can notice what is missing (reindeer and salmon- not a fan of either). You’ll notice the little glass on the top right of each photo- this is our Christmas Schnapps. Last year it was a Lakka berry this year I’m not sure what it was but it was much better though REALLY strong. How do you know you’re in Finland, this traditional shot typically starts around age 8 here in Finland. Ei Tippa Tappa- finally get to use one of my new Finnish words (one drop won’t kill you). Cheers!
And then, there’s dessert, yummy and a Finland tradition for Christmas (or at least this family’s tradition)
Plum pudding. Oh it’s is so good!
And that’s dinner for Christmas. I’m getting full again just reliving it. After this meal the entire house passed out for about an hour- kind of just like Thanksgiving (again, for the Americans)
We’ve had breakfast, had a walk, done some relaxing, the pig is about ready so what else is left? Christmas sauna! Here are some photos of the process.
Here is the sauna in the shower room of the house
This is a shot from the inside of the sauna
And here is the lighting of the sauna
Next up is sauna then pig dinner, then dessert and presents!