FOOD & DINING IN FINLAND
Breakfast in Finland is usually served between 7 and 10am, lunch between 11am and 2pm, and dinner any time after 4pm. Some restaurants stay open as late as 1am; nightclubs and discos -- some of which serve food -- are often open until 3am.
In Finland, full-fledged restaurants are called ravintola. Inexpensive lunches are available at places called kahvila and baari. A baari serves light food and perhaps a mild beer, although coffee is more common. All well-known alcoholic beverages are available throughout Finland in fully licensed restaurants and bars.
Potatoes, meat, fish, milk, butter, and rye bread are the mainstays of the Finnish diet. Soups are popular, especially pea soup and rich meat soups, in which potatoes and vegetables are cooked with chunks of beef.
Every Finn looks forward to the crayfish season between July 20 and September, when some 225,000 pounds of this delicacy are caught in inland waters. Finns take special care in eating crayfish, sucking out every morsel of flavour. After devouring half a dozen, they down a glass of schnapps. Called rapu, the crayfish is usually boiled in salted water and seasoned with dill. Of course, with all this slurping and shelling, you'll need a bib.
The icy-cold waters of Finland produce very fine fish, some of which are unknown elsewhere in the world. A cousin to the salmon, the 2-inch-long muikku fritti is found in Finland's inland waters. This fish is highly praised by gastronomes, and its roe is a delicacy. The most common fish, however, is silakka (Baltic herring), which is consumed in vast quantities. Rarely larger than sardines, the herring is not only pickled, but fried or grilled. Sometimes it's baked between layers of potatoes in a sauce made with milk, cheese, and egg. The fish is usually spiced with dill; in fact, dill is the most popular herb in the country.
Finland's version of the Swedish smÃƒÂ¶rgÃƒÂ¥sbord is called voileipÃƒÂ¤pÃƒÂ¶ytÃƒÂ¤ (which means "bread and butter table"). That definition is too literal. Expect not only bread and butter, but an array of dishes, including many varieties of fish (for example, pickled salted herring and fresh salted salmon) and several cold meat dishes, including smoked reindeer -- all at a fixed price.
Along with elk, bear, and reindeer tongue, Finns like the sharp taste of puolukka, a lingonberry. The Arctic cloudberry is a rare delicacy.
The two most popular salads in Finland are beet and cucumber. Bread is invariably served, including whole wheat, white, black, and varieties of rye. The most typical is a dark, sour rye called ruislÃƒÂ«ipa. Those open-faced sandwiches, so familiar in all Scandinavian countries, are called voileivat here.
Fresh vegetables are plentiful in the summer, but they appear less often during the long winter months. Boiled new potatoes, the most common vegetable, are typically served with sprays of fresh dill. In elegant restaurants and homes, you may be served a convoluted morel known as "the black truffle of the north." It's the prize of all the mushrooms that grow in the vast forests of Finland.
The national beverage of Finland is milk (sometimes curdled), which is safe to drink (as is water) throughout the country. Two famous Finnish liqueurs should be tasted: lakka, made from the saffron-colored wild cloudberry; and mesimarja, made from the Arctic brambleberry.
Schnapps/ Koskenkorva is a Finn's favourite, an all-around tipple. Hard liquor, often imported, is expensive -- and anyone on a budget had better stick to a domestic beer (Koff and Lapinkulta are good local brands).