(Encore Edition)

A burgeoning culinary center, Michelin stars, Archipelago restaurants, Helsinki menus and culinary schools define a country on a culinary fast track.  And, Finland's reputation for good taste in music, architecture and design is increasingly being matched by its reputation for culinary excellence. Michelin stars, outstanding provincial cuisine, seasonal menu plans, fine cooking schools, trendy new restaurants representing a remarkable cross section of cuisines herald Finland's rising star as a culinary hot spot.

Two of Helsinki restaurants recently received Michelin str  Chez Dominique (French-Scandinavian gourmet food) received its second star, and G.W. Sundmans (innovative Scandinavian cuisine in a former naval captain's home) again received a Michelin star. Food & Wine heralds Chez Dominique as offering some of  "the most inventive food" in Helsinki. G.W. Sundmans prize winning and highly competitive chefs, average age 25, use native techniques such as "glow-frying" and regional accents including tar/smoked syrup flavoring in ice cream to create signature dishes and remarkable desserts.

The Finnish culture is in solidarity with Nature, and so too are Finnish chefs. Back by popular demand after its debut in the  year 2001, The Helsinki Menu,  (the seasonal menu concept) is offered by a growing number of Helsinki restaurants. Chefs present special dishes featuring the season's best and freshest fare. Berries and mushrooms grace menus in late summer, crayfish and game birds as well as elk, moose and bear are favored in fall, and reindeer and root vegetables lend novel character to winter dishes. Look for the logo featuring a "fork of plenty."

Finland's new generation of chefs is developing a style that taps into all of Finland's diverse resources: from its Swedish and Russian influence through history to its indigenous Sami traditions and its 21st Century sophistication and global outlook.  Finland's offers over 40 different types of cuisine in Helsinki alone


 A glance at Helsinki This Week reveals trendy finds such as Teatteri, a former nightclub turned restaurant complex that is  a magnet for Helsinki's up and coming crowd including stunning catwalk models; Zetor boasting Finnish food, home made ale, tractors and rock'n roll; MotherBar and Kitchen with an urban living room setting; Lasipalatsi serving modern cuisine in a 1930s retro scene; elegant gourmet restaurants; and many specialty restaurants including Latin, Thai, Japanese, Russian and Irish.

Travelers visiting Finland can kick up their cultural experience up a notch at the Helsinki Culinary Institute, which offers cooking classes and hands-on theme workshops in Finnish and Scandinavian cooking. The award-winning and affable Chef Gero Hottinger can guide even the most timid of would-be-cooks to create a tempting culinary feast. Costs range from $80 to $220. The school is located in the center of Helsinki. 

For those who would rather sample than cook, Helsinki's Restaurant Perho is the place to go. It functions as the training restaurant of Finland's first restaurant school.   Weekday lunches and Sunday buffets are offered and the a la carte menu changes regularly. 

Beyond Helsinki, and into one of the world's largest archipelagos you will find even more dining pleasures. The huge success of a five-year program that pursues high quality in cuisine, native handicraft and fresh raw produce means that you can have a genuine Taste of the Archipelago."

Establishments bearing the blue and white "Skärgårdssmak" logo assure you of the archipelago's freshest ingredients and innovative cuisine, usually served in a distinctive setting. The Aalands, which harbor an internationally acclaimed maritime  museum and have one of the highest per capita incomes in Finland, are home to about 10 of these special restaurants.  Chef Ulf Danielsson, owner of the ship restaurant FP von Knorring in the port city of Mariehamn, mixes traditional cooking with local ingredients to create piquant desserts such as sea-buckhorn crème brule. Another Skärgårdssmak member is Restaurant Rusell, located in a waterfront mansion once owned by a colorful gent who ferried back and forth to the U.S. to earn his keep as a policeman.

Links to further information:

The Finnish Tourist Board

Chez Dominique

G.W. Sundmans

Helsinki Culinary Institute

Restaurant Perho