Pop-Up Helsinki

One of my favorite things about Helsinki is the pop-up phenomenon. It seems that every time I’m tromping through the open square at Kamppi on my way to the bus station, there’s something going on. It might be a concert in celebration of Ex-Criminal Day (no joke), a bunch of vendors selling licorice and cheese, or tables with steaming bowls of soup ready for the taking while an episode of Master Chef is being filmed (which resulted in my 1.5 seconds of fame on Finnish TV).

DSC_3247Salla and Lauri at their 7th Restaurant Day selling yummy cupcakes

But today was the day for the best pop-up of them all, Restaurant Day (or Ravintolapäivä). The event began in 2011 and is billed as “a food carnival when anyone can open a restaurant for a day.” Some invite guests into their homes, while most set up tables outside. It happens four times a year and has grown to hundreds of cities around the world. The US has absent from the festivities, which is not a surprise given the bureaucracy around food regulations.

DSC_3249Baklava!

I’ve gone to a few Restaurant Days here before, and I’ve been talking about setting up a table of my own. I think I’ve even settled on an American sweet treat to sell. I’ll have to see if I can get it together and follow through with the plan when May rolls around.

It was a bit cold today (around 25ºF/-4ºC), and my fingers were more interested in putting food into my mouth than taking photos, but I got a few shots of the happenings.

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Bacon & Facon was a stand selling food made with real and fake bacon. The avocado, peas, red onion, and facon on rye crackers was extremely tasty. The facon had a definite bacon flavor despite being made mostly of almonds. Recipe, please? And now I’m thinking I should have gotten peas to add to the avocado pasta I’m making tonight . . .

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More sweets. This is not the place to be if you can’t control yourself around sugar.

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The Esplanadi

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It might not be much for the eye, but I had some of the best potatoes of my life at the Finnish/Thai/Japanese fusion eatery ThaimaaSaimaa. Only being a very occasional fish eater, I I abstained from tempura, but now I’m almost wishing I had tried it. The potatoes were mixed with seaweed and topped with wasabi cream sauce and lingonberry jam. It sounds like an odd combo, but wow, it was perfect.

After stuffing my face and grabbing a coffee inside to thaw my fingers, I started to make my way to yoga. But before I could get on the bus, I stumbled on a pop-up of another sort. The Terracotta Army seemed to have invaded Helsinki. I quickly tried to decipher the sign, but quick and reading Finnish don’t go well together for me yet, so I’ll have to figure it out later.

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