Sunday, December 12, 2010

Finnish Xmas Market

Checked out the Finnish Christmas market at the Finnish Seamen's Mission in Brussels yesterday.  The 42-degree weather (still working in Fahrenheit, friends) was downright balmy compared to how it's been, though the promises of reindeer would have made me step out in a sub-zero clime.

The market was smaller than I'd expected, but it seemed to be packed with all of the Finnish and Lappish essentials.

btw, how cool is the coat of arms from Lapland?  It's like Mike Tyson's Punch Out meets Legend of Zelda:

Anyway, on to the reindeer... er, market!  We wanted to try some things first so we knew what to bring home with us.

Reindeer and potato mangers... mmmm.

We split a plate of braised reindeer served over mashed potatoes with a lingonberry sauce and a pickle.  Dark rye bread and butter were also on the side.  B had a glass of homemade "beer", which is what I've deemed to be kotikalja.  The "beer" was non-alcoholic and tasted more like a fermented tea than what I've come to think of as beer.  The reindeer was dee-lish, tasting similar to venison and oh-so-tender.

The cute dining room at the Seamen's Mission.

Clean plate club.  Well, almost (silly pickle).

Sausages were featured in the grill area.

We split a makkara, which is quite like a Polish kielbasa.  The thing that struck us initially was how finely the meat was ground.  It was like a sausage made of pate--so velvety!  We ate it with the "spicy" Finnish mustard, which I rudely put in quotes because it just wasn't that spicy.  The dill potato salad was also a big hit with us.  (Sorry for the crap photo.  It looks like there is white cheddar popcorn on the side;  trust me, it's potato salad.)

So what did we bring home with us?

There were so many specialty liquors there, we had to indulge.  The bottle at left is a cloudberry liquor, which struck us as a sweeter cognac.  (We were given samples of all of these.)  Very drinkable and not too sweet.  We learned about cloudberries and how they grow in marshes and must be hand-harvested.  I wanted nothing less to support this specialty berry industry!  Plus, the guy said it's good over ice cream.

The middle bottle is glogi.  Glogi's the Finnish take on mulled wine.  It's usually served with raisins and blanched almonds.  (Almonds in hot wine, you say?  Try it!  Nom, nom.)  We had some homemade glogi at the market, but this bottle's good to go.  Just heat and serve!  It's less of a wine drink (and more of a liquor) when prepackaged in the bottle, so there seem to be two varieties of glogi going on.  I can definitely get down with each.

The bottle on the right is a traditional Finnish barley vodka that is not referred to as "vodka" in Finland.  You can read more about it here.  It seems to be a source of Finnish pride.

Of course we brought home some frozen reindeer.  I've got my sights set on a reindeer shepherds pie.

We also snagged some apple-cinnamon porridge and Patkis and Jim (only because there wasn't a "Mike" or "Matt") chocolate bars.  Haven't tried the porridge yet but as far as the chocolate bars went, the Patkis was far superior to the Jim.  The Jim bar was like a chocolate covered circus peanut.  Big time yucks.  The Patkis was a chocolate-mint truffle dealy.  You win, Patkis.

Oh, and anything you could dream of doing with licorice was at the market.  The Finns have a real thing about licorice--salty, covered in chocolate, you name it!  There were rows and rows of licorice treats.  We didn't pick up any, so I guess we'll just have to pay a visit to Finland... in the summer, of course.