Bring on the Baltics
Get a taste of Northern Europe’s mouthwatering cuisine.
By Janice Wald Henderson
As a globetrotting food writer, I’ve savored many memorable meals. But I remain deliciously haunted by one grand repast at St. Petersburg’s L’Europe, Russia’s oldest continually serving restaurant. The exquisite cuisine, art nouveau décor, and waiters who dote like palace servers whisked me to an era long gone. However, Baltic and Northern Europe cruises offer extraordinary dining experiences at every level, from highbrow to low. The most golden, crispiest fried fish I ever ate was in Warnemünde, Germany, where fishermen sell the day’s catch in buckets, and then clean and fry it to order. So save your appetites for plenty of culinary gems ashore.
Baltic Cuisine Primer
Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians traditionally eat heartily. Think beet soup with sauerkraut, pork, herring, potatoes, pumpernickel, and rye bread, particularly in colder months. But cruises run in summer when the cuisine lightens and locals embrace grilled dishes such as chicken or pork kebabs, wild salmon, and fresh vegetables, too. Newer restaurants look to Western Europe, offering lighter, more modern cuisine prepared with local ingredients.
Ready for a cleanse from cruise indulgence? Head to Raw Garden in Riga, Latvia; it’s a hipster haven starring fresh-squeezed veggie juices, smoothies, and beautifully presented raw dishes such as vegetable lasagna. This hotspot also prepares dairy-, sugar-, and gluten-free desserts. Yes, that yummy-looking berry tart is made with avocado, coconut oil, and dates.
Kissel, Kama, and Kringle
Get a rhythm going by memorizing these Estonian culinary terms. (Variations are found throughout this cruise region.) Kissel, a sweet fruit soup, is often made with rhubarb or fresh berries such as cranberries. Kama is a finely milled roasted grain mixture that’s especially popular in summer. You’ll taste it blended into smoothies or yogurt, or mixed with sugar and dairy for dessert. Kringle is a sweet, cinnamon-scented yeast bread, sometimes flavored with cardamom.
Stock up at Stockmann
Stockmann, Helsinki’s main department store, is Finland’s answer to Harrods’ basement food halls. Purchase cheese, bread, and wine for a park picnic. Try a smoked salmon sandwich on a bagel or baguette — I’d cruise here just to eat one again. This hall also sells great gifts like Finnish jams for foodie friends (or yourself) back home.
Östermalms Saluhall — ranked one of the world’s best food halls — has been wowing both Swedes and visitors since 1888. It closed this spring for renovation until 2018, but fortunately, merchants have moved to temporary housing at Östermalmstorg. Ogle beautiful berries, wild mushrooms, and brilliant….
This is an excerpt only. To subscribe to Porthole Cruise Magazine, click here.
Photo: part of trending