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Beyond Baltimore: A Culinary Summer Getaway Cruising the Baltic Part 5

Giant paellas grill along Helsinki's waterfront Esplanade
Giant paellas grill along Helsinki's waterfront Esplanade
Reed Hellman Wordsmith

Helsinki! Whatta’ super city! Whatta’ great place! One of the world’s design capitals, vibrant, colorful, exciting, easy to get around. The home of Marimekko. Maybe everybody was out in the streets because it was one of the very few radiant, seasonably warm days, but whatever the reason, Helsinki was a street festival.

On the Esplanade by the harbor, an open air market sprawls and draws crowds of locals and visitors shopping for handmade knitwear, carvings, and wrought iron. On the street, a parade with bands and colorfully dressed soldiers marches past while models strut their fashions on an outdoor catwalk. The reason? It’s summer in Helsinki.

In the market, food stands feature authentic Finnish food. Chunks of salmon and peppers compete with local produce and grilling meats. Huge colorful paellas, ringed with pickles and grapefruit halves send out their odors in a culinary seduction.

Reindeer meatballs, very coarse texture but very flavorful, with lots going on, are a good choice for lunch. They come coated with mild, creamy garlic sauce, accompanied by roasted local potatoes, small almost fingerlings, and a blizzard of carrots, broccoli, snow peas. A lingonberry relish offers a counterpoint to the meatballs and creamy salmon soup.

“Reindeer meat is a renewable resource,” enthused Karl Teel, publisher of Recreation News, “It’s a little gamier, but lower in fat and a little drier. It’s part of the local vibe.”

Even the staid-looking City Hall offers unanticipated delights. In its public bathrooms, “Flush”, a quirky art exhibit, presents an array of startling, completely unexpected mixed media productions.

This far north, winters can be brutal. Perhaps that’s why the Finns turn their summers into celebrations.

Duck Confit Croustillant

Courtesy of Constellation’s Executive Chef Olivier Trividic

20 phyllo dough leaves

8 ounces clarified butter

20 ounces duck confit

1 small red onion chopped fine

Brush phyllo dough leaves lightly with clarified butter. Mix the duck confit with the chopped onion and place a spoonful in the center of a phyllo leaf. Cover with a second phyllo leaf, pinch the leaves together along the edges, and refrigerate. Do not cover because the phyllo will get soggy. When ready to serve, saute each packet on both sides until golden brown..

For recipes and more of Reed Hellman’s signature culinary adventures, visit my Website at http://www.reedhellmanwordsmith.com/. You can follow my monthly columns in Recreation News and read my feature articles in Business Monthly and Annapolis Lifestyle.

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