THE MOST EXOTIC characteristic of Finnish nature is its purity. Its forests, lakes and drinking water are some of the cleanest in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air quality in Finland is also among the best in the world. Here, it is easy to breathe. You can swim in clean waters and even drink from clear springs.
THE KVARKEN ARCHIPELAGO is the only Finnish natural site on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Along with the High Coast of Sweden, the low Kvarken archipelago is the best place in the world to experience and understand the land uplift caused by the last ice age. Throughout the ages, the beautiful, rugged archipelago has inspired artists, hikers, tourism entrepreneurs and even top chefs.
OSSI PALONEVA is a self-taught top chef who grew up in Vaasa. He offers his customers fivestar meals made from wild food foraged from nature. Wild food can be anything edible – berries, mushrooms and vegetables – but it can also include things you wouldn’t necessarily think of as food, such as roots, lichen or flowers. In skilful hands, these too become mouth-watering delicacies.
PALONEVA’S FASCINATION with wild food was sparked as a child when he used to go fishing with his father in the Kvarken archipelago and walking in the woods with his mother. In his work,he has discovered that Finns have a particularly close relationship with nature. When they eat food foraged in the wild, it brings up memories and emotions.
“Food and smells create powerful emotional bridges. When I cook using smoke, resin, tar or pine, Finns remember happy moments at their grandmother’s house and childhood summers at the cottage. You can’t recreate the same effect with something like sweet pepper”, Paloneva smiles.
EVEN THOUGH Finnish wild food may not bring up memories for international restaurant guests, its flavours are pure, distinct and sometimes strong. One of the most exceptional ingredients used by Paloneva is lichen, which yields an incredible side dish, provided the right technique is used. Its crisp, airy structure offers an exciting texture and delicious flavour when seasoned with a little oil, buckwheat flour and smoked salt.
“My most important tool is time, which is necessary for creating the best flavours. If I’m scheduled to cook on Saturday, I will need to prepare a lot of things several days beforehand to make sure that the ingredients have time to dry and the grains time to sprout.”
WHEN COOKING wild food, you use only a few ingredients at a time to ensure that the flavours stand out, and the cooking as a whole is simpler. An ingredient can be treated in numerous ways to give the dish the desired nuances, such as acidity, robustness or richness. To Paloneva, this is the beauty of vegetarian cooking.
“The array of things you can do with an ingredient is right there in front of you. Maybe in the root of a single dandelion. This is why I love Finnish nature. It’s pure, delicious and incredible versatile.”
NIGHT AT THE GLASS IGLOO
IT CAN BE a dark and stormy night… but you will sleep like a baby, because in the Kvarken archipelago, you can stay the night in an igloo-type glass house surrounded by nature. The en-suite glass chalets at Kalle’s Inn are available year-round and offer a 180-degree panorama of the sea and the rocky landscape around them. You can lie in bed and watch the sea roar in front of you and see the most impressive northern lights flash above you. In the summer, you can admire the midnight sun and the glowing foliage in the autumn.
THE KALLE’S INN tourist resort is located at the westernmost point of mainland Finland in the outer archipelago of Vaasa. The glass igloos have been builton the rocks by the shore. The peace of the archipelago is a magical experience, as the city lights and the hustle and bustle of Vaasa are more than 40 kilometres away. In addition to the sunsets, the package includes a bar and a shared relaxation area, hot tub and sauna.