Quibranza: A small taste of Finland

What do I know about Finland? Very little.

As a musician, I’ve come across trivia that the country is arguably the “metal capital” of the world with approximately 50 metal bands for every 100,000 citizens. According to the World Bank, the country has a population of 5.5 million (2021).

Crunching the numbers, that would give us—well, you do the math.

However, I have one of my favorite late night talk show hosts, Conan O’Brien, to thank for sparking interest about this country in northern Europe.

O’Brien used to regularly joke on his show how he was the “international twin” of then President of Finland Tarja Halonen. Why? Both share an uncanny resemblance—at least, according to O’Brien. O’Brien eventually got to meet the President herself back in 2006.

I’ve so much to learn, do I?

I consider it a blessing then to have had the privilege of dining with Cebu’s dignitaries, business executives, and special guests, in celebration of the official inauguration of the Honorary Consulate of Finland in Cebu City last month.

We saw His Excellency Juha Pyykkö, Ambassador of Finland to the Philippines, ceremonially hand over the exequatur to Jose Franco Soberano, Honorary Consul of Finland in Cebu.

Of course, we celebrated the milestone by feasting on Finnish-inspired cuisine prepared by Abacá Catering and Events.

First on the menu was the House-pickled mackerel served with horseradish crème fraiche pickling salsa and norlander soil. The bite-sized pieces of intensely flavored mackerel whetted our appetite for more dishes to come.

For our salad, we had the Rosolli—made with beetroot and compressed vegetables. To bind the flavors, it had a cured egg yolk and smoked tofu cream.

The soup arrived next: Lohikeitto—salmon cream soup prepared with local clams and served with dill oil. For the entrée, we were served Short Ribs and Meatballs, with whipped potatoes, mustard cream and lingonberry jam.

The Broken Lemon Tart was a fitting way to finish the course, as I enjoyed the dessert of berries, lemon custard and coconut sable dust.

To pair with the food, Consul Franco had prepared his wine recommendations: The 2017 Inglenook Blancaneaux, the 2019 Beaulieu Vineyard Maestro, the 2016 Joseph Phelps Insignia and the 2012 Chateau Montrose.

What a wonderful night. I left the event with a small taste of what it was like to eat in “the Happiest Country in the World.”

Congratulations to the Honorary Consul. Kippis!