The Frightful Prospect of 2050

“We’ve come a long way….” The wry words of Kitty van der Heijden, Director of Europe and Africa, World Resources Institute, at the World Circular Economy 2017, held at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki from 5 to 7 June 2017.

Followed by a string of evidence on how little we have evolved, Kitty was quick to point out that the future is bleak. With a population explosion of 9 billion by 2050, we need to produce 70% more food in order to sustain mankind.

In today’s world, one out of every nine people goes hungry every day while 32% of food gets thrown away.

Credit: World Resources Institute

“We are at a tipping point,” she says. “We need a reduction in consumption and the issues of food waste and loss need to be addressed urgently.”

Beef cattle alone use 25% of the earth’s mass, consume 33% of its water, produce 1/3 of emissions while the industry has grown by 95% due to increased prosperity. Western societies have set the tone and are still leading the overall consumption chart. No less than nine developing countries, some with the world’s largest populations, are following suit with the dangerous ‘middle class effect’ when the average per capita income reaches $6000 per year and household expenditure increases contributing to further growth of a middle class.* With more spending, more resources are needed and this is where the picture starts looking dismal. Business growth will grind to a halt and unless new models are embraced, the glimmer at the end of the tunnel will be eradicated.

A not-so-quick fix is suggested by Kitty van der Heijden. For a truly circular economy to exist on the planet, the following issues need to be addressed:

No poverty

Zero hunger

Clean water

Decent work and economic growth

Responsible consumption and production

Climate action

Life below water

Life on land*

However, take a look at our daily existence in a first world country. Most of us cannot live without:

Shelter

Water

Food from supermarkets usually packaged in unrecyclable plastic

Electricity

Transport in the form of cars, buses, trams and trains

Holidays involving airline flights

Mobile phones and computers that have a short lifespan and cannot be fixed

Clothing travelling the globe before it reaches the shelves of a store

Waste removal

We hide behind the argument that we are as green as we can possibly be ‘under the circumstances’ but how many of us are willing to give up that long-haul flight, that Harley Davidson we’ve wanted since childhood, the status of living in a dwelling far larger than we need?

If we are heading for an increase of 70% to feed the 9 billion human beings that will be inhabiting our planet by 2050, closing the food gap is the challenge that awaits us. Businesses and politicians have to face the elephant in the room. Increasing production is unsustainable. Decreasing consumption however, is reachable by a shift to diets that are kinder to our planet, not an impossibility considering the huge range that is at our disposal. Less meat and dairy products, eating local, demanding better packaging and recycling will contribute. Lessening food waste is vital. From our own private kitchens to those of restaurants and supermarket shelves, we need to be aware and ask if we’re not, making sure that we keep everyone in the industry accountable. Become a custodian not a fanatic and spread your green story with tolerance.

And just when you think that the difference you are making is but a drop in the ocean, bring to mind the Ethiopian proverb, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, go to sleep in a room with a mosquito,” Kitty van der Heijden advises.

*World Resources Institute

Celebration! Silja Line Turns 60

What a year it is! Finland celebrates 100 years of independence, Silja Line celebrates 60 years of being in business and what a long way they’ve come. (See the video!) New products have been chosen and a celebratory menu has been designed by Tommy Myllymäki and Matti Jämsén, Tallink Silja’s Head of Restaurant Services.

As you can see from the video, food has always since the very beginning, been a vital component of cruising. Putting together a menu of the best tastes of summer is the task ahead of Tommy and Matti and what fun they’re having. Finland explodes with spring vegetables, seafood and fish and some of the best ice cream in the world. At Bon Vivant, the fine dining option on board, Menu Nordic consisting of 5 courses is a tribute to Silja 60. Tomatoes are finally ripening and serving it as a cold soup with feta and basil gives you that first hint of warmer weather. With the Sauvignon Blanc from Domaine de la Garrelière from the Loire Valley, it’s an acidic rush that pricks the palate and opens the taste buds for the surprises to follow.

Veal tartar with crunchy green peas and slivers of radish

Veal Tartar comes with a tarragon sauce and crisp, sweet raw peas that Finland is so famous for. Just walk along the Market Square and see the number of empty pods lying on the ground, a habit that is cleaned up at the end of every day in the summer. Dry Rosé de Carsin especially made for Finland 100, gives this dish an extra dimension. Followed by Pike Perch & Ginger comes the Beef & Onion main course with morel mushrooms on a bed of spelt, hearty and filling and complements the Carsin Cuvée, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc to carry it through to its full conclusion. Rhubarb for dessert and to sweeten it there’s meringue and a creamy mascarpone ice cream. Price €109/118 including wine, the former with Silja Card.

Pike perch with brown butter sabayon sauce, sauerkraut and ginger

Every second year a new range of Ship’s wines and beverages are chosen. The lucky producers can look forward to massive sales on board but criteria are strict and supplies need to be forthcoming. Choosing them is not easy since you have to keep the general palate in mind, the price and not least of all the label. Hence, nothing too challenging and under €10 except for the champagne. Bauchet Brut Champagne at €28,90 is light and user-friendly with toast and almonds on the palate. Riesling is a huge favourite in Finland for the time being and hence needs to be represented. Geil Riesling Trocken from Rheinhessen, Germany, fits the bill. It’s a no-nonsense wine with acidity, pear and herbs. Zonin Velluto Appassimento is the red choice with a blend of dried Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella grapes. It’s velvety and smooth and rather sweet as a result of the drying of the grapes.

Chocolates by Kultasuklaa celebrating Silja 60

Marimekko has entered the fray of the jollifications on board and has come up with special colours highlighting the marine mood that can be seen in the suites and restaurants. Don’t leave the ship without some bars of chocolate from Kultasuklaa. White chocolate with a flavouring of salty liquorice, dark chocolate with salt and milk chocolate, all made with heart by this small producer in Finland.

Happy cruising and cheers to Silja Line on this auspicious occasion.

It’s a Wild Ride at Linnanmäki Amusement Park, Helsinki

The locals lovingly call it ‘Lintsi’ and when the first rays of sunshine start appearing after the long winter, the kids are already tugging at their parent’s nerves to take them to this summer attraction. It’s a happy place and something sincerely has to go wrong for it not to put a smile on your face. Even better, the proceeds go to Finnish child welfare work. It’s the kindest thing you can do for not only your own children but also those less privileged.

Magia for a heady ride

A new year brings new stuff to explore starting with Ice Age in 4D with arrows whizzing passed your head, water spraying lightly in your face and plenty of bumps and jumps for you to get the full effect. This is included in the wristband. Magia will take you on a whirl that reaches the heavens while you look down vertically at the ground below, spin you and settle you down back to earth before it all starts again. There’s wild and gentle for the not so brave and if you’re not interested in the rides at all, there’s the wheel of fortune which will add yet another soft toy to your already overflowing collection. Lots of the kiddie rides are free of charge and there is no entrance fee so if you just want to come along and watch, that’s possible too. The American Diner will satisfy your hamburger needs and there’s a lot more besides that. Caruzello has a family buffet while the Sports Restaurant has finger food to go with your beer.

Starting with the Spring Carnival, Linnanmäki has special events happening at times when the park might not be that crowded. Between 2 – 14 May, clowns, ventriloquists, and music are put on to entertain the crowds and you can even take a twirl on the dance floor if the mood hits you. At the beginning of September Iik!week brings zombies to scare you and other eerie phenomena to keep you intrigued. The Carnival of Light is a show to behold with plenty of design teams working on displays to light up the dark time of year.

Linnanmäki is open from 28 April until late October but do check the website if you’re planning to go in September or October.

Links:

Linnanmäki Amusement Park

Sea Horse Restaurant, Helsinki

‘Riimihärkä’ – Finland’s version of Beef Carpaccio

THE PLACE 8/10: Dating back to the 1930’s, the walls have seen it all from sailors to musicians to artists and drunks. It’s cleaned up its act and nowadays it still has some interesting clientele, but there are no more cigarette stains on the tablecloths.

THE FOOD 7/10: Traditional Finnish. Famous for friend Baltic herring, meatballs and vorshmack. The standard is ok but the menu tends to get a bit boring after too many visits.

THE DRINKS 6/10: Dull wine menu, the usual beer and some cocktails prepared with Finnish gin Napue (about the only exciting drink).

THE SERVICE (6/10): Not very personalised and I even heard the waitress shout across the room at some guests who didn’t know they had to wait to be seated.

THE AMBIENCE (8/10): It still has that old world charm about it, especially in the tiny bathrooms with brown tiles. The people make the place.

THE PRICE (7/10): Prices have been steadily rising but you can still get a large plate of fried Baltic herrings for under €20.

OVERALL RATING (7/10): It’s fun, once a year.

The painting of a sea horse has been there forever.

Link: Sea Horse Restaurant, Kapteeninkatu 11, 00140 Helsinki

Class with a touch of casual – Emo Restaurant, Helsinki, Finland

Wooden tables, serviettes like dishcloths hanging on the side, cutlery in a wooden box all add to the informal atmosphere. But don’t be fooled. This joint might not strike you as ‘fine dining’ but dining fine you will, believe me!

Tomato soup with truffle foam

With a choice of non-alcoholic beverages like fresh apple juice or spicy tomato to get those salivary glands going is just the ticket for lunchtime. The tomato soup starter brims with richness and elegance is thrown in with the truffle foam on the side while crunch is provided by the croutons. Every mouthful is a treat and if the croutons aren’t enough, there’s plenty of home made bread with butter on the side. Haddock is my choice of the 3 main courses only because it brings back memories of breakfast in South Africa when I was child and when it was always smoked. This one comes with potato mousse, a poached egg and lots of capers to give it a good kick of acidity. It’s all so soft and creamy but get your teeth into the crispy onion and the salsify slices on top and you know the chef, Ilkka Lääveri knows what he’s doing. Combine this relatively light lunch with a cold, crisp Brut Nature cava by Castell del Remei and you wish you could linger longer. My dining partner chooses the pork with gem lettuce and a heap of caramelized-to-a-crisp onions to make for a slightly heavier meal. There’s also a vegetarian option. Of course the menu changes and whatever’s fresh, seasonal and local when possible, is served up every week.

Creamy haddock and almond potato mousse

Lunch for 2 courses sets you back €25, 3 courses €29 and 4 at €34. Dinner comes in set meals or as à la carte and is a little more expensive as is the practice in Finland. That laid-back mood is just a ruse, there’s serious food and wine coming your way at Emo.

Links:

Emo Restaurant

Line Up at The Roster – a modern eatery run by a hip crowd

With a view of some of Helsinki’s stunning period architecture, The Roster stands out as a trendy place to have your lunch, drink a cocktail or indulge in their version of a Sunday roast. Brainchild of Kari Aihinen, executive chef of the exclusive Savoy Restaurant, this one’s not a ‘baby Savoy’. His love of ice hockey speaks for itself in the name and he runs this kitchen as well as the more upmarket one, like he would a hockey team. The right hand knows what the left is doing and the result is a winner.

Trout, spinach purée and lobster sauce

My trout on a spinach purée with lobster sauce melts in the mouth with umami, freshness and creaminess all intermingled. The salad that comes as a side looks dull since it’s just a bunch of leaves but my oh my, that truffle dressing is enough to stop you in your tracks. I feel like a red wine with all of this and the recommendation of a Pinot Meunier from the house of Friedrich Becker from the Pfalz region in Germany, is earthy, with hints of truffle and terroir that just brings this whole meal together.

All of this doesn’t come cheap but you wouldn’t expect it to. You get the feeling that every ingredient is hand-picked and that the food is prepared with the utmost care. Service is friendly, funny and full of personality. I think they like working here and if they don’t, they’re damn good actors. Go for the slapshot, fork out €40 and knock yourself out with a great plate of nosh.

Links:

The Roster Helsinki

Finland on My Mind – a culinary journey

Competition in the Baltic Sea is fierce. Not only do the cruise ships vie for best entertainment or comfort with style. Food is paramount and there are few shipping companies that do it as well as Silja Line does. This year is no exception. Their Bon Vivant Restaurant on both Serenade and Symphony, steps up to the fine culinary plate every time.

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A formidable team: Matti Jämsen, Miikka Manninen, Eero Vottonen, Heidi Mäkinen

Hard to go wrong when you’ve got Chef Eero Vottonen, whose been there and done that in the glittering Michelin star world of Helsinki, and Heidi Mäkinen, Finland’s best sommelier in 2015 and 8th in the world, at the helm. With the internationally well-known Matti Jämsen overseeing it all and the bright, young, fastidious Miikka Manninen as the sous-chef, you’re all set for a flavour expedition through the Finnish countryside at the highest possible standards.

 

Lavaret (white fish) and sour cream
Lavaret (white fish) and sour cream

No bigger than an amuse bouche comes the Lavaret or white fish as most of know it, served with smooth sour cream, a little crunch of cucumber and a subtle flavouring of dill. Swill it back with a Blanc de Blanc from Jacques Lassaigne in all its glorious minerality and you can’t wait for what’s next. The hot, crispy barley blini-like pancake is served with mushroom butter, so good you want to lick your hand where it slowly sidles its way down. Another gulp of that champers, thank you!

Lamb and caramelised onion with friend parsley root
Lamb and caramelised onion with friend parsley root

Put one and one together and you the resulting richness is much more than a mere two. The liver mousse is a combination of duck and chicken liver, delicate and powerful all at once with the forest mushrooms adding the oomph. This time it’s the earthy Yealands Estate Land Made Pinot Noir that carries the flavours through to the last mouthful.

Delicate as a flower - braised apple with buttermilk ice cream
Delicate as a flower – braised apple with buttermilk ice cream

While the lamb could do with a bit more salt and pepper, easily added of course, the herbs from the dish fall in side by side with the unmistakeable garrigue, or wild Mediterranean herb taste, present in the Maison Nicolas Perrin Cornas, worthy of a swoon.

Heidi Mäkinen has taken Eero Vottonen’s story of Finnish ingredients, one step further to turn this dining experience into an unforgettable journey.

5-course menu including wine selection: €118/person or €109 for Club One customers.

Menu available from 1 September 2016 – 10 January 2017.

Silja Line

Must See Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The girl on the bus looks out the window and asks the helpful Bosnian who happens to speak English, “Is Mostar prettier than this?”

“It depends on where you are,” is his wry reply.

We have just passed through a small town where the bus stops for a handful of passengers to alight. One of those one-horse towns in the back of beyond.

So if we are already beyond, what’s ahead? In spite of my smirking ‘typical tourist!’ response, I start sharing my fellow passenger’s anxiety. And when the first signs of Mostar start appearing, I start becoming twitchy. The taxi driver takes us to our Airbnb accommodation where the buildings are crumbling, the windows are paneless and the bullet holes are visible in the walls. Just through the tunnel, we come upon a surprisingly delightful courtyard where our studio apartment is located, as modern as it can be. The contrast comes as quite a shock.

Paneless windows and bullet holes
Paneless windows and bullet holes
Stark constrasts
Stark constrasts

Was that a gunshot I heard? Followed by a melancholy heart-felt cry? Our host pacifies us. It’s just marking the time for the feasting to begin after a day of fasting during this Ramadan season. Mostar is mostly Muslim and mosques and their muezzins can ben seen and heard from early morning until late at night. There are some Catholic Cathedrals and an Orthodox one too, but most of the population practice Islam. Probably best not to go during this time of the Muslim calendar since some of the museums and houses tend to be closed or the hours are awkward.

The Neretva River carves its way through Mostar
The Neretva River carves its way through Mostar

But even if you don’t get to see one, it’s that marvellous fast-flowing Neretva River carving it’s determined way through the city that makes your heart skip a marvellous beat. The Stare Most or Old Bridge is a landmark joining up the two sides with many-a story to be told. Getting to this historic site however, is a feat of its own. The cobbles hack high heels to bits and the many years of tread has left the surface as slick as an ice rink. Beware the shoes you wear!

History

Mimar Sinan had a promising student. His name was Mimar Hayruddin whose dream was to become an architect. It was realised when he was ordered by Suleiman the Magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, to construct the most prized piece of Islamic architecture in the 16thC. Be careful what you wish for! Hayruddin’s his life was at stake and it is said that he prepared for his own funeral on the day that the scaffolding was removed from the widest man-made structure in the world at that time. Genius springs to mind. Light and local limestone called tenelija was his choice, iron clamps embedded in lead held it together and hollow support columns kept it light and sustainable allowing for the height and strong flow of the river.

Stare Most or Old Bridge, the historic landmark of Mostar
Stare Most or Old Bridge, the historic landmark of Mostar

Sadly, as is the unfathomable wont of mankind, destruction came at the hands of the Croats, bent on wiping out the entire Bosniak community (Bosnian Muslims) in the war of 1993. Talk about ripping out the heart of the people of Mostar, hitting them where it hurts most, it was like the death of a loved one for the brave inhabitants. But human tenacity prevailed and it was reconstructed and reopened in 2004.

Vendors ply without pushing
Vendors ply without pushing

Vendor

And so life goes on for these people who refused to leave. Navigate those cobbles and on both sides of the walking street on both sides of the river, are a myriad small vendors who ply their goods without pushing them in your face. They’re gentle salespeople who tell you what you need to know and leave you to make a decision on your own. The prices are really low by Western standards with an artisan hand-hewn copper bracelet costing between €4 and €10.The craftsman refuses to have his photo taken, strict Muslim rule, he says, while banging away at the metal. Pashminas, silk scarves, glittering purses and leather bags colour the view to jolt you into a different world, away from drab blacks and browns.

Even a local tipple can be had with a sizeable fish platter
Even a local tipple can be had with a sizeable fish platter

Wining and dining

Well, yes, this is a mostly Muslim city but the odd tipple is to be had at some restaurants, mostly home made wine which is not at all unpleasing to the palate. Beer, too, seems in plentiful supply and while we’re on the topic, food portions are enormous. The fish platter at Sadrvan is heavily laden with 3 river trout cooked in 3 different ways, a fish kebab, some delicious spinach and boiled potatoes. Wash it down with a litre of Žilavka with its pear, tarragon, apple flavours and good acidity and it spills back nicely, especially at the price. Another indigenous must-try is Bey’s Soup, a creamy concoction of chicken, potatoes, beans, okra, carrots and herbs, passed down from generation to generation all the way back to the Ottomans.

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War Photo Exhibition

Something troubles me. It’s this juxtaposition of Muslim, Christian, Orthodox, derelict, modern, poor and rich that comes together in an uneasy calm. At the base of Helebija Tower at the Stare Most, the sign catches my eye, ‘Don’t Forget ‘93’. Some graffiti too, is a constant reminder. It’s in this exhibition by New Zealand photojournalist Wade Goddard who, at the age of 22, arrived in Mostar in 1992 with no experience in journalism, who started capturing the scenes of hardship. No water, no electricity and very little food but with a stalwart determination to stay, in his words, “in this city that was killing them”.

Clichés suck but sometimes they just capture the essence of what a place and people can achieve through passion and endurance, so here it is: “Hope springs eternal.”

Links:

Airbnb accommodation at Miran’s: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/6944846?guests=2&s=ApruMq3Z

Stare Most or Old Bridge

Sadrvan Restaurant

Wade Goddard, photo journalist

 

Whiling away the time in Kotor, Montenegro

Just looked at the stats – 653, 747 in population. Kotor – 13,150. It’s a small place, a small country and it doesn’t have much in its favour. The mountains surround you and there is not much arable land to cultivate crops. Make the most of tourism? Then you have to have something that’ll make you stand out in the crowd. Here’s why I would come back:

Euro – even though it’s not part of the European Union yet, it employs the currency which could or might not work against you but at least it’s easy if you’re from the Eurozone or visiting many parts of it.

Fjord – perhaps you’ve heard this before, but it’s the only one in Europe, Norway counting as a Scandinavian destination. And totally stunning from every angle.

Beautiful Bay of Kotor
Beautiful Bay of Kotor

Galion Restaurant – fine dining, expensive by Montenegrin standards but the finest of fine dining to be found anywhere in Europe. The waiting staff understand what you’re on about, like after a white wine (which you can’t taste before ordering, minus points), ordering it anyway and then the waiter suggesting the red Vranac which is a whole lot better with your tender lamb infused with morel mushrooms lying on a bed of roast veg and creamy mashed potatoes. Cost for 2 €78 incl. 1 starter, 1 bottle of Krstac (white, better with food but quite acidic on its own), small bottle of Vrnac (red, recommended), 2 mains.

Galion Restaurant floats on the sea
Galion Restaurant floats on the sea
Lamb at its best at Galion Restaurant
Lamb at its best at Galion Restaurant

Fortress of Kotor – even an old 60-year-old bat like me can do it! 1200 m above sea level, 1350 steps with a bruised toe and a dizzy head. Really, I mean it, it’s so worth it. Every lookout point has another viewpoint and there are ‘angels’ on the way sitting under their umbrellas selling cold, cold water, coke and beer at reasonable prices. Even a rip off would have made me buy.

Almost there, not!
Almost there, not!

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Old Town – I know, seen so many of these in your time but this one is brimming with churches both Orthodox and Catholic, no mosques unfortunately even though it has the 2nd most devotees in the country. The prettiest one has to be St. Triphon’s Cathedral with twin towers and a wonderfully restful pale pink/beige interior. The upper floor houses a museum of relics and a view over the piazza.

St. Triphon's Cathedral in all its pale pink and beige glory
St. Triphon’s Cathedral in all its pale pink and beige glory

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Wine bars – abound, where the local drop of red (again, recommended) can be had for as little as €2/10 cl. At Bokun, the cheapest one was full of a cow’s milk nose, pleasantly so even though the malolactose might get to some. The flavour was full of prunes and plums and mocca. Delectable for sipping. At The Old Winery, the rosé is a bit more upmarket at around €4 incl. service. Delightfully refreshing, light and a no-brainer for a hot Saturday afternoon.

Me sipping wine, how unusual!
Me sipping wine, how unusual!

The Market – we’re all in love with markets thinking that we’re going to pick up a bargain here or there. Be warned – not always the cheapest since most vendors have already caught up with the trend. But do try the local Prsut (prosciutto), air-dried and deliciously succulent without being stringy, and ‘the best cheese in the world’ according to the lady behind the counter, Katunjanka from Čevo, high up in the mountains and a success story of small producers making their presence felt. Both come at reasonable prices.

Take your pick at the market
Take your pick at the market
A selection of Rakije, not Raki as in aniseed as in Turkey, but fire water with a flavour
A selection of Rakije, not Raki as in aniseed as in Turkey, but fire water with a flavour

Montenegrins – come with a smile albeit a non-knowledgeable one. Their language skills in English are somewhat limited and this could be the reason. The first question you’re asked is ‘Where do you come from?’ Taking the conversation further becomes problematic. Ask them where the nearest bike rental place is and they can’t tell you. Come on! It’s a small town and even I discovered it 2 minutes later 100m away. Some scenes however, give you an insight into their characters : one car rear ends another during a full-on traffic jam. You think to yourself, ‘how totally unnecessary’ and the next minute the drivers of both cars are shaking hands and getting on with life.

Dukley Design Montenegro – artists in residence use the environment to come up with some wildly interpretative images made in cloth, wire, paper, paint and whatever else comes to hand. Visit it on a Sunday and you get it straight from the artist’s mouth, as it were, with their explanations and musings on the works they’ve created.

Let's talk!
Let’s talk!

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Cherry on the top – take a dive into the clear waters, float on your back, peer up into those mountains and allow them to speak to you.

DSC05016Links:

Kotor

Galion Restaurant

Fortress of Kotor

Dukley European Art Community