New cities are full of possibilities. My first night in Helsinki, I spent several hours traipsing around the narrow historic streets and the broad tree-lined esplanades, getting a feel for this unfamiliar and exhilarating territory. Exploring a cityscape in search of quirky sights and unexpected urban landmarks to write a treasure hunt game often occupies my brain for hours until I realize that it’s gotten dark and it’s way past time for dinner. But that brings me to the best part about traveling to new places – finding the most delicious and exciting local food to eat. And I was luckily enough to stumble upon the warm and inviting shopfront of Eat&Joy Maatilatori right by the central train station.
Eat&Joy Maatilatori is a fantastic place that should exist in every urban space – it’s essentially a farmer’s market in a shop that sources local foods from all over Finland to bring to city consumers. Offerings range from the very fresh (cheese and yogurt from nearby dairy farms, just-baked rye bread, fruits and vegetables) to the canned, jarred, and otherwise long-lasting (jams, jellies, chocolates, mustards, and more) as well as lots of baskets. Apparently Finland is big on baskets.
Chatting with the man at the counter, I learned that Eat&Joy opened for a trial period beginning in June and after a successful three month stint, would be opening as a permanent location just the next day. The shop owners are dedicated to showcasing the best of small Finnish producers – some who might not otherwise reach a large consumer base – and apparently the public has responded with enthusiasm. Who wouldn’t be enthusiastic about Finnish riispiirakka, a palm-sized rye pastry filled with just-barely- sweet rice pudding?
Especially when they’re place on beautifully designed Finnish tea towels. As a brief segue…the graphic and textile design in Finland is, unsurprisingly, spectacular. I covet every single item in the Marimekko store and hope that someday my kitchen will be decked out in extremely expensive but oh-so-gorgeous tea towels and oven mitts and cloth napkins and tablecloths and I will be an enviable domestic goddess with pastries in the oven, decked out in a spotless Marimekko apron. Well, actually that’s not true. I want to have a real, bustling, happy, full-of-life-and-love-and-food-probably-a-little-(lot)-of-mess kitchen. I don’t really want to live in the polished and gleaming perfection of the Marimekko store….
…or maybe I do.