Archive for February, 2012

January special dinner: A long-expected party

February 26, 2012

We are continuing our special monthly dinner project this year. For this year I have adopted a new theme: food from The Lord of the Rings. Some of you may recall my dabbling in Middle-Earth cookery a while back. I have brought those researches out again and this year’s cycle of dinners will take us through the novel.

January’s dinner came and went amidst the bustle of getting back from Finland and starting classes, so I never wrote it up properly. And so, here it is.

“When every guest had been welcomed and was finally inside the gate, there were songs, dances, music, games, and, of course, food and drink. There were three official meals: lunch, tea, and dinner (or supper). But lunch and tea were marked chiefly by the fact that at those times all the guests were sitting down and eating together. At other times there were merely lots of people eating and drinking – continuously from elevenses until six-thirty, when the fireworks started.”

Our first dinner is perhaps the most famousest of LotR meals (not counting, I guess, Samwise Gamgee’s rabbit stew, to which we will return later in the year): Bilbo Baggins’s 111th birthday party.

When I went back to the book to look for inspiration, I was surprised to discover that for all that we hear about the excitement of the occasion for the folk of the Shire, Tolkien tells us nothing at all about what they ate. Thus I have had to use my imagination and the other (admittedly copious) information the novel supplies about hobbitish food to make a dinner that is grand enough for a party of special magnificence, but homely enough to delight a hobbit. Here is the result: potato and cream soup for an appetizer, followed by roast pork with ginger gravy and roasted vegetables, with homemade strawberry ice cream for dessert. We opened a bottle of wine to drink– not quite Old Winyards, but very pleasant all the same.

Potato cream soup

Roast pork and roasted vegetables

Strawberry ice cream


Finnish Christmas: Helsinki days

February 21, 2012

Continuing to update from our Christmas trip.

December 29-30

Our sleeping is still mixed up. We mostly sleep through the night, but we keep on waking up early in the morning. That makes it easy to get to breakfast before the room fills up, but we keep getting worn out through the day and having to stop for a nap.

Our hotel, right in the center of Helsinki

On the 29th we met up with Lissu to go see a movie and do a little shopping. We spent some of the afternoon together, then E. and I went out together for dinner. Our ninth anniversary was yesterday, but since we were traveling that day it wasn’t such a good day for celebrating. We went to Kappeli, a rather fancy restaurant in the Esplanadi park. The restaurant was nearly full when we arrived, but we were able to get a table. Since this was a celebratory dinner, we splurged on some wine and a couple of set menus. E. had a menu with mushroom soup, grilled fish, and blueberry cheesecake. I took a menu which was little tastes of lots of different things: herring, reindeer, salad, crayfish soup, grilled fish, raspberry sorbet, and a chocolate petit-four. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, then headed back to the hotel to crash for the night.

Kappeli restaurant

There seem to be a lot of Russians visiting Helsinki for the holiday. We keep hearing Russian being spoken around us in the hotel, in restaurants, in stores and on the street. It shouldn’t be such a surprise considering that the countries are neighbors (and that, in my prejudiced way, I don’t blame any Russians for wanting to be somewhere other than Russia), but in my previous visits to Finland, even to Helsinki, I have never seen so many.

Helsinki market square on a quiet winter afternoon

On the 30th, we had plans to get together with a bunch of E.’s old friends for a potluck dinner. E. and I went out shopping during the day for supplies. In the afternoon Lissu came by and led us to the apartment where the get-together was planned. Since several of the guests are vegetarians, I made rice and bean fajitas; other people contributed fresh guacamole, salad, drinks, and dessert. Most of the people who came are people that I know and have spent a little time with and they’re all wonderful people. Unfortunately, I was getting very tired and before long I had to leave. I would have wanted to stay, but there was no way I could. I headed back to the hotel and went to bed.

Catching up: Fall special dinners

February 10, 2012

I never got around to posting about our special dinners from last fall, so here is an update.  My theme for last year was fresh local foods, so of course the fall harvest was a great resource.


September’s dinner started with cold carrot and beet soup.  The main course was stuffed cabbage rolls in rosemary mint sauce and roasted potatoes.  Dessert was a ginger peach pie.

Cold carrot and beet soup

Cabbage rolls stuffed with ground beef and herbs in rosemary mint sauce, with roasted potato wedges

Ginger peach custard pie

Local ingredients: beets, cabbage, carrots, eggs, peaches, rosemary



For October we opened with pumpkin ravioli with butter and fresh herbs, followed by ham with artichoke and mashed potatoes, ending with an apple tart.  (Locally grown artichokes!  Who would have imagined?)

Homemade pumpkin ravioli with parsley, sage, and butter

Baked ham with fruit sauce, mashed potato, and artichoke with hollandaise sauce

Apple tart

Local ingredients: apples, artichoke, eggs, ham, pumpkin



November’s dinner started with a salad followed by scallops with rice and dandelion greens.  Pumpkin cheesecake was the dessert.

A salad of greens with roasted apple and squash, topped with crushed cashews


Seared scallops, rice, and dandelion greens cooked with bacon

Pumpkin cheesecake

Local ingredients: apples, bacon, dandelion greens, pumpkin, scallops, squash