The Finnish Holiday Fair

Every year for the last 40 (at least), the Finnish society here in the DC area, Kipinäkerho, now called Finn Spark, has put on a holiday market. It is always held in Bethesda, Maryland, at a church in the woods (Finland has a lot of woods).

Finnish prune star pastry.

There is food to buy and food to eat there. I went to buy the Karelian pies and cardamom milk bread, pulla, (like challah) and the gingerbread… almost everything was sold out by noon. Those Finns get up early!

Rye flour “dumplings” which are served with egg butter (eggs mashed with butter).
A gingerbread house that sits on a cup or glass.

I also bought rye bread. Finnish rye bread is made from a mother yeast extracted from the air. This is not strong yeast so the bread is mild and flat. And dense. I recall chewing quite hard as a kid to eat this bread. Now as an adult, I love it even more because of the memories it brings me.

Memories are often the thing that makes a food delicious. Nostalgia is a strong ingredient.

Knitwear and Finnish American.
More stuff for sale.

There were also other things for sale, but I was less interested in those. They were giving away free cookbooks so I took one of those. Maybe I will try a recipe. But more likely, I will wait till next year to get more gingerbread. Or I can go into Mikko’s cafe in Dupont.

Traditional woven birch bark shoes.

All five of the Nordic countries have holiday markets in the fall. I will have to catch them all next year.

Stroller parking. Yes, this is a Finnish event.

Lithuanian Food – The Surprise

Beet soup.

While I went on a food tour in Riga, in Vilnius, I was lucky enough to have a local show me the food. We even had some of the classics like beet soup, stuffed cabbage, and crepes. But, I also tried a surprise.

Stuffed cabbage.

The surprise was deep fried rye bread smothered in garlic, bacon, and cheese. Like Baltic nachos. They were equally delicious.

Fried rye bread.

When I visited, there was a street fair so I was able to see many of the other foods of the area from smoked fish to sausage.

Rye bread.
Smoked eel.
Mushroom confectionary.

Another surprise was a popular confectionary shaped like a mushroom. Mushrooms are a popular staple in Baltic food but these sweets were a sad knockoff.

But, the beet soup was yummy and such an arresting color!

Estonian Food

Elk at Rataskaevu.

Estonian food is so different than Italian food. But in a way, very familiar. I went a well known restaurant, Rataskaevu, in old town Tallin and ate in a picturesque tavern.

Rye bread at Rataskaevu.
Rye and poppy seed bread from Moon.

Of course, I tried the elk. But I did not like it as much as the salmon soup and the rye bread.

Salmon soup at Rataskaevu.
Salmon soup at Moon.

Near me was an international group of friends who had travel over from Stockholm, Sweden, for lunch, emphasizing how small the distances can be up here in the Nordic-Baltic region where the transportation and WIFI are fast.


In Tallin, all the restaurant staff spoke excellent English. It make visiting quite easy.

Blinis at Moon.

Tallin is a favorite city for many people and I asked one where he thought I should eat. He recommended Moon, and it was delicious.

Pickled appetizers at Moon.

When I admitted to the waitress that I did not like the pickled appetizer platter, she admitted that generally one needed to be drinking vodka with it.

Chicken Kiev at Moon.

The “Chicken Kiev” was the best I have had. It was light, moist, juicy, buttery, crunchy, and delicate.

A hand pie, dumpling, at Moon.