By Mara Papatheodorou, your Tastes & Traditions Expert
When sailing on Regent Seven Seas Cruises®, the summer beauty of Northern Europe and the Baltic beckons from captivating London to beautiful Tallinn. Architectural splendors abound in each city from medieval buildings in Gdańsk to the modern buildings of Stockholm to the breathtaking and ornate palaces of St. Petersburg. Museums in Amsterdam highlight artistic wonders from masters like Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Vermeer. On the food front, the region’s culinary tapestry serves up smoked fish and meats, dairy like yogurt, rich cream, butter and cheeses as well as potatoes, root vegetables, grains, herbs, apples, berries and jams.
Potatoes have a real purpose! Not only are they served on Scandinavian and Russian tables – baked, boiled, mashed or roasted – but its remnants are readily poured into a glass. Try a chilled shot of aquavit, a clear and potent Scandinavian liquor distilled from potatoes and flavored with dill or caraway seed. Grains like barley, malt, rye and wheat are not only good in bread, soups and stews but when distilled are a vital element in beers. And Danish, Dutch and Finnish brews deliciously deliver. Vodka is one of the biggest commodities of Northern Europe and well worth sipping while in port or taking a bottle home, especially from Finland or Russia.
A Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian or Swedish smorgasbord is a traditional buffet offering a little bit of everything. Smoked salmon, pickled herring, cured meats, cheeses, boiled potatoes and salads are presented alongside butters, mustards and local lingonberry or cloudberry condiments. Favorite desserts are jam tarts and butter cookies. In Russia, it is all about caviar or borscht, a cold or warm beet soup. Taste and enjoy!
SAIL: Scandinavia & St. Petersburg, Russia. Before sailing away, bring Scandinavian or Russian flavors and flair home. Shop for Danish, Swedish or Finnish tabletop items or trinkets of traditional blue and white porcelain or modern designs in silver or cut crystal. Carved blonde wood pieces in Scandinavia are prominent while black lacquer boxes with colorful designs are Russian signature mementos. Scandinavian butter cookies make a great gift. For vodka, buy Finlandia in Finland or Stolichnaya in Russia.
SIP: Aquavit, Beer or Vodka. In Norway and Sweden, it’s all about aquavit. The Dutch and the Danes love their beer and it remains both Holland and Denmark’s number one export. In Amsterdam look for Heineken or Amstel and in Copenhagen sip the local star Carlsberg. And for a true sipping adventure, the Danes enjoy a shot of aquavit followed by a beer chaser! The Finnish appreciate beer too and the local labels are Koff, Kahru or Lapin Kulta. With vodka, the Finnish sip Finlandia and the Russians sip Stolichnaya.
SAVOR: Smoked Fish, Cured Meats, Potatoes & Hearty Cheeses From smoked salmon or white fish to pickled herring, fish is a main component at any meal in this part of the world. Cured meats from hams to reindeer complement milky cheeses like Gouda and Edam and boiled potatoes on their own or in salads are ever present too.
Mara Papatheodorou is a Master Foodie, a Tastes & Traditions Expert and a nationally established entertaining specialist. She has interpreted the cuisine and experienced the culture of over 65 countries worldwide. As an 11 year Contributing Editor at BON APPETIT Magazine, Mara scouted and produced the Entertaining with Style section that highlighted how real people entertain around the country and the world and was editor of their international editions. She works as a consultant with food companies developing recipes, menus and promotional campaigns.
Mara is the Tastes & Traditions Expert for Regent Seven Seas Cruises where she lectures regularly about the history of cuisine and culture and what to sip and savor in various ports. Mara will sail on Seven Seas Voyager from Australia to New Zealand in January 2014 and on Seven Seas from New England to Canada in October 2014. You can read more about her at www.marapapa.com