The summer’s most delightful food-tour idea: Turku–Åland

This summer, get to know turku and Åland’s flourishing food culture – as well as eating well aboard the Viking Line cruise from Turku to Mariehamn. Our local guide accompanying us on the journey is food envoy Micke Björklund.

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The morning begins with what Amorella has to offer

“The ship is not a bus,” exclaims Viking Lines product manager Valpuri Mäkinen and qualifies the statement immediately:

“When holidaying in Stockholm or Åland, a cruise is definitely one of the highlights of your trip. Avoid congested means of transport and enjoy travelling in a refreshingly different way.”

There are many ways to enjoy the ship and there’s something for everyone. Be captivated by the spectacular archipelago scenery, relax with a spa treatment, shop in the tax-free stores, party from one bar to another…

More and more passengers come on the cruise to indulge in good food at their leisure, and aboard ship there’s no reason to hurry anywhere.

For lovers of food

Viking Line has been investing more in their food and drink than ever before.

And that’s a lot.

“Nowadays, people are really interested in food. For example, nowadays our A La Cárte breakfast is often booked right to the end,” explains our host.

Made by hand

Connoisseurs will appreciate the premium delicacies made from start to finish in the ship’s kitchen, coffee served straight to the table, and that the breakfast includes a sparkling glass of wine that starts the day in just the right way.

And when you find a wine on board you really like, you can pick up a bottle from the tax-free-shop to take home.

Our journey goes via Mariehamn, where many the cruise passengers disembark, according to Valpuri Mäkinen. The Finns have discovered that Åland is a real culinary destination, and with real justification.

“Åland’s food culture is currently undergoing a remarkable renaissance. For example, the Skördefesten (harvest festival) in Åland (20th–22nd September 2019) attracts knowledgeable foodies, both local and from the mainland. On Åland itself there are excellent fresh ingredients, a fantastic little brewery and a healthy number of good restaurants given the size of the province.

  • Afternoon Tea, anyone?

    What if your plan is to dine properly in Åland, but during the cruise you want socialise and just have something small to nibble on?

    Top recommendation: Afternoon Tea at Amorella’s Coffee & Wine restaurant!

    The trolley table brought to your includes all manner of fresh treats, from scones, with butter and jam, to small baked goods and pastries – as many as seven different varieties. Your treat is washed down with some perfectly brewed English tea. Well, of course you can have coffee, but no need to run up the Finnish flag. Afternoon Tea is available aboard Amorella from 12pm–7pm.

Smakbyn – a gourmet paradise

When food tourists head to Åland, often their number one priority is to visit Smakbyn. Located just 20 minutes drive from Mariehamn, this mecca of flavour is the realisation of a dream for local food guru Micke Björklund.

Just like in Strömsö!

Micke Björlund is Åland’s master chef, who many remember from the cult TV-show Strömsö. He also came fifth in the 1999 Bocuse d'Or as well as being a tireless advocate and agent of authentic local cuisine.

"My twist is no twist"

“My idol in the kitchen is my own mother – my twist is no twist,” says Micke Björklund as he enlightens us on the food-philosophy in his restaurants. He doesn’t want the taste of what is served to be too gimmicky. Another cornerstone of the philosophy is the desire for the dining table to bring people together.

A meal is a shared experience

“When I think about a good meal, I often imagine a large table, family, relations and friends. Good food involves a shared experience, and the best chefs are the most affable, taking care of large, joyful parties.”

With these points of view in mind, Smakbyn is not a typical place for fine dining, but rather an atmospheric and uncomplicated bistro. It serves a lot of Åland’s deliecacies, prepared form local ingredients, such as the lamb and locally grown vegetables, from potatoes to apples.

Alongside the restaurant, there is also a distillery and shop on the premises. If you miss the chance, you can also buy the distillery’s products aboard Viking Line.

  • Liqueurs from Åland

    Allow us to introduce you to a few of the Smakbyn-distillery’s products. The selection on board may vary, but here’s a peek at what’s on the shelves.

    Päråla
    Smakbyn pear liqueur is suitable to accompany deserts, but also pairs well with hard creamy chesses or in cocktails.

    Röd Granit
    "Red granite" is Åland’s cherry liqueur, with a hint of bitter almond. Try it in cocktails or accompanied with chocolates.

    Appleaud
    ​​​​​​​This apple liqueur has a strong, sweet taste of apple. It goes great with, for example, white chocolate or vanilla ice-cream and a fresh berry desert, and also serves well in cocktails.​​​​​​​

Micke Björklund plans to develop Smakbyn into a place where people can come to learn about food and deepen their own culinary enthusiasm.

“It’s part of my plan that one day we can come and prepare our own cheese, for example. I believe that this will really be something fun and interesting for people.

Tip: On Viking Line you can buy a group package, in which the cruise takes in a Smakbyn-experience tour. Take a look at the options below.   

  • Micke Björklund Åland-experience

    So, according to Micke Björklund, what are the perfect holiday activities in Åland?

    1. Hire a bicycle and ride to the north, up to Geta. Enjoy the view – it couldn’t be more wonderful here, when the wind is in the right direction.

    2. The maritime museum is particularly nice and tells you interesting things about Åland

    3. Rent a kayak and canoe across the sea. You can stay overnight on a little island.

    4. Eat well in Smakbyn or at some other of the delightful places in Åland. According to Micke, these include the Pub Stallhagen, Havsvidden Hotel, Kvarter 5 and ÅSS Paviljongen.

Viking Grace brings you back to Turku

On the return journey from Mariehamn to Turku, I continue chatting with Micke Björklund whilst at the same time enjoying Oscar’s seafood platter and some Essentiel champagne from Essi Avellan. The ship is now Viking Grace, the newest ship of the fleet, with a collection of restaurants that freshly follow current trends.

Oscar à La Carte is Viking Grace’s number one restaurant offering stylish and genuine fine dining. It’s a great place to escape and focus on dining in a tranquil atmosphere with nothing but the gentle tone of wine glasses clinking in the background.

If, during your trip, a more formal experience is not to your liking, you can find good food elsewhere. For example, Frank's combines the simple self-service concept with a modern and diverse selection, from ramen-noodles to pizza and steaks.  

Evening bite ad Pub Niska

Micke Björklund is travelling to Turku, where he runs one of his Pub Niska restaurants. Niska are especially known for their archipelago pizzas, which a versions of the classic with bases as thin as sheets.

A tribute to a secret smuggler

“The name of the Niska restaurants, which is now found across five cities, is inspired by the Ålander Algoth Niska,” explains Micke and continues:

“Niska was quite an individual, known as a footballer and a bootlegging adventurer, who smuggled prohibited alcohol around the island areas, but who also took great risks to save Jews from areas occupied by Germany during the Second World War.”

In expanding his own restaurant empire, Micke Börklund has of course noticed the rise of Turku’s restaurant scene, to which he notes:

“A food tour, which takes in both Åland and Turku, is a really superb idea as a holiday for couples or groups who love their food. It really is the axis around which food culture is developing right now.”

And of course the journey is well worth making aboard Viking Line, with whom Micke Björklund has collaborated on various projects over the years

“It says something about the standard, that the food on offer on the Red ships has already for several years been developed in cooperation with the Swedish Culinary Team. It’s a great thing that Viking Line has taken the development of food culture to the core of its activities on board.

RESERVATIONS

In cooperation with Viking Line.
Text Liina Komi. Video and photos Kim Allen-Mersh.

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