When the actors behind the Kvarken Council-owned cross-border project Spotlight High-Low Coast pondered how they could celebrate the World Heritage Site’s 10-year anniversary, the idea of a World Heritage Menu quickly surfaced. In other words, the idea took the form of a four-course menu consisting of ingredients from the High Coast and the Kvarken Archipelago – naturally composed by a renowned and well-known top chef.
The obvious choice for the top chef was the Åland-born Michael Björklund, who is known from several TV shows and as the Finnish Food Ambassador for the New Nordic Food programme. In addition, Michael has won the Chef of the Year competitions both in Finland and Sweden and gained the fifth place in the renowned Bocuse d’Or competition (a French cooking competition considered as the field’s world championship). For Ålanders, Michael is mostly known as Micke and as the founder of the Smakbyn restaurant, which combines a restaurant, a distillery and a shop.
During his career, Michael has aimed at promoting Nordic food, ingredients and producers, and thanks to his love for new challenges, the assignment fits him like a glove.
– The region around the High Coast and Kvarken Archipelago World Heritage Site is like a second home to me, and I’m incredibly impressed by all the region’s hard-working entrepreneurs and producers, Michael tells.
The feeling is mutual – Michael is a very hospitable and loved cook, and it is impossible not to enjoy his company. His menu was presented onboard the M/S Wasa Express ferry in Umeå at the end of August, and it consists of ingredients that are old friends but, to some extent, also quite new for him.
Pretty Like a Picture
One of these ingredients is fermented herring, which is the main part of the Amuse-bouche or appetizer.
– For many, this appetizer can be their first contact with fermented herring, and we have made sure that it will be a very mild and gentle introduction to the delicacy, because the piece of fish from Ulvön will be served with soft potato puree, red onion, whipped crème fraiche and a bit of sautéed butter, Michael explains.
The first course is pretty like a picture and consists of tartar of trout from Bergö on a Västerbotten cheese cream mirror. The composition is crowned with Malax loaf croutons, cucumber and tomato slices, and whitefish roe from the Ritgrund lighthouse island in the Kvarken Strait.
The presentation of the menu onboard Wasaline’s ferry was attended by Michael and the representatives of the project, the media and the ferry’s staff, and all were equally ecstatic by the delicious food.
Berries in a Refined Form
The main course did not let anyone down, either.
– The main course consists of beef tenderloin and tender beef cheek from Nordingrå, served with stewed chanterelles, vegetable ragout with pork belly and syrup made from Replot cranberries. The dish is topped off with almond potato compote, Michael elaborates.
The grand finale consists of lightly frozen mousse made from Vallgrund sea buckthorns and topped off with raspberry sorbet, chocolate crunch and caramel or toffee sauce.
Attracting New Visitors
The unique menu will be served onboard the M/S Wasa Express ferry’s à la carte restaurant during September, and the project’s actors hope that the menu will attract several new visitors to the High Coast, Kvarken Archipelago, Vaasa and Umeå.
– The cooperation project, which is mainly financed via the INTERREG/Botnia-Atlantica programme, aims at creating new inducements to visit the region, such as taste experiences and new product packages that combine components from both sides of the Kvarken, explains Project Leader Marianne Sjöström. The goal is to increase public awareness of the area and consequently contribute to a larger number of visitors.
The menu might even be served in some carefully selected restaurants on both sides of the Kvarken at a later stage. The project’s actors are very satisfied with the menu, and Michael’s enthusiasm about the ingredients is palpable. When the chef is asked about his own favourite dish, the answer is quick.
– Pea soup, he answers with a twinkle in his eyes. Green pea soup with pork fat, onions, mustard and a cheese sandwich.
So says the celebrity chef with both feet firmly on the ground.
Amuse-bouche or appetizer
Fermented Baltic herring from Ulvön with potato puree, red onion and whipped crème fraiche
The first course
Tartar on trout from Bergö with Ritgrund whitefish roe and Västerbotten cheese cream
The main course
Beef tenderloin and tender beef cheek from Nordingrå, served with stewed chanterelles, vegetable ragout with pork belly and syrup made from Replot cranberries, and almond potato compote
The grand finale
Lightly frozen mousse made from Vallgrund sea buckthorns with raspberry sorbet, chocolate crunch and caramel sauce
Text and photos: Anna Sand / Kvarken Council’