The art of turning sugar into fine and irresistible things flourishes in Finland, reason enough to hope for continued domestic production of the sweet stuff.By EU standards Finns have a moderate sweet tooth and it is of remarkably recent origin. Before the introduction of domestic sugar production some hundred years ago, sugar was a rare treat in Finland. Now it is, as the popular song puts it, sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at supper time. Two young chefs have turned sugar into such stuff as dreams are made on.
If you step into Vesa Parviainen and Samuli Wirgentius' Michelin-starred establishment Postres, you can learn how the dreams are in fact made. Vesa Parviainen concentrates carefully, bending over close to the plate, positions the brush at just the right angle and meticulously paints a green line of pistachio. Then he sprinkles flakes of edible gold leaf over it. Voilà. The master has left his artistic signature on yet another dessert. A postre including rhubarb seasoned with juniper berries, malt-muscovado pastry and strawberry sorbet is ready. At this restaurant specialising in desserts, sugar is everywhere.
Postres was born out of Parviainen and Wirgentius's idea of establishing Finland's first restaurant to serve only desserts. The two chefs soon realised, though, that there was not enough demand for a menu offering only desserts, so they expanded toward offering a full range of restaurant dishes. However desserts retain a central role in the restaurant's world of flavours and its image. Sometimes during the summer the menu reverts to its original all-desserts line-up - but only when there is sufficient supply of domestic berries.
"In the summer, you don't really need to add sugar to domestic berries. They are so aromatic just as they are," Parviainen says.
Postres does not go in for molecule gastronomy; rather it relies on the classics and handicraft. The idea is to recapture the flavours of Grandma's house, in a fancier form. Parviainen points out that it is not just important how a dish tastes. The whole entity must work, including the wine. And the food must also feel good in your mouth.
"If everything had the same type of mushy texture, it would give you a weak overall impression," he says, crinkling his nose. "You have to have contrasts - cold and warm, soft and crispy."
These add up to a perfect whole - a work of art that seduces the senses.
By Tiia Lappalainen
Photos Kreetta Järvenpää