Baltic Bites: The Best of Northern Europe

by Matthew Wexler
Tuesday Oct 28, 2014

Looking for a foodie adventure and an excuse to wear your fur-lined parka this winter? New restaurants, star chefs, local produce and deep-rooted culinary traditions make the Baltic Sea region ideal for the culinary traveler. Unique and delicious local produce have allowed the Baltic cities of Hamburg, Warsaw, Riga and Helsinki to produce specialties only found in this special region of Europe.

Restaurants Pop in Helsinki
Four times a year Helsinki becomes one large restaurant; on Restaurant Day the city's licensing laws are lifted and anyone can "open a restaurant" for the day. Hundreds of pop-up restaurants appear throughout Helsinki from star chef food stands to tasty dinner parties in local apartments. The first Restaurant Day was held on May 21, 2011 and included 45 restaurants; today over 38,000 restaurateurs have operated popup restaurants and have served an estimated 1,000,000 customers. The next Restaurant Day is November 15.

Insider Tip:
Those who aren't lucky enough to be in Helsinki on Restaurant Day can pick up the new "Food Helsinki? HEL YEAH" guide from any tourist information office or use the special food map guide on

Star Chefs Wow Warsaw

Warsaw has long been known as one of the coolest cities in Europe and recently it is stepping into the global culinary scene with top restaurants and star chefs. In restaurants like Atelier Amaro, Tamka 43, Opas?y Tom and Sowa i Przyjaciele Polish, cuisine gets a modern twist and wows diners. The "celebrity chef" is also a new culinary phenomenon in Poland, chefs like Wojciech Modest Amaro and Karol Okrasa have restaurants and cooking shows and are quickly becoming household names in Poland.

Insider Tip:
Atelier Amaro -- the only restaurant with a Michelin star in Poland, has a three-month wait for a table.

Riga: Large Scale of Farm-to-Table

Riga, Latvia is home to one of the largest food markets in Europe: the Riga Central Market is located just steps from the Old Town on the banks of the Daugava River. The market is visited daily by over 80,000 people and is a popular place for local delicacies like fresh and smoked fish, marinated and pickled vegetables, Baltic fruit, milk and cheese, as well as country bread, honey and herbs. The five 240 meter-long, 46 meter-wide and 380-meter high halls were built in Riga as airplane hangars and in 1998 the Riga Central Market was included on the UNESCO Global Heritage List.

Putting this local produce to good use are the three chefs of the 3 Chefs' restaurant: Martins Sirmais, Eriks Dreibants and Juris Dukalskis. They take great pride in delicious meals based on the modern Latvian cuisine movement, which values fresh, delicious, seasonal, high quality and healthy food, while supporting local farmers and producers.

Insider Tip:
Get a tour of the Riga Central Market with an Eat Riga tour.

The Sweeter Side of Hamburg

Known the world-over for amazing seafood, Hamburg is also home to one of the tastiest pastries on the planet: the Franzbrötchen. This small, sweet pastry is baked with layers of butter and cinnamon and occasionally chocolate or raisins are added. It is a perfect and quick breakfast treat or enjoyed with a traditional coffee in the afternoon. According to historical tradition, former Hamburgers produced a longish Franzbrot (German for 'French bread'), which resembled the baguette. Legend has it that a baker in Hamburg had once prepared such a Franzbrot in a pan of fat, which is considered the origin of the contemporary Franzbrötchen.

Insider Tip:
The 70-year-old bakery Die Kleine Konditorei (in German) recently won the title of best Franzbrötchen in Hamburg.

For more tips on the ONE Baltic Sea Region, Click here.

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's National Style and Travel Editor. More of his writing can be found at He is also a trained chef and currently writing a food memoir.


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