Here are a couple of food stories from our recent travels.
One night in Finland we went to the National Air Guitar Championships and a show by metal band Waltari. After that and (of course) much drinking, one of our fine hosts, Mikko, was going to give us a lift back to our hotel. As we were walking passed the Parliament building on the way to his car, I asked Mikko if Finland had its own variant of the hot dog. He said they sort of did and tried to describe what he called a meat pie. He then said, “If you want something like that, there’s no better place to get it than right there.” He was pointing to a kiosk not a block away, which was selling food to late night drunks. How could I pass that up?
We went over and of course the menu was all in Finnish. After some prodding Mikko ordered me a “student special.” I was asked what condiments I wanted on it and it was difficult to say since I had no idea what I was getting. I went with ketchup, mustard, and relish and we got the food to go. Back in our hotel room I unwrapped my mysterious bounty to check it out. It was not, in fact, a meat pie but a sandwich that had a hamburger, a hot dog, and chunks of fried bologna in it. Sounds foul I know but Nicole agreed it was pretty tasty.
We found out later that this food kiosk is frequented by members of Parliament and many of them have sandwiches named after them. The last night of the trip, we stopped there again. The stalwart Timo, who was in charge of getting us to the airport in time for our 6 am flight, wanted to make sure we had a chance to eat something after the drunken debauchery of the afterparty. Nicole got the “Tarja Halonen”, named after Finland’s president. This was, IIRC, a “double meat and double cheese” burger. Timo told me they had blood sausages and I was all over that. They were served with a lingonberry sauce on top and that was quite tasty. If you are in Helsinki and want street food at 3 am, find the kiosk by the Parliament building.
In general we found many interesting and delicious things to eat in Finland. Then we went to Indianapolis. In our hotel room one of the travel magazines had a cover story called “Chain City USA.” It talked about how Indianapolis had more chain restaurants than just about anywhere. More than that, folks in Indy liked it that way because chains are consistent. Eyaaa. So I had OK meals at Rock Bottom Brewery, Palomino, and PF Changs (chains all), but given the choice I’ll take something homegrown and unique every time. The last night in Indy we did our traditional Green Ronin end of con dinner at a Brazilian churrascaria called Fogo de Chão. This too was part of a chain, but it was started in Brazil and the Indy location is run by one of the founders. It was not cheap but at last we found a chain place worth going back to next year. Not only was it endless meat on swords brought right to your table, the meat was really well cooked. Even something as mundane as chicken legs was juicy and bursting with flavor. In some churrascarias the quantity of meat seems more important than the quality, but I must say that Fogo de Chão delivered in both areas. It turned out one of our waiters was a Warhammer Fantasy Battle player too. What are the odds?