Finnair invited me to Helsinki to participate in a two-day foodie event; that included a restaurant-hopping experience in Helsinki along with ten other bloggers. The event aimed to acquaint us with local producers and their products that have recently launched on the airline. But the most exciting part for me was the behind the scenes inflight catering kitchen tour, followed by a long haul meal service lunch on the ground.
Full disclosure: The airline provided me with return business class flights, as well as accommodation.
ZURICH TO HELSINKI
Twenty minutes after takeoff, the cabin crew took drink orders and began to serve these in the cabin. Having heard about the Finnair Blueberry juice so much, I ordered it, and the crew member suggested I try it with Champagne, The Joseph Perrier is a 35% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier, including about 20% reserve wine that’s about three years old. A 750ml bottle retails for about EUR40, and while not a huge Champagne connoisseur, I enjoyed the taste.
On previous Finnair flights I’ve taken with the airline they have served Nicholas Grande Réserve Brut Champagne.
Forty minutes after takeoff the inflight meal was served, there was a choice of Salmon Lasagna or Beef with cranberries and mashed peas. I opted for the Salmon Lasagna; the entree was a selection of smoked vendace, which is a white fish found in the lakes of Northern Europe specifically around Finland, Russia, Sweden and Estonia.
The fish was served with some lemon and tomato mayonnaise and watercress. I am not a huge fan of whole fish when I see them on a plate; however, I enjoyed the taste and the smokiness of fish and the mayonnaise paired well. The salmon lasagna was quite creamy but at the same time, still light and delicious.
I feel the only negative feedback that I have for Finnair was the dessert; I thought that the Peach and passion cake lacked flavour. It tasted ready-made and was rather dull.
FINNAIR CATERING HELSINKI
I spent the afternoon visiting a food market and then met the other bloggers for our restaurant hopping session. The following day we visited the Finnair Catering Centre located at Helsinki Airport.
Finnair Catering employs around 510 people and serves approximately 12,000 meals a day. The airline tells me that the onboard food service is always a topic of interest when conducting passenger surveys. Therefore based on this feedback, Finnair has been investing heavily in their long haul dining concepts to offer a more Nordic experience for travellers.
LONG HAUL MEAL EXPERIENCE
At our sit down long haul lunch experience, we met Tommy Myllymaki, a famous Swedish chef and restaurateur. He has been working with Finnair since February 2018 to create their long haul business class meal concepts. It was interesting to hear his experience with airline catering and the challenges that chefs face daily to create airline food. Tommy explained how he uses his Nordic culture to create dishes that are Nordic but with a slight twist.
The long haul meal experience in business class, in my opinion, is clean and true to the region. The Marimekko tableware used is beautiful and sleek, and those glass tumblers are fantastic.
First up was a side salad of greens with cucumber followed by a cold smoked salmon with horseradish coleslaw.
For the mains, there were two choices, a smoked arctic char and salsify puree with dill seasoned white wine sauce or the Tommy Myllymaki creation of a Braised beef cheek and celeriac with cranberry and red wine sauce, roasted onion and marinated apple.
It was such a pleasing dish, the beef was so tender that it just melted in my mouth, and the entire dish was so hearty and comforting; it was like eating a home-cooked meal.
For dessert Finnair served a JYMY coconut and lime ice cream dessert, it’s vegan and gluten-free which was surprising because it tasted great, I loved it, and it was lush and tangy.
Before long, it was time to say goodbye and head over to the Maku brewing to learn about their product, and how Finnair has partnered with them to provide a truly Finnish beer experience onboard. Maku Brewing was set up in 2014 and was selected to provide Finnair business class passengers with their Maku Blueberry flavoured beer. While I am not a huge beer drinker, I found the taste to be quite interesting and it provides passengers with a Finnish beer experience onboard.
HELSINKI TO ZURICH
Finally, it was time to head back to Zurich and once again experience Finnair. Departure time was 1630, and drink orders were taken forty minutes after takeoff. Drinks were served from a trolley by a junior flight attendant who started at row four and then moved towards me in row one. There was no meal choice for me on this flight as the second option was already out by the time they asked me. I received my meal fifty minutes after departure.
My meal this time consisted of a smoked salmon entree, followed by beef with mash and vegetables and a chocolate cake for dessert. I couldn’t fault the starter or the main meal, the meal was again quite comforting and reminded me of something you would eat on a cold winters day. Still, my only complaint was the dessert, and it felt like I was eating a packet mix cake that you can get from the supermarket.
There’s so much talk about airlines being more sustainable, and just how much waste is created by airlines worldwide. So it was great to hear about the Finnair initiatives towards a cleaner environment. By 2022 the airline is hoping to reduce single plastic use in their kitchens by 50% and recycle 50% of plastic waste for reuse by the end of 2022.
They are also trying to reduce food wastage inflight by 50% before the end of 2020. You may notice small changes onboard such as individual-sized milk portions replaced by Finnish milk served from cartons, and more sustainable packaging uses onboard aircraft and an increase in recycling of onboard products.
A big thanks to Finnair for this fantastic experience.