Monday, July 23, 2012

Farmors Cafe

Hello Finland. Or “Hyvää päivää”, as it’s said in this country.  Neither Corey nor I have been to Finland before, and as of yesterday, every aspect of this country seemed completely foreign to us. Everything from the language to the public transportation system made us feel as though we were out of our element and far away from the familiarities of Stockholm, which we had come to call home for the last three weeks. That feeling dissipated quickly as our ferry docked on the island of Hiittinnen and we walked a short distance, along the flower covered path to the village of Högsåra, and finally arrived at Farmors Café.

A sense of  being at “home” came over us immediately, as we filled our hungry tummies with fish soup, feta salad and hot coffee. We breathed in the fresh island air, and exhaled a sigh of relief.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day, so we sat at one of the picnic tables on the outdoor veranda. We were truly in heaven with a view of the garden, sheep and the rabbits; surrounded by playing children and friends eating and drinking together.

Farmors café is family run by Mother Ylva, Father Mats, and daughters Alexandra and Amanda. Most of the employees are childhood friends of Alexandra and Amanda who also grew up on the island. We met the adorable Amanda as she was running around the café barefoot – just having woken up from a long night of baking and ready to go again.  This is the busiest time of year at Farmors cafe, as July brings boaters docking on the island and guests from all over Europe to the café.

It wasn’t long before the history of the house was shared with us over coffee and conversation with Mats and Ylva.  The house, some 300 years old, has been in the family for generations. It was always used as a “Lill Stuga,” a place where grandparents retire to after moving out of the main family house, a tradition common in Finnish culture.  Mats’ grandparents were the last to live in the house fulltime before the house turned into a summer cottage. This summer cottage became Mats and Ylva’s favorite place to be, and when their daughters were young, they often entertained guests who came to visit, serving coffee and cakes that Ylva baked.  “The café naturally developed,” explains Ylva. “It started small and then grew and grew, and now we have 15-20 employees along with the entire family here during the summer.”  Mats, a sea pilot and professor by trade,  drove us around the island so that we could closely inspect the three giant wind-turbines that power the island. In fact, Hiittinnen has the highest ratio of wind-turbines to residents. Högsåra has a population of 50 during the year, and triples during the summer with the influx of summerhouse visitors. The café runs on energy produced by the wind-turbines, so not only is this café idyllic, but it’s green too!

Back at the café we were invited to coffee and dessert; an assortment of blueberry, strawberry, caramel and carrot cakes and a giant meringue covered in whipped cream, strawberries and mint leaves. The food and cakes at Farmors Café were overwhelmingly delicious and beautiful. All of the pastries were sprinkled with edible flowers or summer fruits, most of them grown in their own garden. “We only serve food we like to eat ourselves,” said llva, and they don’t put any money into advertising. Somehow, miraculously, people find out about this café on this tiny island in the Finnish archipelago and somehow, thankfully, we did as well.

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