Anthony Bourdain No Reservations: Eating Rudolph and Getting Bloody in Finland
|At least there aren't leeches involved.|
Arriving in Finland, Tony lets us know that it's freaking cold. In what we call "nailing a point home", he arrives in a Hawaiian shirt as snow swirls outside to meet Hanoi Rocks and New York Dolls musician (and Finnish native) Sami Yaffa. Where do they go? Kokomo Tiki Bar to drink libations in smoking volcanoes. Over cocktails, Sami discusses the joys of Helsinki -- home to the highest suicide rate in the world.
What is there to do in Finland in the winter? Drink, eat, and sauna -- all at the same time. Sami takes Tony to his favorite sauna, which has mold growing on the ceiling. Before they start sweating away their toxins, Tony wraps a few sausages in foil to put over the coals in the sauna. Sami is drinking vodka and grapefruit juice while eating sausage -- in the sauna. It's as disgusting as it sounds... until we get to the cupping. You know when you get to the point in every Sopranos episode or Saw movie where the room is covered in plastic and you just know blood is going to start flowing? Well, this is the same. Sami jumps onto a table lines with a clear plastic shower curtain where a woman proceeds to cut him in many places then place suction cups over each woud to draw out the blood. This is supposed to get toxins out of your body. And some say juice cleanses are weird. It's Tony's turn and frankly it's pretty gruesome, but if anyone needs extreme toxin removal, it's probably a member of the New York Dolls and Tony Bourdain.
It's a cold, dark morning in Helsinki, but morning radio lives on. Tony visits the Radio Rock studios where he drinks licorice booze and pleads to the listeners for someone to supply a grandma who can cook for a segment of the show. Particularly amusing is the DJ saying we have a caller...only one. Luckily the caller has a mother who is both an amazing cook and a professional drunk.
With grandma booked, it's time to make Santa cry. As Tony mentions Santa duck taped to a chair watching his reindeer being slaughtered for meat, I secretly make a wish that his daughter isn't allowed to watch daddy on television.
There are basically two dining choices in Finland -- reindeer or fish. Why not have both? Braised reindeer, reindeer sausage, and a great big hunk of roasted reindeer are paired with many little fishes and lots of vodka. Somewhere there are elves crying.
Since the waters are frozen over, there are no "Tony on a boat" sequences to film, so it's time for Tony to race old VW Beetles on ice. With no tire chains. The idea is to survive two laps on the track. Tony's up for it, but maybe someone should remind him of the high suicide rate. Tony spins out of control, crashes, gets back in the junker and manages to finish next to last.
It's time to eat with the drunk grandma, who shows Tony how to make vagina-shaped pastries as they guzzle what's known as "table booze" in promotional Finlandia shot glasses. Tony's pastry looks a little....off kilter "Like Paris Hilton on a Monday morning." Tony would like to stay and chew the reindeer fat with these affably drunk ladies, but there's more drinking to do, so it's off to a Gypsy bar for a little traditional Finnish Gypsy libation -- Ron de Jeremy rum. what do you serve with Ron Jeremy's rum? How about some horse meat? Please insert joke here.
Tony takes the only tram in the world with a bar car (the tram is actually marked "pub") to Bar Moscow where the bartender serves him bison grass vodka and sandwiches left over from yesterday -- real Soviet style. He tells Tony that he opened a successful bat in 1992, and it was so successful that he decided to open a bar that no one in their right mind would come to. Welcome to an authentic Soviet bar complete with flat beer, lousy service, long speeches.
The one thing that's the same in every city is the fact that when you're drunk you're going to need food. Unless you start drinking at 10 a.m., that means that the good restaurants are probably closed and you have to eat whatever slop is served from some guy on the corner. Sami takes Tony to the Jaskan Grilly food cart where he gets some sort of meat pie that's filled with mustard, mayo, and other stuff, but no meat. "There's meat at the bottom," Sami tells Tony. "You call that meat? That's Rikers Island shit, ketchup, and anal glands," our friend shoots back. Again, in a country known for suicides and nine months of darkness, could you expect better?
Tony sums up the late-night snack (and the whole Helsinki experience), "It puts the self loathing back into drinking and God knows we all need that."
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