Eating well and experiencing interesting flavours are an important part of life, both on an everyday basis and in a celebratory context. In Åland you can eat authentic food that tastes great and is produced locally. Many restaurants and cafés work hard on their sustainability credentials.

Pub Stallhagen, located in a naturally beautiful setting by little lake Stallhaga träsk in Finström is a good example. Johanna Dahlgren runs a pub and restaurant, located next to the Stallhagen microbrewery, in a red wooden building that is steeped in tradition and has had Green Key certification since 2016, evidence that there is a constant push to improve sustainability and reduce impact on the environment.

From Åland = as a matter of course

Pub Stallhagen operates on the basis of serving products from Åland and in season. From fish and meat to the pea shoots that decorate its dishes, everything must come from Åland, and they collaborate with about 80 Åland producers!

The restaurant always serves a vegetarian, a fish and a meat dish. Sometimes the menu is changed several times a day depending on what products the restaurant has acquired and in what amounts.

“In terms of fish, we serve whatever has been caught in the fishermen’s nets. We may think we’re going to get cod but then the catch will consist of whitefish and perch, so we serve that,” says Johanna Dahlgren.

Limiting the menu to three dishes is also about reducing food waste. And Johanna Dahlgren has noticed that visitors are increasingly interested in environmental issues.

“A lot has happened in the nine years I’ve been running the restaurant. You also notice how many people choose to eat vegetarian and fish dishes. Today you’ll get 50 per cent ordering fish – at the outset it was just five per cent.”

Focus on fish

Västerro farm is located close to a bay on Herrön, near the southernmost point of Åland’s main island. This is where Anders Westerberg and Maria Sten-Westerberg dedicate their time to fishing, artisan food production, woodcarving and gardening. The fish Anders Westerberg catches is processed in the farm’s own smokehouse and for him it is a matter of pride to use as much as he can of every fish.

“I looked at all the bits people usually throw away and thought that it would be great if you could eat them instead. I started experimenting and now I make crisps out of fishbones and fish skin, hard roe gets smoked and I fry fish skin in butter. In addition, I like using fish that tends not to be so popular, like bullhead and roach,” says Anders Westerberg.

Won artisan food production prize

Anders Westerberg worked together with Åland chef Michael Björklund from the Smakbyn restaurant to develop the “Åland fish selection”, a handcarved ash board for serving delicacies made up of fish trimmings, small fish and what is known as by-catch. In 2016, the fish selection won a prize in the Swedish Gastronomiska Matverk competition for innovative food. Today, Västerro invites groups to come and enjoy the fish selection as well as holding its popular “A sea of delicacies” events.

Västerro was awarded its Green Key certification in the spring of 2019, and the whole enterprise is steeped in the notion of sustainability.

“The conservatory where we serve our guests is constructed from recycled materials. We save water and electricity, and we compost all our food waste and use the soil when we grow fresh vegetables. When you live as close to nature as we do, you want to take care of it,” says Anders Westerberg.

 

Waste not, want not

A third good example in terms of restaurants with a commitment to sustainability is Emmaus Returcafé in Mariehamn. It uses organic locally sourced products as far as possible, and this includes the daily collection of unsaleable products that food stores have removed from their shelves.

“These might be oranges in net bags, for instance. If one fruit in the bag is bad, the whole bag is removed, even if the rest of the fruit is of excellent quality,” says Joel Lindholm, manager of the restaurant.

Vegetarian and vegan

The kitchen tries to put as much as possible of every product to good use. You can squeeze oranges into juice, make the peels into syrup and then dry them.

“We have a really creative job here. We never know in advance what products we’re going to get from the stores – it’s a challenge and it’s fun,” says Joel Lindholm.

Usually Emmaus Returcafé serves vegetarian and vegan dishes, but fish can also be on the menu.

“Then we like to choose what people refer to as by-catch like roach and bream. You can turn it into excellent fish soup,” says Joel Lindholm.

 

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