Ravintolapäivä / Restaurant Day

So last Sunday was Restaurant Day again. And after years of thinking it would be funny to join in, this year I did.

Restaurant Day from Cocoa on Vimeo.

Firstly, I suppose I should tell you what it is. In short: for one day everyone is encouraged to open their own restaurant. It’s been running now, for probably 2 or 3 years and has been pretty much wildly successful. As I heard the organiser say on the radio as we were in the last throws of hectic prep, food is a common experience for everyone. It brings people together to share and enjoy themselves. It celebrates cultural differences. It’s a genius idea actually. And I’m happy that I’ve finally played a part in that and shared a little taste of my homeland to some of my neighbours too.

Maiju is definitely the one with the craftwork skills.

We had the “South Pacific Sweet Store” which consisted of a handful of sweet treats from NZ. I would have loved to have made my favorite things from NZ: snapper, lamb, mint sauce and kumara, but the reality is that all of those things are either impossible to get here (snapper, kumara), prohibitively expensive (lamb) and/or just basically impractical (cooking things warm on the day would be hard work and with meat of course there are hygiene issues to consider too). After a long time thinking about it, I figured that making sweets was pretty much the most only thing I could do:

  • ahead of time (to decrease on-the-day stress),
  • at scale,
  • relatively cheaply,
  • that would be glutenfree and vegetarian and
  • that would be from my homeland

An in the end I think that decision was completely justified. The whole thing went better than I could have expected.

We were set up in Karhupuisto, which had was awesome because there was probably another 5 or 10 restaurants there. So there was plenty of people coming through and only a 50 meter walk with our dining table to the park. And I’d say that within about a minute of setting up, we had a queue of about a dozen people. It brings a smile to my face now, thinking of it actually. That’s basically what any food nerd loves about cooking, the chance to make something with their own hands and see people enjoying it. So I stood there for 90mins, smiling, chatting and dishing out slices of pavlova and kiwifruit and lovin it. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in food.

One visitor took some pics so if want to see what we had check this. Including a funny pic of Hip attacking the scraps. I’d forgotten about that, but she was very quick to pounce on any crumbs (or cooking utensils) that happened to fall off the table.

On the more practical side of it, here are a few notes, ostensibly for myself but perhaps useful also for anyone else joining in Ravintolapäivä.

  • the pavlova was a huge success. I made a 16 egg pav (which is fucking massive), and went within 20 or 30mins. It seemed to me that lots of Finns knew of pavlova. Were I to do it again, I could probably make about 3 times as much and get rid of them all, with ease.
  • The kiwifruit and canned whipped cream were perfect with the pav. Kiwifruit, well you can’t get more Kiwi than that, and the sweet pav needs something sharp to cut the richness and as to the cream, canned whipped cream was a lifesaver in terms of ease (I can’t imagine whipping that must cream by hand and then keeping it cool and having it not split whilst in the sun at the park).
  • I guess we could have made more stuff in general. I planned for 200 people and 6 hours, which in reality turned out to be about 100 people (as everyone bought 3 or 4 different things) and about 90mins. I could have had twice as much of everything and not had anything left over. I kinda got the impression that this was a common mistake (perhaps ‘theme’ is kinder than ‘mistake’) for most restauranteurs – not being used to making stuff at industrial scale.
  • Having coffee was great, especially to go with the sweet stuff we had. It would have been a lot smarter to have to big thermoses rather than one, to save Maiju running between home and back with refills (thanks Betty!) i.e. filling one while served from the other.
  • The pav was clearly the most popular thing. No one knew much of anything about any of the other things, with the possible exception of Rocky Road, which some people asked for even after it’d sold out. And lots of people asked “what is it?” of the Hokey Pokey – I guess it looked intriguing.
  • it would be a smart idea to print out ingredients lists for everything for those people with allergies. I imagine it’d be way easier to hand someone something in paper than trying to remember, run-off-your-feet, what went into something. And I should know that as a Celiac, right.
  • In the end I think my idea for the menu was proven correct. We got basically everything done beforehand, which made the day pretty stress-free and enjoyable. And sweet things are cheap enough to make that we were able to price things so that: I didn’t feel we were ripping anyone off, I got the impression that people were happy to pay our prices, and we didn’t loose money.
  • For the record, it was 3€ for a slice of pav, cream and about half a kiwifruit and 50c for a piece of candy (of couple-of-bite size).

I’ll stick the recipes up here as I get around to typing them out:

 

5 responses to “Ravintolapäivä / Restaurant Day”

  1. Elina

    Heya and congrats on your very first Restaurant Day Restaurant :) (and it being a success).

    Restaurant day actually celebrated its 1st Anniversary in May 2012, so it’s only a bit older than a year.

    We (me & my sister) have attended 3 times (50% considering this August was the 6th Restaurant day, each time with a different restaurant concept ;) Are you going to attend in November? We’re definitely going to!

  2. Lois B

    Thanks for sharing your experience and for the tips. We just learned of Restaurant Day in time to visit participants here in Poznań, Poland. It was so much fun that I can’t wait to cook up some American favorites for my Polish neighbors in November.

  3. Tim

    Seems like it been going for a long time somehow, but I’m sure you’re right. Perhaps it’s just that it’s been taken up with such enthusiasm that it feels like it’s become somewhat of a local institution in just 1 and a half years.

    Thanks for the well wishes. And yes, I think we will probably join in in November too. I was a bit apprehensive before this one, but as it went heaps better than expected, then yeah, why not. And though I suppose I could do a better job of doing the same formula, a bigger part of me would like to chuck everything out the window and try something completely different and more ambitious ;) Best of luck to you!

  4. Tim

    Thanks – great to hear that restaurant day has made it to Poland ;) Good luck!

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