Saimaa Gastronomy is a sign of quality
Saimaa Gastronomy is a network of four companies in the Saimaa region. We are all united by our love for Saimaa and its unique nature. All of the destinations value clean, local ingredients, as well as products from small producers. The tasty menus are built around seasonal produce, and the dishes on the menus change with the seasons.
Together with Hotel Punkaharju, Tertti Manor ja TeaHouse of Wehmais, we form the award-winning Saimaa Gastronomy team. Together, we organise Saimaa Gastronomy themed weekends throughout the year. Come and experience Finland’s best food tourism product with us!
Saimaa Gastronomy weekends
Saimaa Gastronomy network’s theme weekends won the ‘Best Food Tourism Product in Finland 2019’ award in the national food tourism competition.
Finland’s best can be found on Lake Saimaa!
Treasures for the chef
“You just never tire of these”, sighs Janne Kuivalainen over the freshly baked Karelian pasties with egg butter. Karelian pasties are an essential part of the Sahanlahti offerings. They are descended from Janne’s Karelian ancestry.
“We’ve been baking these for the breakfast table since the very beginning. Pasty dishes are emptied at the same rate as they are carried from the kitchen to the table. Customers of all ages love these authentic Karelian pasties,” says Jaana Kuivalainen.
South Savo is a treasure trove of good food for the Kuivalainen couple. The region is full of dedicated small-scale producers who provide top-quality ingredients for the kitchen.
“It’s great to have fresh eggs, local fish, meat, and vegetables from organic producers delivered right to our door. Many of our suppliers have the D.O. Saimaa label, which signifies quality and an origin in the Saimaa region. We can gather wild plants, mushrooms, and berries from the surrounding nature. It would be crazy not to use all the good stuff,” says Jaana Kuivalainen.
Great local food still needs skilled chefs. Jaana Kuivalainen knows that attracting hard-core professionals to rural areas is a challenge.
“Already at Anttolanhovi, I had the honour of meeting a true Finnish pioneer of local food, chef Markus Maulavirta. When I asked Maulavirta to be the “summer chef” at Sahanlahti, he ended up coming to the kitchen many summers. Also cooking in our kitchen were Maulavirta’s old colleague Matti Lempinen, and Ilkka Arvola from Restaurant Vilee in Mikkeli. It was a real power trio, which trained our chefs mercilessly. Nowadays, it is easier to recruit staff, because as our local food reputation grows, people increasingly want to work for us,” says Jaana Kuivalainen.
On the plate, Sahanlahti’s concept of local food translates to good flavour combinations that respect the raw materials. It’s not the number of different ingredients that matters, but how they fit together.
“At Sahanlahti, the focus is on pure and down-to-earth flavours. If I can get good pike, roasted cabbage and preserved dandelion buds will do just fine with it,” chef Markus Kaihola says.
Food is a competitive asset
Jaana Kuivalainen believes that today, good food is a key competitive asset for a tourist destination like Sahanlahti. Nature and beautiful landscapes alone are no longer enough.
“If a customer can’t get great food and great service, they may never come back for a second visit,” says Jaana Kuivalainen. Sahanlahti is part of the Saimaa Gastronomy project, led by D.O. Saimaa, which develops food tourism in the Saimaa region. The Saimaa Gastronomy companies are united by local food, local ingredients, and love for Saimaa and its unique nature.
– The Saimaa Gastronomy network has proved to be valuable to us. The best part has been getting to know other entrepreneurs with similar ambitions for food and tourism, and developing and testing each other’s ideas together. We have all learned that we are not competitors; we are most successful when working together as much as possible,” says Jaana Kuivalainen.
He believes that a successful tourism company is determined to find and develop its own thing, but also listens carefully to the wishes of its customers.
“Our local food always has the seat of honour in the main building’s restaurant Koskivahti. Alongside this, we have invested heavily in our casual summer restaurant Rantamakasiini. When people are sitting on the terrace enjoying a summer’s day, the food must also have a relaxed quality,” says Jaana Kuivalainen.
The natural choice at Rantamakasiini was to start serving what people were craving – burgers. The idea wasn’t initially the preferred option for our chefs, but burgers can be made locally by baking the buns from organic flour, using high-quality local beef, and making the fries from scratch.
“It was worth investing in quality. The hamburgers became a hit. The most enthusiastic guests have come all the way from Kouvola to Sahanlahti just for the burgers. We have the same uncompromising approach to baking pizzas, grilling, and smoking. Competent product creation makes food great,” reminds Jaana Kuivalainen.