Finlandia Vodka and an Underage Intern

Tuna Salad

Sometimes, as an intern manager, I mess up. Such is the case with the Finlandia Vodka event. I asked Victoria Guida to go cover the event. It wasn’t until the day of the dinner that I realized Victoria is not 21. I think she handled the situation well. And I learned a lesson. Read her recap after the jump.

Tenderloin

Friday night, I went to a dinner sponsored by Finlandia Vodka. My editor realized too late that she was sending the only underage intern, but she sent me off anyway, sternly reminding me not to drink.
I arrived at the Fairmont Hotel for “Cooking with Finlandia Vodka,” a fundraiser benefiting Slow Food USA, an organization that promotes sustainability and growing local foods. I mingled with employees from Brown-Forman, Finlandia’s parent company, and politely informed them that I wouldn’t be drinking. PR manager David Page offered to have them make me virgin cocktails, though, so I can still speak to most of the taste.
The drinks were prepared by Pekka Pellinen, a charming Finnish bartender with a strong accent and a knack for excellent drinks. The welcome drink was the “Finlandia Zing,” which contained Finlandia Vodka (of course), lime juice, honey syrup (two parts liquid honey and one part water), apple juice, green grapes, and lemon grass. The name is pretty apt, and I particularly enjoyed the mix of apple and lime.
Next, we went to the beautifully set tables to enjoy the meal cooked by Finnish-American chef Sara La Fountain. I sat at a table that included other amiable food critics, David Page, and the Fairmont Dallas’ PR manager Erica Martinez. The meal was delicious from start to finish. For hors d’oeuvres, we had oriental chicken skewers that had been prepared with Finlandia Grapefruit. Next came the tuna salad with dressing made from miso paste and Finlandia Grapefruit. I wouldn’t expect tuna steaks to be so yummy, but it tasted quite different from the tuna salad I’m more accustomed to. Also, La Fountain has a tendency to include flower petals in her dishes. They add to the aesthetics of the dish, and, as long as they don’t have pesticides on them, you can eat them.
The second drink was the “Finlandia PomGrosmo,” a very sweet cocktail made with Finlandia Grapefruit, pomegranate juice, lime juice, and honey syrup. I liked this one, although I tried to avoid the pomegranate seeds used as garnish.
Throughout the night, La Fountain and Pellinen demonstrated how to make each item we were enjoying. Both chef and bartender put on quite the show by playing with fire as each flambéd one item during their presentations.
The entrée was grilled beef tenderloin and barbecue sauce with Finlandia Tangerine. I’m a red-meat kind of person, so I especially savored this part of the meal. It was cooked just the way I like it—not raw, but enough red to actually have some flavor. It was served with potatoes wrapped in bacon, which are tastes that go well together. Accompanying that was the “Finlandia Midnight Haze,” a drink also made with Finlandia Tangerine, as well as lemon juice, syrup, pineapple juice, and mint. This drink was one of my favorites—I love pineapple juice and the mint complimented the zing.
Finally came my favorite part of the meal: dessert. La Fountain made us pavlova with Finlandia Lime and passion-fruit sauce. I’d never had pavlova before. I learned it is named after the Russian ballet dancer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been named after Ivan Pavlov because it made my mouth water. I especially liked the creamy inside, which was a little tangy. Along with dessert came the final drink of the evening, the “Finlandia Lime Passion.” It included Finlandia Lime, passion syrup, lime wedges, and passion fruit. This also had quite the kick.
According to Pekka, each cocktail has four parts: the sweet part, the sour part, the alcohol, and the mixer. Now when I turn 21, I’ll know how to make sure I’m getting a good cocktail. Only 10 more months to go.

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