Latvia’s gastronomy may have been influenced by Germans, Swedes, Poles and Russians, but if we look at national celebrations, then we see one very unique aspect of the past that is still with us – Latvians like to be in contact with nature and to produce and prepare food with their own hands. Every family knows where to get fresh fish. During the autumn, Latvians forage for mushrooms, and during the spring and summer, they often grow their own vegetables, as opposed to buying them at a shop. Because of this cultural and gastronomic heritage, the Rīga and Gauja region have won the title of the European Region of Gastronomy 2017, the concept being “Wild at Palate.” The presence of great restaurants in the region helped to nab the title, too.
The title is granted by the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism (IGCAT), the aim being to stimulate development, sustainability and initiatives that transcend the boundaries of food, culture, tourism and the economy. Chef Dzintars Kristovkis at the Valmiermuiža Embassy in Rīga restaurant is the official ambassador for the event. “Technology and cooking are so advanced these days that I feel an urge to return to my roots,” he says. “The concept that was devised by the Rīga-Gauja region was a direct reflection of this – products and ingredients that our people have gathered, savoured and featured in meals for hundreds of years. These products come straight from our forests, meadows, streams and lakes.”
Dzintars has been a chef for 11 years and says that the last four ones have been most fruitful for him. He has diligently delved into the specifics of Latvia’s wilderness when it comes to food so as to create a purely regional cuisine. This involves everything edible that comes from forests, as well as game and local beverages that can be considered legitimate for a feast (or a restaurant menu). The chef is focused on pure, natural and organic fare and ingredients so as to extract maximum flavour with a minimum of combinations of ingredients.
For more information, please visit http://www.liveriga.com/en/8180-the-european-region-of-gastronomy-2017.
The Latvian Institute, 2016. Photos: Live Rīga