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What a fabulous blog, Pille! I'm glad I'm eating my lunch right now or I'd be going crazy from your pictures and descriptions.

I spent a semester studying in Moscow in 1992, just as the Soviet Union was breaking up. While I made it as far as Lithuania, I never got to Estonia and now I regret it, especially after seeing the pictures of the wild mushrooms! :smile:

I'm interested in hearing about how food has changed since Estonia became independent. When I was living in Moscow, I was really struck by how there was very little packaged food on the market and what little variety of fresh food was available, except for the wonderful (but overpriced) produce and dairy products available at farmer's markets. There were also very few restaurants back then, and not much ethnic variety, besides the fabulous Georgian restaurants and a few Central Asian places. We were dying for Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese food. All this has changed in Moscow, of course. What was shopping/eating at home/eating in restaurants like during the Soviet years and how has it changed?

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i

Kristjan also brought couple of glasuurkohuke alias chocolate-glazed curd cheese bars last night and insisted I blog about them  :raz: :

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Ah! I love those! We get a similar thing from the russian stores in Philly - interestingly enough they were never available when I actually lived in Ukraine, but that was the USSR era, so there ya go! I am assuming farmer's cheese is the same as the russian tvorog?

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This is another wonderful and informative blog! I am enjoying the read on different kinds of foods, scenery, everything! Thank you. :biggrin:

I will look forward to your dessert with the sea buckthorn berries. These are just starting to be commercially grown on the prairies, I think. I've only heard about their use in "health food" extracts, etc, but never used as dessert.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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I met a friend of mine (called Hille, coincidentally) for a coffee in Old Town (Vanalinn) at 4pm. We went to Chocolats de Pierre, an enchanted little cafe hidden in a courtyard on Vene street. (You can read more about it here and here.) Here's how it looks from outside (this photo is taken last Sunday):

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The old derelict building on the far back is from the 12th century and is being refurbished at the moment..

Unfortunately I forgot to change the camera setting from landscape to 'normal' when I got to the cafe, so all the pictures I took there today were extremely fuzzy :sad: However, I did get some more or less satisfactory snapshots, too. The cafe specialices in chocolates, as its name indicates:

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The interior is very luscious and decadent - dark heavy textured textiles, old lamp shades, etc taking you back to the beginning of last century. Here are some lovely tea glasses:

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I had a cup of coffee and shared a chocolate cake with Hille:

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Not sure where all that garish garnish came from - they've never topped my cake with cocktail cherry there before!? :unsure:

If you're ever in Tallinn, then this is an ideal place to pop for a cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate and a slice of cake, and spend some time reading a good book..

(Vene street 6, in the courtyard)

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After Chocolats de Pierre we headed to a newish place around the corner, called Clazz (I believe it's supposed to mean a Classy Jazz cafe or something like that), with another friend of mine, Liina, joining us. I hadn't been there before, but they were throwing an end-of-summer-party to attract new people, and they served free wine and fingerfood. It's a basement lounge, and they claim to serve 'the classical European kitchen with the fresh Scandinavian touch and strong smooth tastes of raw materials' (a quote from their promotion leaflet). I don't know about that, as we didn't sample their regular menu, but I liked the vibe of the place and will happily go back. Those of you who know Tallinn and the medieval restaurant Olde Hansa will easily find the place - it's exactly opposite Olde Hansa and has actually the same proprietors. (It's open and serving food until 3am, and the address is Vana turg 2).

Tonight they served rolls with salted beef, chicken confit and smoked salmon rolls:

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For dessert, there were small raspberry parfait cones:

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Small shot glasses of caramel & pear panna cotta:

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I managed to pile all desserts onto one plate :rolleyes: :

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I stayed for about an hour and half, and then got a lift home with Kristjan..

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Finally, tonight's dinner. While we were waiting for the main meal to cook, we nibbled on salted mushrooms salad zakuska. I chopped those salted gypsy mushrooms I bought from the market (see above) into small cubes, mixed with finely chopped raw onion and fresh parsley, dressed all with sour cream and seasoned with salt and pepper:

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The salad was spooned on top of thin rye bread slices, and voila! - you've got a delicious little something:

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Here are all the ingredients for our Scottish meal:

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That's haggis, neeps (turnips), tatties (potatoes), onions (not traditional, but I love my haggis with caramelised onion gravy). I was in Scotland in early September for a conference, and brought back a packet of my favourite haggis - MacSween of Edinburgh:

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Many of the haggises I tried over my seven years in Edinburgh were too greasy or too bland. I like this particular one as it's well seasoned and has a nice texture. Haggis comes pre-cooked, so all you need is to heat it through thoroughly. I removed the outer packaging and wrapped it in foil, after which I placed it in the 200C oven for about 45 minutes. Here's a photo of a piping hot and thoroughly cooked haggis, really keen to 'jump out' of its packaging:

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:biggrin:

While haggis was baking, I peeled the potatoes and turnips and cut them into large chunks, after which I boiled them separately in slightly salted water. When ready, I drained the vegetables, added some milk, butter and salt to both and freshly grated nutmeg to turnips and mashed them until smooth. I don't usually 'do' towers in my kitchen, but I liked the way one of my favourite deli-cafes in Edinburgh, Peckhams, serves haggis, so I tried it at home. And it worked :biggrin: :

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The sauce is a simple caramelised onion gravy. I chopped three onions finely and slowly sauteed them in some oil on a heavy frying pan, then I added some demerara sugar and water and Marigold stock powder, later some Marmite for flavour and colour (yep, my secret gravy colouring :unsure: ), and finally thickened the sauce with a bit of flour.

We didn't make any extra dessert, as there's still some apple cake left. So apologies to all of you who were expecting a gorgeous Scottish cranachan to finish off the meal!!!

Now, Suzi was asking about my relationship to Scottish food:

what do you miss most about scots food that you can't get where you are now?

Well, I do miss a good haggis occasionally, but then I've had it thrice already in Estonia this year - in January for Burns Supper a friend brought back some, and I brought some haggis back from my trips to Scotland in June and in September. Apart from that it's hard to say what I miss. There's no particular Scottish product that I long for, but I do miss the great range of 'ethnic grocery stores' available in Edinburgh.. And those pork sausages from Puddledub Pork & Fifeshire Bacon Co that I used to buy from the Farmers Market :smile:

Edited by Pille (log)
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Pilli

All the different mushrooms and berries are beautiful, but I think the average American would be afraid of red mushrooms, or picking mushrooms. At least ones from the suburbs of New Jersey. Around here if you see a mushroom there is something wrong with your lawn.    :rolleyes:

Keep going maybe you can convince me to try cooking beets or turnips

tracey

I'd probably think there's something wrong with my lawn when it'd be mushrooming, too, Tracey :biggrin: Forageing for mushrooms is a hard job - you need to be properly dressed to keep you safe from elements (wind, rain, ticks, snakes, mosquitos etc), and you need to know all those secret mushroom-rich hidden forests... We drive 80 km to the countryside to find our mushrooms :wink:

OMG that mushroom pick is just gorgeous!!

Thank you, Shelby!

All this talk of mushrooms made me remember that I have a package of dried Borowik mushrooms (Polish "king of mushrooms") in my cupboard. I'm going to make my mom some mushroom soup today.

I love farmers markets and enjoyed the pics. Here, apples are pumpkins are everywhere too. We are very big on corn in the summer, as well as tomatoes and peaches. They are the real highlights in August and into September.

I do wish we had sauerkraut barrels, though. :wink:

I suspect Borowik is a Polish name for porcini/cep mushrooms, Monovano, no? Wonderful! I'm sure you'll make a great soup with them (and you've just reminded that we bought a packet of dried porcini on our skiing trip in Italy in February. Need to look that up soon!).

We don't get corn here in Estonia. Or rather, I've seen husks at the market, but as I know they have travelled a very long distance and that corn is best soon after harvesting, I've ignored them more or less..

Whew! I finally found my passport and can join the party. Thanks for blogging!

Those red mushrooms are gorgeous (your basket from last fall). what are they?

I love the idea of mushrooming but dont have the nerve. Southern California isnt prime territory because of being so dry, however we do have a variety of the little fungi springing up. My friend's family who are experienced mushroomers in Venezuela came to visit, went mushrooming, and ended up in hospital for the best part of a week (2 of them). That kinda ended any ideas I had of learning to forage from a book.

After seeing your market photos, we'll definitely have to schedule any trip to Estonia for early September. Oh my! :biggrin:

Welcome, Michelle! First of all, let me tell you that I'm sorry to hear about your Venezuelan friends :unsure: - hope they recovered from their hospitalisation quickly!

The red mushrooms in the basket are of the Russula family. They're great, as they have a nice somewhat 'crispy' texture that makes them ideal for mushroom salads (I hate mushy mushroom salads!). Some of them can be cooked straight away, some have to be blanched for 20-30 minutes, maybe changing water twice. If you're unsure, leave them on the ground :smile:

That basket of wild mushrooms is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Aitäh, Peter! :rolleyes:

Cheese curd and chocolate?!? Why didn't I think of that . . . I will be in my "test kitchen" later this week.

Your photos are magnificent - and too I am in awe of the mushroom bounty - foraged no less - by you. Clearly, you have put the fun back in fungus.

Like lots of North Americans I haven't known or heard much about Estonia, although I am 1/8 Estonian as I mentioned before. I do remember hearing about a bronze soldier statue earlier this year, was that Taalinn? I am thrilled to be seeing such a skilled report on a place that's near the top of my "visit before I die" list. And I am compelled to do some more learning about the "old country" for myself and my kids. If they were to ask me about Estonia (2 yr old twins therefore hypothetically) I'd probably say "Baltic State, small Northern European country across from Finland, bullied by Germany and Russia last century".

Since I am also 5/8 Scottish I cannot wait to see your dinner!

Well, I've posted my Scottish dinner photos now. And yes, the riots triggered by the relocation of a Bronze Soldier monument from the town centre to a military cemetery in the city did take place in Tallinn (however, Snowangel has warned me strictly not to discuss politics, so I won't :cool: ) Hope you, Peter - and your twins! - will have a chance to visit Tallinn & the rest of Estonia before, well, too long :wink:

Ah! I love those!  We get a similar thing from the russian stores in Philly - interestingly enough they were never available when I actually lived in Ukraine, but that was the USSR era, so there ya go!  I am assuming farmer's cheese is the same as the russian tvorog?

Have you checked where these are from, Gruzia? Might be from Estonia or Latvia - it'd be fun to know :rolleyes:

This is another wonderful and informative blog! I am enjoying the read on different kinds of foods, scenery, everything! Thank you. :biggrin:

I will look forward to your dessert with the sea buckthorn berries. These are just starting to be commercially grown on the prairies, I think. I've only heard about their use in "health food" extracts, etc, but never used as dessert.

Hi Dejah! I made a sea buckthorn cheesecake last Christmas (thrice, actually, as it was so nice), so I might be making that - or something totally different. We'll see..

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Good morning! It's wet and windy outside, so I opted for a heavy and filling breakfast that would keep me warm :biggrin: Having open sandwiches for breakfast is typical in Estonia, too, and that's exactly what I had today:

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A cup of black coffee, a large bowl of baked apple yogurt with some home-grown Alpine strawberries, a small bowl of home-grown tiny sweet cherry tomatoes (we've got a cherry tomato and alpine strawberry containers on the windowsill, and they're growing well. Until a fortnight ago they were outside, but as there's danger of night frost already, we moved them inside), and three sandwiches. The large oval one on the left is a shop-bought rye bread slice with Eesti juust or 'Estonian cheese', the other two slices are 100% rye bread I baked last night :rolleyes: - one topped with beef, the other with Vene juust alias 'Russian cheese'.

Here are few pictures of the cheese I used:

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Top row is 'Estonian cheese' which has been made locally since 1959. The recipe and technology were developed in a small town called Vändra, and it's a young cheese- ripened only for a month. A 1978 book on cheese (called 'Juust') claims that the cheese can be ripened so quickly because they use a special activated cheese starter culture that is unique to Estonian cheese making tradition. I don't know if that's true or still holds :biggrin: The cheese comes in cylinder shape and weighs 2-3 kg. Fat content is 45% in dry matter and 25.2% in the ready-made cheese.

The bottom row is 'Russian cheese' that was first made in a Russian town Uglich, and has been made locally since the Soviet time. It has a mildly sour taste, and a 'lacy' texture, which you can see on the cut slice. It feels quite fragile, if you can say that about cheese :unsure: The cheese's fat content is 50% and 28.5% respectively.

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Haggis towers! Now that has to be a first for an eG blog. Haggis towers.

I've never heard of sea buckthorn berries and can't imagine whether we have anything like that in the US. Do they grow by the sea?

I'm really struck by the home-prepared mushrooms available for sale in the market. That's something you'd never see in the US, as home-prepared foods are considered to be potentially hazardous, and home-foraged mushrooms are too, and the combination offered for sale would have the Food Police all over that vendor in a nanosecond!

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Wednesdays are my longest days, at least this autumn. I've got a cookery class from 4-7pm, and a photography class from 7-10pm. A substantial lunch was therefore needed, to last me until the late evening (though I'm bound to grab a chocolate between classes :rolleyes: ) I won't be cooking any dinner tonight, as I get home way too late. Kristjan will be having the leftover haggis from yesterday, so he's fine, too :laugh:

There's a very nice and light cafeteria just down the road from the university, called Cafe Peterson. They do both breakfasts and lunches, offering a hot cereal porridge for the former, a daily soup and short daily menu for the latter, in addition to cakes, salads, quiches and a la carte menu. You can also order various cakes and pastries and kringles from the cafe - quite popular among people who don't bake themselves. Many people have their favourite cafe/bakery they turn to when they need a 2-kilogram kringle or a fancy cake for their own or their child's birthday. I've never ordered a full quiche or cake from them, although I've tried many of them when I've eaten at cafe. And they inspired one of my great recent baking successes, a pear and blue cheese quiche that I can see myself making again and again during the Christmas season (you can see a picture here).

Today's soup was chicken and knedle soup, and you can see the soup container on the far right:

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It's popular with people from nearby offices - university, few banks, the National Audit Office. It's connected to a small art gallery in the back, and has a slightly bohemian feel to it. It tended to attract heavy-smoking intellectuals as well, but luckily smoking is forbidden in all cafes, bars and restaurants in Estonia now, so I don't have to worry about sensitive eyes and stinking clothes after lunch anymore :wink:

I meet my university friend Rutt for lunch once every week, and Cafe Peterson is the chosen venue, as it's conveniently located exactly in the middle of our respective work places (Tallinn University for me, National Audit Office for her), and it's a great opportunity to catch up. We both chose the same dish from today's special menu - Mozzarella and Eggplant/Aubergine casserole (50 EEK). The dish was served with a lightly dressed white cabbage and radish salad:

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Nothing spectacular, but still a very satisfying homey meal (the food is prepared in a tiny kitchen in the back). Other today's special dishes included the above-mentioned soup, mushroom risotto, honey-glazed chicken, and some fish dishes.

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Now something for all those of you who celebrated Rosh Hashanah recently :smile: . While Cafe Peterson will continue to be one of my regular lunch places, I'm also very excited about this new 'venue' just across the road from there:

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Tallinn got a new Jewish Synagogue (Juudi Sünagoog) recently - it was officially opened on May 16, 2007 by Shimon Peres, and the President and the Prime Minister of Estonia. I'm not a Jew (like majority of Estonians, and our Finnish and other Nordic neighbours, I'm a Lutheran), but ever since reading Claudia Roden's wonderful and informative book on Jewish food, I've been fascinated about the cuisine. I spoke to an old guy in front of the synagogue last Friday, and he proudly informed me that a Kosher restaurant will be opened to the general public in October, and that it'll be the best restaurant in town :biggrin: I'll be there checking it out as soon as it opens.

Here are two more photos of the new synagogue - quite a fancy building, don't you think? The architects were Tõnis Kimmel & Kaur Stöör from KOKO Arhitektid.

a beautiful front door:

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a view from the side:

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Extremely interesting lighting in this photograph. Beautiful.

Thank you, Michelle! The small coffee table we had was cluttered, so I placed my plate on one of the small wall lights :cool:

Pille

I am anxious to learn more about your country, because unlike Sandy, I didn't pay attention too much in school. :raz:  Your pictures are absolutely lovely!  Thanks for sharing your week.

LucyLou - thank you for your kind words about the pictures, and I hope I'll be able to introduce my little country over the week.

Thanks for the great blog and photos, Pille; I especially love the market photos (and the ones of your bookshelves and study!). :smile:

I like my bookshelves and study, too, Rehovot!

Haggis towers!  Now that has to be a first for an eG blog.  Haggis towers.

I've never heard of sea buckthorn berries and can't imagine whether we have anything like that in the US.  Do they grow by the sea?

I'm really struck by the home-prepared mushrooms available for sale in the market.  That's something you'd never see in the US, as home-prepared foods are considered to be potentially hazardous, and home-foraged mushrooms are too, and the combination offered for sale would have the Food Police all over that vendor in a nanosecond!

Re:haggis towers - I have only seen them twice before, in two various branches of Peckhams restaurants in Edinburgh. Hope they're not too tacky, Abra? :unsure:

Re: sea buckthorns - they grow in many gardens, and have been hugely popular in Estonia over the last decade or so. My granny has one in her garden, too!

And finally, mushrooms. It's ok to sell wild mushrooms at the market, as long as they're fresh and whole. I'm actually not sure if it's legal to sell non-commercially salted/pickled/dried mushrooms at the market, but considering that this has been done throughout the summer, I think it could be. Lots of wild mushrooms prepared in various ways are sold at the regular supermarkets as well. One Finnish foodblogger friend of mine was in Tallinn last December, and bought 6 kilograms of salted and pickled wild mushrooms from one shop- that's a lot of mushrooms!!! Apparently the cashier had looked rather amused :laugh:

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I was in Tallinn several years ago, wow what a beautiful place, my brother in law is british and this is where we went for the stag party.  I know nothing of estonia, except that some of my family is from the area.  The most beautiful women I have ever seen were everywhere there.  It was a trip I would never forget.  I ate at a wonderful very upscale restaurant between old town and port I think.  Anyway it was basically a tasting menu that was several courses, very avant garde for estonia in 2003, in my opinion.  Everything was very local, mostly french technique, there was a nightclub upstairs, thats about what I remember.  Quite trendy though, curious if its still there.

Ok, I spoke to Kristjan, and he knew straight away the place you were talking about. He obviously knows Tallinn's night club scene much better than I do, actually much better than I thought he would know :raz:

If he's right, then the place you had a tasting menu is called Ö (yep, just one funny letter), where the Chef de Cuisine is a young Estonian Russian guy Roman Zastserinski. He was actually named the Chef of the Year by the Estonian Gastronomy Society in 2005. I've never eaten in Ö myself (yet), but as I attended the Estonian Gastronomy Society's 2006 Gala Dinner in early January, I've eaten his food - the previous year's winner designs and prepares the menu for next year's gala dinner (you can read about the gala menu here).

So yes, he's still there, and he's still going strong.

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How does one prepare salted mushrooms?

Fresh clean mushrooms and salt and time?

How salty are they? That salad sounds tasty.

Just what I was going to ask - I love pickles and I love mushrooms, and I'm anxious to try these :smile:

Also, I love the Moomin kitchen-ware. That alone is enough to tempt me to make a trip to Estonia (also, some friends went last Christmas and loved it)

Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

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Pille: This is really an interesting tour of Estonia. Thank you! Your wild mushrooms are exquisite and I am looking forward to learning how to use up the rest of a bag of rye flour I purchased fairly recently. The loaf photographed at the beginning of this food blog is lovely--as is your own blog.

I have only one question. Where might you find a better pizza: Edinburgh or Tallinn?

Okay, maybe two. How open is Estonia to the foods and dishes of other countries whose traditions are quite unlike its own?

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Pille, what are knedle? noodles? dumplings? something else?

Jensen - they're small plain dumplings, about 2 cm in diameter. No filling, just a mixture of eggs, flour and some milk usually.

Pille, you are continuting to inspire me! I made Polish mushroom soup last night (post here), and now I have to make something with pears and blue cheese :wub: .

So you liked the picture of that pear & blue cheese tart, Monavano? :rolleyes:

Also, I love the Moomin kitchen-ware. That alone is enough to tempt me to make a trip to Estonia (also, some friends went last Christmas and loved it)

Moomin books & cartoons are very popular here, and there's even a Moomin magazine for children these days! Moomin tableware is newish for Estonians, I think, and not everything is available here. For example, the dark blue mug is Christmas 2006 special edition, and I had to get that from Finland, as they weren't selling them in Estonia at all :shock:

Pille:  This is really an interesting tour of Estonia.  Thank you!  Your wild mushrooms are exquisite and I am looking forward to learning how to use up the rest of a bag of rye flour I purchased fairly recently.  The loaf photographed at the beginning of this food blog is lovely--as is your own blog.

I have only one question.  Where might you find a better pizza: Edinburgh or Tallinn?

Okay, maybe two.  How open is Estonia to the foods and dishes of other countries whose traditions are quite unlike its own?

I hope to blog about my rye bread tomorrow, Pontormo! Now, your pizza question. I don't eat pizza often, and I've only got very vague memories of eating it in Edinburgh (I'd usually go for gnocchi in Italian restaurants). However, I do remember eating very good thin crust pizza in Controvento, one of the older Italian places here in Tallinn. They've got this very lovely and cosy restaurant in Katariina Käik, a small street alley full of handicraft workshops in Old Tallinn. Highly recommended!

Michelle & Lexy - I'll get back to you about salting mushrooms soon, but first I need a good night's sleep - it's been a long, long day. :blink:

Head ööd!

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I spoke to an old guy in front of the synagogue last Friday, and he proudly informed me that a Kosher restaurant will be opened to the general public in October, and that it'll be the best restaurant in town  :biggrin: I'll be there checking it out as soon as it opens.

I'm enjoying your blog tremendously. I always love to see soups in blogs, and of course, this line about a kosher restaurant caught my attention. Is there a demand for one?

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Pille, what are knedle? noodles? dumplings? something else?

Jensen - they're small plain dumplings, about 2 cm in diameter. No filling, just a mixture of eggs, flour and some milk usually.

I'm intrigued that the word "knedle" is so similar to the Yiddish word for a matzoh ball, "kneidl," plural "kneidlach" (seeing as how matzoh balls are basically a variety of dumpling). Makes me suspect that both words have a common root--possibly/probably German?

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        Post offices, car rentals, supermarkets and even coffee shops (in some smaller towns police stations too) all close their doors for a riposo. Everything comes to a standstill as every Italian goes home to kick of their shoes, enjoy a homemade lunch with family and bask in the Italian sunshine for three to four hours. This is serious business. One would not dare work for 8 hours straight. After their riposo most businesses open again around 4 o'clock and stay open till 7pm. Its the perfect balance between work and play and does wonders for your digestive system!
        "Grazie!" I thanked her for the reminder. The midday sun started to become unbearable. The streets had cleared with only a few tourists braving the midday heat still around. I thought about the strawberries I bought from the market earlier that week. Strawberries for lunch on my shaded balcony and maybe a nap afterwards sounded like my perfect riposo. The pasta will have to wait till 4.
               
           
    • By KennethT
      OK.... here we go again!!!  While this post is a bit premature (we don't take off until around 1:30AM tonight), I am extremely excited so I figured I'd just set up the topic now.  As in previous foodblogs, I may post a bit from time to time while we're there, depending on how good my internet connection is, and how much free time I have... but the bulk of posting will really get started around July 9th - the day after we get home (hopefully without too much jetlag!!!)
    • By KennethT
      Happy New Year!  I'm sitting at the gate waiting for my flight from Saigon to NYC connecting through Taipei so I figured this would be a good opportunity to get started... But this is just the intro- the rest will gave to wait until I land about 22 hours from now, sleep for about 12 hours, then get my photos in order! We had a great week enjoying beautiful weather, taking in the frenetic yet relaxed street life and eating some amazing local food...
      Our flight here was on EVA Airline and was very pleasant and uneventful. Our flight from Nyc to Taipei left around 12:20 AM on the 24th. I love those night flights since it makes it very easy to get a decent amount of sleep, even in coach. EVAs food is quite good eith both Chinese and western choices for dinner and breakfast, and they came through several times with snacks such as a fried chicken sandwich with some kind of mustard. I think I had 4 of them!
      Once I get home, I'll continue posting with pics from our feast in the Taipei airport.... Spoiler: those who have read my Singapore foodblog from July may see a slight trend...

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