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Estonian Food: cloudberries and curd cheese


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When you tell your friends you´re going on a trip, their first response is: "How nice. Where to? With whom?" It´s not until you mention that you´re travelling to an icy Northern European country, for a whole week, with someone you met only once, months ago, on 2 subsequent nights filled with cocktails and tequila... that eye brows are raised, noses wrinkled, and lips start twitching. "Are you sure you know what you´re doing?"

Well, no, but let´s take a risk. It´s fun.

Those of you who frequent the Southwest Forum may have read Chiles in the Desert, my trip report about 3 weeks of travelling and eating in the Southwest USA. It was on this trip, last fall, that my husband Dennis and I met Nouf (aka Verjuice) in Santa Fe. A cocktail party at her house, and the next evening a night on the town, 3 months of regular emailing, and then fast forward to ´let´s take a trip together´´where to?´´let´s go to Estonia!´.

I´d been wanting to go to Estonia ever since I read Pille´s eGullet blog about her life in Tallinn. So last week, Nouf and I took off for a week in the snow, with Dennis joining us for the latter half of the trip.

Our guest arrived at dawn, with a suitcase heavy from the delicacies she had brought from the UAE:



That night we had Amsterdam based eGulleter markemorse and his wife over for dinner. I was feeling a bit under the weather, and maybe overwhelmed by the masses of culinary talent at my table, so as was to be expected, I was very critical of the dinner I made. 2 things I was happy with: the appetizer plate (bloody mary tomatoes, eggs with tarragon mayo, and smoked mozzarella) and my labor of love trifle: home made pistachio cake, poached quinces, custard, home made quince liqueur.



The next day I stayed in bed, gathering my strength for the trip. On Monday we left, and arrived in Estonia to find the streets of Tallinn dark and deserted...


(on the right you can see the entrance to the Olde Hansa restaurant)

Edited by Chufi (log)
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On a Monday night in January, Tallinn wasn´t exactly bustling. We wandered around for a bit, looking into mostly empty restaurants, and finally decided to have dinner at Olde Hansa. This medieval restaurant (waitstaff in costume, nothing but candle light) may not offer the most delicate gourmet food, but it´s a fun experience, with satisfying, hearty fare. I really enjoyed the caraway eau de vie I had as an aperitif, and after that we had a plate of what they call Neptune´s feast - a variety of smoked and pickled fish, served with bread and curd cheese. As I said, candle light only, so the pics are very fuzzy...


I had wild boar stew, served with sauerkraut, saffron barley, a curd cheese cake, pickles, and berries. I dont exactly remember what Nouf´(who will, no doubt, chime in here at some point!) had except that on her plate was something called ´bag of beans´:


After dinner we wandered the empty streets some more and revelled in the fairy tale like atmospehere of the Old Town. It´s a beautiful place.


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The next day, Tallinn looked even more beautiful in the grey winterlight, with a thin film of snow on the roof tiles. It was COLD though! Fortunately, the city is loaded with restaurants and cafes that are warm and welcoming. We had lunch at garlic restaurant Balthasar, overlooking the main square Raekoja Plats. It´s elegant, a little more formal than I expected. The food was good (the hot soup was especially welcome after our cold walk) but not exceptional.

Garlic soup with a garnish of smoked salmon


salad with venison, smoked beetroot and blackberry sauce


Nouf had a pumpkin soup and grilled vegetables with gratineed goats cheese.


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Oh and Pille, if you´re reading this.. I have a question for you! The little green leaves you see on my venison salad seemed to be everywhere in Tallinn, used as a garnish on 90 % of the dishes we ate! I thought they tasted like fresh oregano or marjoram, but that seems an odd choice of herb to use as the ubiquitous garnish. Do you know what it is? An typical Estonian herb maybe?

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After lunch we walked around some more. Near restaurant Balthasar is one of the Kehrwieder cafés, described on Pilles own blog here. We didn´t go in at that moment, but we did visit the tiny chocolaterie that belongs to it, located on the other side of the alley.


To give you an idea of the Estonian language, here´s a description of all their chocolates:


We bought a couple and munched on them while exploring some more.. and then it was back to the hotel for a rest, before going out to dinner!

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What a beautiful place. I love your travelogues. Thanks.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Dinner that evening was at Ö, a restaurant that we both had been looking forward to a lot. I had read the menu online before we left, and for some reason the restaurant and almost everything on the menu really appealed to us.

We started with cocktails - Kitchen cocktails, as there called, since they´re actually listed on the regular menu and not on the drinks menu (which lists the more ´classic´ cocktails.)

Nouf is much, much more knowledgeable about cocktails than I am, and she started working on the cocktail selection straight away. I enjoyed a seabuckthorn mimosa and then switched to wine. I hope Nouf will add some pics of the cocktails later.

We started with a little amuse of beetroot consomme and Baltic herring


After that we both had the ´cooked to order buckwheat blini with fish roe, sour cream and dill´. This was truly delicious.. the blin was large, very buttery and crispy on the outside and fluffy creamy on the inside. We kind of inhaled it and were almost thinking of ordering another one, it was that good...


But before things got out of hand another little dish arrived from the kitchen, compliments of the chef: celeriac soup with chanterelle cream and dill oil. This was also really, really good.


After that Nouf had a fish dish that I did not take picture of, and I had fillet of beef with rutabaga, salsify, onion marmelade and pepper sauce. Another excellent dish. The dark ´blob´ at 6 o´clock was not described on the menu, but tasted a bit like blackpudding to me.. like a kind of blackpudding mousse.


Too full for dessert, we walked home rosy and happy from great food, drinks and conversation.

Edited by Chufi (log)
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Great start!  What exactly are bloody Mary tomatoes...sounds like a Catholic school boy game gone awry!

hehe. They´re tiny plum tomatoes, marinated in a mixture of wodka, celery seeds, salt, tabasco and worcesterchire sauce for a couple of days. You cut a little cross in the tomatoes so the wodka has better ´access´.

I don´t make cocktails, so this was my attempt to make Verjuice feel at home :wink:

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Great report so far.  Did you have trouble with the language?  Do Estonians speak English?

The younger people all do. The older people not so much.. but everyone is really friendly and with a little sign laguage and lots of smiles, you´ll get by easily.

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Hi from Germany! I left Klary and Dennis this morning after ten days together. It flew by! Sad puppy faces all around... Amsterdam and Tallinn were wonderful but it was the company that I will really miss.

I only have a moment at the computer but will post pics when I have a stable (and better) connection...

Beautiful pics, Klary.

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The next morning I had a bite of this for breakfast:



One of the many permutations of a typical Estonian product called kama. More on that later... This particular version is kama flour, mixed with curd cheese. It was very good but a bit rich to have for breakfast...

A walk in the snow to burn some calories..


.. and before you know it it´s time for lunch! We met Pille in the Old Town and she took us to the Russian restaurant Troika, located on the Town Hall square. We ordered the intriguing sounding appetizer of pickles with sour cream and honey, and were informed that this would go well with a shot of wodka :shock: Sure why not? It´s cold out, right?


Note the edible napkin rings: they´re little pretzels.


If you look carefully you can see him pouring the wodka from a great height.

Nouf and Pille both had the blini with mushrooms, and I had Troika´s famous "Pelmeni Village style: lamb dumplings cooked under a crust with a forest mushroom sauce". I had agreed to share with Nouf so we could each taste both dishes, but I was SO relieved when she only took 2 bites of the dumplings and left the rest for me. It was a very rich, filling, but truly delicious dish, and I ate the whole thing, which I ended up regretting a little, but I could not help myself.




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After lunch we went to one of Pille´s favorite cafe´s, Chocolats de Pierre ( you can read more about it here).

It´s a beautiful place, lushly but comfortably decorated with sofas and cushions and red velvet table cloths.



Nouf had a chocolate cake (with malt and chili, if I remember correctly) and just for fun (because hungry I really wasn´t!) I had one white chocolate and orange bonbon.



here´s their counter with all the cakes and chocolates.


Nouf ended up having another piece of cake, a curd cheese one.

Edited by Chufi (log)
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Wow. Who knew how badly I need to go to Estonia?

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I'm going to start at the very beginning by contributing a few extra pics from Night #1 ie. The Vegetarian Challenge with Mister and Missus Markemorses.

Klary in the Kitchen, inadvertently making anyone who has ever stressed over a dinner party look like a rube:


Gratin of potatoes, mushrooms, red onion and awesomeness.


Greens with green kalamata olives, toasted hazelnuts (I did these! And only burned a dozen or so! Yess!), oranges and a simple dressing of... what? Walnut oil and balsamic, I think.



Trifle of homemade pistachio cake, poached quince (with vanilla beans?), custard, whipped cream and toasted pistachios.



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Unsurprisingly gorgeous pictures of everything, but I must re-emphasize one thing: pistachio cake + poached quinces + quince liqueur + custard + whipped cream = a great idea in a bowl. I think some of my taste buds defected for Klary's place that night.

ok....carry on!


Edited by markemorse (log)
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We're getting into a bit of a time warp here, but I'm sure all eGullet readers are smart enough to keep following the chronology. and anyway, who needs chronology? it's just picture after picture of snow and food....

On Wednesday evening, Dennis flew in from Amsterdam. Before going to dinner we went for cocktails at a place called upupup.. possibly, ububub.. I'm not really sure and we're also not really recommending it for cocktails! Pille had recommended it for lunchtime smoothies, but it was 7 pm so it was cocktails we wanted. We ordered, only to have the waitress come back after 5 minutes to inform us they were out of rum. Since about 80 percent of the cocktails on the menu had rum, it made the choice pretty difficult. We ordered some anyway (they were all green, and I don't have a clue what was in them). They weren't very good, but the rumless cocktail bar got us giggling a bit, and we left in good spirits anyway.


Dinner was at Vertigo, a somewhat trendy place at the 9th floor of one of Tallinns modern office buildings. The view is great (although you don't see much of it at night when it's dark). They have both a brasserie and a restaurant, and we opted for the brasserie. The menu was really strange and confusing, with everything from French food to sushi, Asian stirfries, Ceasar salads, and Italian pasta.

I had a Ceasar salad with salmon which was pretty good, and bruschetta with various toppings - these were not good at all.



Dennis had some kind of lamb dish


and Nouf had soup and a salad that I have no pics of, just as well cause she wasn't very happy with them...

Food and drink wise this wasn't the best evening, but the company and conversation made up for it...

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YAY!!!!!!!!!! Two of my favorite eg'ers!!!!!!!

REALLY enjoying all of the pictures. And, frankly, I also feel really boring and un-traveled :sad:

Do you have any pictures of the rooms you stayed in?

A lot of the dishes seem to include venison. Is that a staple there like it is in our household?

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Wow.  Who knew how badly I need to go to Estonia?


Who knew how badly I miss our foodblogs?

Beautiful town. Beautiful pictures. Delicious food.

Thank you!

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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