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Archive for June, 2009

Dinner party

Last night we were invited to dinner by a friend of ours who is visiting Tallinn with her sister and cousin. It was just a casual thing: “Hey, do you guys want to come to dinner too?” The thing is, my friend is a superb hostess, so dinner at her place is never an unremarkable affair.

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We arrived to find a beautifully set round table, complete with placecards.

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Since she is a smart hostess, she knows how to delegate. One of the other guests prepared this appetizer– an herby, cheesy mixture on toasted pita wedges, topped with lox and capers. Since we had spent the entire day on the beach (Pirita rand), the delicious salty combination was the perfect start to the evening.

P6290994Their creator apologized for overdoing it a bit with the capers. They did have a tendency to roll off, leaving us scrambling all over the floor after them :-).

I made the salad! It was thrown together in record time, just a simple, fresh, can’t-go-wrong mix of cucumbers, tomatoes, red wine and balsamic vinegars, and a bit of salt and pepper.

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For the main course, the hostess prepared risotto with fresh veggies– zucchini, mushrooms, peppers– and scallops with some kind of amazing-smelling buttery sauce. The scallops were perfectly cooked, just so soft and rich and wonderful. I had seconds of the risotto. OK, and then one more scoopful after that.

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And what’s dinner without dessert? My friend mixed heated fresh strawberries (mmm, maasikad) with a pear-rhubarb compote, which she then spooned over vanilla ice cream. Each dish was topped with a half a shot of Bailey’s, which was sort of a spontaneous last-second addition. My picture of it is terrible, but believe me, it was GOOD. Alongside dessert, there was ultra-strong coffee and hilarious stories of the best pranks people had ever played, or had played on them (would your parents ever try to convince you that you’re adopted??).

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It was an absolutely wonderful time, so a big thank you to our hostess and everyone who was there and contributed. Love you guys!

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The start of the Estonian summer

The weather has been glorious the last few days. Just overwhelmingly warm and lovely.

Estonian celebrated the start of summer on the 23rd of June (even though summer technically started on the 21st). This year for Midsummer’s Eve we went to the Estonian Open Air Museum, a lovely space by the water that includes many old farmsteads, windmills, and other structures. There was music, folk dancing, and of course a few bonfires.

P6230884I don’t have any pix highlighting the nature in that area, but many of the trees in the background are birch trees, which are my favorite trees ever (and very common in Estonia). :-)

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There was also a staged meeting of the characters from Estonian folklore Koit (Dawn) and Hämarik (Dusk), the keepers of the sunlight, who usually do their jobs at opposite ends of the day but for one period each year Koit (the boy) and Hämarik (the girl)  meet at midnight and share a kiss. They’re happy because their love is eternally new and fresh.

P6230896Koit and Hämarik rowing off together, carrying the light of the sun

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Beer from Belarus

A few weekends ago my friend shared a beer with us that she had brought back after visiting her family in Belarus. I don’t think I’d ever had Belarusian beer before.

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The first thing she pointed out to us was the extremely low carbonation– we poured it out into three glasses to share, and not one glass had any foamy head, just some little bubbles. The other striking thing was that it was very sweet! Certainly sweeter than any Estonian-made beer I’ve ever tried. I’m not sure whether this beer is unique or whether all Belarusian beers are sweeter to suit the tastes of the population (the friend who brought it isn’t a big beer-drinker, so she wasn’t able to offer much insight). We were pretty sure it was a lager, but we didn’t get very far attempting to read the label.

P6200855-1Anyone know Belarusian?

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Kätte jõudnud suvi/Summer has begun

The summer has begun.

I haven’t talked about this summer yet, since I generally just  focus on food and not what’s going on in my life. But this summer is going to be awesome. Estonia’s traditional Song and Dance Festival, held every five years, is taking place at the beginning of July. Not only do I get to participate as a singer for the first time ever, but my family and scores of my friends are coming from the United States and Canada to also take part in the event. So I get to see people I hardly ever get to see during the most beautiful time of year. I’m taking two and a half weeks off of work so that I can be on vacation too, just like all the visitors. If I start to chronicle what I’m eating and drinking during that time, it will definitely include many, many photos of beer glasses out on terraces somewhere in the Old Town at 9 pm, when the sun is still shining.

Ah, summer. I’m so excited.

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London, Part IX: Miscellaneous

And so my account of our trip draws to a close. We were incredibly happy with the vacation– discovering together a new city that has so much to offer and such a wonderful atmosphere, trying as many new things as possible, fully appreciating all the things we can’t get back in Tallinn. We returned home exhausted and broke but satisfied.

Here’s a few finals photos from the trip:

P5220714Dry cider in the Salisbury pub

I loved being able to get dry cider on tap everywhere– it’s so refreshing. Sorry I haven’t written about the different ciders and beers we tried while in England and Ireland– I didn’t take enough notes and I’m terrible at describing beer anyway.

P5140566Another fantastic Indian meal, all vegetarian


P5230726Very Berry Mocha Frappuccino, sans whip

Most days I just got a skinny latte from Starbucks, but one day I decided to try their special summer offering, the Very Berry Mocha Frappuccino. I didn’t love it; it had this fake berry flavoring that reminded me of the dried cherry pieces in the dark chocolate and cherry Kalev bar. It just didn’t appeal to me, and it didn’t suit the mocha coffee beverage. Oh well.

P5150613Fish and chips at the Golden Hind

The Golden Hind is supposed to be one of the best fish and chips places in the city. It was good, but I’m not enough of an expert to evaluate whether it’s among the best. The fish fillet was huge and the batter clung to it closely, no big crispy voids. The staff was very friendly and courteous, even when the tiny restaurant was swamped.

IMG_5595Me, taking the frappuccino picture you see above

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And Dublin too

OK, I’ll  sum Dublin up quickly, since we were only there for three days, plus the food was so damn expensive we mostly just ate what was convenient and cost-efficient, not anything special. Or hell, maybe I’ll just reduce it to pictures. Our main priority in Dublin was to see as much as we could– pubs, parks, Kilmainham Gaol, Guinness Storehouse, Jameson Distillery, Oscar Wilde, Molly Malone. About half the time being outside was miserable because it was cold and/or rainy and/or windy. How are Irish people so damn friendly all the time? Perhaps the Guinness has something to do with it.

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IMG_5428A Guinness postcard alongside a real Guinness… we are so very clever

Guinness, which we swore tasted better and smoother in Dublin than it ever has before. Perhaps it was just the psychological effect of thinking “It’s fresh here, it MUST be better.” But we also discovered that the only two places Guinness is manufactured in Europe are Ireland and Moscow, so it seems likely that the Guinness in Estonia indeed comes from Moscow, so yeah. Maybe that’s why it’s a little different there.

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At the end of our Jameson Distillery tour, I chose to try a Jameson cocktail with cranberry juice and a lime wedge (actually it looks like a lemon wedge, but I swear it tasted like lime). The combination never would have occurred to me, but it was really good.

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Irish breakfast! It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was included in the price of our hotel.

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Like I said, sometimes we just ate what was convenient. I’m not proud.

Our real Irish dinner took place at the Brazen Head, which is apparently the oldest pub in Ireland and where we went 2 nights in a row to listen to Irish music. The atmosphere was great there– we really liked it. The day we went for dinner had been quite a rainy one, and I was tired and cold and so ready for comfort food. I got the Irish stew and J got bangers and mash. It was just what I needed.

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Irish stew

P5200673Bangers and mash

The stew was incredibly simple and with a very good number of tender lamb chunks amongst the carrots and other root vegetables. And the bread… mmm. I’m not sure if this was brown bread or soda bread, but it definitely had that soda-y flavor that I found terribly addicting. I think the only reason I stopped eating it was because it was all gone.

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London, Part VIII: Noodles at Wagamama

Of course we had to try the popular British noodle chain Wagamama (and we got a 2-for-1 deal with our London Passes). It has some unique concepts– people sit at long cafeteria-style tables, and the food comes out whenever it’s ready, not necessarily in any particular order. The one we went to was pretty empty so we didn’t have to share our table with any other companions. I ordered the amai udon– thick udon noodles with some shrimp, tofu, egg, bean sprouts, red onion and leek, garnished with peanuts and lime.

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Mmmm– fat chewy udon noodles in a peanutty sauce with the tofu, shrimp and veggies providing lots of nice different textures. It was so damn good. Those thick noodles are so satisfying– I’m going to start looking for them in Estonia. Asian food is growing more popular all the time, so maybe I’ll have some luck and can start making my own peanutty udon creations.

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