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Archive for April, 2012

Candy update

Easter was pretty much a non-event around here– we went out to dinner the night before and spent Sunday mostly packing and doing other practical things. However, it was a special day because I was able to eat candy again. And these things?

Sooo good. I wouldn’t say they taste like cake so much as they taste like the ganache you’d put on a cake. They’re rich with well-balanced sweetness, and even though they taste like chocolate ganache they’re more firm– like a chocolate truffle without the slick, melty texture. I picked up another bag today to share with my family in the States :).

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I’ll write a few posts on our wedding planning, but let it be known that I’m not one of those women who has pictured my wedding since I was a little girl and thinks wedding planning is SO fun and exciting. When we first got started I had no idea what I wanted and found the impending process to be really overwhelming. Now we’ve taken it one step at a time and I’m feeling much calmer. It’s a lot of research, discussing logistics, and writing emails. To me it resembles work more than fun, but getting another component checked off the list sure is satisfying.

However, one thing that has made the process more bearable is that all the people I’ve communicated with are so nice. To most people this would seem natural– of course the vendors are nice; they want me to pay money to use their catering, their venue, etc. But living in Estonia has dramatically lowered my expectations for employees of the service industry.

This was a dinner with actual good service that I need to write about!

While customer service here has been getting better year by year, it’s still a far cry from what you would find in North America or England. Sub-par service has its roots in the Soviet era, when surliness was the norm and nobody was expected to be polite to somebody they didn’t know. It was enough for restaurants servers and hostesses to show up for work– they didn’t actually have to serve anyone. I’m not speaking from experience because I never visited Estonia when it was still a part of the Soviet Union, but I’ve heard stories of clients being turned away from a restaurant being told, “We’re full”– when the restaurant was clearly empty. If you were lucky enough to be seated, more than half of the items on the menu might not have been available that day.

Today, the situation has improved. The cashier at the grocery store will generally say “tere” (hello), but she won’t make small talk. Workers on the floor at a pharmacy or clothing stores might approach to ask if you need help finding anything. And servers in restaurants will often smile and even come by the table after you’ve gotten your food to ask if everything is OK (when I first came to Estonia 5 years ago, this was never done). There are also plenty of crappy experiences to be had– woefully untrained servers who lack skills (like opening a wine bottle) and have no idea regarding what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Quick example: in January of this year I was at a pub and the waitress came to tell us our table was reserved and we had to move. We then had to transfer our own drink glasses and several plates of food to another table, with no help from her. It was so awkward and embarrassing, and we didn’t even get an apology.

Not my wedding dress!

Sorry for the long preface, but being accustomed to experiences like that really makes me appreciate how friendly and helpful people in the wedding service industry have been. The girls in the bridal shops were sweet and respected my wishes (no puffy princess dresses!). The caterer we chose responded promptly to my dozens of emails with questions and requests to make changes in the menu. I don’t know if the people in this sector are nice because they believe in the whole “this is you day and it should be special” thing, or because so much money goes into weddings (OK, I’m not that naïve– I know it’s the latter), but either way they’ve made this process that I was dreading much easier. And for that I am thankful.

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Cake-flavored

I’m not going to lie– I am really excited to be able to eat candy again this weekend. I could continue to live without chips, crackers, burgers, and packaged cookies, but candy… I just can’t quit it.

Yesterday I was doing some shopping to buy gifts for our upcoming trip to the States. Feeling somewhat frustrated (my mother has requested several CDs that nobody is selling anymore), I ducked into the Kalev candy store in one of Tallinn’s main shopping centers, Viru Keskus. Kalev is the biggest and most famous Estonian candy company and they make some delicious confections. I promise I’m not just saying that because I’m biased in favor of all things made in Estonia– their stuff really is tasty and of good quality. Anyway, in my shopping-frustrated and candy-deprived state, I was a candy marketer’s dream. As soon as I saw this package, I knew it would make the perfect Easter gift… for myself.

These cake-flavored chocolates are brand new, but part of the Désirée line, from which I’ve tried other products. Initially the line consisted of bars with coffee-flavored fillings– the dark chocolate bar was Espresso and I believe the milk chocolate bar was Cafe Latte, which would make sense.

So having tried (and loved) the creamy, rich Espresso bar, I’m really curious as to how these cake-flavored chocolate candies are going to be. The flavor strikes me as kind of funny– somehow making something cake-flavored seems so American, and yet I don’t believe there are any cake-flavored candies in America (but who knows– I’ve been gone for so long, maybe there are now).  If these really good, I may have to “export” some over there myself.

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Not what I had in mind

When I wrote the other day about noticing and appreciating what is new, interesting or surprising in my life, this is not what I had in mind.

In Estonia, snow in April is honestly not that surprising. It’s happened at least once during the time that I’ve lived here. But for the past few weeks the air has felt so warm and it’s smelled like spring. Everyone seemed so hopeful and happy that the most lovely time of year was upon us, but as it turned out, winter wasn’t quite done with us yet. At least I get to go on vacation soon…

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