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Archive for the ‘It’s Drink O’Clock’ Category

Winter Apple cider

I wrote last year about some seasonal winter drinks available in Estonia. Here’s a new one that popped up on the shelves this year: Kiss Winter Apple cider.

I expected it to taste a bit like this Woodchuck Fall cider I tried in the States in September but never had a chance to write about. It had a very distinct cinnamon flavor to it.

I have to say that I think the Winter Apple cider is even better! Rather than just cinnamon, it contains many flavors you’d expect to find in a glass of mulled wine— citrus, a touch of cardamom, maybe even a bit of clove. True, the Kiss cider is sweet, not dry like the Woodchuck, but the warm wintery flavors work and give it a lot of dimension. Strangely enough, there is a label on the bottle that says “Try it warm!”, but I can’t imagine heating up a carbonated beverage, so I’ll just stick to enjoying it cold.

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We actually did have one more day of fun after departing from Maryland on a Saturday evening. We landed in Copenhagen on Sunday morning and were faced with a painful 8-hour layover before our flight to Tallinn. We had considered going into the city, but after an 8-hour overnight flight during which we barely slept at all, the last thing we felt like doing was navigating a foreign subway and figuring out logistics. However, the woman we spoke to at the transfer desk was very convincing: “You know what you should do? Go into the city! It is the first sunny day in 12 days. Go.” Thanks to that gentle nudge plus the hand-drawn map she made showing exactly where the metro is and where we could get tickets, we decided to go. I’m so glad we did.

Taking the subway from the airport to the city center is ridiculously easy, and when you get off at the Kongens Nytorv stop you’re only steps away from Stroget, the main pedestrian street. Memories came flooding back to me, as I had visited Copenhagen once before when my sister was studying there in 2007.  The weather was sunny and surprisingly warm, so it was a great day for just walking around.

Our first mission was to find a cafe for our morning coffee.

My latte was lovely and delicious. Which is good, considering I paid 7 euros for that and a plain cup of coffee for J. Copenhagen is expensive!

After walking along Stroget for a while, seeing more and more Danish families emerge to enjoy a Sunday morning walk in the sunshine, we wanted a break. And a beer. International travel and jet lag are perfectly legitimate excuses for ordering beer at 10:30 in the morning.

Just so you know, we were actually not the only ones at the Irish pub drinking at that time of day! After our beers we walked around more and got an uninspired lunch from a 7-11. I was so tempted by the Danish pastries:

…but I had no local cash and many shops don’t allow you to pay for such a small purchase with a card. Bummer.

By early afternoon we were feeling truly zombie-like and headed back to the airport, but I think that spending time in the actual sunshine did wonders for helping our bodies clocks readjust to the time zone. After we returned home it didn’t take me long at all to recover from the jet lag. Not to mention J and I added another city to our list of European capitals we’ve visited together :). Next time we have a 4+ hour layover in Copenhagen, I definitely won’t hesitate to come enjoy the city again.

 

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Today

So J and I left for our Restaurant Week lunch at Balthasar, Tallinn’s garlic-themed restaurant, at 2 pm… and arrived home now at 11:45 pm. Let’s just say it was a fine day in the city of Tallinn :-D.

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One of the first side trips we made after arriving in the States in August was to New Orleans, Louisiana (our “home base” was at my parents’ home in Maryland). Neither of us had ever been, and we discovered a colorful, lively city filled with the friendliest people ever! Let’s get started…

Before we had even reached our hotel on the first day, we walked past the famous Central Grocery, which I recognized immediately because pictures of the sign outside have been posted on many a food blog :). Despite the stifling heat, I was feeling hungry, so I told J, “We’re getting lunch from here,” ran in, and purchased half a muffuletta (wonder of wonders, there was absolutely no line when we passed by!). J has learned that when we’re traveling and I say, “Oh, we have to try (insert local specialty)”, he should go along with it, because it’s usually something good :).

The muffuletta, a cold sandwich of cold cuts, cheese and olive salad on round Italian bread, totally hit the spot. Some might find it salty, but J and I didn’t mind that one bit. We had also bought some drinks to enjoy with it. I thought I’d grabbed a Mike’s Cranberry Lemonade, but then I took a closer look at the can:Let me zoom in on the bottom for you:

Oops. But it’s ok– we were on vacation, after all ;). Later on I also got to try one variety of the local Abita beer:

I was surprised by how flavorful it was– somehow I expected something called “golden” to be light (not sure why).  It took me about two days to figure out how to pronounce the name of the beer correctly (if you’re ever there, ask for uh-BEAT-ah). That evening we discovered one of the most enjoyable activities in New Orleans (for us, anyway): buy a drink from a liquor store (in a can– if it’s a bottle, pour it into a cup before going outside) and then wander the streets, admiring the sights and laughing at the crazies on Bourbon Street. I loved being able to spend the evening (which was cooler and more comfortable than the day) exploring the city while also enjoying a few drinks, rather than being stuck in a crowded bar. Public drinking = 2 thumbs up :).

Some other Nola food:

Oh yes, those are none other than the beignets from Cafe du Monde. Here’s an interior shot:

Denser and doughier than a regular doughnut with bigger holes throughout, and topped with so much powdered sugar it was impossible not to make a mess. It made an excellent late-night snack (Cafe du Monde is open all hours of the day! Just another thing to love about this city).

Other local specialties we tried were po’ boys (an alligator sausage one and a fish one), hurricanes (too strong and too sweet!!), coffee with chicory (milder than regular coffee, in a good way), and shrimp etouffe.

This was my last meal before leaving the city, and it was so satisfying, absolutely packed with delicious tender shrimp. I love fresh seafood!

In my next entry I’ll talk about even more delicious Nola food, plus the awesome birthday gift I got from J!

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Birch juice

I tried something new yesterday afternoon! The woman I share an office with asked, “Have you ever tried birch juice?” (Kasemahl in Estonian). She had a chilled 1.5-liter bottle of what looked like plain water sitting on her desk. Always up for trying something new and completely clueless as to what to expect, I had her pour some of the clear liquid into the mug I keep at my desk. It looked like water and poured like water. I stuck my nose into my mug and gave a deep sniff, as if I was tasting a fine wine. It smelled fresh and sort of sweet (like a tree, I suppose). “Did you make it yourself?” I asked, not sure if this was the kind of thing people generally made at home. She hadn’t, but my supervisor joined us and said she’d made birch juice at home a few years ago.

I took a sip, and at first I didn’t taste anything. The other two agreed that this batch had a very mild flavor. However, the flavor seemed to develop and become more pronounced the more I drank. It tasted as though somebody had dissolved a spoonful or two of molasses into all that water, leaving it subtly sweet with a bit of earthiness. It was really refreshing and, as I found out when I did a bit of research, really healthy as well! Birch juice contains potassium and high levels of vitamin C, among other things, and is supposed to help with stomach problems, improve circulation, and do a host of other beneficial things. I might have to buy some of this stuff for myself! However, I also discovered that it’s highly perishable and only keeps for a few days, even when refrigerated.

This is the kind of situation that makes me love living abroad. I’ve been here for over four years and know quite a bit about traditional Estonian food, but there are still things out there I’ve never experienced. And I love it when I find them, especially when they manage to brighten up a typical sleepy Monday afternoon.

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Best tea ever

My current favorite tea came back from London with me after my most recent trip. I had already purchased two teas that I thought were interesting — a mango-flavored green tea and a vanilla-flavored white tea — so it was almost as an afterthought that I grabbed a box of plain old rooibos tea bags (Tick Tock brand) during a rushed trip to Waitrose. I didn’t expect it to be anything special, just wanted one more variety so we’d have plenty to choose from at home (as you can tell, I like caffeine-free tea because I usually drink it right before bed).

I had drank rooibos tea before, but it’s always had some kind of citrus or other fruit added (I’ve had blueberry rooibos tea, for example). This tea is just plain rooibos with nothing else added, but it absolutely blew me away. It is so incredibly flavorful. I can taste fruit, and cinnamon, and hints of other spices. I don’t need to sweeten it because it has natural sweetness as well. I drink tea but I don’t usually crave it, but this tea is an exception.

Thinking about how delicious it is makes me want another mug right now (and I already had one earlier!). Well done, Tick Tock! (I actually just visited the company’s home page for the first time and discovered that they make ONLY rooibos tea, grown in the Cederberg Mountains of South Africa, and that they are “Britain’s favourite rooibos tea”. That does not surprise me one bit… these guys clearly know what they’re doing!). Britain’s favourite rooibos tea is now my favorite tea, period. 🙂

 

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My, I’ve been a lazy blogger lately. My apologies! I have some catching up to do. Last weekend J and I took an overnight cruise to Stockholm, spent several hours in the city on Saturday, then took the ferry back to Tallinn on Saturday night. It was a nice mini-vacation and of course there was some fun food involved, which I’ll get to later!

We didn’t really do much for Valentine’s Day, since our trip over the weekend was already pretty indulgent. However, my honey did make me a sweet and healthy Valentine’s dessert with the newest gadget to join our kitchen– a blender! We’ve had it for a little over a week and J is totally on a smoothie kick, so on the 14th he made a delicious thick smoothie with kiwi, banana, frozen strawberries, milk, and a touch of honey.

Perfect color for Valentine’s Day, right? I topped mine with a little Nutella granola for some crunch and sweetness (and chocolate, which is practically a necessity on Valentine’s Day). Perfect! For now the blender will continue to churn out diet-friendly concoctions, but as soon as warmer weather hits you can expect to see some yummy frozen cocktail experiments!

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