Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hõbelusikas - Silverspoon: Estonian Gastronomy Awards 2007

Me (on the left:) and the winner of the Chef of the Year Award, Tõnis Siigur from Restaurant Stenhus, Tallinn at the Estonian Gastronomy Awards ceremony yesterday. Photo by K.

Just like last year, I had a chance to attend the Silver Spoon 2007 Gala Dinner last night. The Estonian Gastronomy Awards were handed over at the ceremony attended by many of the food-loving bold and beautiful in Estonia, including me and my dear K :) There were small ballet dancers, singing by Chalice, lots of good food, and plenty of food-related chatting, of course.

The festive dinner menu was created by the winner of the Chef of the Year award of 2006, Dimitri Demjanov, the grand old man of Estonian haute cuisine, and it was full of surprising local ingredients like Baltic herring, my beloved kama, sea-buckthorn, black pudding/blood sausage, to name just a few. I'll reprint the menu with my musings below, but first, the award winners.

There are ten categories at the Estonian Gastronomy Awards, and I list them in no particular order:

Estonian Gastronomy Awards, 2007

Bonaparte, Tallinn - nominee
Stenhus, Tallinn - winner
Ö, Tallinn - nominee

Vertigo, Tallinn - nominee
Vinoteque In Studio Vinum, Tallinn - winner
Karl Friedrich, Tallinn - nominee

Cafe Truffe, Tartu - nominee
Lounge UpUp, Tallinn - winner
Cést La Vie, Tallinn - nominee

Restaurant-Brewery Beer House, Tallinn - nominee
Suure Tõllu Körts, Saaremaa - winner
Altja Kõrts, Lahemaa - nominee

Tõnis Siigur, Restaurant Stenhus, Tallinn

Vinoteque-Restaurant In Studio Vinum, Tallinn

Suure Töllu Körts, Saaremaa

Restaurant-Brewery Beer House, Tallinn

Restaurant Ö

Restaurant Tchaikovsky, Tallinn

Now. First let me tell you that I'm extremely pleased that Tõnis Siigur, the young and talented chef of Restaurant Stenhus in Tallinn won the Chef of the Year award. You see, I love his restaurant, and more importantly, I also had a chance to work in his restaurant for 10 full days in December (what? you mean I've still not told you about the Cookery Diploma I successfully did last autumn and which included an 80-hour internship in a restaurant? Well, I did, and I did my internship at the best gourmet restaurant in Tallinn, and Tõnis Siigur taught me a lot. The fact that I ended up sitting next to him at the ceremony was pure coincidence, however:)

Stenhus won the best gourmet restaurant award for the fourth time, and if that's not a sign of quality, I don't know what is :) But K. and I also had a wonderful meal at Restaurant Ö just recently, and I would have been happy for either one to win. I'm a bit unsure about the café category, however, as none of my current favourite cafés (Chocolats de Pierre, Anneli Viik Chocolate Café, Café´Park) made it to the shortlist. Next year, hopefully. K. and I are really not pub persons, so neither one of us has personal preferences for the best pub, but apparently the winner of the category - the Tavern Suur Töll on the island of Saaremaa - serves excellent home-made pub snacks (while also being the most family friendly establishment!!), so we'll make sure to check the place out this summer.

And now to the menu:

Dimitri Demjanov is known for his respect for local, traditional ingredients and dishes, and this was clearly evident in the menu. Whereas I didn't think that all dishes worked so well (sea-buckthorn coulis was way too sweet to do any justice to the excellent berry), there were some real inventive and delightful gems. The creamy black pudding soup was both delicious and intriguing; the pork lard with herbs and goat cheese butter accompanying the breads were definitely different; the decision to serve caraway infusion as an alternative to coffee with petit fours was brave, but justified, and chosen by many. K. and I were unsure about the food and alcohol pairings - there was beer, mead, vodka, sherry, calvados, champagne and white wine, and although I only took a sip of each, I could feel it this morning :)

Silver Spoon Gala Dinner 25.1.2008
Hortes Palm Hall, Tallinn

Dimitri Demjanov

Amuse bouche: Traditional Setu pie and mead drink

Citrus marinated Baltic herring with capers, almond potatoes and frisee salad

Creamy black pudding soup with apple and cinnamon wafer

Gooseberry sorbet with caraway seed liquour and Veuve Cliquot champagne

Suckling pig belly confit with sauerkraut and pearl barley

Fruitcake slice with goat cheese mousse and blackberry confiture

Kama parfait with sea-buckthorn coulis and spun sugar

Coffee or chamomile-caraway infusion

Petit fours

It was a great and enjoyable night, and we'll be looking forward to the 2008 awards next January. Tõnis Siigur will be in charge of the menu, you see, and knowing what he's capable of, the meal is worth waiting for :)


glamah16 said...

Sounds like a great evening. This is a wnderful glimspe into your countrys food. Perhaps next time I'm in Sweden (this summer) I can convince the Mr. to take the ferry over and visit.

Kalyn said...

Sounds like a very fun evening, and the food looks wonderful!

Eva said...

Nägin Sind ja Kristjanit vilksamisi televiisoris ka:)

Alanna said...

Best Food Blog: Nami Nami

Dagmar - A Cat in the Kitchen said...

It sounds like a wonderful evening. The food looks and sounds great!!

Dagmar - A Cat in the Kitchen said...

And of course: congratulations to the cookery diploma!!!! Very well done!!

Wendy said...

Cookery Diploma? Restaurant work? Tell us more! Congratulations!

K & S said...

what a wonderful experience!

Gloria said...

Congrats Pille and so nice picture, you looks so well! Gloria

Kristopher said...

Why a separate category for "gourmet restaurant". I'm skeptical... ;) What does that mean... truffle oil and foie gras worked into every dish including the desserts?

Food is food. Of course, I'm a veteran of the non-elitist Portland dining scene, where best restaurant last year was (deservingly) Pok Pok, basically a Thai street food shack.

Lydia said...

Looks like a wonderful and fun event! And why no award for best Estonian food blog??? You would surely win.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a gorgeous menu! Did you get any recipes? I'm especially drawn to the Black Pudding Soup, since there's lovely boudin noir here and I'd love a new way to use it.


angelika and gino said...

Oh Pille, you looks fabulous ! But with your lovely choice on your site I suggest you could have been the winner as well ! Much love from Vienna, angelika

Brilynn said...

That sounds like an amazing evening!

Anonymous said...

Ma olen enam-vähem kogu valikuga nõus, aga ehkki Up Up on igati meeldiv koht, ei ole tegu kohvikuga? Pigem on see kokteilibaar, lounge (sohvabaar). Kohvik on kohvik (rõhk kohvil ja kookidel, eks ole).

Anonymous said...

Viimane anonüümne kommenteerija olin mina, Ka. ;)

Anonymous said...

I only wonder how many Estonianas can afford to eat in these pretentious elitist restaurants?

lobstersquad said...

I was going to comment on the doughnuts but the drooling prevented it, so here it is. It must have been lots of fun, and I´m glad your favourite chef won, it´s like you got part of the prize, in a way.

Pille said...

Glamah16 – you know, apparently the buffets on those cruise ships are pretty nice :)

Kalyn – it was pretty eye-catching indeed!

Eva – no küll Sul on terav nägemine – meid näidati ju nii-nii vilksti!

Alanna -you’re so sweet :)

Dagmar – it was a lovely night out, and I’m already looking forward to the next year’s show..

Wendy – there’s not much to tell. 220 hours of course work, including 80 hours in the restaurant, an exam, a diploma. But one has to take their hobbies seriously, you know:)

K&S – indeed!

Gloria – thank you :)

Kristopher – well, I’m not so sceptical. Good food is good food, and yes, a kebab on a street corner at 3am can taste like the best meal ever. But there’s a difference between the food I expect from a casual small restaurant (good home-style cooking, nice atmosphere) and from a gourmet restaurant (excellent technical skills, eye-catching plating, attention to detail etc). They all have a place. And a crispy black pudding in a pub during Christmas season is very different from the smooth black pudding soup we were served at the gala evening. A gourmet restaurant definitely doesn’t mean truffle oil and foie gras worked into every dish (though they’re often served there). Wouldn’t you say there’s difference between your expectations in Pok Pok and, say, The French Laundry?

Lydia – don’t know about that – there are good Estonian food blogs out here. I might win the best English-language Estonian food blog title, however :)

Abra – no, we didn’t get any recipes. But Tõnis Siigur, the award-winning chef in our table, thought that it was probably a veloute soup mixed with pork blood. We initially thought it was pureed black pudding, but as Estonian black pudding is made with barley groats, these would become glue-like when liquidised..

Angelika – thank you :)

Brilynn – it was a lovely night, thank you!

Ka – ma olen Sinuga täiesti nõus. Järgmisel aastal vist (ehk?) lüüakse kohvikukategooria ja lounge-vinoteegi kategooria lahku. Minu hetke lemmikkohvikutest ei olnud keegi kahjuks finaalis :(

Anon. – why such a sarcastic comment? Yes, the Gini index is high in Estonia and lots of people cannot afford to eat out in restaurants. But plenty of local people do dine out, and I haven’t felt as unwelcome in these restaurants (despite being a poor academic). They’re often overpriced, I agree, but I didn’t feel we paid a penny too much in either Stenhus or Ö, for example…

Lobstersquad – indeed – I was very, very excited for him!