Sunday, April 22, 2012

Nami-Nami recommends: where to eat out in Tallinn in Spring 2012

IMG_303Tallinn Flower Festival 2009 / Tallinna lillefestival 20094
You can tell that the tourism season has started in earnest here in Estonia by the fact that I received no less than three e-mails from Nami-Nami readers this week alone, asking for my advice regarding where to eat out in Tallinn (and beyond) during the next few weeks. It's easier for me to write one blog post as opposed to reply to individual emails, so that's what I do. I'll include a link to this post on my sidebar later, so you can find it easily. I'll be updating it over the Spring and Summer, and hopefully some other Estonian bloggers and Tallinn foodies will add their favourites in the comments..

Here we go then. Remember, I've been on maternity leave for over three years now, so eating out in the evenings has been a rare treat. The following list is heavy on cafeterias and lunch places, and the pub recommendations are from my partner and friends :)

Places for a cup of coffee and something light on the side:

VERTIGO GOURMET DELI ja CAFĒ (Viru 17, Vanalinn/Old Town)
A good place to grab a coffee while wandering in the old town. Just 3 tiny tables, so not a place for lingering, but a good choice of cakes. If you're lucky, you might meat the proprietor - a local  food celebrity Imre Kose - he'd be the sunny guy with curly hair and permanent smile on his face :)

GOURMET COFFEE (Koidula, Kadriorg)
Definitely the best coffee in town - they roast and blend their own beans, so you're guaranteed a decent cuppa. Nice soups and salads, too, and they order cakes from Vertigo and Café More. There's a tiny, but well-equipped children's play area as well.

PARK CAFĒ (Weizenbergi 22, Kadriorg, Tallinn)
Opened 10 am - 8 pm, closed on Mondays
Park Cafe, Kadriorg, Tallinn
A beautiful Viennese-style café next to Luigetiik in Kadriorg Park. You can sit outside on a warm day and enjoy one of their German-style cakes. Illy coffee.

CAFĒ MORE (Viru Keskus, 4th floor, adjacent to the Rahva Raamat bookstore)
Angeelika Kang is a well-known cookbook author who opened a café just over a year ago. Popular lunch location - good soups and salads and very nice pastries (Swedish-style cardamom twist buns are my favourite). In the morning you can choose from a selection of organic whole-grain porridges. The coffee isn't bad either :)

SAIAKANGI KOHVIK (Saiakang 3, Vanalinn/Old Town)
Open at 9am.
Surprisingly nice pastries, small fresh salads and open sandwiches, all made on the premises. Not one of the "hip" places, but a good option if you're after a quick small snack and/or on a budget.

KOHVIK KOMEET (Solaris Centre, reservations 6 140 090)
Located at the top floor of the newish Solaris Centre just outside the Old Town is a café run by a former model, hip and popular cookbook author Anni Arro. The place has wonderful views  and is great for people-spotting, while enjoying a cake or a salad from the menu.
     The place tends to get pretty busy during lunch and before evening cinema sessions - if that's the case, you can always descend to the ground floor and enjoy a coffee and a cake at Café Coco (much more budget-friendly as well :))

HEIDI PARK (Välja 20, 2nd floor, Mustamäe, telephone 658 8125, her website)

Heidi Park (
Heidi Park isn't a café, but a talented American-born pastry chef based in Tallinn. Although you can get a cup of coffee when buying cakes at her bakery in Mustamäe, you're better off looking for her excellently rich chocolate brownies and other American-style cakes in Kohvik Must Puudel (Müürivahe 20, Vanalinn/Old Town; probably the best choice of Heidi's cakes), NOP café (Köleri 1, Kadriorg), Hell Hunt pub (That's "Gentle Wolf" to you, English-speakers; Pikk 39, Vanalinn/Old Town), Gotsu (a Korean restaurant, Pärnu mnt 62a, Kesklinn), Clayhills gastropub (Pikk 13, Vanalinn/Old Town) and Bioteek organic store (Kopli 18, Kalamaja).
She did the catering for my first cookbook's launch party in December 2010 (pictured above), and most recently a cake for 120 people at my K's birthday party in January, so I heartily recommend her :)

MAMO (Tornimäe 5 and Liivalaia 14)
A popular lunch place, open from 8 am till 8 pm (Liivalaia) or 9 pm (Tornimäe). Focus on healthy and substantial salads, sandwiches and soups, fresh smoothies and wholesome cakes that can be enjoyed on the premises or bought for take-away.
Tornimäe MAMO also has a children's play area.

Places for a more formal lunch or dinner:

NEH (Lootsi 4, reservations 6022222)
A cosy gourmet place near the Harbour area. Excellent food, some special themed events. There's a chef's table overlooking the kitchen, if you want to see your food being made.
Here's my review from December 2010, and I've been there on several occasions since then. NEH is Pädaste Manor seasonal kitchen in the city - you see,the culinary team's true home is at Pädaste Manor on Muhu island. The restaurant has restricted opening hours during summer - as of May 1st, NEH will be open for dinner only on Tue-Sat, and closed on Sundays and Mondays.

TCHAIKOVSKY (Vene 9, Hotel Telegraaf, Vanalinn/Old Town, reservations 6000610).
A fine-dining restaurant, serving "a symphony of Russian cuisine". The main restaurant is pretty dressy, but during summer there's also a wondeful summer garden that serves a shorter menu in more casual surroundings. I still crave their cold gazpacho with lobster meat from last summer..

MOON (Kalasadama 3, reservations 6314575, website)
An excellent and friendly family-run restaurant outside Old Town and near the Linnahall. It's run by Roman Zaštšerinski and his wife Jana and cousin Igor, and the restaurant specialises on a mix of Estonian and Russian dishes. Always a treat, and very delicious. Try their borscht and the accompanying pirogi!

LEIB RESTO ja AED (Uus 31, Vanalinn/Old Town, reservations 6119026)
Leib- Resto & Aed: frititud jäneseliha punaveinimajoneesiga
Opened last summer and quickly became a favourite with those-in-the-know. One of the proprietors is Kristjan Peäske, a top sommelier who knows his wines, his beers and his food. Casual and delicious food with clever Estonian twists (think Crème brûlée with caramelised rye bread crumbs), outside seating on two levels in a quiet and large old town courtyard. Here's my review from last summer.
There's even a small sandbox for kids outside, so it's ideal for a family lunch during summer.
NB! Note they're currently closed on Sundays and between 3pm-6pm during the rest of the week, but they will be open seven days a week from mid-May onwards (limited menu after lunch and before dinner).

MEKK (Suur-Karja 17/19, reservations 680 6688)
MEKK stands for Modern Estonian Kitchen, and the chef Rene Uusmees is doing a good job in serving unpretentious delicious food in serene surroundings just on the edge of the old town.
By the way - the kids eat for free (from the very reasonable children's menu) with their parents, and we've always felt very welcome when visiting with our family.

TIGU (Pikk 30, Vanalinn/Old Town, reservations 56668493)
A pop-up restaurant that used to be located on the outskirts of Kadriorg, but now only opens for a couple of weeks at a time on various locations across town. This time it's open until May 25th only.
A casual Mediterranean food, well-known for its seafood dishes.

OLDE HANSA (Vana Turg 1, Vanalinn/Old Town, reservations 627 9020)
I admit it's been a few years since I was there, but I do love their borderline kitsch Medieval atmosphere, and I used to be a huge fan of their wild mushroom soup, served with soft roll and cream cheese spread.

F-HOONE (Telliskivi 60a, Telliskivi loomelinnak)
A popular venture behind Balti Jaam (Central Train Station), in the Telliskivi complex. Former printing house with extremely high ceilings and bohemian feel. I must admit I like the atmosphere much more than the food (buzzing and full of people on a midweek night), but there are some gems on the menu.  It's very popular with trendy artists and students, and the prices are pretty reasonable.
There's also a children's play area, although it's out of sight of the parents :)
There are several other diners/cafés in the area - Boheem, Kukeke, Kamahouse, if you cannot get a table in F-Hoone.

Pubs in Tallinn:

PÕRGU (Rüütli 4, Vanalinn/Old Town, telephone 6 440 232)
Good beer and nice food, a basement pub behind Niguliste kirik.

DRINK BAR (Väike-Karja 8, Vanalinn/Old Town, opened till 3 am)
Run by a British expat James, the place is a favourite of many big pub-going friends of mine :)

Highly recommended outside Tallinn:

OKO (Kaberneeme jahisadam, Harjumaa, reservations 53 00 4440)
OKO starter / OKO eelroog

About 30 minute drive from Tallinn city centre towards Lahemaa is a sea-side restaurant where one of the capital's top gourmet chefs, Tõnis Siigur, cooks more casual, yet sophisticated food. Extremely popular during summer, which affects the service on a negative way, but if you manage to avoid the peak times (weekend lunches and dinners), you're guaranteed to have a wonderful day - and meal - out.

PÕHJAKA (Mäeküla, Paide vald, reservations 5267795)

Põhjaka mõis

I haven't blogged about it, but you can check out my Flickr photo set. Probably our best eating out experience last summer. Everything - the food, the location, the atmosphere, the welcoming service - was flawless. You can sit outdoors during summer, the food is mainly simple Estonian, but served in a fun way.
It's highly popular, so do book ahead, especially as it's about an hour's drive from Tallinn.

SUPELSAKSAD (Nikolai 32, Pärnu, tel. 4422448)
Supelsaksad, Pärnu
A café in Pärnu, the "Summer Capital of Estonia". I shared some photos from our visit in June 2010, and it has remained a must-to-visit whenever we are in Pärnu. It also received the Best Café award at the 2011 Silverspoon competition, so it's still going strong.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mussels, and my kids

Kids eating mussels
April 2012

Our daughter is 3 years and 2 months now, our son 1 year and 3 months. They both adore mussels. We discovered our daughter's love for the shellfish back in October 2010, when testing recipes for my first cookbook. She was 1 year and 8 months at the time - way too early for enjoying mussels, I thought for some reason. We gave her one, just for fun, and she was immediately taken:

Nora loves mussels / Nora armastab rannakarpe
October 2010

She had 35 mussels in one go that night. I know, we counted them, amazed. She would have had more, if we had let her, but as we could visibly see her tiny belly filling up, we simply said stop at one point.

September 2011, France

Let me just say that choosing a place for lunch on our last trip to France (we went to Normandie and Bretagne in September 2011) was easy - we just had to go for a place that served mussels. She had mussels for lunch on pretty much every day :D

Nora & mussels, second (or third?) helpings
April 2012

Few weeks ago I saw some nice-looking mussels in my local supermarket, and decided to cook them for dinner. Nora was extremely pleased - she immediately recognised what's in the bag (well, net actually) and was clapping her hands in excitement. I made a quick mussel dish (recipe below), and when ready to serve, I also offered our son some. He loved them, too, just like his big sis'.

Aksel & mussel / Noormees rannakarbiga
April 2012

I must have obviously done something right in introducing solid foods to my kids (I used the approach called baby-led weaning with both of them, and very succesfully), as there are both very keen to try new foods and I'd have to think very hard to come up with something that our daughter doesn't like, or would at least refuse to try.

The recipe below - Steamed Mussels with Basil Cream - is adapted from one of Rachel Allen's books (Rachel's favourite food for friends), and apparently it's the way mussels are prepared in a Fishy Fishy Café in Kinsale, Ireland. It's one of the quickest and easiest ways to prepare mussels and our family loves this.

Mussels in a creamy pesto sauce
(Rannakarbid basiilikukreemiga)
Serves six

Mussels with pesto cream / Rannakarbid pesto-koorekastmega

2 to 3 kg fresh/live mussels
200 ml fresh cream (single or double)
3 heaped Tbsp good-quality basil pesto
sea salt
freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mussels / Rannakarbid

Scrub the mussels very well and discard any that are not open and do not close when tapped.
Place the cream and the pesto in a large saucepan on the heat and bring to the boil. Taste the sauce - add some salt and lemon juice to get the taste just right.
Add the prepared mussels, cover with a lid and place on a medium heat. Cook the mussels in the pesto cream for about 5-8 minutes, or until all the mussels are completely open (discard any that do not open).
To serve, pour the mussels and the sauce into a big bowl. Serve with some crusty white bread on the side.
Remember to place another big bowl on the table for empty shells, and some finger bowls and plenty of napkins!

More lovely recipes using mussels:
Mussels in apple cider @ Nami-Nami
Memento mussel soup @ Lobstersquad
Potato and mussel stew @ Lobstersquad
Saffron tomato mussels @ The Passionate Cook
Curry mussels @ The Passionate Cook
Champagne and saffron mussels @ Chocolate & Zucchini
Coconut curry mussels @ Simply Recipes
Thai green curry mussels @ CookSister

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cardamom-scented apricot and curd cheese cake

Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: Cardamom-scented apricot and curd cheese cake

Here's a cake we served on this year's Easter Brunch. It's a simple and very popular curd cheese cake that's usually made with canned/preserved apricots or peaches, but I've recently fine-tuned the recipe by adding a generous amount of ground cardamom to the crust and topping the cake with sliced almonds before baking.

Make the cake day before you plan to serve it - it's much easier to cut into slices when completely cooled, and the flavour improves as well.

Cardamom-scented apricot and curd cheese cake

(Kardemonihõnguline aprikoosi-kohupiimakook)
Serves eight

100 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
85 g caster sugar (100 ml)
1 large egg
180 g all-purpose flour (300 ml)
1 tsp ground cardamom
0.5 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt

400 g canned apricot halves (you can also use peaches)
500 g curd cheese or creamy farmer's cheese
200 g sour cream
2 large eggs
85 g caster sugar (100 ml)
2 tsp vanilla sugar or 1 tsp good-quality vanilla extract

a handful of sliced almonds (optional)

Making the crust: cream the butter and sugar until combined and pale. Add the egg, stir until combined. Fold in the dry ingredients. Press the pastry onto the base and sides of a buttered and lined 26 cm loose-bottomed springform tin. Place into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Making the filling: combine the curd cheese and sour cream. Beat in the eggs, then add the sugar and vanilla. Whisk until well combined. Spoon the filling onto the cake tin.

Drain the apricots and gently press onto the filling, cut-side down. Sprinkle almond slices on top.

Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 175 C/350 F oven for about 50 to 60 minutes, until the cake is light golden on top and the filling is just a wee bit wobbly - it'll set overnight.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012

On Easter Sunday we hosted yet another Easter brunch to our dear friends - something of a tradition by now, as we've done this for almost five years, I believe (see overview of 2009 and 2010 and 2011). This year we were twenty people in total - 16 guests and our own little family of four.

Here's an overview of this year's table:

Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012

And here are the individual dishes, with links to recipes, where appropriate.

Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012

We started with Mimosa cocktails, using freshly squeezed orange juice and Spanish cava. We also drank wine, apple juice and water, followed by tea and coffee later:

Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: Mimosas

Crostini with dill-marinated pork tenderloin and a dab of Meira's cognac-mustard (based on a Bon Appetit recipe):
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: Crostini with dill-marinated pork

Our friends Kristiina and Paavo brought along this delicious salad with alfa-alfa sprouts and various citrus fruits:
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: Salad nr 2 (courtesy of Kristiina & Paavo)

I had composed a salad of avocado, mango, pumpkin seeds and mozzarella cheese:
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: salad nr 1

Liina (also a food blogger ) had baked this delicious savoury Italian pizza pie, using wild boar meat and Estonian goat cheese:
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: Vernanda's Italian pizza pie

Estonian home cheese, SÕIR, which I had seasoned with roasted caraway seeds. This was especially delicious with home-baked rye bread (courtesy of our friend Kristiina again):
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: Estonian home cheese, SÕIR

Fun focaccia shots, topped with sun-dried tomatoes (I got the idea from Kerstin Rodgers' inspirational Supper Club: Recipes and Notes from the Underground Restaurant):
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: focaccia shots with sun-dried tomatoes

Marinated olives (a mix of Kalamata, green Greek and black Amfissa olives) with Aleppo chili flakes, roasted garlic cloves and caperberries (inspired by Kerstin Rodgers again):
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: marinated olives with caperberries, Aleppo chili and roasted garlic

Our friend Piret brought along a bowl of wild mushroom salad:
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: wild mushroom salad (Pireti võiseenesalat)

A Mason jar full of beetroot-pickled quail eggs. I've written about them before, this time I used beetroot juice, balsamic vinegar, caraway seeds, salt and pepper. I find that 12 hours is more than enough to dye and flavour the quail eggs:
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: Quail eggs, pickled in beetroot juice

Thinly sliced cold-smoked salmon from my favourite fishmonger, Pepe Kala (this was especially delicious on top of all those boiled eggs we ate):
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: Pepe Kala's smoked salmon

Thinly sliced Estonian "lardo" or Ristemäe's herb-crusted lard:
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: Ristemäe "lardo"

There were three desserts. First on the table, a traditional Easter pudding, paskha. Very creamy, rich and delicious. I added raisins, dried sour cherries, pistachios and flaked almonds to the paskha mixture:
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: Paskha

There was also a cardamom-scented apricot and curd cheese cake, topped with almonds:
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: Cardamom-scented apricot and curd cheese cake

And a very traditional Estonian curd cheese sheet cake, cut into small pieces to feed loads:
Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2012: Estonian curd cheese cake

Our friends Liina and Tauno also brought along a traditional Russian Easter cake, kulitch, that they had bought on a weekend trip to Narva:

What was on your Easter table?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! Kauneid pühi!

Our Easter eggs were dyed with saffron, onion peels, karkade (flor de jamaica) and frozen blueberries.


Aren't they pretty?

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Our Chicken, spring 2012

Photo-shoot from earlier today, when we let our for chicks out from their winter hideaway. We first got the chicken in April 2010. Carol (the black Araucana hybrid) and Evita (the lavender Araucana) are with us from that period, the Orpingtons Buffy (black) and Fluffy ("blue") joined us in December 2011. All are still strong egg-layers :)

Buffy, Evita, Carol, Fluffy (and their Eglu in the background):
Buffy, Evita, Carol, Fluffy

Fluffy (orpington)

Fluffy (Orpington)

Carol (araucana mix)

Carol (araucana mix)

Buffy, Fluffy, Evita:
Buffy, Fluffy, Evita

Evita (lavender araucana)

Evita (lavender araucana)

Buffy & Fluffy:
Buffy & Fluffy (Orpingtons)

More posts about chicken on this blog:
2010 overview (scroll down to April)