But where should I eat: South Estonia
If you are not here for the first time, you probably already understand that you are reading a blog written by a a foodie. We’re trying to put together a more concrete plan for Israel with A. because Morocco was a fairly free-run and so what I did – of course I did a list of the foods I wanted to try. This, in turn, made me think about how many different ways there are to discover a local food culture. Then I was wondering where we were in southern Estonia and if all of them were the same kind and my surprise – each of them had different ‘category’ and caressed different senses.
So, the first one to think about when having an empty stomach is in a restaurant. You sit at the table and you will be presented with a menu. You choose your favourites from the menu and wait for the settlements. And oh, how long this waiting time is usually, especially if you’re hungry. There was a time when I was not eating out almost at all, because I was sorry for the money that you ‘spend’ on food, and especially if it doesn’t meet expectations. In the meantime, I ‘struggle’ with this feeling, but I know that it is a kind of experience and a kind of counted expense, especially when travelling. In any case, if the experience is equivalent to the amount on the bill, then it is not so bad after all. I am increasingly trying to change my mindset so that I gather experiences and memories rather than things, so eating out in a nice place will definitely go under this kind of experience.
We visited Suure-Muna restaurant at the foot of Suur-Munamägi on the last day of our trip. Can’t describe this place better than they did on Facebook ‘The atmosphere like being in the countryside with grandmother, cosy little at home where it’s good to be. One piece of furniture from here and the other from elsewhere, lots of light, flowers and good food. ‘ In fact, we put in our order … for everything. The breakfast had been missed, but we had already been blown away in the snow for several hours in the Metsakõlakojad, and were tubing down in Veemäe. We ordered half sizes of ‘Võrumaa snacks’ and ‘Haanja-type-tapas’, from which the in house produced pesto and kale chips and local cheeses had the most affect. For main dishes we ordered deer and elk meat with juicy oven baked vegetables.
At the same time, there is always a chance to take somewhere the dish of the day if you visit the place within a week and become hungry around lunch time. I think this is just such a well-established idea in Estonia and often as you may be looking to go to somewhere, it is a good opportunity to try watering your toes first and then you might be sure to dine or have a drink somewhere to spend your whole evening in. While the average daily offers in other parts of Europe are 10-20 €, Estonian dish of the days, available on average 3-7 €, always invite me to try new places.
When visiting Põlva Talurahvamuuseum we found ourselves in Tillu Home Café, which also houses a farmers ‘market’ selling various Estonian products. But as you step in, the one that will probably remain in memory for days is their choice of cake. Incredibly unbelievable as they seemed to look and as we learned later, they tasted. And I don’t even have that big of a sweet-tooth. That day the dish of the day was potatoes with fried sõir (curd cheese with cumin) and herring ‘ice cream’. You know, I have a very distant relationship with herring. I love Baltic sprats, but I always tend to avoid any kind of herring in food, but since this time the choice was that, I tried and it was very tasty. Perhaps the next time I am bolder and the choice also goes to herring. Regarding the sõir, you will soon hear about my great love for it.
And then there are times when you know that there is a full day of sightseeing and every minute is counted. How do you act? You hope that there is breakfast in the accommodation and it better be to be delicious and versatile. After getting tired of the action filled day and refreshing in the Ööbikuoru Villa, we skated across the icy square for breakfast. We were the only guests, and saw that preparations for a wedding were in full swing.
And my morning just started perfectly. First of all, at the entrance, I saw a coffee machine and if you did not know it, there is no perfect breakfast without coffee. Second, I was greeted by being asked if I would like to have porridge or omelette. I chose the latter one. And whether bacon could complement the omelette. Otherwise, at home I eat meat free and try to prefer plant based food, luckily or unfortunately I take everything offered when I travel. And this offer was extremely good. I had been dreaming of cinnamon rolls for the previous two weeks, but as the last time I prepared them, they dried up in the oven, so I didn’t take that journey again. And you know what was waiting for us at the breakfast table? Cinnamon Rolls! I wouldn’t have wanted anything more, they really had everything – sandwich material, porridge, omelette, muesli, cinnamon rolls, coffee, tea. I’m the forever sandwich lover, so I often have to settle for a porridge/muesli or a sweet pastry at the breakfast table, but not at the Ööbikuoru Villa. Thank you!
There is always a place where you feel the time stops and it is completely alright. You allow yourself a piece of cake and just enjoy the moment. I have been singing my praises enough on Instagram, but after I entered Cafe Steding in December, I have gone there every time while in Estonia. A totally incredibly enchanting place for me with its rustic walls and magnificent furniture. It has this ‘time to stand still and enjoy the moment’ feeling that’s just so enjoyable and feel that it’s okay to read a book found at the window sill and enjoy foods offered. Since I saw that they have a cupboard full of board games, the next time I go there I might have another agenda in mind. Does anyone want to join in April?
Yet again, we invested in lunch and put all our bets on the tasting experience. For the starter we took handmade crispy seeded crisps with chicken pate. That jam on the pate was so good and those crispy breads … Well. De-lic-i-ous. We took chicken wings in mango-chilly sauce with sweet-potato fries and warm kinoa salad with trout fillet. We were just so pleased with our choices and quantities that we just ended up with coffee because we couldn’t have more. But their (including vegan) cakes made us doubt for a moment that we might underestimate our abilities. At the same time, there is always a reason to go back (what we did for the evening jazz concert). Cakes, however, will wait for the next time.
When I was in Morocco in October, I tried for the first time to cook with someone teaching me. As I mentioned earlier, I am probably the biggest fan of the sõir (curd cheese with cumin) here. Every time I find myself on a fair in the summer, I look for the one and only – with the amount of cumin and salt, which I often can’t find. This time, however, we were given the opportunity to make our own sõir in the Maagõkõsõ restaurant. Did you know how easy it really is to do it once you try? All you need is egg, curd, milk, butter, (lots of) cumin, salt. We also added cottage cheese as part of it, but you can find the recipe (in Estonian) here.
We were welcomed by energetic Sirje, who took us straight to the kitchen and already had the necessary tools in hand and the cooking started before we realised. Stir, boil and strain and add the necessary, stir, taste and add more. In the twenty minutes (if at all) with a warm sõir in hand, we headed to a table where we could taste it with homemade jams and honestly, I would never have come up that, first of all, you could eat sõir as a warm meal and, secondly, combine it with jam.
The main course was prepared without us as long as we floated in the sõir heaven. Honestly. After that we tried the oven-baked bread with herb butter and we were delivered a plate with fish caught from Peipsi lake, pumpkins made by the hostess, beetroot salad and pickled prepared in the river (you have to go and ask what and how). But what’s most fascinating to me – a smoked meat mashed potatoes. Please tell me how it is possible, firstly, that everything on the plate is divinely tasty and, secondly, that the most memorable of them is potato mash? Now maybe you can understand why I was in such an amazement in this South Estonian trip all the time. And the dessert is of course the good old desert called ‘kama’. Just give it a try.
I left Maagõkõnõ with such a warm feeling that I’m 100% sure I will go back over and over again. Sirje herself has her whole soul in the place, and it is manifested in her food.
And then there are the moments when you are somewhere in an attraction centre and your belly is empty and you think about what you can and where to bite quickly. My one of the most memorable experiences in the negative sense is in Plitvice Nature Park, where I probably got the worst burger experience of my life – probably a 7-day-old bun with a goatskin-like meat and a water-ketchup mix as a ‘sauce’.
For the last in my South-Estonian foodie list, I leave my biggest surprise on this trip – the Entertainment centre in the Vastseliina Episcopal Castle, where we probably got one of the most surprising experiences. We were introduced to the centre itself and the pilgrimage house and then we reached the room where the fireplace was lit, the table was covered for two and I was 99% sure that such a beautiful plate of this food could only be plastic or on the advertising posters where it was covered in engine oil to make it look shiny. But it wasn’t. It was our lunch. We tasted the meat smoked in the Mooska smoke sauna with vegetables, roasted tomatoes and berries with which we could enjoy the live fire and having a ginger drink. I honestly have no words to describe how surprised I was at such a warm welcome and how grateful for this experience.
This trip to Estonia as a whole has exceeded my expectations at every step and just left a warm feeling in my heart. And when I think about it, it is largely due to the people who took us in, dedicated their time to us, and told us why they are doing this as they do.
The post was born in cooperation with the Tourist Information Center of Võrumaa, who planned the places to visit. The aim of the collaboration was to experience what South Estonia has to offer in a few days and write our opinion about the experience.