Sunday, June 29, 2008

I amsterdam

I had a lovely opportunity to go back to Amsterdam this week. For obvious reasons (work) it was less fun and less eventful than the last time I went there, but Amsterdam is Amsterdam. As long as you can dodge the bikers, it's great fun.
The first night we were there we went to a restaurant called Bicken (Overtoom, 28-30)near the hotel. The service was great (our waiter kept us nicely in the loop of the quickly changing soccer-scores) and the culinary experience was definitely a memorable one.
For those of us who always struggle to make choices, they had something called the 'Surprise menu', it came in either 3 or 4 courses and the only way you could influence what you were served was by listing stuff you DON'T eat. I listed nothing. And here's what I got.

A seared scallop and tiger-prawn on bruschetta and anchovies paste with some very nice pesto and sweet and sour cucumber. Unfortunately I've forgotten what the pesto was made of, my guess is rucola.

The main course was grilled sea-bream on cous-cous with Danish shrimp and a nice creamy sauce with lemongrass.

And for dessert we got carrot-cake with mascarpone cream and a raspberry served with a fresh strawberry-cream shake that was spiked with Sambuca.


And the great thing about the surprise menu was, that it wasn't a staple set. Some people joined us a bit later and went for the same thing, but their main course was sea-bass with asparagus, for example.
Must be fun to be a chef there :)

And then, with the bill, we got some nice sticky meringue and crispy cookies. A really good experience all-round.


I do realize that lately this blog has been more about restaurants and less about recipes, but this stems mainly from the fact that I've spent virtually no time at home, in my lovely kitchen. But July should be better, at least the first half :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Berlinspiration

I'm in Berlin this week and it's arguably the best time to be here. On Sunday the Turkish won in the European Football Cup - Berlin has a huge Turkish community and they were VERY happy and VERY vocal about it.

And then on Monday the Germans themselves won the Austrians. And they too were very pleased. On top of a lot of flag-waving, I've also had some more and less nice things to eat. Here are the more traditional highlights (accompanied by appropriate pictures of the soccer festivities).

On Sunday night we had the official opening dinner in a Bavarian restaurant called Gugelhof, which is famous for some reason (not their food for sure). Apparently when Clinton was visiting they went there with Schröder. Our menu consisted of Spargelkremesuppe mit Bärlauchpesto (asparagus soup with some odd pesto and either Balsamico or the pumpkin-seed oil).

It was quickly covered by a milk-soup skin, that then meandered around the plate in a gross way - reminding me of one of my childhood poems about milk-soup:
Piimasupp see piidleb last,
mine saa nüüd aru tast,
soe ja valge, vahib sealt -
fuih, tal nahk on ka veel peal.

(Loose translation: Milk-soup is staring at the kid, go figure - why, warm and white it's looking up, Yuck, it's even covered with a skin). You can tell that I was never a fan of the milk-products. Especially when heated.

For the second course we had Rindertafelspitz aus dem Kessel mit frischem Meerrettich und Bouillonkartoffeln - which was basically again a kinder-garden staple - the 'one-pot stew' of some chewy beef and chunks of root vegetables.

For dessert we got some ice-cream, which was fabulous :)

My sister has been living in Germany for two years now, and one of her first and deepest culinary impressions was a dessert called milchreis(basically a rice-pudding, usually with plums, cherries or apples). So for Monday lunch I had a very nice pea-mint soup

and a milchreis with plums in a Delikatessen called Splendid near Friedrichstrasse.


Monday night some friends took me to a huge beer-garten to see how a soccer-match really needs to be watched.
The experience was comprised of nearly no way of being able to see the big screen, but seeing a lot of German flags, fake-hair and face-paint in the flag colors and a mandatory 'steak sandwich'.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A new take

Innovation comes from necessity, right? Not that I'd call this soup particularly innovative, but it's a different take on the sick-bed staple - the chicken soup and I would have never come up with it if I wasn't stuck with a 300 gr pack of minced chicken.
I actually wanted to make a fresh cabbage, carrot and mince stew, but Siim accidentally bough chicken mince and after a bit of suspicious staring and recognition that I didn't feel like making a meat-roll of some sort I embarked on making this:

A chicken-meatball soup:
For the meat-balls:
300 gr miced chicken
1/2 shalott, thinly chopped
1 large slice of white bread
a little bit of milk to soak the bread
1 egg
freshly ground black pepper
freshly ground salt

For the soup:
1/4 fresh cabbage, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 medium potato, sliced
parsley, chopped
paprika powder

Soak the bread with some milk and then mix with the mince, the chopped onion, the egg. Season with salt and pepper. Roll up small (1,5 -2 cm diameter) meat-balls and lightly fry on two sides until brown.
Add the sliced carrots and potatoes to the water, bring to boil. In 5 min add the cabbage, the parsley and the paprika powder. In 5 more minutes add the meat-balls. Cover and leave to simmer for 5 more minutes.

Should be a hit with kids or any other family members who have a slightly infantile taste in food :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Patio, Prague

Went to Prague again this week and it was wonderful as always. I had the best profiteroles I've ever had in my life (alas, no picture). They were made by a lady called Maria, who's been making buffet dinner meals for the work-parties at my Czech colleagues' for generations. I was promised the recipe, so I can try myself.

But the night before the whole profiterole epiphany we went to a really nice restaurant called Le Patio. (Narodni 22, Praha 1). Apparently it used to be a 3-storey furniture shop, then a furniture shop with a cafe for visitors and now it's a 2-storey restaurant with a small furniture shop inside.
We were one of the few visitors and it was really nice and cozy, the music was good and not too loud and the food was great.

Most of my dinner companions went for lamb, which they reported to be great. I had a mussel risotto, decorated with a generous cheese-crisp. It was so rich I couldn't finish it, but otherwise nearly flawless. The texture of the risotto grains, the consistency of the risotto, the level of taste and fragrance that the grains had immersed. Mmmmm...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

How to bring Portugal to Estonia?


Last summer we went to Portugal, one of the best holidays we've had and a fantastic experience in terms of food as well (I think the very first post of this blog is the overview of some wonderful meals we had there).
I used to dry a different sea-food or fish dish every day, but Siim stayed true to the sardines. They were lovely. Freshly caught, still tasting of the mighty Atlantic and just quickly grilled with olive-oil and sea salt.

One of the most common fish in Estonia is the Baltich Herring - it tastes quite similar to a sardine and looks just like one, just smaller.
But Baltic Herrings are never grilled in Estonia, they're fried, canned with tomatoes, marinated, but never grilled.

Well last weekend when the sun was out but it was still windy and cold, we missed Portugal so much that we decided to give it a go. And it totally worked. They tasted exactly the same.


Baltic Herring in sardinhas assadas disguise:
- cleaned Baltic Herrings (no heads, no guts)
- olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- freshly ground sea salt
- some baby garlic

Sprinkle the fish and the baby-garlic with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill on medium heat on both sides for 5 -7 min.
Open a bottle of Vino Verde, take a bite, close your eyes and pretend you can hear the Atlantic :)