Birthday dinner in Tallinn

Hubby’s birthday fell on a Friday this year and as we both happened to have that day off work, we decided to take an overnight trip to Tallinn and celebrate there. We hopped on the Eckerö ferry in Helsinki at 9 am and arrived in Tallinn at 11:15 am. I had considered booking lounge seats, but it turned out a cabin was cheaper, so I ended up booking a cabin for us both ways. That way we didn’t have to “fight” for seats in the public areas of the ferry, had a place for our luggage, as well as a private bathroom. It was raining when we arrived in Tallinn so despite the fact that our hotel was only some two kilometers from the harbor, we decided to utilize a taxi. I had booked one night at Metropol Spa Hotel in a superior room and we were lucky enough that our room was ready when we arrived at the hotel. Once we got settled in the room, the rain had stopped so we decided to walk to Fotografiska Tallinn that is located in the Telliskivi neighborhood.

Hotel picture courtesy of: http://www.visitestonia.com/fi/metropol-spa-hotel

The walk was nice, and we checked out the Balti Jaama Turg on the way. Our absolute favorite exhibition at Fotografiska was Alison Jackson’s Truth is Dead, which was both funny and thought-provoking. I also found Kirsty Mitchell’s Wonderland interesting and there were some extremely beautiful pictures that I would be happy to hang on my wall, but in my opinion it became a bit repetitive after a while. Once we had seen the various exhibitions it was lunch time. We ate at Kivi, Paber, Käärid (Rock, Paper, Scissors), which turned out to be an excellent spot to enjoy tasty food. We started with Tortilla Chips with Avocado Cream and Salsa and both had a soup to follow. Mine was Creamy Tomato Soup with Oat Cream and Roasted Almond Flakes and hubby’s Spicy Vietnamese Style Soup with Duck. If you are ever in the Telliskivi area, I can recommend Kivi, Paber, Käärid both for food and drinks.

Oustide market at Balti Jaama Turg
Inside Balti Jaama Turg
Spotted some street art on the way to Fotografiska
More street art
Lunch time

After lunch we strolled back to the hotel and once there utilized the spa facilities. The spa featured four different saunas (Finnish sauna, aroma sauna, steam sauna and salt-steam sauna), four Jacuzzis, a pool and a pool-side bar. We found the spa to be nice and relaxing and at least on a Friday afternoon it was not too crowded. Soon it was time to prepare for dinner and once we were all dolled up, we headed out again and walked to the restaurant.

Spa picture courtesy of: http://www.visitestonia.com/fi/metropol-spa-hotel

I had booked a table at Restaurant Tchaikovsky located in the Telegraaf Hotel. As we were a bit early, we decided to have a drink at the lobby bar. Once it was time for dinner the bartender took us to our table and brought our drinks as well. The restaurant was lovely and the service impeccable. We decided to try the six-course degustation menu with wine pairings. The menu consisted of Tsar Blini with a Trio of Caviar: Osetra Caviar, Golden Pike Roe and Trout Roe, Venison Tartar with Cranberries, Black Radish and a Cream of Horseradish, Truffle Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Scallop and Crispy Black Bread, Cod with Pumpkin-Quince Puree and Oyster Beurre Blanc Sauce, Roasted Pigeon Royal Filet and Confit with Grilled Sweet Corn and Madeira Sauce, and Plum-Hazelnut Chocolate Cream With Cardamom Sauce. We were also served a small amuse bouche to start and a palate cleanser after the fish course. The menu had just changed that very day and we were the first customers to have this new degustation menu, so the waiter was very interested in what we thought of the various courses. The wine pairings worked really well, and we appreciated that the pours were half pours, as sometimes when you have a wine package you end up getting quite soused. The menu was extremely well planned and for once the courses were small enough so that you could enjoy the whole menu without feeling stuffed already half way through. All in all, I must say this was one of the very best degustation menus and wine pairings we have experienced. We will definitely return to Tchaikovsky as we are very interested in seeing what their spring or summer menu is like.

Restaurant picture courtesy of: http://www.visitestonia.com/en/restaurant-tchaikovsky
Bread basket with truffle spread and caper spread
Tsar Blini with a Trio of Caviar
Venison Tartar
Truffle Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
Cod with Pumpkin-Quince Puree and Oyster Beurre Blanc Sauce
The palate cleanser was a pineaplle sherbet in olive oil (sounds wierd but it was delicious)
Roasted Pigeon Royal Filet and Confit
Plum-Hazelnut Chocolate Cream

We had a good night’s sleep and an adequate breakfast at the hotel the following morning. Then it was time to check out and walk to the harbor to catch the noon ferry back home. This was a lovely way to celebrate hubby’s birthday and a welcome little break from the daily grind.

Short trip to Pärnu

Last week my father-in-law turned 80 and decided to ”escape the country” so that he did not have to arrange a party. The solution was to gather his five siblings and their significant others and travel to a spa in Pärnu, Estonia for six days. Pärnu is a resort city in southwestern Estonia with some 40,000 inhabitants. The city overlooks Pärnu Bay and is bisected by the Pärnu River. The city is known for its 19th-century timber villas and for sandy Pärnu Beach, with its shallow waters and promenade. The city has several spas and is a popular vacation destination, especially in summer.

The birthday celebration was planned for Friday, so me and hubby joined the sibling gang on Thursday evening. We took the 4.30 pm Tallink Megastar ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn. We decided to splurge on the comfort lounge (EUR 20 or 24 per person depending on vessel) and on a priority position for the car (another EUR 20). The comfort lounge is a separate area with extra services, including a selection of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks, newspapers, TV, wifi, power outlets, toilets and a bar. We really enjoyed the lounge, it was quiet and calm and you didn’t have to suffer the usual drunks, long queues and less than fresh toilets. The priority car service means that you are among the first to leave the ship once you arrive in port. This means you beat the traffic. So after relaxing in the lounge for a couple of hours we drove out to Tallinn and headed towards Pärnu.

Comfort lounge

The drive to Pärnu took around two hours and once we arrived at Tervis Medical Spa Hotel and checked in we caught up with hubby’s relatives. I must say this was not a hotel I would’ve personally chosen but since this was where the rest of the birthday party was staying, we decided it was easiest to stay at the same place. We had booked a standard suite, which turned out to be quite run down and in need of some upgrading. Turns out the standard rooms the rest of the party were staying in had been renovated more recently. The plus side of the suite was that it offered free bathrobes and a hairdryer, which the standard rooms did not. Once we had unpacked we headed to Muuli bar for a small nightcap and then it was time for bed. The next morning we visited the water center after breakfast. I had booked some salon treatments at Helmi Beauty Salon for the afternoon (a pedicure and facial) and before this we had a small lunch at the Book café Purje.

The suite had a living room
…and a bedroom
Lunch time
View from Book cafe Purje’s terrace
View from Book cafe Purje’s terrace
After my pedicure

On Friday evening it was time for the actual birthday celebration which was in the form of dinner at a restaurant called Trahter Postipoiss. As we were a group of 10 people the restaurant had asked us to preorder our food. This was actually quite handy as we only had to contemplate what to drink once we arrived at the restaurant. The food was good for the most part (there seemed to be some variation between the different foods as most were delicious but a couple of portions were a disappointment). Based on my meal, I would eat here again. Once we returned to the hotel we had a nightcap at the lobby bar before heading to bed. The next morning we had breakfast, packed our stuff and checked out. Before we drove back to Tallinn we took a stroll in the small old town of Pärnu.

Restaurant entrance
Inside the restaurant
The birthday party
Russian-style buckwheat and wheat blini with trout roe
Pan-fried pike perch fillet breaded with panko served with potato & pumpkin purée,
pumpkin & marrow salad and apple cider sauce
Pear cake with ginger and raspberry sauce

The trip was a nice way to celebrate a birthday and it might be interesting to return to Pärnu in summer and see the city in full swing.

Christmas cruise

As January is almost over it is about time to blog about Christmas. Ever since my grandma became immobile and moved into a care facility several years ago, we have the same conversation with my family every year: Where and how to celebrate Christmas. There have been several variations through the years and my mom has suggested a cruise a couple of times. I never really got excited about the idea of a cruise but last year I figured why the heck not – I’ll try anything once. So on the 23rd of December we (me, hubby, my parents and my father-in-law) boarded a rather old Viking Line cruise ship called Mariella from 1985. I have to apologize for this post not containing links, I have trouble accessing the Viking Line site.

Picture from Pinterest

The ship left Helsinki in the early evening, we got settled in our cabins, had a look around the ship and had some drinks. Then we decided it was time for dinner so we opted for the Ocean Grill. The ship was fully booked so we had to wait for the food for quite a while. The food was tasty and we got our tummies filled. The next morning me and hubby chose to have breakfast at the buffet. After breakfast we walked to the old town in Stockholm. We walked around for a while, popped into a café for some refreshments and headed back to the ship. As this was a special cruise, the ship stayed in Stockholm only for four hours.

Enjoying some glögg (mulled wine) in Gamla Stan
My travel companions got caught on film

 Back at the ship we did some shopping, the men went to sauna and we had an aperitif. The cruise price included Christmas buffet on Christmas Eve and so we headed to dinner. The buffet consisted of both Finnish and Swedish Christmas specialties and had been designed by the Culinary Team of Sweden. There was plenty to choose from and the food was really tasty. On Christmas morning we arrived back in Helsinki, the cruise price also included brunch on Christmas morning in the buffet restaurant. The brunch included some leftovers from the dinner. After we had filled our tummies with brunch it was time to say bye to the ship and head home.

Christmas Eve buffet
Christmas Eve buffet
Christmas Eve buffet
Joulukinkku – the traditional Christmas ham
Christmas Eve buffet

I must say I am not too keen to repeat the experience of the Christmas cruise anytime soon. Admittedly it was nice to be able to enjoy a vast array of Christmas food that somebody else had prepared and not having to discuss what should be served at Christmas dinner for weeks. But apart from that the cruise in itself was nothing special (maybe I´ve been on enough them already) and having to spend 1 ½ days “trapped” on an old ship is not really my idea of fun.