Saturday, August 31, 2013

Downtime in Estonia. Smoked Chicken and Apples.


So happy he gets to pick apples....for free!

From the Visitors Center at Soomaa National Park, we had the challenge of getting ourselves back to the Klaara Mnani. A few u-turns here and there and one of us recognizing a landmark here and there and we eventually managed to arrive back rather painlessly....far less painless than the reverse trip.



When we entered our little building there was a fire burning in the fireplace - it was cosy and warm. A little too warm so we actually ended up leaving the front door open to let some cool air in. Later on, the owner came by to tell us that she had started the fire. Apparently, it had rained quite hard while we were out with Aivar and just in case we had been caught up in the same rainstorm, the ever so thoughtful guesthouse owner had started the fire so we could warm up by it when we got back.  We just had a drizzle so we returned dry but it was such a nice gesture on her part to think about our well being. And you wonder why I prefer to stay in small hotels and guesthouses than in large hotels or as I describe them, any place that has an elevator!

We had some time to kill before dinner so I brewed up two cups of tea and I watched a bit of TV (no English programming) while Bro checked out the guest house grounds.

Latvian chanterelles on the left; Estonia chanterelles on the right.

I also laid out my mushrooms to dry - had new batch of *special* chanterelles to tend to.  Unfortunately, I discovered worms (ick!) eating through the boletes that we had picked in Gauja so those got tossed out the car window and then I carefully culled through the remaining chanterelles to make sure they were worm free.


Thanks to Google, I learned these are Yellow or Winter Chanterelles.  I had quite a bounty of them thanks to Bro and Aivar!



By early evening i.e., 5p, we were ready for dinner. Dining options were really limited. Unless we drove the 20+ or so kilometers to the nearest town, Parnu, the only place serving food was the local pub. Sounded fine with me as I had no desire to drive all the way to Parnu and then hope we could make our way back to Klaara Manni once it got dark. We got rough directions to the pub and headed out. When someone says "pub" to me, I have an expectation of what such an establishment looks like. The only thing that came close to anything that would resemble a pub was nothing I saw. We pulled over into a small parking lot where it looked like there was a convenience store.  Inside, there was small store selling basic groceries. We asked the person behind the cash register where the pub was and she pointed us next door.


Standing back outside, I would have never guessed the plain gray building that looked like the exterior of a doublewide trailer was the pub but indeed it was. Inside there were a few tables and a TV hanging about the bar. We stood at the bar to look at the menus. Not much choice and we both settled on the smoked chicken salad. I didn't have high hopes for the meal but lucky for me, I was still full from lunch plus I had garlic toast to munch on. I figure Bro would fill up on apples if he had to.

Patiently waiting for our food.

Our food arrived in due time and it wasn't much to look at. A pile of stuff smothered in a white sauce of sorts. One bite though and I was in heaven!  Bits of slightly salty, smoked chicken mixed in with bite sized pieces of canned pineapple and walnut pieces all held together by a coating of thick, cold cream.  It seemed like a very odd combination of ingredients at first but with each bite, the flavors began to make sense to my palate.  I am now certifiably obsessed with smoked chicken.  I have to figure out how to recreate this dish....starting with smoking chicken :-)


There was a plate of thickly sliced rye bread on the side. The chicken salad was utterly delicious - we both ate up every bite of it, leaving bread behind. Who would have thought such tasty food could be had at a nondescript place as this in the middle of rural Estonia. I will remember this one dish of food forever!

Chatting with the daughter of the owners.  A very friendly girl who spoke perfect English.

After dinner, we headed back to Klaara Manni for a post dinner stroll.

Loved the planter.  Very cute!

Lots of cyclists here.  I thought this was a simple, yet very functional approach to a bike stand.

Across the street was a small house with a greenhouse and a small orchard. The apples that were hanging off those trees looked perfectly ripe and delectable.

Apples from some of the trees in the orchard....aka the good eating apples.

Very tempting to pick except there was nothing to indicate to us that these were freebies. Later on, we found out this is the home of the owners of Klaara Manni and they did invite us to take whatever apples we wanted. If not for the fact that bro already had a small store's supply worth of apples because of what we did next, he would have gladly taken them on their offer.

I nicknamed this stretch of road, Russian Apple Way :-)

The Klaara Manni is located along a stretch of the main road that is flacked on both sides by apple trees that according to the owner's daughter were planted by the Soviets to help break the wind.  Bro insisted that we check out the trees. Hmmm.....why for I wonder? :-)

Lots and lots of apples!

One tree after another, he began to pick the lower hanging fruits - at least the ones that looked decent in size and edible. As his partner in crime, my job was to point out potential apples for the picking and to hold down branches so the apple picker can perform his deed. I was done after the first tree or two but Bro wanted to check out as many as he could - even crossing the road to see the bounty of the trees on the other sidel The looks on his face in these pictures tell of the fun he was having!

Someone was having way, way, way too much fun.

Back in the room, we rested and did our nightly duties. Tomorrow, we head for Tallinn with a couple stops along the way! It's been just a few days but I finally feel truly removed from my home in DC and am really enjoying the road trip!
Bro's bounty of apples from Russian Apple Way.  Add these to the Gauja lot and I think we easily have 30+ apples!

Goodnight from the Klaara Manni guesthouse - located in the quiet Estonian countryside somewhere between Parnu and Soomaa National Park!