The Return of Dark Times

This year marks a proud milestone in Lithuanian coffee culture – the 5th coffee conference Dark Times, an event dedicated to coffee culture, knowledge and inspiration, is going to take place on the 4th of November. The event is addressed to curious people who get inspired by coffee and want to dive deeper into the culture surrounding this dark liquid. This year, the stage is dedicated to storytelling.

Dark Times coffee conference is organised by Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories, an enthusiastic team of roasters, brewers and creators. From the very beginning, Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories have been oriented towards all kinds of stories behind the cup, and seeing the coffee as yet another mean of communication allowing to express the ideas, attitudes and feelings.

Not surprisingly, this year the event will greet magazine producers, editors and curators, roasters and baristas, aromatherapy enthusiasts, advertisers and other creative minds. Together they will look for an answer to what is the key to a compelling story, one that is worth listening, and worth telling. Get inspired by incredible speaker list that includes Michal Molčan (Standart, CZ), Rūta Sasnauskaitė (Assembly Coffee, UK), James Wise (Volcano Coffee Works, UK), Laimė Kiškūnė (www.osmossentia.lt, LT), Antonio Bechtle (The Atomic Garden Vilnius, LT), Rasa Janina Jusionytė (Ką žmonės dirba visą dieną?, LT) and Kęstas Pikūnas (Passport Journal, LT). All presentations will be given in English.

I am happy to know Emanuelis Ryklys, the man behind Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories roastery and brew bar, for quite some time now and have been honoured to be the first journalist ever to be given an interview by a fresh roasted coffee master more than five years ago. I have been following his stories, beans and journey in the world of coffee ever since. Today Emanuelis shares his thoughts for curating the content of Dark Times and the philosophy behind it.



Emanuelis, the 5th international coffee conference Dark Times will happen on the 4th of November at Kablys culture bar in Vilnius. Being the creative mastermind behind the Dark Times conference, how do you feel about this? Does this mean that coffee culture to Lithuanians is important? 
I'm pretty sure it is important to do and share what you feel is right. Dark Times coffee conference started out from passion and intuition and over years it became quite a huge part of Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories philosophy and of people who are a part of our team or simply our friends and supporters. What's more, with this small independent event we've got noticed locally and globally and that means a lot too. Coffee culture is growing in Lithuania and I am glad we're part of all this.

I wanted to show the diversity of coffee. I always wanted to involve people to play with coffee. And do it all in a very down to Earth way.

Tell us the story behind the Dark Times. What was the innitial idea and philosophy behind this event and how it evloved to an event that it is today? 
Well, I never saw coffee as a functional drink. All good with sourcing, roasting, brewing, packaging, but from the very beginning I saw this as a natural fundament, but also looked for answers into these kind of questions like what's next? Why people talk about coffee complexity but use only espresso machines? Why people like to go to cafes in general? How to pair coffee with food? What is the history behind coffee? And so on. All these topics and themes we try to question and answer during Dark Times coffee conference. I wanted to show the diversity of coffee. I always wanted to involve people to play with coffee. And do it all in a very down to Earth way.



Every year Dark Times conference turns out to be very different in terms of topics, speakers, place and people. What is the most unique thing about Dark Times this year?
This year we are focusing on different forms of stories and different storytellers. I think it is important to find new ways to tell coffee stories, because it is kind of boring to listen to the same things again and again. It is always good to be a bit more creative and I hope we have creditable speakers in Dark Times coffee conference for that.

Storytelling and coffee. How do feel these two are connected and why did you choose to focus on stories this year?
Stories were always very important to me and I guess to most of the people. You need them to make better connections, emotions or simply to enjoy a cup of coffee better.

Before starting your own coffee roastery, you’ve been involed in advertising business for a long time. Could you say this is the reason that storytelling is still using up a large space in your daily life? Maybe it is vice versa?
Well, I truly believe everyone needs some good stories in their life. It can be a book, a song, a movie, a conversation or a damn good cup of coffee. Coffee people are not exeption, just sometime they focuse too much into technical issues rather than sharing naturally their passion to dark drink.

I love the quote by Joan Didion, – “We tell ourselves stories in order to live”. So, what is your (coffee) story? 
Honestly I do not know, but I always try to find new ways to listen to coffee and then share what I have learned from it.

I guess I would be right saying that Dark Times is all about creating community around coffee. How do you select your speakers?
When I have a main topic for upcoming conference I try to think who can be good in supporting this topic. I usually choose people from coffee world and outside of it. I just feel that in order to grow coffee culture you need to step out of it. Othervise you will swim inside a closed pool.

I just feel that in order to grow coffee culture you need to step out of it.

Why do you think Dark Times is worth attending this year? To whom, besides all coffee enthusiasts it would also be interesting and important?
It is always for open and curious ones. No matter if you are connected to coffee or simply enjoying good and hopefull inspiring stories.

Last but not least. The coffee culture and drinking habits of Northern Europeans / Balts. Have you noticed any changes in recent years? Any thoughts on that and where we are headed?
I think we are still doing very first steps of local coffee culture, so it is very hard to talk about similarities and differences. But in my opinion all of us from Northern Europeans / Balts enjoy to do it slow and in a trustfull company.


Finally, if you could pick one place in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to have a first cup of your daily coffee in each of those countries, where would you head to? 
I value people, not places. I have always liked to start my day with coffee from my mom's Moka pot, but now more and more I enjoy brewed coffee by my wife, hah. We have a few friends in Riga and coffee tastes better with them, for sure, no matter where we are having it. Estonia is still a bit unknown land for me although we have had speakers and coffee guest from Tallinn. I am pretty sure I would start my day at their cafe. But I am going to repeat myself that for me it is much more important to have a cup of coffee with someone I like rather to have some rare special beans alone.

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For tickets and more information check out these links:
Dark Times Coffee Conference
Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories
@cnacs on Facebook
bilietai.lt

Photos courtesy by Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories

Being Proud of Your Roots



Simple doesn't mean easy. The success of the matter is determined not by what ends up on the plate but by the elimination of excess and by creating serenity in essential form and space. It is the essence and the purity of philosophy, the simplicity of form and values.

Elegance and beauty on a plate, as in life, may be deceptive, illusionary. Not once nor twice it turns out to be blank, inhospitable and boring. Merely sometimes, in those rare cases, the beauty of the outside carries so much more – a very clear idea, direction and philosophy. As well as the hard work and a choice to take the difficult route, the different path which results in a feeling on a plate.
 
To get to know food and philosophy that is living behind the restaurant's name and interior which looks like a perfect picture, you have to take your time, sit down at the table with the owners and talk hours about why this way and not another. 

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I wrote these words in my notebook almost two years ago, enchanted by the Lithuanian character and northern simplicity,  inspired by the calmness that hosts brought to the table and their beliefs that everything comes in its own time. Be it seasonal ingredients or success. 

Located in the very heart of chic but bohemian Užupis district in Vilnius, Sweet Root has been serving patrons since the summer of 2014. Last year, Sweet Root received a best restaurant reward in Master Class among top Lithuania’s restaurants and was voted the fourth best restaurant in the Baltic states by The White Guide Nordic. Nevertheless, the restaurant over time has become a perennial favourite in Vilnius’s bustling restaurant scene.



Strictly local, seasonal only – the way Sweet Root's owners describe their food philosophy. "When choosing ingredients we focus on locally sourced produce that grows around us at that particular time of a year. Large part of the produce we get from our own garden, forests and meadows. The rest come from people we know and trust. From farmers that have the same believes like we do. You don’t have to travel the seven seas to experience something subtle and magical at your home", says Sigitas.

This fall Sigitas Žemaitis and Agnė Marcinauskaitė, the owners of Sweet Root, together with a talented and creative team of chefs, photographer Šarunė Zurba, graphic designer Miglė Rudaitytė (Boy Creative Studio), writers and editors (Algė Ramanauskienė, Jenn Virskus, Jurgita Jačėnaitė) are bringing a book to the table. "Proud of Lithuania. A Fairy Tale by Sweet Root" – a fairy tale that we are all a part of. A book on local seasonal and a very Lithuanian feast.

"This story begins at a dinner table, on a plate full of magical flavours, tastes, emotions, and memories, in the rough woods of our little country called Lithuania. In its bright fields and cold blue rivers. In its soils and lakes. From the soil up to the sky. At a time when our life narrative was formed by a chain of connected happenings: birth, maturation, death, and rebirth of nature." [From the introduction].



Before Sweet Root, I’d say, Lithuanian cuisine was a world full of untold culinary stories and now your book "Proud of Lithuania. A Fairy Tale by Sweet Root” is at the printing house already. How do you feel to be the deal breakers and pioneers of representing real Lithuania on a plate?
Well, we don’t really feel being the heroic deal breakers or even more – pioneers of the Lithuanian cuisine (smiles). We simply understood that something was missing around our local dinner table - i.e. pure and sincere pride of what we have around and what we have in a plate. That was the stimulus for starting up a restaurant and choosing to use only what’s local – ingredients, combinations, habits, emotions, etc.

Could you introduce the ones who are not so familiar with Sweet Root, the philosophy of yours that lies behind everything you do? 
We care for simplicity and bringing back some slightly forgotten or undervalued local ingredients back to life. We want to remind the natural and true taste. We are eager to show the plate does not start at the restaurant – it starts in the woods, fields, farms and someone, first of all, has to take care of the ingredient. That said, we strongly believe each and every single plate should give genuine emotions or bring back memories.




Without a doubt, the team of Sweet Root was the first one focusing only on local, seasonal Lithuanian ingredients. What kind of experience do you aim to give guests at the restaurant?
As we mentioned earlier – we really wanna bring back the pride of who we, Lithuanians, are as well as bring the sincere emotion to the plate. Therefore, at the restaurant, we are striving that each guest would experience the magical simplicity of the local ingredients in the plate and would start listening to the stories that food is telling us. 

Would you say that reinventing Lithuanian cuisine is what you do?
It is really hard to tell what is or what is not Lithuanian cuisine. It would be too brave to say that we are reinventing or constructing the ‘new’ Lithuanian cuisine. It’s too abstract. We are making our own cuisine which is based on who we are, on the memories we have, the ingredients we posses and treasure as well as the gastronomic habits of our land. 


To us, Lithuania stands for cucumber and honey, blueberries and milk, dills and cucumbers, tomatoes and sour cream, mushrooms and potatoes, just to name a few.

I believe food is like language; it identifies a culture and, therefore, also differentiates it. How would you say Lithuanian food is different from our southern and northern neighbors?
The south and the north as well as the west and the east are so interrelated (smiles). It is not an easy task to show clear and specific boundaries of cuisine. What makes us all different and gives so much information – our cultures and identities are the combinations of ingredients that we use. So, to us, Lithuania stands for cucumber and honey, blueberries and milk, dills and cucumbers, tomatoes and sour cream, mushrooms and potatoes, just to name a few.




The title of your book “Proud of Lithuania. A Fairy Tale by Sweet Root” surely has a romantic and nostalgic note. What is this fairy tale all about and where does it begin?
It is all about Lithuania and it starts here, in our land (smiles). We really wanted to put together a fairy tale as if a simple and clear message – let’s finally be proud of our country at a dinner table! And the title of the book reveals it really obviously (smiles).

Your earliest memories of being interested in food?
Extreme delicacies at the grandma’s – bread, butter and sugar; radishes, onions, dills and cucumbers; rhubarb and sugar, cold pork belly and onions…

Growing up and living in Lithuania, what does it mean to you?
It does mean a lot - it gave us feeling of living in line with the nature and showing the utmost respect to it; it gave us self confidence and strength of never giving up even you are surrounded by the one that are bigger, taller or faster; it gave us the traditions and habits that we have now. And that’s what we are proud of – of our Lithuanian identity.


We believe that one should live here and now, showing all respect to the past and having no fair for the future. The past brings us the roots, the future – ensures those roots do not end. That is why it is important for us. It gives you understanding of whom you are, what is your true identity. It brings you back to the ingredients, to the natural cycle of nature. And then you adapt it and bring it to the future.
What excites you about Lithuania’s food culture right now?
Development that is truly fast. That is so exciting to be part of it and to play a tiny role in this movement.

Your previous life before diving into the world full of taste and flavors, and restaurant business, what was it all about?
It was about ties and shinning shoes, about formal dresses and business meetings. But it was also all about enjoying food and making people happy.




What your Lithuania of today on plate looks like?
Well, it depends on the season (smiles). Right now, it is the end of summer and the beginning of golden autumn - not too cold, just brisk and bright yellow, brown and red, earthy, rich and sweet, with the aromas of grains, apples and hazelnuts...

The past, the nowness, the future. It is all connected in your book. How much the traditions and respect for the old way of doing things are important to you?
We believe that one should live here and now, showing all respect to the past and having no fair for the future. The past brings us the roots, the future – ensures those roots do not end. That is why it is important for us. It gives you understanding of whom you are, what is your true identity. It brings you back to the ingredients, to the natural cycle of nature. And then you adapt it and bring it to the future.


Let’s finally be proud of our country at a dinner table!

In the introduction of your book you invites to “bring back to the table some of the forgotten heroes we once knew and the different combinations of local ingredients that define the culture and manner of the place we live”. Who they are, your most aspired heroes?
Some of the combinations we revealed already above – like the cucumber and honey, blueberries and milk, etc. As it comes to the hero ingredients – rowan berries, quince, beetroots, turnips, black currant leaves, linden blossoms, wild strawberries, wild thyme…we could go on and on (smiles).

You grow your own veggies, pick wild herbs by yourselves and treat your guests by being present in a restaurant. It looks like you’re involved in most of the parts of Sweet Root’s food chain process, except for something you can’t be involved by yourselves, like having trustworthy meat or fish suppliers, the head chef who is collecting ideas into plate. What does trust mean to you? 
It is all about sharing the same values and having similar philosophical background. And then you simply share trust. It is crucial – you could not work on similar projects if you would not be able to trust people around you.

Pure and natural taste of ingredients is very true and sensible when dining at Sweet Root. Was it hard to transfer them into stories and written recipes, where you don’t get to taste while flipping through pages?
Every single ingredients has a long story to tell. You only need to listen (smiles). So it was not a difficult part. True ingredients speak for themselves!


How does the creation process in the restaurant differ from the one of creating a book? 
The book project seems to be somehow more finite – you work hard, pull it together and then it comes from the printing house. You cannot change much after that (smiles). With the restaurant – in it a never ending fairy tale that you are trying to make more genuine, true and emotional everyday..

The idea of different covers for a single cookbook. What is this concept all about?
Different covers stand for every single letter in a word L ` I ` T ` H ` U ` A ` N ` I ` A. It also shows diversity and gives a change for a reader to personalize the book a little by choosing the cover.

Do you think Lithuanian cuisine is exportable? Why would people be interested in how this small country eats like?
We should appreciate it locally first. Then it’s gonna become of an interest to others also.







Can you give us some behind the scenes of the process of book creation? How long did it take from the initial idea to the finished product?
It was not a quick process. It definitely took time. The photoshoots span over 3 years of time. And those were not planned for the books specifically. We simply wanted to capture the moments that would remind others and us how beautiful it is here. Some day last year we laughed that we already had so many photos that it would be possible to make a book. A year has passed since that day. And it is really coming out!

It is commonly known that fairy tales usually have good endings, does the one of yours?
Indeed! We have even 4 happy endings in the book:) One of those - “The lake. The days at the lake are calm. The air is chilly and the shimmering water captivating. Early morning feels foggy and fresh. As the clock ticks round, a shy sunbeam breaks through the clouds. A sheng boat approaches the shore, and the fish are laid down in the cooling shadow of the nettles. When the evening falls, the fire flames dance and a hearty meal of fish and potatoes is ready to be served."





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Photos courtesy of Sarune Zurba Photography for Sweet Root

Best of August


Finally, this month I got my eyes on Theater of Life. Thank you, Netflix. The documentary follows chef Massimo Bottura, whose Osteria Francescana was named world’s best restaurant in 2016 and featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, as he embarks on an ambitious project. But instead of elites and gourmands, he’s serving refugees, recovering drug addicts, former sex workers, the homeless and the hungry. Watch it on Netflix.

IKEA's new catalog. Especially Hay's Ypperlig series. I am not a big fan of celebrity designers and mass market brand collaborations and, to be honest, I do not own any items of this kind but I am really gonna think about this two seated sofa.

I guess this fun tablecloth The Feast by Native.lt could be a nice present for someone with a good sense of style and / or humor.

KALVE is a novel coffee roastery in Latvia, established by well known coffee professionals Gatis Zemanis and Raimonds Zadvornovs. With the purpose of strengthening and developing the culture of coffee production, brewing and drinking they are bringing a coffee full of flavours and style.

I miss living in Vilnius and especially slow Sundays when we used to visit local cheese market. I knocked a semi-hard sheep cheese ŪTA from my most beloved cheesemakers in Lithuania – Giedriaus Prakapavičiaus ūkis only by accident in a local supermarket (Linkėjimai iš kaimo food stall at your biggest Maxima store).

The street food craze is fast sweeping across Baltics. Latvians followed the steps of their neighbours and for the first time put up a really nice and vibrant street food festival at Kalnciema kvartals with all it's mess and glory. Most of the stalls are extensions of best city's restaurants and small producers – hard to resist to anything. The event became so popular it was extended to run every Wednesday of September as well.

the aesthetics of white plate



I've started this year with a few fresh buys – some a little more indulgent than others, like white custom and hand made plates. A bunch of them. You see, when it comes to table aesthetics, I only believe in white. Be it a simple midweek lunch at home or a fancy restaurant, white plate is the only correct answer. And here's why.

It is not only because I love white colour. And not only because I love minimalism. In design and art, white is generally considered a neutral backdrop that lets other colors to have a louder voice. White is associated with purity, cleanliness, and virtue. It can help to convey cleanliness and simplicity, though, and is popular in minimalist designs. White is at the opposite end of the spectrum from black, but like black, it can work well with just about any other color. In this case, creatively plated food.

The saying itself is already a cliché, but still we eat with our eyes first. With regard to the color of the plate, several studies have demonstrated that identical foods served on plates of different colors are often perceived differently at both the sensorial and hedonic levels. Dr Peter Stewart, assistant professor of psychology at the Grenfell Campus at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada and his research partner Erica Goss ran an experiment looking at how people perceived the taste of cheesecake on white round and square plates, compared to black round and square plates. They found that white round plates enhanced some basic judgments." Sweetness and intensity ratings were increased by white round plates but so were ratings of quality and liking," says Dr Stewart. According to him, the colour white has implicit associations with feelings of purity, brightness, or possibly cleanliness (among many other things I suspect) and this can lead to a priming effect of sorts.

Growing up I have seen many (and I mean m-a-n-y) awful plates. Anyhow, those were the times of soviet scarcity and owning only what you were lucky to own. Not all of those plates were bad, I even kind of liked some, but those were also white ones with golden rim which used to fade during time and being rubbed with rough metallic sponges. At home I liked a few white plates the best and when the times got better and my mom bought brown transparent tempered glass plate set of 24 plates, I remember I couldn't stand them. As well all the other crap that was sold in stores (it was so trendy, if you could remember!) and that took place in my friends' homes. I guess I was around twelve when I started recognise and appreciate the difference on how simple but nevertheless spectacular food looked on plain white plates. And I should that my mom for taking for taking me to public dining spaces and this appreciation of simplicity.

When dining in restaurants, I believe your plate should be designed in a thoughtful manner, never to distract you with anything that is not essential. No matter what, you eat with your eyes first. That means, how food is plated and presented is just as important as how it tastes. The Japanese fundamentally believe that a beautiful dish enhances the flavour of the food. But it shouldn't overtake the visuals of the solo actor on the stage – the dish.

Although, serving up a dish in modern today's restaurants has come a long way since the simple white plate. Many top eateries are experimenting with the crockery they use and the ways it can enhance the dining experience, from highlighting an ingredient to evoking an emotion. Chefs are experimenting not just with how they place their food on the plate, but the plateware itself. Rather than a blank canvas for the food, the plate is now being recognised as part of the 'artwork'. Which in many cases  ends up not as a good example of artwork you would want to show. Sometimes too pretentious, too messy, too busy.

I can finger-point you numbers of unsuccessful plate and food pairings in your beloved restaurants that ended up as a result of trying to be too artsy and / or inovative. There is no need to say that I'm quite allergic to unpleasant food views. Total disaster on a disastrous plate counts as one of them. There are only a few things worse in a restaurant environment than a great dish served on a wrong plate (or  sometimes even a slate!) for no reason.

I remembered an article on Bon Appétit, published a few years ago when this artisanal trend was coming into full swing, called Why Restaurants are Ditching White China for Hand-Made Ceramics. I admit, that they have a few good arguments. Especially the one that those ceramics are often thrown by a ceramist the chef knows as well as his butcher, farmer, or forager. It is all the part of artisanal experience, of which I am a devoted promoter and a cheerleader.

Anyhow, as long as we talk home environment and eye pleasing visuals, know I like mine as simple as it can get. Long live the idea of white plate.

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Pear, blackberry and wine sauce, chocolate breadcrumbs, ice cream
Kolonade. Mūsu stasti... (Riga, Latvia), 2017

10 Baltic Restaurants to Follow on Instagram

It goes without saying that we start eating with our eyes. And I believe food should be appealing, eye pleasing and tell us stories. As a photographer and content creator I could die for great, solid and sustainable visuals. For me it is one of the most important key components of building a great and consistent brand. Mom may have told you not to judge a book by it's cover, but the restaurant that takes care of it's social media, will take care of you and your food.

Starting a few years back, the love of #foodporn has taken the world of visual social media by storm.  Increasingly, customers were researching restaurants on social media before making a reservation or dining decision. They were (and still are, more than ever) craving mouthwatering images of delicious plates, scoping out the scene to determine the dress code, and scrolling through content to create an opinion about the place — all before even picking up a fork.

Maybe Baltic countries aren't the food capital of the world but following the worldwide trend many restaurants have taken the initiative to create Instagram accounts of their own, frequently posting their gloriously tempting and delicious looking food creations.

That being said, they are doing a remarkable job. Some restaurants just know how to post food pics on Instagram, so I wanted to highlight the best. I did some digging and found what I believe are the 10 best restaurant Instagram accounts in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia that you should follow right now.



SWEET ROOT

This is easily Lithuania's most beautiful and carefully crafted restaurant's Instagram account. Seasons inspired local cuisine reflects in beautiful pictures mostly made by my dear friend (and one of my favourite photographers) Šarunė Zurba. Natural, local and seasonal are not only food but also visuals defining keywords. Slow down, take your time and experience true seasonality of Lithuanian nature.


NÜMAN

>> We like it clean and warm. There is a form of sophistication that we value the most – it‘s attention to detail. We focus on extreme quality and tasteful aesthetics. But the king in our house is the Balance of the Whole – the food, the vibe, the interior, the staff, and the right ratio of intimate and social << says an excerpt from Nüman's ABOUT page on Facebook and I couldn't add anything more. Follow the link and see it yourselves. From the first Nüman's post on Instagram I was hooked as a professional and followed all their accounts. There is no any other restaurant in the Baltics that does social media as good as Nüman. [More on that coming soon.]


GASTRONOMIKA

A brainchild of Cordon Bleu trained chef Liutauras Čeprackas, Gastronomika is not your ordinary restaurant. Recently named The Best Restaurant of 2017 by 30 Best Restaurants of Lithuania, Gastronomika is a unique place that seeks to reveal the connection between food and culture. It also clearly reflects in restaurant's Instagram account – clean, minimal, dark pictures by Martyna Jovaišaitė–Paukštė gleams the mysterious and fine- dining essence of restaurant.



FERMA

Opened just last summer, Ferma is one of the trendiest and most talked about restaurant of Riga. Ferma means ‘farm’ in Latvian, and this restaurant aims to bring nature to the city on the plate. (Just in a more prosperous and chic manner than previously mentioned Sweet Root from Vilnius). An ode to the age of modernism is sung not only in the kitchen and dining room but also on their Instagram account which is full of vibrant, juicy food pictures.

RESTAURANT 3

Named the Best New Restaurant of 2015, Restaurant 3 is the ambassador and defining pioneer of modern Latvian cuisine. Led by the trinity of local top chefs Martins Sirmais, Juris Dukalskis and Eriks Dreibants, Restaurant 3 is a classy establishment with a menu made up of the best things Latvian countryside has to offer. Peek to their Instagram account to ascertain how beautiful contemporary Latvian food can be.

MUUSU TERASE

Opened just a few months ago, Muusu Terase is the younger sister of local favourite Muusu restaurant. Bright, dreamy and spunky, it found its place in a just as dreamy spot – the right bank of Daugava, which delights with the city's beautiful sunsets. What I love the most about their Instagram account – the consistency and great storytelling that follows restaurant's journey from it's first steps painting walls and setting up the cosy place to enjoy.



RESTORAN Ö

>> We get our inspiration from the Nordic nature. Unpredictable seasons. The cold and grey Baltic Sea. Dark forests and their magical gifts. Farmers and small businesses. Hunters and fishermen. Clean air and black soil. Forgotten preservation and preparation methods. We always add a bit of island humour to our dishes. We have the coolest team on the planet! << And the most scrumptious Instagram account between a fair share of Estonian restaurants, I would add. The equally fashionable menu, prepared by chefs Martin Meikas and Ranno Paukson, is inventive and modern with emphasis on the use of local ingredients beautifully reflecting in . 


KAKS KOKKA

Kaks Kokka (Two Chefs) is a little brother of restaurant Ö, which is managed by the team of same two chefs Ranno Paukson and Martin Meikas and is totally worth to keep an eye on it! As well as their Instagram page full of perfectly centered and meticulous shots of alluring food and ambience. Restaurant that is constantly changing and is never exactly the same maintains to keep their visuals pretty consistent: colourful, vibrant and catchy at the same time.

ART PRIORI

From the moment you follow the link to Art Priori's Instagram account you're in for a treat. Scroll down for beautiful curated pictures of copious amounts of home-made bread (with spiced butter), complimentary pate, the unique presentation of all menu items. Dark but pure colours, focus on fresh Estonian seasonal products and restaurant life makes you want to fly out to Tallinn and give this place a try. 



The Zen Art of Cooking

Every season of Netflix’s Chef’s Table is a true masterpiece of visual storytelling. It is like Christmas in our house (OK, it’s more like Christmas for me but it seems that we both tend to enjoy carefully crafted stories). Last week David Gelb’s mesmerising documentary series Chef’s Table returned to Netflix for Season 3, and since all the previous seasons were outstanding and astonishing in their own way, being a one-of-a-kind meditation on creativity, in exploring the identity and artistic process of each chef, the series transcends the genre of the cooking show.

Moved by previous seasons and incredible personalities of chefs like Massimo Bottura, Francis Mallman, Magnus Nilsson and Dominique Crenn, I personally believe that our conception of food is deeply rooted in identity; this is what drives much of its cultural hype. And in Chef’s Table, the influence of personal history is overwhelming. That said, after we watched the first episode of this season focused on Jeong Kwan, the Buddhist monk, who prepares vegan temple food from scratch, I felt like "OK, that’s it. Season is done. What else can be more exciting and yet so simple, nonetheless, so moving?” And I was right, it was of all the episodes, the most touching and stunning. Paradoxically, though, if it was supposed to be centred on food, this episode was not about food at all.

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[Jeff Gordinier] We’re at the time now when restaurants have their Instagram accounts. They have Facebook. They have Twitter. The chefs are promoting themselves. The chefs have cookbooks.The chefs have celebrity TV shows. We live in a culture that wants to worship these chefs, and that would run counter to everything that Jeong Kwan stands for. If people take away, like, “oh, Jeong Kwan is a new star chef,” that’s the wrong lesson. This is not ego food.

[Eric Ripert] Very often, in the restaurant community, we are tempted to cook with the ego. We are distracted by the stars and by the rewards, and by, “Are we going to get the ratings?” and so on. In temple food, it’s not about competing with another monastery. There’s no such a thing as, “Okay, let’s have a competition of the best soup today, and let’s have all the nuns coming together, and we have a judge, and you have a winner.” It’s not about that at all. Jeong Kwan has no ego.

[Jeong Kwan] Creativity and ego cannot go together. If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly. Just as water springs from the fountain, creativity springs from every moment. You must not be your own obstacle. You must not be owned by the environment you are in. You must own the environment, the phenomenal world around you. You must be able to freely move in and out of your mind. This is being free. There is no way you can’t open up your creativity. There is no ego to speak of. That is my belief.

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I think I woke up the next morning being more buddhist than I was the day before.
A great article on Jeaong Kwan’s food by Jeff Gordinier for NYtimes.com: goo.gl/qY4pu8


The Joys of Whipped Butter

If you should know one single thing about native Balts, it would be this – butter is in our blood. It is no secret that Baltic people are big on dairy and there are heaps of sweet and sour dairy products to choose from, but butter is the essence of our cuisine.

I  clearly remember the first time and first taste of whipped butter. It was a sweet summer day somewhere five years ago, when me and friend headed for a business lunch to the first brainchild of (now famous) Deivydas Praspaliauskas, restaurant Lauro lapas. The chef himself brought unforgettable bread and butter to the table. Bread cut in thick squares, on a narrow black and thick marble board. Our homemade bread with a smooth and silky whipped miso butter, enjoy. With a little butter knife I smeared the butter considerably thicker than my conscience allowed, sprinkled a few fat, gritty pinches of the flecked salt on top and tucked in. It was my buttery moment and I couldn't get this butter out of my mind ever since.

Because whipped butter tastes like nothing else. It is rich and creamy, sweet and silky and it gently melts in your mouth, leaving a velvety trace of sweet cream that keeps you coming back for another bite. Being as creamy and delicious with every bit.

I picked up this trick and technique from several restaurant chefs that I had luck to work with. It is so quick and easy that I consider it being the biggest sin to not give it a try. At least that. Let it be your pure and simple daily joy. I do. And don't forget to sprinkle some flakes of salt. Because it is the whipped butter that makes everything on our plates more interesting to eat. 

Whipped Pumpkin Butter

180 g butter, softened
3 tablespoons milk or water
3 teaspoons toasted pumpkin oil

After butter has softened to room temperature, put it in small mixing bowl. Add either milk or water. Whip with a mixer on low speed for 1-2 minutes. Then add pumpkin seed oil (2 to 3 teaspoons, according to your liking) and mix on high speed for 2-4 minutes until the butter is light and creamy.

Store in the refrigerator when not in use.
Use daily, smear generously.