manhattan

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back at home

We stepped onto American “soil” via the maze-like immigration lines that seemed to form into one in some parts. I had to stand in line with everyone, people with Canadian passports and others who needed a visa to get in. It seemed like that was the very first sign of a new nation that I was from. One where we were all looked at the same, but just a very thin slip of paper is what distinguished “us versus them” -and though this is something that made me a bit confused about the country now trusting me, a former government official, I was perfectly fine with standing in the line with others who didn’t have the slip of paper.

“Ma’am, we’re glad to have you back. Happy birthday.” The very words that greeted me to my home country. My home. We hopped into the car, checked-in at CitizenM in Time Square, and got ourselves situated for a busy week ahead. I was traveling with Kristabel, another blogger from London, and so it seemed really different for me to experience the city with someone who sees NYC as a destination rather than a place that provides a “roof” or a place where the people who walk are considered friends and family. That communal feeling I get whenever I’m in America had seemed to grow stronger since I was in America last, which was exactly a year ago. It left me in that limbo between proud and jealous for wanting to bottle that up and take it back with me to the UK, which isn’t possible and never will be.

* * *

dress c/o BODEN slippers c/o BODEN sunglasses KATE SPADE NEW YORK
 

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central park

On our second full day in the city it was unbelievably hot. With temperatures in the 90s, which isn’t easy for someone who spent winter in Estonia just the week before! It felt wonderful though, slightly overwhelming, but liberating. We walked around Central Park, which took me back to my trip to the city just shortly after my college graduation. We saw boys playing with boats in The Pond and got lost in the midst of it all after crossing a few patches of grass and across some gorgeous people-speckled bridges. We visited my favorite place in the park, Bethesda Terrace. Tip: go extremely early in the morning to catch it in it’s full glory without disturbance. You can find my last visit here and more photos of Bethesda Terrace here!

* * *

blouse c/o ANTHROPOLOGIE shorts c/o ANTHROPOLOGIE sunnies RAY-BAN c/o SUNGLASSES SHOP sandals c/o BODEN
 

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Harlem

I wanted to use this trip as an opportunity to explore parts of NYC {and hopefully set a precedent for exploring other parts of America} that provides a history that explains what makes the American community so resilient, strong, and courageous. We spent a great part of an Afternoon in Harlem, where we walked around several blocks and found street art depicting a new world order and community of “togetherness.” History has not repeated itself and in turn has allowed various communities to share their cultures with one another to create a melting pot that beautifully assimilated into this concrete jungle that houses people of all worlds and places among varying social structures.

A big thank you to Pulkit Datta, a good friend from back in college, that is now striving and thriving in the film industry in NYC. He has lived in NYC for almost a decade and made Harlem his home for the last few years. Since his time in the area, he has seen Harlem build a community and develop into a wonderful place to live!
 

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what I wore in Harlem

gingham blouse c/o NEXT jeans LEVIS flats JOSEFINAS sunnies KATE SPADE NEW YORK
 

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warm thanks to NYCgo for providing a cityPASS for us to view
some of the attractions during our stay.

city inspiration
instagram#seeyourcity
 

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night at the museum

On a more rainy day, we decided to stay indoors and visit the Met. The vastness was tremendous and bigger museums like this or the Lourve should be tackled with what tickles your fancy the most. I had already explored the Egyptian art and Indian architecture parts, which are subjects I covered in undergrad. What I really wanted to go for was the Commes des Garcon exhibition at The Constume Institute and it didn’t disappoint. Res Kawakubo is known for her avant-garde designs and challenging the notions of everyday life. Considering my placement in the UK makes me feel exceptional and different, she helped contextualize that “different” makes beautiful sense and breaks down barriers of what is “normal” playing in that in-between space.

jumpsuit c/o ANTHROPOLOGIE denim jacket c/o ANTHROPOLOGIE earrings c/o ANTHROPOLOGIE
necklace c/o CHRISTINE ELIZABETH JEWELRY
 

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eating through the city

Maison Pickle
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On our first real night in the city, we meandered to the highly suggested and acclaimed Maison Pickle. Retro-chic and everything in between giving you a true essence of Upper West Side vibes. We enthusiastically ordered a few dishes including their in house made bread topped with olives and feta cheese and garnished with the right amount of parsley and the shrimp dumplings that swam in the shallow buttery-creamy sauce that give it an ounce of comfort and topped the meal off with a few cocktails and a French dip because #YOLO. It was at that moment that I was stuck behind a curtain printed with the Union Jack for way too long because American portions are enormous! Looking around it seemed that most people were regulars because they were able to eat a the succulent {and pretty messy} French dip without fail.

The Butcher’s Daughter
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Never in my life did I think I would visit a vegetarian restaurant and feel content after it. We visited The Butcher’s Daughter to start the long day of meetings and were invited into an oasis. I perused the Instagram account and seen the place geo-located a few times, but little did I know what I was going to expect. Far removed from the uppity, stingy and sometimes scary Vegan places-The Butcher’s Daughter served up fresh juices, smoothies, animal topped lattes and meals that would make anyone happy and content. I went for the standard avocado toast with an egg on top because avos are expensive in the UK, but was surprised by how lovely and refreshing the juices were too! Three locations, so be sure to visit at least one of them in your lifetime even if your blood pumps bacon grease.
 

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…and we ate some more

Sylvia’s
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When we were perusing Harlem, we decided to get something to eat there just to get some good American soul food. When we asked anyone anywhere where to go, Sylvia’s was mentioned over and over again with many praise. We walked in to a semi-empty restaurant, which turned quickly turned into a packed house with a queue at the entrance of the restaurant. Built around big, long tables-clearly for some quality family time, we started off with some buttermilk biscuits and then threw ourselves straight into our entrees. Gluttony was an understatement, but comfort and soul is what everything exuded. From macaroni and cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, tender fried chicken and an assortment of greens. We ate in silent and it was the little comfort foodie haven that we only dream of!

Tijuana Picnic
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One thing the UK is far removed from is quality Mexican food. I’m currently sitting at my parents’ house in Florida and have indulged on Mexican for 2 days straight and don’t regret it. Tijuana Picnic, as you walk in, has those Wes Anderson vibes with the patterned floors and walls and the lush dark citrus booths. With a touch of Asian flair, we were thrilled to be sipping, licking and dipping throughout the entire meal. Go for the cocktails {my favorite was the smokin’ maid} and leave with a belly full of good food. From duck wings to fajitas and that big bowl of guacamole.
 

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a weekend in tallinn

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terra-cotta rooftops and church towers

Tallinn is a city with a growing recognition for its nightlife and/or cheeky weekend breaks! Oftentimes, I message my friend Gerda after a night out and we share our respective stories that involve libations, banter and good company-so it was only natural to spend a birthday celebration in Tallinn {considering I was going to be spending my actual day on an international flight}. The weekend was full of incredible food, endless sunshine and the start of spring. I had the pleasure of staying with Visit Estonia at their flat that overlooked the terra-cotta rooftops and church towers of the historical city centre. Each day the sun would rise and illuminate the night sky as we stepped into another day.

We walked the medieval cobblestoned streets lined with pastel storefronts. Each road winding and turning into another. To explore this city was exciting because political and religious juxtaposition was prevalent at each corner.

what I wore

bodysuit H&M jeans c/o JOULES shoes c/o BODEN scarf ZARA leather jacket HUGO BOSS
 

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{weekend in tallinn} via chevrons & éclairs {weekend in tallinn} via chevrons & éclairs

eat

After a few hectic weeks, I realized that I hadn’t done much to treat myself to a nice meal. Surprisingly enough, Estonia had so much to offer and Tallinn definitely didn’t disappoint after a riveting experience in Otepää.

Tokumaru
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If you know me, you know my absolute love for all things dumplings, noodles and the like. Getting off the plane, I was ravenous and itching for something warm as it was much colder than I had anticipated. We ordered ramen, seaweed salad and some dumplings to prepare for a long afternoon’s drive. I was so impressed by the vegetarian and seafood options, which is what I ended up going for.

NOA
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A bit away from the city centre, but totally worth the drive along the coast. We walked up to a glass box that seemed to flirt with sea views and freckled in the distance was a view of the city centre. NOA houses a multilevel 80 people seating venue with an extensive wine list. It has some bold international flavors imbedded within comfort dishes.
 

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farm-to-table

Leib Resto ja Aed
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As mentioned before, Estonian cuisine and gastronomy has been evolving to make use of what is made in its own backyard. Leib held onto traditions and valued the land that the nation sits on. Working with local farmers, the menu often changes to fit seasonal pleasures. Think simple, soulful dishes painted by a Picasso of a chef.

Umami
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When I was first introduced to Umami, I was surprised by the cuisine the restaurant served. Driving just a bit away from the centre, the concept is very much like Leib as that it saves up local produce in a simple and flavorful way.
 

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international cuisine

Controvento
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As in Tartu, I visited an Italian restaurant to see how international cuisines do in the country. Controvento serves up true Italian delicacies that never misses a flavorful beat. Nestled in the heart of Tallinn’s Medieval Latin Quarter, the place was buzzing even at 9:30pm when we left.

Elevant
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Again, wanted to try a different cuisine from the traditional fare and found myself at Elevant, an Indian restaurant. Much to my surprise, the restaurant offered what they did best and steered away from Indian-tourist-trap-like offerings. Batura instead of naan, cumin in my salad and the right amount of lemon squeezed into my subzi. Very impressed with this place!
 

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{weekend in tallinn} via chevrons & éclairs
{weekend in tallinn} via chevrons & éclairs {weekend in tallinn} via chevrons & éclairs

cafes

I don’t think I’ve drank so much coffee on a holiday before. Since time was pressured in what I wanted to do, I found myself visiting cafes whenever possible. The drips were bold and fruity and the offerings were galore.

Renard
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Kind of in a hipster locale of Tallinn, you drive up to a car and motorcycle garage and find yourself driving up to a place that looks like a gas station. Through the doors and into a brick 2-story enclave houses a gem of a coffee corner. It’s quiet, light falls in and plants and decor on point. My friend ordered a classic drip and the barista asked her which regions beans she wanted. Sounds like you need to be a connoisseur when you come here.

Pierre Chocolaterie
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Indulgence in my middle name and Pierre should be too. Considered the best hot chocolate in the country, this little chocolate and confectionary place offers an array of teas and treats. The hot chocolate was exceptional with various options of adding citrus or chili or even changing up milk options.
 

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nightlife

As mentioned before, we celebrated my birthday the weekend I was in Tallinn and what a treat it was! My friend, Gerda, would randomly go up to strangers and ask them to sing me happy birthday in their respective mother tongue. To my surprise we had all sorts of languages including Turkish, Arabic, Italian, French and of course two types of Estonian! Here’s the rundown of places we went. We ended up staying out until the sun came out and walked back from the historic city centre with the rest of the town. It was a memorable one!

Frank Underground
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You walk in and you’re already transported to a cool brasserie that Hemingway would enjoy a glass of champagne in a New York brasserie. Lush seats, tufted walls and ornate ceilings, the visual wonders were just as good as its cocktails. If you’re looking for a tipple after dinner, this place will definitely be the best.

Club Studio
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Typical club party vibes, dancers and multi-stories and rooms-this place was the place to be after 1am. It’s where people went to end their night and each corner included a crowd that was not displeased. Definitely go for the late night dancing!
 

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getaway to Haapsalu

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Venice of the Baltics

Haapsalu is a seaside resort town located on the west coast of Estonia. It’s so small that you almost will drive past it if you’re not careful enough. Narrow streets line with 20th century wooden houses, outdoor cafes at the city center, and lots of friendly faces. It was a quiet place for us to escape to just before leaving Estonia and right after the mayhem that was Tallinn’s night life {more on that later}.

We visited cafes and sauntered the winding pretty Notting Hill-like streets. Grabbed a coffee in the afternoon and slept like there was no chance of it tomorrow. It’s the perfect place if you’re looking for a quiet retreat with a book in hand and we did just that. At that point, I had switched off for a bit because my month of travel ahead was just beginning. So no reflections, but just a photo series of what is considered the “Venice of the Baltics.”
 

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{a getaway to Haapsalu} via chevrons & éclairs

Tartu & Impressions of Estonia

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globalizing friendships

jumper c/o BODEN jeans c/o JOULES flats JOSEFINAS

* * *

Growing up in America, such a young country, you are often overcome by the history of some of its neighbors. Moving to the UK, I knew I was in for a treat as a history enthusiast, but little did I know that my education in International Relations would fail to introduce me to countries like Estonia.

Picture this: moving to London without a soul that you could trust, a passport, a few thousand pounds in hand and parents on the other side of an ocean cheering you on. I was in a very controlled situation a 21st century young woman could be in. After a few very tough initial months, I moved to my first flat and made a friend named Gerda. She looked tough and very different from me, but a very thin thread brought us together. We had something in common, but I couldn’t put a needle on it. Our friendship grew in the time I needed a friend most and her time in London was coming to an end. And since that day, I have had the hardest time making trusting friends in London because she set the bar so high, but our friendship grew much stronger.

Based on mine and Gerda’s upbringings, we were able to relate on a cultural level. Hospitality and relationships were part of the equation that made memories. So fast forward 2.5 years and find me in the small Tallinn International airport walking past the baggage claim and into the warm hug from one of my best friends.
 

{tartu & impressions of Estonia} via chevrons & éclairs {tartu & impressions of Estonia} via chevrons & éclairs

historical context

She enthusiastically took me around Estonia and specifically Tartu-where she grew up. As a big surprise to me, I saw that there was so much this country had to offer. Tartu is considered the intellectual center of the country as it houses the renowned and rather gorgeous University of Tartu along with the Ministry of Education and Research. After its medieval reigns, the Swedish and Poles ruled. Walking the streets, you see wooden homes influenced by the Swedes and the pastels adapted from the Polish. In the early 1700s with the Treaty of Nystad, the Russian Empire ruled-but with the Great Fire in Tartu much of the city-centre had to be rebuilt, which brought on neoclassical architecture to the city surrounded by those wonderfully wooden houses.

It was after World War I, the Estonian War of Independence called for a peace treaty between the Bolsheviks and Estonia. But World War II period and the in-betweens still meant that Estonia was a battleground and was unfortunately a closed city for foreigners to explore. The demise of the Soviet Union did gift Estonia full independence and a population influx.

With that history, you can gather that much of the population is mixed and identities were conflicted-yet they were resilient through it all. Tartu being the educational and artistic centre of the country celebrated its people and their achievements.
 

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restaurant feature // la dolce vita

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Kompanii 10
Tartu, Estonia
+372 740 7545
 

{tartu & impressions of Estonia} via chevrons & éclairs
{tartu & impressions of Estonia} via chevrons & éclairs {tartu & impressions of Estonia} via chevrons & éclairs {tartu & impressions of Estonia} via chevrons & éclairs

 
 
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{tartu & impressions of Estonia} via chevrons & éclairs
{tartu & impressions of Estonia} via chevrons & éclairs

the significance

One of my interests coming into the country was understanding how much of Soviet influence still remains and if we do see an “Estonian” identity at all—since the latter half of my Masters degree covered Russia’s aggression over its satellite states, especially those in Central Asia. Estonia, however, has kept up a strong sense of identity with its language being first. The second is through its gastronomic culture, though adaptations have made waves it has upheld the true essence of what the country’s soil can offer. The final is its hospitable people. Each day I came across passionate Estonians that were keen to introduce me to new layers, nuances and meanings of what being “Estonian” meant.

And so one thread, looped through each hole of a button, that fastens two pieces together-Gerda’s friendship is a symbol of what this country has to treasure for the future and plans to build upon-symbolized as a place with a irrepressible identity and a place for growth.
 

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{tartu & impressions of Estonia} via chevrons & éclairs {tartu & impressions of Estonia} via chevrons & éclairs
{tartu & impressions of Estonia} via chevrons & éclairs

fine dining in Otepää

{fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs

through the slender trees-laced road

I wasn’t quite sure how to start the run down of my beautiful trip to Estonia, a country once under the rule of the Soviet Union and though it still retained its own charm and culture. But more on that just a little later. I decided to breakdown my trip by the four cities I visited, all in different parts of the country, and thus a very different experience in each.

My first stop on this trip was Otepää, about a 4-hour trip by car from Tallinn through what seemed like trees ready to peak for the spring season. With its close proximity to Finland and just a few longitudinal degrees north of Moscow, spring seemed like a tease away. With this in mind, I wasn’t hoping for very much when I initially planned a fine dining experience in the south of Estonia, I didn’t expect very much-to be quite frank. Estonia, formerly under the Soviet Union (and this time was quite possibly was during our greater pre-teen years-not too long ago for us to remember, but far enough for us not to car). Under the Soviets, availability of goods and services was limited and thus it was tough to develop and explore the gastronomic community. With that, chefs have not adapted, but kept with their roots to share what they remember and curated a cuisine that was so culturally pure-bringing out the flavors of what they knew.

what I wore

shirt H&M trousers c/o JOULES shoes c/o BODEN bag FIORELLI via ASOS belt H&M sunglasses H&M jacket c/o JOULES scarf ZARA
 

{Tammuri Talu} via chevrons & éclairs
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{fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs {fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs

Tammuri Talu

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As we drove closer and closer to Otepää the trees became more dense and lush. My friend, Gerda, almost taking the blame that there was no hint of spring-kept mentioning that the bare branches allows me to look further and beyond. But the density of the tree branches did nothing, but impress me with their ever so magnificent sways and greets into the the little cabins parked next to vast lakes that seemed like enjoyable spots for summer barbecues.

Upon entering through a set of wooden gates and a very humble sign that read Tammuri Talu, we drove up to a grass-space between two homes it seems. Getting out I could only smell the faint salt from the water just down the road and felt a chill before hearing the barks of a welcoming dog to inform the chef that we have indeed arrived. On the right, I saw windows of a red barn-like home that had faded lace curtains. It felt warm and trusting and on the left was the restaurant. So simple with just tables and chairs enough to seat 25 and light from randomly cut out windows-the lines weren’t even and I realized only when trying to align my camera. It was just us in the restaurant and when we sat down with the chef who gave us a bit of a history of the farm did I realize we were sitting in what was once a grain storage facility that supplied and fed 4-generations. The walls adorned with family photos, out the window was the view of just miles of land.
 

{fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs
{fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs
{fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs {fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs {fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs

the menu

Much more humble than previous fine dining experiences though it felt the most authentic and comfortable. We started with an Austrian white wine, that was fruity and subtle and with that came the first course of an assortment of locally and garden-picked fare with the fish cake with smoked shrimp as its main act. We worked through the arugula salad and realizing it was only the leaves lightly dressed-but packed so much flavor. Hand-picked mushrooms and some their truffled grass dried enough to hear a crisp. It was the simplest features-and just a step away from the traditional cuisine you would expect.

We then were greeted with lamb in a lingonberry sauce with a celery puree and lightly buttered carrots. Slowly working through each tender slice of the lamb, I placed my knife down as it seemed like an unnecessary tool. You could taste the actual flavors of each ingredient he used and he was precise in informing us the very limited ingredient list. Then the finale included a raspberry cheesecake with homemade cottage cheese-just a bit salty yet sweetened with the fresh raspberries on top. The sweet and tartness twinned with the freshly picked premature apples that were caramelized and then topped with crystalized of the local berries on top. To flirt with the tart and sweetness, there was a biscuit with dense cardamom flavors that allowed everything to work a palatable magic that brought me so close to tears-but to top everything off were the homemade liquors celebrating the farm-to-table dynamic and it was at that moment that I knew we live, and should live, in a world where each nation is independent.
 

{fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs
{fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs {fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs

Mr Jakob

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Just a bit further and we reached a golf course. We walked along the course to see players teeing off and following their ball in the air-playing wincing and encouraging the wrinkles on the corner of their eyes to meet their temples. And as we were walking up a hill we saw a completely different setup. One that is modern, glass encased and seemed to have view for days. Walking around, each corner provided a different view of the endless land.

We sat down as the sun started to set and were greeted with a carpaccio with edible flowers, macadamia nuts and seeds that played your interests in textures. From soft, tender to a slight nutty crunch that graced the beef. Moving onto the second course of the duck served atop a lentil mash and a side of sweet potato puree. It was a dish that I have made before, but brought to life using some of the local berries’ best nectar as they played the role of the chutney for any poultry dish. Then finally a crumble of the seasonal fruits.
 

{fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs
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{fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs
{fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs

gastronomical clarity

Hats off to the chefs that didn’t want to flow with the waves, but go against the grain. They worked with what Estonia had to offer and provided lighter, more modernized and slightly more streamlined takes on their cuisine they were brought up with. Being so far from the city’s eagerness, they were content with what they were doing and little did they know that they were going over and beyond.

chevrons & éclairs was a guest at Tammuri Talu and Mr Jakob, but all opinions are my own.
 

{fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs
{fine dining in otepää} chevrons & éclairs