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Estonian food enchanted EXPO visitors with its authenticity

26. November 2015 - 11:33
Estonia's pavilion at EXPO 2015.
At EXPO, the story of Estonian food began with the main exposition, a tenth of which was dedicated to food. Photo: Andrea Forlani.

Estonian pure and simple, exciting and novel tastes were so attractive to EXPO visitors that the first interested people have already arrived in Estonia to visit the producers of the food tasted in Italy. Estonia attracted with rye, handmade beer and slow-roasted meat meals.

At EXPO, the story of Estonian food began with the main exposition, a tenth of which was dedicated to food. The Ministry of Rural Affairs had furnished one of the ten exposition columns with a historical overview of rye and its importance in Estonia. Rye bread is likely to be the first root of Estonian food which is demonstrated by acclaiming the year 2015 as the Year of Rye. The permanent exposition naturally gave much attention to pure nature which is the foundation beam of food production here.

Variations with rye

Rye deserved special attention during the three rye days in August when with a joint effort by the Estonian Rye Association and the Estonian Agricultural Museum the Estonian pavilion was filled by genuine smell of bread. The team of the museum headed by the Director Merli Sild demonstrated rye bread making from dried rye leaven and dough to baked bread breaking for three days running.

Genuine typical Estonian tastes were offered with bread: ham from Mooska Farm, smoked using the traditional method entered in the list of UNESCO intangible cultural heritage, sprat, Baltic herring and smoked sprat. Cheese production was represented by alder smoked cheese produced by E-Piim. Sangaste rye village offered unique Estonian food – kama and rye kvass. Estonian Rye King Hans I suggested fish and rye beer to go with bread.

17 July was Bread Day, which covered the whole EXPO. On that day, Hagari and Muhu rye bread was offered in the pavilion of Estonia, Taigo Lepik, the Chef to the President of the Republic of Estonia, baked bread in several neighbouring pavilions.  The Chef to the President also participated in the Italian TV popular midday hour to demonstrate the birth of modern Estonian tastes.

Exquisite Restoration of Independence Day

In the pavilion of Estonia, the Day of Restoration of Independence was celebrated with the introduction of slow and organic way of meat roasting. This way of meat cooking also originates from smoke sauna where meat ripens in approximately two days. Jaan Habicht who has secured for Estonian  grilling traditions high places at international competitions, made Italians and other visitors very happy  with slow-roasted rib and choice beef, lightly dipped into black currant mixture. Slow-roasting was done in an ancient food chest shaped baking oven especially made for the Estonian National Museum. In EXPO Milan, it was probably the most delicious meat baked on the spot.

Visitors could also be pleased about handmade beers. It is known that rye beer was only available in the pavilion of Estonia. 10 September was the day of Estonian spirituous liquors where a broader range of beers including Pöide, Õllenaudi, Seasoni,  Muddise and A. Le Coq were displayed. Vana Tallinn and Moe organic vodka were not missing either.

Polite choice and appetizing TV

On 23 October, directly before the end of EXPO, the sum up introduction of  Estonian food  was organised by the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce. Kadi Raudsepp, Deputy Head of the Trade and Agro-Food Department of the Ministry of Rural Affairs, gave an overview of Estonian food and thereafter it was time to start tasting. This time, the rye bread baked on the spot by the masters of the Agricultural Museum was the core of the food offering. People broke the bread just like that, putting spiced sprats (DGM Shipping) and smoked sprats (Maseko) on Eurobread taken along. The black  seed bread made by Eesti Pagar was offered with Mooska ham, the alder smoked cheese produced by E-Piim was eaten with Salvest blackberry jam and Muhu seed bread was served with Linnamäe elk sausage.

Although the start was somewhat awkward and the efforts to find an Estonian  food supplier for the whole period using a procurement process came to nothing, in the pavilion of Estonia food was nevertheless available from the middle of EXPO at least. Food was offered by the Milan local catering company Kitchen Mood. The menu was composed by Estonian chefs but the raw material was local for what reason one could nag a bit at  characteristically Estonian tastes but the range of handmade beers was wide and Estonian organic vodka was also offered for sale. In the pavilion souvenir shop, Estonian food products like game meat preserves, biltong etc. could be bought from refrigerated display.

The basic message transmitted by Estonian genuine and interesting tastes was that for feeling the same tastes again the best thing to do would be to visit Estonia. The story of Mooska ham confirms that such an arrival may easily come true. After introducing Mooska ham in August a short introduction was also made in Italian TV. Four local persons who happened to see this broadcast,  immediately contacted the Mooska Tourist Farm and arrived in a week. And they did not have to feel disappointed. Let us cross our fingers and hope that there will be more serious, entrepreneurship-minded and interested people in the future.

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