Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Quiche Recipe from America Days in Rakvere (Ameerika Paevad Rakveres)


Pastry Crust:
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
150 grams unsalted butter, cold and cut into small chunks
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons cold water, plus more if needed

Combine flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add butter and mix with hands until coarse crumbs form. Beat yolk and ice water together and add to pastry. Work to bind dough and squeeze together with hands. If the pastry is too crumbly, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time. Form a disk, cover with plastic wrap or bag, and refrigerate for 30 minutes (this is ideal, but you can also roll it out right away if you are pressed for time).

Quiche Filling:
1 Ingredient Variation (see below)
2 ½ cups hard cheese, grated
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
pinch of nutmeg

Using a rolling pin or wine bottle, roll out quiche pastry into a ¼ inch thick circle. Dust with flour as needed to prevent sticking. Gently place in a pie pan or iron skillet that can go in the oven. Press pastry down into pan. Sprinkle ingredients and cheese over the pastry. Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour into pastry crust. Bake in medium oven (350F) for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until filling is set and the top is golden brown. Serve hot. Yields 8 slices.

Ingredient Variations for Quiche:

Crab or Crawfish: Combine 1 cup crab or crawfish, ½ cup yellow onion, thinly sliced, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley. Proceed as directed.

Mushroom and Onion: In 1 teaspoon of oil, sauté 200 grams of cleaned, sliced mushrooms with 2-3 thinly sliced green onions for 10 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley if available. Proceed as directed.

Ham and Swiss: Chop 100 grams of ham. Use Swiss cheese as the hard cheese. Proceed as directed.

Also try spinach and green onion, finely grated carrot and mushroom, or any other ingredients you need to use in your refrigerator.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Entrepreneurs Learn How to Move Past the Startup Phase

Though most residents of Tallinn may be in the countryside, catching the final rays of summer, the startup community is continually abuzz, coding away behind their laptops or doing strategic planning into the midnight hours. US Embassy Tallinn had the unique treat this week of showing noted entrepreneur and UC Berkeley MBA Professor Naeem Zafar why this country is known as E-stonia.

Mr. Zafar visited Mektory, Skype, and the ICT demo center. He also spoke with the Estonian press.  The highlight of Professor Zafar’s visit, however, was his trip to Startup Wiseguys, where he conducted a workshop for the startup accelerators new “class” of entrepreneurs.

(Photo: Mr. Zafar's workshop at Startup Wiseguys/Will Ziesing)

Mr. Zafar quickly adapted his normal speech into an immersive conversation that fit the “students” quite perfectly. It was clear that Mr. Zafar, despite his extensive entrepreneurial bent, also possessed the unique qualities of a sophisticated collegiate professor. He addressed sales and company culture, in particular. He said “Selling is like being a doctor. It’s finding people with a problem, and then seeing if you have a solution.” Many students were quite captivated by Professor Zafar’s advice, and the directors at Startup Wiseguys were eager to plan a follow up event in the future.

As always, the team from US Embassy Tallinn that accompanied Mr. Zafar was pleased to further the link between the American and Estonian tech communities. With great mentors, ideas, and capital coming from both sides of the Atlantic, it remains exciting for the State Department to connect these two technology ecosystems. 

-Post by Will Ziesing

Friday, July 25, 2014

Estonian Youth, Activisim and the Estonian Dream

On July 23, a group from the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn visited the Estonian Youth Council’s (EYC) opening day of Summer School in Olustvere. The program hosts approximately 100 to 200 Estonian youth activists every year, representing different youth organizations from the Eesti LGTB Uhing (Estonian LGTB Society) to the Eesti Skautide Uhing (Estonian Girls Scouts).

(Photo: Amb Levine with some organizers of the Estonian Youth Council./Aylin Erdogan)

U.S. Ambassador Levine, Estonian MP Kalle Palling and President of the Youth Council Reet Sillavee were the opening day guests. And while they had interesting things to say, it was discussions from the participants about the difference between an inactive adult and an engaged young adult and why it’s important for youth to be a part of decision-making process at the local or national level that made the panel more interesting for me.

One point they raised during the session was their take on public protests. Youth activists said that Estonians are actually polite people and even if they vent their frustration on a number of issues during social gatherings, they refrain from voicing negative opinions in public. It’s a stark contrast to what we’ve seen with Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street protests. But Palling, a young politician, shared his insights on youth participation in Estonian politics, saying Estonia is doing a fair job encouraging young adults to be active in politics. They currently have six members under 30 in the parliament, something that is different from the U.S.

(Photo: Amb Levine, Estonian MP Kalle Palling and President of the Council Reet Sillavee discusses youth activism in Estonia and USA./Aylin Erdogan)

In America, we see many young people in high school or college take an active part in political campaigns. We also see those who succeed in campaigning later heading to work in Congressional offices in Washington D.C and in their districts—and indeed, nearly 60 percent of Congressional staffers are between 20-35. However, when we look at executive offices, we see that older folks have a more direct hand in the in the governmental decision-making process. 

Still, I think that youth activism has always had a positive impact on American society.  In my school, SUNY Buffalo, for instance, students’ protested an increase in college tuition and student activity fee. The action influenced State Senators to negotiate with the SUNY administration and reduce the 5 percentage increase SUNY was aiming for to 2 percentage.  We heard from our Estonian peers that the youth council in Rapla was able to raise their voice and influence the mayoral election in the city.

The second part of the event was dedicated to a smaller discussion session on the “Estonian Dream” with Ambassador Levine, Assistant Public Affairs Officer Menaka Nayyar and about 20 Estonian youth. I was looking forward to this discussion to hear what Estonian youth had to say about what the Estonian Dream is or whether it has ever existed. In the past, the Estonian dream was freedom and that one common vision united Estonians. But now that freedom has been achieved, and after the economy started to decline, with young people finding more opportunities in other countries, the Estonian youths at the meeting said they feel as if the Estonian dream doesn’t exist anymore.  Still, they added that it’s important for them not to lose their identity no matter where they are or what language they speak. Estonia is now more open to world cultures, but young adults want the world to know Estonia too. 

(Photo: Amb. Levine and APAO Menaka Nayyar discuss the Estonian Dream with EYC members./Aylin Erdogan)

Thank you to all Estonian Youth Council members for sharing their thoughtful insights with us and the Summer School organizers for giving such a talented group of young people an opportunity to get together and share their voices!

-Post by Aylin Erdogan

Estonain Hockey Sticks Go Global

While this hot July in Estonia may have everyone headed to the beach, Estonians will soon start thinking about (or maybe dreading) the return of the dark, cold nights of Estonian winters.  However, one of the bright spots of the return of colder weather is the onset of hockey season.

Estonian hockey – in a sense – is making its mark globally. At the Sochi Olympics, equipment from Frontier Hockey OÜ, Estonia’s homegrown hockey stick manufacturer, made it to the quarterfinals. It’s the favored brand of Latvian goalkeeper Kristers Gudļevskis. He made an epic 55 saves out of 57 shots to keeps the Latvians in the mix against the eventual champion Canada.

Embassy staffers visited Frontier this week to check out their production line and hear about their growing export business to America. Currently, over 10 percent of their hockey sticks are exported to the United States.

(Photo: U.S. Embassy staffers meet with Mr. Imre Taveter and talk hockey sticks.)

Frontier Hockey specializes in goalie sticks—they produce standard sticks as well— and the company has supplied Gudlevskis, a former player for the Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as Finnish and other European professionals.  Company founder, Imre Taveter, grew up playing hockey and loves the sport for its team building qualities and diligent group effort. Mr. Taveter started the company to take advantage of the fine craftsmanship, superior wood, and winter sports traditions found in Estonia. The Pärnu factory churns out thousands of quality hockey sticks throughout the year.

We thank  Imre for showing us around the factory and letting us take a couple of shots with the sticks. And we wish him the best of luck as he continues to expand globally, showing the world the quality of Estonian made hockey sticks. 

-Post by Will Ziesing

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Folk Music Comes Out in Force at the Viljandi Folk Festival

Play. That’s the theme of this year’s Viljandi Folk Festival, which starts on Thursday and lasts through Sunday.  It’s a fitting theme because it’s not just about playing music, but the playful feeling many get when they go to a music festival like this, including many of us at the embassy.

One appeal of the Viljandi Folk Festival is that it exposes music fans not only to traditional Estonian or regional folk music, but to a variety of styles from around the world, including the United States.  U.S. Embassy Tallinn has supported the festival regularly over the past 10 years and we are proud to help bring the Grammy-nominated U.S. group Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole to this year’s festival!

In the past, festival organizers have facilitated programs with other U.S. performers in Viljandi, including master classes from visiting U.S. experts.  The Viljandi Culture Academy has become a popular destination for U.S. Fulbright scholars and students, hosting three in recent years.  And as a sign of Viljandi’s growing partnership with the U.S. Embassy, the mayor, Ando Kiviberg hosted “Viljandi America Days” this past March.

(Photo: Performers from last year's Viljandi Folk Festival.)

Ando Kiviberg was the former artistic director of the Viljandi Folk Festival and worked for 20 years to promote the advantages of bringing a music festival to a small and quiet town.  Thanks to his efforts, Viljandi is now Estonia’s folk culture capital and over the past 22 years ago the Viljandi Folk Festival has become one of the largest and most beloved summer events in Estonia and in the Nordic region. 

Have a fun, music-filled weekend! See you in Viljandi!

A Bird's Eye View of Wind Power in Estonia

This week Ambassador Levine realized a small dream: going to the top of an 85m clean energy producing wind turbine. Along with members of the Political/Economic section of the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, the Ambassador visited the a Nelja Energia’s wind farm in Paldiski, where 18 GE Wind Energy electric turbines produce 67 gigawatt hours per year, enough to meet the needs of 20,000 Estonian families of average energy consumption.

The tour began with a scenic drive through the wind farm to meet with Martin Kruus, the Chairman of the Board of Nelja Energia, and Erkki Kallas, the Production Manager of Nelja Energia, to get more information on wind energy in Estonia and the Paldiski wind farm in particular. We were excited to learn that 6 percent of Estonia’s electricity is supplied by wind farms such as the one in Paldiski.

(Photo: Ambassador Levine at the wind farm, getting ready to climb the turbine and then at the top.)

After the meeting, we were all outfitted with a safety harness, gloves, and escorted to the top of the windmill by one of the windfarm’s mechanical maintenance specialists. The ascent was a bit more physical than expected and required us to climb a long ladder before reaching the tiny, rickety elevator that would bring us the rest of the way to the top, but the view was certainly worth the effort.

(Photo: Laura on the wind turbine.)

Those of us who got to learn about wind energy in Estonia, and travel to the top of the wind turbine wish to extend our gratitude to Sigrit, Martin, Errki and everyne else at Nelja Energia for making this trip possible. It was truly and unforgetable experience.

-Post by Laura Kincaide

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Coen Brothers are in Tallinn! (In Spirit)

Rooftop Cinema at the Viru Center opened its doors (or its roof, to be more precise) to American movie fans for a Coen Brothers’ Co-Spective Program this week. It is also exciting news for us, since the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn has been a proud supporter of Rooftop Cinema’s American movie weeks for several years.
(Photo: Film fans at Rooftop Cinema./Courtesy of Aivar Lann)

“We decided to feature the Coen Brothers because their philosophy fits well with our mindset of what kind of movies we want to show here” explained Aivar Laan, the founder of the Rooftop Cinema.  “They are sharp, eccentric, not your typical Hollywood blockbuster choices and they have an excellent eye to see and reflect the black humor in life.”

Aivar Laan says showing these movies wasn’t easy. “It was challenging work to get the copyright of the movies because not only you have to have sufficient funding for these expensive movies, but also have to have good connections, as they are very selective with who to give the copyrights of these movies,” he explained. “So we were happy to work with the U.S. Embassy in this project and unite Coen Brothers with their Estonian fans.”

Laan, who lived as an expat for several years, got the idea of opening a summer rooftop cinema in Tallinn when he was in Australia. Tallinn’s unpredictable summer weather did made him think twice about the venture, but the enthusiasm of bringing a new project to Estonia pushed him forward. Since 2010, the Rooftop Cinema has brought true cinema classics and variety of independent movies to about 30,000 local cinema enthusiasts in Tallinn every summer. (And thanks to some construction work and good weather, they haven’t had to cancel more than five or six screenings since 2010, Laan said.)

Coen Brothers’ Co-Spective Program already started this week and it will continue till July 21 with screenings of  Fargo (Thursday), The Big Lebowski (Friday), Burn After Reading (Saturday), O, Brother; Where, Art, Thou? (Sunday) And No Country For Old Men (Monday). Check the cinema’s website for more information on current and upcoming movie schedule

And if you can’t make it this week, don’t worry. The Coen Brothers will return to the Rooftop Cinema in mid-August and all the movies will be screened once again for a week.

Happy Viewing!

Post by Aylin Erdogan