Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Fun Facts-Estonia

Estonia is a country that was never really on my travel radar which is not too surprising since I think it's not on the radar for a lot of country? Why you ask? Well, for starters I don't think many people could pinpoint it on a map (I'm excluding the European demographic, obviously). I also don't think many people (myself included) know a fig about the country's language, culture, and history. But I recently borrowed a guidebook from my library on the Baltic States (Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia make up them), and honestly, Estonia looks quite beautiful. So if you're like me and are Estonia ignorant, here are three fun facts to entice you to visit this tiny nation one day!

-The capital of Tallinn is considered to be one of the best medieval cities in Europe. It's also home to a pretty famous Christmas Market each year. The first Christmas tree at Tallinn's Town Hall Square was erected in 1441 by the Brotherhood of Blackheads, making it one of the earliest evidence of decorated trees for the Christmas season.

image via

-Finland is only a short distance away by ferry from Estonia. The Estonian language is also most closely related to Finnish and is different from Latvian and Russian. Estonian belongs to the Finno-Ugric group.

-There are over 1500 islands, 1000 lakes, and 7000 rivers in Estonia.

image via

Is Estonia a country you would like to visit?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tortilla española-Spain

Ahh, tortilla española. The dish that never fails to confuse Americans. The dish that I just adored while living in Spain whether it was eating it at my host parents' house or ordering it out as a tapa. There are so many things I miss about Spain (and many more I don't, jajajaja) but food is definitely one of them. I tried making croquetas (croquettes) one time and while they tasted decently enough, the amount of flour I used to dredge them and the ensuing mess that took root in my kitchen as a result made me swear off from ever trying to make them again. I've made paella but there is no such thing as a two-person paella pan and so if you make paella for just two people, there is going to be a lot of leftovers. And yet that's where you, tortilla española come in.

In case you're still wondering, tortilla española has nothing to do with the Latin American tortilla (the thin flat bread found in tacos, enchiladas, burritos). This shouldn't come as too surprising since there are vast differences between Spain and Latin American countries, most notably in regards to the cuisine and language. A tortilla española is essentially a Spanish omelet. So Spanish lesson 101-in Castilian Spanish (the Spanish spoken in Spain), tortilla is an omelet and has nothing to do with Mexican cooking. Eggs and potatoes are basically it for the ingredients although I often add some seasonings to it.

Although I have always been afraid of flipping an omelet (yes Julie C., I know what you're thinking, down some more vino and try again), I'm discovering that it's not as bad as it seems. Not to say a mess never pops up like when inverting the omelet onto a plate over a clean griddle and the uncooked portion of the omelet spilling out onto the griddle in a soupy mess. Yes, that was most irritating. But once you take that first bite of the soft and crispy potatoes that have so nicely cooked into the egg, all irritation dissipates (well, until you have to clean said griddle).

But all in all, I've gotten pretty darn good about being able to flip the tortilla so that both sides are cooked evenly. It's a relatively quick thing to make and extremely tasty. Paired with a side salad, some fresh fruit perhaps, a breakfast meat, and you have a really cheap dinner (remember, eggs and potatoes are about it for the ingredients).

A tortilla can be eaten hot or cold but I prefer it hot. There's just something more appetizing about eating potatoes and eggs that have just been cooked versus the alternative.

Tortilla española

1 large potato
5 eggs
Salt, pepper 
Olive oil
Optional: Extra spice, grated cheese

-Clean and peel potato. Cook until soft (I simply microwave it although you can also cook it in boiling water).

-Once potato is cooked, cut in slices. 

-Heat tablespoon of olive oil in frying pan. Once hot, add potato slices to it. Cook for a few minutes. Make sure to turn slices so that both sides are browned. 

-In a bowl, beat together eggs with seasonings. Pour on top of potato mixture. Let "cook" for a few minutes on medium heat, you may want to use a spatula to make sure eggs don't stick to the side of the pan. 

-Once you can tell the bottom has been set, take a plate (the same size as the frying pan) and invert the tortilla onto it. (I usually do this over the sink since the top of the tortilla hasn't cooked yet and is still runny). 

-Once the tortilla is on the plate, slide it back into the frying pan and cook for a few more minutes. 

-Cut into slices and enjoy! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hotel Review-Inn of Chagrin Falls (Chagrin Falls, Ohio)

Thanks to Living Social, I discovered the quaint town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Although the deal that I wanted to book was sold out, I discovered that there was a second hotel in Chagrin Falls, one that was  actually in the "downtown." So all in all, it seemed to be a good thing that the one property was sold out since that led me to the Inn of Chagrin Falls.

Location: Chagrin Falls' downtown isn't very big-there's Main Street and then a slew of little side streets. The nice thing about the Inn was that once we arrived there, we parked our car and that's where it stayed until we departed the next day. Thankfully it was beautiful while we were there but even if there had been cold weather, walking around to the various shops and restaurants would have been doable. There are a plethora of restaurants to chose from and the town's star attraction (I think you know what it is) was only a block and a half away from the Inn. Coming from Pittsburgh, it was less than a 2 hour drive (around 1 hr 45 minutes), and the nearest big city is Cleveland which is about 30 minutes away.

Check-in: When a town's downtown is on the smaller side, in the age of automobiles, there's often "cramped" spaces. I had read some reviews that said parking at the Inn could be difficult due to a limited number of spaces out front. We arrived and I went in immediately to both check-in and inquire about parking. The person working was extremely pleasant and helpful and after going over the requisite things she told me we could park in what we weren't sure was an actual spot. I knew from Chagrin Falls' visitors site that there were three parking lots so I'm sure that's always an alternative too (one appeared to be rather near to the Inn). Parking is free and guests are given a sign to put on their dashboard. Even though the website listed check-in was not until 3 PM, we arrived about 1:15 and were able to get into our room with only a ten minute wait as housekeeping was finishing up. Being an inn and not a modern hotel, room keys were actual keys which is cute in this day and age.

The Room: I planned our getaway to Chagrin Falls both last minute and somewhat impromptu so I didn't feel the need to splurge on a higher price level room. I opted for the standard queen room ($130 a night) and it was perfectly lovely. There was plenty of space and the bathroom was also spacious. There was a small flat screen TV hidden behind the armoir and free WIFI was also available. Nice touches were homemade cookies in individual baggies featuring stickers of the Inn and a bottle of water. Other room types included those with a fireplace, jacuzzi suite, and even one  with twin beds. Rooms are on both the ground and second floors.

Everything else: The Inn does provide a continental breakfast that is served between 7 and 10 AM seven days a week. Juice, hot tea, coffee, individual cereal boxes, bananas, a coffee cake, yogurts, and granola bars were offered. My only comment is that the granola bars and yogurts were not my cup of tea-the granola bars were of the healthy variety (i.e. bland as all get out) and the yogurts were the Activia brand. I appreciate being healthy but those were two things that I don't think would appeal to many people. A minor nitpick.

My only real critique is that being an older property (it was originally a private residence built back in the 1930s) the doors were wooden and would slam shut when people were not being considerate. We went to bed about 10:30 PM and for a while after that we were constantly hearing doors opening and closing, most likely from the same individuals who were going between rooms. Not to cast judgement prematurely but I saw a few kids/preteens the next day coming down from our floor and assume it was probably them.

There are two restaurants that the Inn is affiliated with (Gamekeeper's Taverne and the West End Bistro). We were given a 10% off coupon that could be used at either of them. We dined at the West End Bistro which I loved (review on that coming soon). 

One of the public rooms

All in all, I really enjoyed my stay and since it's the only hotel right in "downtown"Chagrin Falls, I would definitely come back again.

Inn of Chagrin Falls
87 West Street No 2
Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44022

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