an American fish in & out of Estonian waters

Turns Out that Tallinn’s Best All American Breakfast is All Estonian

 

Every once in a while, I get a real hankering for an All-American Breakfast complete with fried eggs, bacon, and potatoes. While I’ve tested quite a few Tallinn breakfasts over the years – including some that claim to be American, either their taste is off (it’s obvious that the cook has never eaten a single meal in the United States) or else something is just missing from what should make a full breakfast plate (sometimes an item as simple as toast).

And so, I guess good fortune was smiling down on me when I decided to try the praekartul peekoni ja munaga – or the PPM aka the Fried Potatoes with Bacon and Egg (yes, egg singular) – at Kalamaja’s pioneering Boheem Café not all that long after they opened for business. The dish is so Estonian and so simple that many Estonians won’t even bother ordering it out – especially if they think that they might cook it at home for themselves as generations of Estonians have done before them – probably right back to the time when the potato first arrived on these shores from America via Germany. For me, the PPM turned out to be the answer to my America breakfast prayer.

Please, just don’t be surprised when the PPM shows up at your table and it looks nothing at all like an All American Breakfast. In fact, it looks like a passive-aggressive short-order cook was either so pissed off at you – or at the dish itself – that s/he decided to chop everything into little bits while it was still in the pan. And, the egg – yes, often just one but sometimes two – inevitably ends up being fried over hard.

Although I’m a true-blue fan of eggs over easy, I’ve since learned to look beyond simple surface appearances and enjoy the inner essence of this dish. Crunchy fried potatoes? Check. Crispy bacon? Check. (Or at least about as crispy as you’ll ever get in Estonia.) Farm fresh fried eggs? Check. Bread? OK, so there’s no toast. However, the PPM is served with some nice fresh lavash made at the Secret Georgian Bakery around the corner. Pickles? WTF? Pickles! Yes, pickles. As the PPM is an all Estonian breakfast at heart, hipster Boheem just had to throw in a few pickles along with their house garlic sauce to complete the dish. But, hey, after eating the PPM for years, I’ve even started to look forward to the pickles.

And so, even if the pickles represent a bit of breakfast curve ball, bohemian Boheem does tick several other All American Breakfast boxes. If you walk over to their condiment table, you will find ketchup (although not Heinz) and – most importantly of all – Tabasco Sauce. Me, I skip the former and focus on the later. There is just something about a generous shaking of Tabasco over my fried eggs, bacon, and potatoes that turns Boheem’s all Estonian breakfast into one that my taste buds somehow recognize as an All American one. Yes, they’ve been hacked – but if it tastes right, who cares?  Now if I could only add a few slices of avocado, I might almost imagine myself being back in California …. Finally, to round things off in the absence of some fresh-squeezed OJ, I usually wash everything down with a tasty Boheem Sprits – their homemade sparkling cranberry juice served with fresh squeezed slices of lime and a sprig of mint.

While the rest of Boheem’s breakfast and daytime menu can be a bit more miss than hit, I do rather like their oven baked omelet filled with bacon, cheese, tomatoes, and black bread (yes, black bread) – even if it tends to get over cooked. One of the reasons Boheem may still be going strong after ten years, is that it understands the concept of the all-day breakfast and so I can order the PPM anytime I go. You can’t get much more All American breakfast-friendly than that!

 

If you haven’t been to Boheem before and want to give it a try, just take the no. 1 or 2 Tallinn Tram headed towards Kopli and get off at the Telliskivi stop. Boheem will be right across the street at Kopli 18. Tell them flatfish sent you.

And if you like the glass egg plate in the image above, you may still be able to buy one at the Estonian Design House showroom in Solaris Keskus. While glass makers Anne-Liis Leht and Kristi Ringkjob’s AnnKris Glass Studio and website is no longer around, you can find Anne-Liis these days at HYTI Design. You can also tell her that flatfish sent you.

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