Last fall, I took over as Assistant Editor of Conde Nast’s Jaunted to specialize in its destination coverage, and with the new year has come opportunities to design a few of my own columns for the site. The first, which highlights street foods and other cultural dishes from around the world, is called “Street Food Friday.” The other is focused on booze and drinking in different countries, and I call it “Monday, Five Thirty” in honor of the most needed happy hour of the week.
Sipping on Estonia’s Flagship Booze, Vana Tallinn
In celebration of the most needed happy hour of the week, we’re launching a new column called “Monday, Five Thirty” that will take a look at different vices from around the world, specifically boozes and beers unique to a destination. For this inaugural run, we zip over to Estonia for a taste of its infamous Vana Tallin.
Estonia is a relatively new country, having gained its independence from Russia just over twenty years ago in 1991. Its most wide-scale attraction, Old Town Tallinn, looks like it should be on the top of a wedding cake with its medieval castles, and last year I dished on some of its properties, including one where the KGB literally bugged the hell out of its guests.
We’re here to talk about booze, though, and the segue is in the name: “Old Tallinn” in Estonian is “Vana Tallinn,” which happens to be the name of the country’s flagship liqueur. It is marketed as if it is some ancient remedy, but the truth is that it was created in the 1960s, and there seems to be little historical context other than good marketing linking the drink to the city. Despite that, if you asked a resident what they think the local drink is, the answer will be Vana Tallinn 9 times out of 10.
Fried Lobster in Puerto Nuevo, Baja California
In a new weekly Friday column, we’ll explore street food and other culinary specialties from around the world. Last week, it was Laksa, Kolok Mee, and Satay in Kuching. This week, we head south of the border to Puerto Nuevo in Baja California to see what’s cooking.
Tacos and tamales are clearly the first thing that comes to mind concerning street food in Mexico, which is why it is somewhat refreshing to see a town doing something different. The self-described “Lobster Capital of Baja,” Puerto Nuevo sits been Ensenada and Rosarito, about 90 minutes from San Diego in Baja California. You can definitely get a taco in town, but what the tourists come for is the fried lobster.
Yes, fried lobster. Just when you think something can’t get any better, someone throws it in a vat of fat to find out. The shell is kept on and the entire lobster is pan-fried in lard to keep the meat moist, which is the key aspect and major difference between good and bad restaurants serving the dish. Rice and beans come on the side.
Most stories chalk the tradition back to before refrigeration, but otherwise the details of why the lobsters were fried in fat is rather vague (we’re assuming it simply tasted better than boiling them in water). Today’s culture continues because of tourism, for sure, and there are plenty of lobster-serving restaurants to choose from: Over 30 in the town of just a few streets.