Saturday, July 9, 2011

MOSCOW, PART 3: FOOD

Bob and I are both pretty adventurous when it comes to eating.  We believe that most things are worth trying once, and we are always anxious to try cuisine that is native to the places we visit.  We eschew eating at McDonald's when abroad (although I am on a mission to take pictures of McDonald's in as many foreign countries as possible), and we seek out small restaurants and grocery stores instead.

Our first night in Moscow found us venturing by ourselves away from tourist areas.  We stopped at a little "fast food" place where there was nothing written in English, and we pointed at pictures on the wall to order.  Another customer who spoke just a bit of English encouraged us to try a popular Russian soda which she promised us had "no alcohol."  


Our sandwich was pretty cheap and not bad.  On the other hand, we both had one drink of our Kbac (also known as kvass) and knew we'd had enough.  In researching this drink at home, I've learned that it is a fermented beverage made from rye bread.  Because the alcohol content is only about 1.2%, it's considered a non-alcoholic drink in Russia.  Right.

Another exploration of local eateries yielded better results, a delicious bakery.  Bob and I seem to be able to find good bakeries about anywhere we go.  This one was outstanding--perhaps the best bakery of the trip. We returned not just once, but twice.
 

We had absolutely incredible breakfasts in our hotel:

And we bought some very good meat, cheese, and bread at a grocery store:

However, we just couldn't make ourselves eat at this chain, which we saw in several places in Russia:


The other wonderful discovery we made in Russia was blinis.  These are traditional thin Russian pancakes, filled with both savory and sweet ingredients, and quite a bit like crepes.  Our guide pointed out a little blini place that we ended up visiting three times.  Again, we had to point at what we wanted--no English spoken there.  We had several fillings, including these:
Goose liver and pickles

Pork, cheese, and mushrooms
Chocolate and banana

Cherries
 We had a few meals with the group, and they were okay, but they tasted a bit like cafeteria food: 

My best food discovery in Moscow, and one that may someday cause me to return, was this:
HAZELNUT M&Ms
I bought several packages in Moscow (and ate them), then looked in every candy-selling establishment on our trip, but only found them again in St. Petersburg.
They are amazing.  I've looked on the internet, and they don't seem to be available anywhere but Russia.  Why oh why???

If you ever see M&Ms in a green bag, please buy a dozen or so bags for me. I will love you forever.

READING:
A wonderful romp through the culinary history of the Russia from the beginning of the 20th century through Putin's reign, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food & Longing begins with Anya von Bremzen's childhood in the Soviet Union. Born to an anti-Soviet Muscovite in 1963, Anya grows up in a love/hate relationship with her native cuisine. In 1976, Anya and her mother immigrate to the United States, where Anya eventually becomes a very respected and well-known food writer.

However, her childhood memories of food fill her with nostalgia, and she and her mother decide to host a series of dinner parties for which they will cook their way through Soviet history, one decade at a time. The result is a creative exploration of the Soviet Union's, and then Russia's, political and cultural history.

The book ends with a recipe for each decade. After reading this book, I want to try making every single one of them.

2 comments:

  1. Hazlenut madness seems to be prevalent in Europe. I'll keep a lookout for your M&M's. :-) American candy is popular in Kosovo so maybe we'll get lucky!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love how our corporate food puts out different varieties in other countries that we can't get here, and even on the two coasts, there are different kinds of "regular" food.

    The blini looks interesting--esp. the dessert blinis.

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