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eG Foodblog: Alinka - Not Just Borsch: Eating in Moscow

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#31 johnder

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Posted 06 August 2006 - 07:49 PM

Hi Alinka!

Looking forward to you blog! I was in Moscow 10 years ago -- looking forward to see how it changed.

John
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#32 tejon

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Posted 06 August 2006 - 08:47 PM

Could you share the recipe for that plov, please? It looks delicious and comforting.
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#33 Abra

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Posted 06 August 2006 - 09:06 PM

Speaking of weird ingredients, the borsch recipe I brought back with me from Russia calls for Aromat. I brought some home with me at the time, but have never been able to find it since. We have something here called Aromat, but it's not that same mix of green herbs. If you happen to have a packege in the cupboard, would you be so kind as to tell me the ingredients? I notice that your recipe doesn't call for it, but I'd love to recreate the soup Galya made for me in St. Petersburg all those years ago.

#34 Pam R

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Posted 06 August 2006 - 09:09 PM

But, as they say, one cannot embrace the boundless, so I will not attempt. I will simply invite you to spend my usual week with me, with no weddings, Passovers, visits to wineries, or other special events planned. I think even that should be plenty interesting :smile:.

I think that sounds like a perfectly splendid plan. I can't wait to see some of your home-cooking and whatever you'll be able to show us of Moscow.

Half of my family is from Russia - so while we do the Jewish foods, we also call pierogi vereneki and fill them with fruits in the summer. The ones you posted on the dinner thread look great! Is your borsch sweet? Sour? A little of both?

I'm looking forward to your week.

#35 little ms foodie

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Posted 06 August 2006 - 10:13 PM

Alinka thank you for blogging this week! We were in St Petersberg for new years eve with friends just last year and found it to be so interesting- we all really want to go to Moscow now also!

A question for you, and I know you said that obviously things are different all over Russia so you may not be able to answer but just in case. We looked all over for pirosky when we were in Peter but honestly never saw a shop- maybe they are sold in the carts? Anyway my real question is are they still a popular food in Russia? I've actuallly only seen them and eaten them here in Seattle! weird!!

#36 SuzySushi

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Posted 06 August 2006 - 10:26 PM

I'm fascinated by your blog and photos too. I've never been to Russia... my closest experiences are a bit of Russian in my heritage and two friends who lived in Moscow some years ago: one in the depths of Soviet Russia (I remember her comments on the stores: "You wait on line for an hour to get in, but once you get in, there's nothing there to buy" and the economic planning: "This year they made three kinds of blankets, but no sheets"). It will be interesting indeed to see how things have changed.
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#37 Alinka

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Posted 06 August 2006 - 10:40 PM

Thank you all for your interest and your continuing support! I had no idea blogging will be so exciting! I promise I’ll answer all your questions later; right now I want to show more pictures.

Some of you asked about supermarkets so I went out last night and took several photos. This is our neighborhood store, not my favorite because it is small and expensive. But we end up shopping there several times a week because the work hours for both of us are pretty long and do not leave us much time for shopping or cooking. I usually come home around 7 pm to collapse in bed 3 hours later.

Anyway, here it is. Like I said, nothing special, looks pretty much like any other grocery store.

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Edited by Alinka, 06 August 2006 - 11:08 PM.


#38 Alinka

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Posted 06 August 2006 - 10:52 PM

Now, I have something that I think you will find more interesting. On Saturday we went out for a walk in the city as we always do on weekends. Went to the Red Square (it’s about a half hour walk), then took the metro to the Novodevichy Monastery. I snapped some pictures for you along the way.

On weekends there is a small market set up in the park near our house. This time we did not buy anything because we were on our way elsewhere.

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I thought you guys would get a kick out of this photo:

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It's dried salted fish. Good with beer :biggrin:.

Dried fruit. The stuff in the bags is the dried fruit that does not look very good. They sell that cheaper - people buy it to make compot (sweet drink served cold):

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I know the issue of prices will come up :smile:. The exchange rate is approximately 26 rubles to a dollar. For those who want to know the exact figure: http://www.xe.com/ucc/. Prices on the tags are per kilo.

#39 Alinka

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Posted 06 August 2006 - 11:01 PM

Later in the day we went to a mall. I thought you might want to see the food court. Looks just like any in the States.

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We got stuffed blini, kvas (I talked about it here), and buckwheat with roast pork and horseradish sauce:

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You can have chocolates for dessert...

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...or some gelatto (Cyrillic letters read Mia Dolce Julia).

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#40 Alinka

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Posted 06 August 2006 - 11:17 PM

Ok, and one last thing from Saturday - the bakery that is near our house. The sign says Frantsuzskaya Bulka - "French Baguette" - and "Fresh Bread" below.

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We got three mini-quiches, an eclair, and a cherry/custard croissant.

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#41 Pan

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 12:00 AM

[Edited to replace wrong photo with right photo. :hmmm:]

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Is that halvah on the upper right corner?

The bakery near your house looks great!

I noticed that some of the places to eat in the food court are the same chains that are often seen in the U.S. Sbarro and Yo! Sushi are outfits I've seen before, especially Sbarro, which has long had a big branch in the Theater District in Manhattan. The shape and color of the Brasserie sign also looks familiar.

Edited by Pan, 07 August 2006 - 12:02 AM.


#42 Alinka

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 01:53 AM

Moscow is huge – can you give a general idea of where you are? Any tips for making shashlik (including what fish to substitute for sturgeon in the US)? Any tips on making Russian fruit-filled pastries?

How many diminutives are there for Alina?

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Moscow is huge, isn’t it? Officially, the number of people living here is 12 million but I am pretty sure there are many people who live here illegally (one is required to have a registration to live in Moscow). Our apartment is located not far from the Garden Ring, in the center of the city.

There is probably a million of recipes for shashlik. The main idea here is that the meat has to be marinated. People marinate it in wine, kefir, mayo, lemon/onion/spices, etc. But, like barbeque in the States, shashlik is a man thing so I’d be a wrong person to ask :smile:. Regarding Russian fruit-filled pastries – it depends on what you mean. They can be baked or deep-fried; made from yeast dough, puff pastry or the dough simply made with sour cream or kefir…. There are plenty of pastry kiosks everywhere so maybe we will look at them later this week.

As to the diminutives: plenty! The Russian language is rich in diminutives :smile:.

There are so many Russian dishes I would like to read about - solyanka, kulebjaka, strogonov, ikra, etc etc, but I guess I must wait until your follow-up blog next year  :unsure:

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Hi Pille! It would be interesting to learn more about Estonian food. As to the Russian dishes you mention, I’m not sure I will be able to cover them this week. Shawn wanted me to buy ikra and show it in the blog, but it seems too souvenir-matryoshka-style and less like real life. That is not to say that Russians don’t eat caviar. Well, there’s always next time.

I'd like to hear from you just how the city has changed in the decade or so since you last lived there.  I'm sure the experience of shopping for food has changed dramatically from what it was like in Soviet days, and I'd like to see and hear how.

How is food produced and distributed now that the days of the collective farm are past?  What's gotten better, and what (if anything) has gotten worse?
You got the kitchen shot out of the way quickly, but what's inside that fridge?

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I never lived in Moscow so it’s hard for me to compare. I guess the main difference is that you can buy almost everything you want these days. I haven’t found some of the American things I wanted (like chocolate chips) but I’m sure that’s because I haven’t had much time to look. And a co-worker got me a bag of chocolate chips from the Embassy store anyway – so I was able to bake chocolate chip cookies for the office.

Collective farms do exist, as do privately-owned farms as well. Plus, a lot of produce is imported. What is disappointing is that the produce sections in supermarkets are smaller than those in the States. But there always markets and kiosks that might not offer a huge variety but they sell everything that is in season and is very fresh. At first it took some adjusting to realize that those tomatoes are not going to sit fresh on the counter for days on end the way they do in the States :smile:.

I'll take a photo of the fridge later.

I'm so delighted you're blogging!!  I love the IDEA of Moscow, from childhood reading---troikas and furs and dashes through the snow; always, always I imagined the sound of bells in the air---to histories, to the arts and literature and all that food!  Your glorious photography will do justice to the steam and the colours---the crumb of a loaf, the shine of chocolate, and just the enticing array of your dishes.  Your eye combined with a camera lens:  forces to be reckoned with.

Your kitchen looks brand-new, like your life-change---a ready, clean white canvas for painting wonderful things.  I'm SO looking forward to hearing about your week.

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Rachel, you are a poet! I’m afraid troikas and dashes through the snow have gone the way of cowboys and the Wild West :smile:. But Russia sure does look pretty in that Doctor Zhivago movie (too bad they shot it in Spain, Finland and Canada :raz:). Thank you for your compliments; I appreciate it. My dream is to get a new camera because I am tired of the old one; it seems it does not do as much as I want it to do.

#43 Hiroyuki

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 02:09 AM

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It's dried salted fish. Good with beer :biggrin:.

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That is interesting! Looks good with sake too. :biggrin: Could you tell us the name of the fish? Is it the only fish dried and salted in your country?

One more question: Ikura is one of the few Russian words I know. How do you eat ikura (I mean salmon roe) in your country?

#44 Alinka

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 04:51 AM

When I think of Moscow, I think of cold dark snowy days, since you're way north. But as it's August, I hope you're getting a little sunlight. What time does the sun come up? And when does it get dark again, this time of year?

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I dread winter, to be honest. I hate the cold. The summer is nice though: warm and with long days. In June, even at 10:30 or 11 pm it’d still be light outside. I checked on weather.com: sunrise today was at 5:45 am, and sunset will be at 9:26 pm.

i'm especially interested in any american foods you have become accustomed to that you seek out or make in your new hometown.

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Today I had a craving for an American-style sandwich, with whole wheat bread, sprouts, turkey, avocado, etc. Served with potato chips. I haven’t seen them in cafes but it does not mean they do not exist, or that I cannot make one myself :smile:. Also, I couldn't find decaf black tea here – Russians are not big on decaf. Burgers though are easy to find: there are several American diners in town. At home, we mostly eat Russian food these days simply because it’s easier to make here. But there is no reason why I could not make such American standards as meatloaf or spaghetti. Oh, and I miss the beef here. Pork is more popular in Russia, and it’s really flavorful and “porky,” not the lean tasteless stuff that is common in the US stores. But the beef here is usually tougher and does not taste as good. Also, I haven’t seen cottage cheese that I used to buy often in the States.

So, I have a request:  I'm from Kiev so i don't know if it's the same in Moscow, but one of the things I missed most when we came to US was the bread!  Could you do a little photo/visit or something to a bakery and show some bread? Extra points if you find Ukrainian chernyi xleb!  And, bybliki!!!

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Privet! Thanks for your good wishes. You know, I’ve never liked rye bread, but I’ll take a picture for you of the rye bread and bubliki :smile:.

The sauna looked particularly welcome, warm weather or no; is the custom to share?  Hot rocks or just baths?

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The Russian sauna is called banya. Unlike the dry Finnish sauna, for example, the heat here is humid, it’s all steam. There is a stove with hot rocks there on which you sprinkle some water if you want to make the temperature hotter. No bath inside: just basins which you fill with water. There was also a shower in the corner in this one. Banyas are not shared by the members of the opposite sex unless they are married and want some time alone :smile:.

I'm guessing that the menu you shot at that McDonald's was their "Happy Meals" based on that limited knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet.  (Looks like an attempt to transliterate the English words into Russian.)

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Good job! It does say Happy Meal.

#45 Alinka

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 05:02 AM

[...]Shchav is probably the dish we call "green borsch" because the Russian word shchavel means "sorrel."

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Indeed. Shchav is made from sheep sorrel and sour cream is mixed in. And of course, there's plenty of that wonderful northern European herb, dill. My father likes shchav; I find it very sour but not bad in small sips. Any of several varieties of borsht is more my style.

Well, here is a picture of the green borsch just for you:

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What foods that come from Central Asia are popular with Muscovites nowadays?

I’ve noticed that Uzbek restaurants are popular in Moscow. I know in my family we cooked plov, manty (somewhat similar to Chinese steamed meat dumplings), lagman (lamb/noodle soup with pickled green garlic, spicy), shurpa (meat/vegetable soup), funchosa (rice noodles with meat sauce). I’ve seen all these items on the menu in Uzbek restaurants, plus their traditional lepeshka (flatbread baked in tandur), samsa (baked meat or potato pastries made form sour cream dough or puff pastry), and other dishes traditional to that region.

You have had an interesting life. I have an anthropologist friend who went to Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy in the wintertime for a conference on shamanism. She brought back slides of the extraordinarily beautiful landscape (to a large extent, a snow- and volcano-scape). She told us she spent a lot of time in thermal baths and drinking vodka (possibly at the same time, sometimes) with her new friends, and that everyone was really friendly.

Yes, the nature there is very beautiful. My dad’s fondest memories are of fishing and hunting there :smile:.

I neglected to congratulate you on your pregancy! How far along are you, and how are you finding your eating habits changing, if at all? Any unusual cravings?

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Thank you. I’m almost at the end of the second trimester. I did not have unusual cravings but the morning sickness was brutal the entire first trimester, and even now I get nauseous if I don’t eat something every couple hours.

But generally, my attitude to food has changed a lot since we moved. I think it is a combination of circumstances. I am less particular about food now. In Houston I had plenty of time to read about food, plan, shop and cook. My favorite pastime was shopping at Central Market or Whole Foods and cooking. Most of the stuff in our fridge or freezer was organic, and you couldn’t find anything non-whole grain in our pantry. These days, my job leaves me less time for that. Besides, Moscow is so beautiful and exciting that I’d hate to spend these summer days in the kitchen. Most of our weekends are spent sightseeing or just strolling in the city. I haven’t seen much whole-grain pasta here (just a couple varieties) but I did find whole wheat flour, so I bought a bread machine and try to bake my own bread.

#46 Alinka

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 05:08 AM

Speaking of weird ingredients, the borsch recipe I brought back with me from Russia calls for Aromat.  I brought some home with me at the time, but have never been able to find it since.  We have something here called Aromat, but it's not that same mix of green herbs.  If you happen to have a packege in the cupboard, would you be so kind as to tell me the ingredients?  I notice that your recipe doesn't call for it, but I'd love to recreate the soup Galya made for me in St. Petersburg all those years ago.

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I’ve never heard of it, but I’ll make sure to look next time I am in the store.

Half of my family is from Russia - so while we do the Jewish foods, we also call pierogi vereneki and fill them with fruits in the summer.  The ones you posted on the dinner thread look great!  Is your borsch sweet? Sour? A little of both?

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Pierogi actually means “pies” in Russian. As in, large pies made with yeast dough and filled with fruit, fish, meat, eggs, rice+liver, etc. The borsch is not sweet; it’s a slightly tart savory dish.

Thank you for linking to your previously posted borscht recipe.  For the beet version, would that posted recipe be approached the same except for the addition of beets or would some of the ingredients be omitted?  Perhaps the beets are boiled in the stock after the potatoes are cooked and removed?

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The beats are julienned or shredded and sautéed together with the rest of the vegetables. The potatoes are not supposed to be removed from the soup :hmmm:.

Alinka thank you for blogging this week! We were in St Petersberg for new years eve with friends just last year and found it to be so interesting- we all really want to go to Moscow now also!

A question for you, and I know you said that obviously things are different all over Russia so you may not be able to answer but just in case. We looked all over for pirosky when we were in Peter but honestly never saw a shop- maybe they are sold in the carts? Anyway my real question is are they still a popular food in Russia? I've actuallly only seen them and eaten them here in Seattle! weird!!

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Hi Wendy! I remember your trip to St. Petersburg. I hear it’s beautiful (never been there). Could you describe what you mean by pirosky? We have pirozhki in Russia, small pastries with different fillings. They are sold all over as this is probably one of the most popular kinds of fast food here.

Well, I think I’m getting close to catching up on questions…. I hope you all are not tired of reading yet!

#47 BarbaraY

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 08:15 AM

I'm finding this blog fascinating. My dearest friend's mother just managed to get born in the USA. She made pirozhki, borscht, stuffed cabbage with pork, and a lovely cheesecake made with cottage cheese. A wonderful cook.

Your photos are so colorful. Seems like most of the pictures I've seen of Moscow are so depressing. I'm glad to see all the color.

#48 C. sapidus

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 08:19 AM

Regarding Russian fruit-filled pastries – it depends on what you mean. They can be baked or deep-fried; made from yeast dough, puff pastry or the dough simply made with sour cream or kefir…. There are plenty of pastry kiosks everywhere so maybe we will look at them later this week.

These pastries were baked, not puff pastry, and sold at a pastry kiosk. The aroma of freshly-baked pastries and bubbling-hot fruit penetrated the Siberian winter, drawing hungry customers from at least a block away. I will follow any visits to pastry kiosks with great interest.

By the way, please give us a chance to translate the signs. I knew Happy Meal, coffee, and khleb (bread). Спасибо, пokа!

#49 little ms foodie

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 08:26 AM

Hi Wendy! I remember your trip to St. Petersburg. I hear it’s beautiful (never been there). Could you describe what you mean by pirosky? We have pirozhki in Russia, small pastries with different fillings. They are sold all over as this is probably one of the most popular kinds of fast food here.



yes, that is what we were looking for! Isn't it strange that we never found any? Are they mainly sold off of the street carts or in shops?

Now I have another question regarding the grocery stores. In Peter the small neighborhood shops were set up where all the grocery items were behind a counter and each counter was run by a different woman- you paid each one seperately. Is that just a step below the larger grocery store? Do you have that set up in Moscow also?

Peter is beautiful Alinka, you and your husband should go for a weekend!

Thanks again for answering all these questions and reporting so well on Moscow, it is so interesting! The only Russian word I learned was bap! :raz:

#50 Pontormo

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 08:44 AM

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The cherries made it to Moscow!! :laugh:

Lovely and interesting blog, Alinka! Having lived further north before, I envy you the length of your days during the summer. Since I have never been to Russia, I am quite surprised by some of the things you have shown us just in these first few pages. Very different from reports of visits that predate your move to the U.S. I can see why you say the culture seems new.
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#51 MarketStEl

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 09:41 AM

Now I have another question regarding the grocery stores. In Peter the small neighborhood shops were set up where all the grocery items were behind a counter and each counter was run by a different woman- you paid each one seperately. Is that just a step below the larger grocery store? Do you have that set up in Moscow also?

Peter is beautiful Alinka, you and your husband should go for a weekend!

[emphasis added]

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Jeez, even the Russian cities are referred to with diminuitives?
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#52 little ms foodie

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 11:33 AM


Now I have another question regarding the grocery stores. In Peter the small neighborhood shops were set up where all the grocery items were behind a counter and each counter was run by a different woman- you paid each one seperately. Is that just a step below the larger grocery store? Do you have that set up in Moscow also?

Peter is beautiful Alinka, you and your husband should go for a weekend!

[emphasis added]

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Jeez, even the Russian cities are referred to with diminuitives?

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I'm sorry, is this rude to do? When we were there the locals referred to the city as Peter so I thought it was common??? I certainly didn't mean to offend.

#53 chickenlady

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 11:35 AM

As one who is fascinated with all things Russian (I was briefly a Russian Studies/Language major in college, but gave up that idea after only learning how to say "Hello. How are you? I am six." after 3 semesters of study. Although, it's possible that too much partying got in the way of my studies. :hmmm:), I have to say fascinating blog so far, Alina. Thanks!

One question about your kitchen: Your cabinets look very much like the ones I saw in Germany. It seems that in the area I visited, it was common to supply your own kitchen cabinets, counters, and appliances, along with closets and even, in some cases, interior walls, when renting an apartment. Is this the case there? (As a completely off-topic aside, the upstairs landlady absolutely forbade any additional people from taking showers each day, particularly not water-hogging Americans, so my boyfriend and I had to go to the Base gymnasium to bathe each morning!!)

Thanks again! Your photos and the food look fabulous!


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#54 MarketStEl

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 12:23 PM


Now I have another question regarding the grocery stores. In Peter the small neighborhood shops were set up where all the grocery items were behind a counter and each counter was run by a different woman- you paid each one seperately. Is that just a step below the larger grocery store? Do you have that set up in Moscow also?

Peter is beautiful Alinka, you and your husband should go for a weekend!

[emphasis added]

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Jeez, even the Russian cities are referred to with diminuitives?

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I'm sorry, is this rude to do? When we were there the locals referred to the city as Peter so I thought it was common??? I certainly didn't mean to offend.

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Sorry, I should have added a wink to my post. Alinka was commenting upthread on the widespread use of diminuitives in Russian, and I noticed your use of the word Russians themselves use to refer to the city I grew up calling Leningrad.

Nice of them to give it back its original name.
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#55 little ms foodie

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 12:45 PM


Now I have another question regarding the grocery stores. In Peter the small neighborhood shops were set up where all the grocery items were behind a counter and each counter was run by a different woman- you paid each one seperately. Is that just a step below the larger grocery store? Do you have that set up in Moscow also?

Peter is beautiful Alinka, you and your husband should go for a weekend!

[emphasis added]

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Jeez, even the Russian cities are referred to with diminuitives?

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I'm sorry, is this rude to do? When we were there the locals referred to the city as Peter so I thought it was common??? I certainly didn't mean to offend.

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Sorry, I should have added a wink to my post. Alinka was commenting upthread on the widespread use of diminuitives in Russian, and I noticed your use of the word Russians themselves use to refer to the city I grew up calling Leningrad.

Nice of them to give it back its original name.

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excellent! I thought that is what you were referring to but I wanted to check!

#56 Megan Blocker

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 02:45 PM

Wow, Alinka, this is awesome...I cannot wait to watch the week unfold.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in Moscow? How does it compare to your favorite restaurant from your time in the States?
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#57 Jason Perlow

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 03:00 PM

Wow. Moscow is a totally different place than what I remember it being in the late 1980s.

Supermarkets, LOL. I take it that GUM no longer functions as a state department store and the usual Beriozkas no longer exist?

Edited by Jason Perlow, 07 August 2006 - 03:03 PM.

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#58 kiliki

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 03:05 PM

What a fantastic blog already! And I second the request for the plov recipe.

#59 Abra

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 09:20 PM

Holy cow! I was in Moscow in 1993, and I saw nothing, and I do mean nothing, at all like those shops and malls. Incredible what a transformation can happen in such a short time.

In fact, back then when I took the overnight train to Helsinki, I almost fainted on arrival from the amount of food that was available in Finland, as compared to Moscow or even worse, Peterburg, as it was called at that time.

#60 Alinka

Alinka
  • participating member
  • 371 posts
  • Location:Houston

Posted 07 August 2006 - 10:29 PM

Could you share the recipe for that plov, please? It looks delicious and comforting.

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It is comforting, but it’s very simple. It really helps to have a special mix of spices. I’m not sure what’s exactly in it; I usually buy a packet “Spices for Plov” in the Russian store in Houston, or at the market from Uzbeks here. I suppose you can make it without them.

PLOV

1 large carrot, julienned or grated
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons oil
2 chicken thighs cut into smaller pieces
salt
1 1/2 cups rice
3 garlic cloves

Sautee onions in oil until translucent. Add carrots and sauté until soft. Add chicken, 1 cup boiling water and salt; simmer 5-7 minutes, covered. Add rice and 2 cups boiling water, bring to boil. Cover and let simmer on low heat until rice is done and water is absorbed. Stick peeled garlic cloves into rice, cover, remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes.


[Edited to replace wrong photo with right photo. :hmmm:]

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Is that halvah on the upper right corner?

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Yes, it is halvah.

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It's dried salted fish. Good with beer :biggrin:.

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That is interesting! Looks good with sake too. :biggrin: Could you tell us the name of the fish? Is it the only fish dried and salted in your country?

One more question: Ikura is one of the few Russian words I know. How do you eat ikura (I mean salmon roe) in your country?

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Unfortunately, I don’t know what that fish is called. Maybe I’ll ask next time :smile:. No, this is not the only kind of fish that Russians prepare this way.

Regarding your question about ikra (caviar or salmon roe), it is eaten with blini or, more often, with bread and butter. Something like this:

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Now I have another question regarding the grocery stores. In Peter the small neighborhood shops were set up where all the grocery items were behind a counter and each counter was run by a different woman- you paid each one seperately. Is that just a step below the larger grocery store? Do you have that set up in Moscow also?

Yes, those still do exist here, and they are pretty common, too. (Note to self: take a picture of a small store for the blog :smile:)

The only Russian word I learned was bap!  :raz:

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That’s a good one to know!





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