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Catherine Nash

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  1. Mmmm, pelmeni! When I lived in Moscow I was a vegetarian, but I gazed longlingly on many occasions at my friends' pelmeni and sour cream. (Pan, they're usually filled with ground meat -- pork, beef, or some combination of the two.) Your husband's comment about Mama Zoya's being for expats stings a bit, but I am sure he's right. When I was there, the expat community -- which to my mind didn't include me since I was a student, spoke fluent Russian and hung out with Russian friends -- was pretty insular and not terribly interested in Russian culture. They were elitist and just plain insulting to their host country, and I felt they gave people like me a bad name. Hope things have changed. And yes, it was definitely the Starlite Diner we frequented! $20 for a grilled cheese and some broccoli, but it was sooo worth it. Couldn't get broccoli back then. Or fresh milk that was pasteurized (which at the time seemed important, but with all the recent discussion about the value of "raw" dairy products now probably wouldn't bother me so much). Anyway, I would love to go back. My boyfriend has been begging me to take him since I speak Russian (sadly, no longer svobodno). If/when we do, I'll get in touch! In the meantime, I will continue to log on and see how much things have changed. p.s. have you considered starting your own blog, once this one ends, about food in Russia? I don't know of many (in English anyway) and judging by everyone's collective fascination with it on eGullet, you might find lots of happy readers. Just a thought.
  2. Caveat: I lived in Moscow 10 years ago. Regarding the question of kiosks asked above -- they are not a recent proliferation. They were just as plentiful a decade ago, and they were definitely open all year long, winters be damned. Outdoor markets, too, were where everyone bought fruits, vegetables, and many other things -- even as it was snowing outside. (It was more miserable for the poor vendors, I imagine, who were out there most of the day.) In the section of town near my apartment (Prospekt Vernadskovo) I only knew of one indoor/enclosed produce market. Suffice it to say we happily toodled off to it every weekend, taking 3 separate buses and spending 2 hours in round trip transit, for the privilege of shopping with our gloves off. Back to the kiosks. Some sold beer, wine and even individual shots of vodka (in plastic cups) or single cigarettes; others sold fresh baked bread, cookies, Ramen noodles. Anything and everything. I am not enough of a cultural historian to explain why kiosks are so ubiquitous in Moscow; perhaps someone else has a reasonable explanation?
  3. Bozhe moi, Alinka, I am FLABBERGASTED by all the changes in Moscow! I moved there 10 years ago and lived there for a year, and the city I lived in barely resembles the one you live in. I bet the metro is the same and the architecture, but very little else. Thank you for your insightful look into Moscow today. I am enjoying it even as I walk down memory lane, recalling shopping exclusively at outdoor markets for fruit and veg, and at indoor markets for baked goods, cheeses and bread (yes, the kind where you had to get a ticket, pay, and take your ticket back to the grumpy ladies to get your food. The kind where if you didn't have exact coin change -- and who did, given that the exchange rate was 5,000 rubles = 1 dollar? -- they would yell at you. Yeah. Don't miss that!) Now, one recommendation I have is to eat at Mama Zoya's. That, along with the American Diner near Mayakovsky Square, was one of the few restaurants that was operational when I lived there. It's great Georgian food, and I hear from my sister (who just visited Moscow two weeks ago for work) that there is a 2nd location on a boat out in the river. Perhaps more scenic than the original. (Can't remember the location, sorry! I know it's near one of the central metros but cannot for the life of me remember which one.) Cannot wait to tune in tomorrow for more of this fascinating look at Russia. Bolshoe spasibo!
  4. I can't recommend a steak place, but an Italian place that is really nice, with incredible food that's all local and seasonal is Region. They have a big table in the back of the main dining room that's part of the room but also semi-separate, if you wanted to get a bit loud without interrupting anyone else's dinner. It's very upscale, less in a stuffy way than in an "it's all about the food" way, and the wine list is AMAZING. The best food I've had in SD after a handful of visits over the last few years. The other place that might be fun for a drink and which serves HUGE portions of really great Nuevo Latino-influenced Tex Mex fare is Indigo Grill. When I say huge portions, I am not kidding -- the chocolate cake, for example, comes with 3 scoops of ice cream and could easily feed 3 hungry men. You get tons for your money and the atmosphere is really upbeat and fun. The bar is a great scene, too, and I think it's in/near Little Italy which is a good spot for finding Italian places. Have fun!
  5. Now that the Elite Cafe has reopened on Fillmore with Joanna Karlinksy at the helm (formerly of the Meetinghouse) I'd be willing to give it another shot at brunch. Used to be my favorite spot, mostly because of the beignets -- which have now been supplemented by cinnamon sugar donut holes and the Meetinghouse's rightly famous biscuits (with honey or sausage gravy).
  6. My personal favorite is Nectar. The staff, esp the bartenders, are really friendly and if you're interested, they'll go on and on and on about wine, let you try a bunch of different sips and they make downright fantastic recommendations. Plus, the wine descriptions on the menu are so well written I had to complement the owner the other night. The food, also, is excellent (on the one occasion I had any). Small plates, natch, but very well executed. A bit on the pricy side as small plates go, though I don't think necessarily overpriced given the type of ingredients. And you can hear your conversation -- a real bonus. It's got the most ambiance of all the wine bars I've been to, save Ottimista, which I think competes nicely in that department.
  7. Highly, highly HIGHLY recommend Region. One of my best friends lives in SD and I visit her somewhat often -- usually the main complaint I have is the restaurants, though fun, aren't usually up to snuff for a San Francisco girl. But Region is all about cooking Italian fresh/local/seasonal, and the food is amazing. It's a nice upscale place with a casual attitude -- great wine list, fabulous service and recommendations, and they're nice enough to let some folks do the full on chef's tasting without forcing everyone to, if they don't want to. There's a sort of back room, too, not separate from the main dining room, where you could secret yourselves away if you want to talk business without prying ears.
  8. Delfina just announced theirs, with a focus on white truffles.
  9. It's been almost two years since I ate in Paris, but we thoroughly enjoyed: 1. Chez Benoit -- fairly traditional though. We went on the recommendation of a French chef we love in San Francisco. I think it's a one-star (though the next two have no stars, they were very good.) 2. Chez Michel (out near the Gare du Nord what's that, the 9th? 10th?) -- lots of game and countrified cooking. One of our top favorites from the trip. 3. Ze Kitchen Galerie -- very much like California cooking, which we found to be rare in gay Paree. Lots of whimsical preparations in a modern setting.
  10. I recently threw a party and served old-fashioneds (it was a New Orleans theme) and I was surprised how much people LOVED them. Everybody, from college age on up was gulping them down like no tomorrow. There are lots of recipes online and it's probably on the classics page, but I just mixed up equal parts bourbon and club soda with sugar water (or sugar) to taste, a dash of bitters and a maraschino cherry was added as people poured their drinks. Easy, tasty, a hit.
  11. Another vote for those, as well as the pasilla peppers and cheese taco, the adobadas (marinated pork), and the chilaquiles (if they have them, they make them like nachos). You can see photos of the place and the food from my visit here if you're interested. And I too voted it for lunch not at all because of the quality, but because I like a bottle of wine and a waiter at dinner.
  12. Please do yourself a favor and go to La Super-Rica, for lunch, late breakfast, whatever. It's amazing...
  13. A16. Hands down. They have amazing burrata and housemade salumi, their pizzas and pastas are great and not overly mundane (maccoronata, anyone? I'm sure I spelled that dreadfully wrong...) I have to give Incanto kudos for their food -- it's good -- but overall prefer A16 for their atmosphere which is far more casual and more upbeat, and frankly, the folks over at Incanto were really rude to me on the phone when I called them about a reservation so that put me off. The people at A16 are really, really, really nice and they care if you like the food -- despite being one of the hippest, most buzzed about and popular restaurants in the City.
  14. I just went last weekend, for the first time, after reading about it in both the NYT and Sunset magazine. Every last bite lived up to the hype, from the pasilla pepper and cheese tacos mentioned earlier to the crispy chilaquiles served like nachos with a roasted tomato sauce, to the guacamole. It was, for me, the best Mexican meal I've ever had.
  15. Another vote for Jaleo. The Tabbard Inn has a restaurant that I've heard is pretty good (though I stayed there, I didn't eat there so I can't vouch for it personally).
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