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Alinka

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

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Alinka, this is so fascinating to get inside a world so far away from my own. I am taken with your photos of all the beautiful produce and the seemingly European flair of the city, the restaurants in particular. Is this a case of "the eye of the photographer," I wonder?

Your photogarphy is wonderful, as is your eye. I looked at the photos on your website and was very taken with many of the images. Thanks for sharing your viewpoint. I hope to make it to your wonderful country one day.

For an entrée, I had salmon with potatoes au gratin

By the way, this photo inspired me to make my gratin dauphinoise to accompany our fish dinner tonight. Thanks!

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Hi Lorna! Some of the popular Russian cakes are Napoleon (a version of mille-feuille), honey cake (multiple thin layers of honey dough layered with whipped sour cream)[...]

Your honeycake was splendid!

When I was a kid growing up in New York, I didn't know the word millefeuille, but called them Napoleons; I think that is or at least was standard here. The place where I most often got them was called Eclair, and it was a Viennese pastry place on 72 St., an elegant place (or so I thought) until it gradually got rundown and petered out.

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Hi Alinka,

Just got back from vacation in Ukraine and saw your blog. Good work. I've lived in Moscow for 11 years and after owning and running my own place now work as an independent industry consultant. If you need any tips, advice, recommendations just PM me.

The place I consult for does the gum in the bill thing. They really don't do mints here so it's kind of a substitute and Russkis believe (for right or wrong) that it stimulates digestion.

I have to put my 2 kopeks in about underground kiosk pastries (sloiki). Although not at the same level as bakery or coffeeshop pastries, at 60 cents equivalent per pop they make excellent between meal snacks. The ones at Nyam-Nyam are superior to the ones at Da!

My favorite pastry place from St. Petersburg has just opened a place in Moscow - Baltiskii Klheb (Baltic Bread). I don't know the address but am planning to check it out soon. I'll check out the rest of your blog and put in more info later.

I really went through the whole thing just now at top speed and there seemed to be some still-unanswered questions out there. I'll try to help Alinka answer them if I can if any of you wish to re-post them.


Edited by Skinny Guy (log)

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Alinka

Thankyou for the pelmenyi. Seeing them brought back many happy memories of my Russian food experiences with Max, my student. We used to eat them with melted butter I recall.... very low calorie :laugh: . Some were filled with meat and some with potato and onions I think. The meat filled ones were my favourites. :biggrin:

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Okay,

I'm a dork....I misunderstood the concept of the gum thing. Just forget that I even asked that question....please!

I'm going to blame it on sleep deprivation, yeah, that's it...sleep deprivation. :wacko::rolleyes:

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That's interesting that you think it is sophisticated. To me, this is one of the plainest dishes. And I like it.

Vinegret

2 medium potatoes or 1 baking potato, boiled, then skins peeled

2 small or 1 medium beet, cooked, peeled

2 medium carrots, cooked

1 cup canned or frozen peas

1 4-oz can sauerkraut (liquid squeezed out)

2-3 pickled cucumbers

3 tablespoons oil

Dice vegetables; add oil, salt, pepper; mix well and let stand at least an hour. You may also add caraway seed for this Eastern European cuisine flavor :smile:.

Maybe it was your photograph of the vinegret that looked so sophisticated, or that I am drawn to anything pink! Anyhow thank you for the recipe. I look forward to trying it soon.

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Alinka, this is so fascinating to get inside a world so far away from my own.  I am taken with your photos of all the beautiful produce and the seemingly European flair of the city, the restaurants in particular.  Is this a case of "the eye of the photographer," I wonder?

I’m glad you liked the photos :smile:. Moscow should be a European city – it’s located in Eastern Europe. But of course, I did not take you to the ugly parts of town, like those vast bedroom communities with nothing but rows and rows of huge apartment buildings. And restaurants here range from dirty “hole in the wall” places where they don’t even have running water or refrigeration (hate to think of what their hygiene is like) to sleek modern restaurants. I tend to frequent the latter :smile:.

Hi Alinka,

Just got back from vacation in Ukraine and saw your blog. Good work. I've lived in

Hi Skinny Guy, join in! You know a lot more about the city and what it has to offer than I do :smile:.

Alinka

Thankyou for the pelmenyi. Seeing them brought back many happy memories of my Russian food experiences with Max, my student. We used to eat them with melted butter I recall.... very low calorie :laugh: . Some were filled with meat and some with potato and onions I think. The meat filled ones were my favourites.  :biggrin:

Enjoy :smile:.

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Okay… The end of the week has rolled around, and there is only one day left. Last call for questions! I’ve been trying to keep up with answering, but if I missed some, it was not intentional.

So let’s talk about Friday. For breakfast, I made kasha again. It’s funny how tastes change depending on where you are. In the States I would eat hot cereal probably 5 or 6 times a year but here I make it a lot more often. This time the kasha was made from millet. Packages like this are popular these days:

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When we were staying with our friends at the dacha, their mom would cook us a couple different kinds of porridge for breakfast, and she preferred to use pouches likes this. You cook the grain right inside the pouch that floats in the water. Makes it easier to clean the pot. After the millet was cooked, I shook it out of the package into milk and cooked a little more because I like it when it’s mushy like this. Served with butter and sugar of course!

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Lunch was at the cafeteria again: nothing interesting there, sorry. I got buckwheat with a beef/vegetable gravy (very common in cafeterias)

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And also a syrnik: a tvorog patty with a filling of dried fruit, fried in butter. Served with sour cream and baked apple. Also very typical cafeteria fare.

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To drink, I got hot tea and ryazhenka, kefir-like dairy drink made from baked milk. So it has the consistency and the tanginess of kefir but with a more buttery flavor. I used to buy it at the Russian store or at Whole Foods or Central Market in Houston. Here however it tastes better, creamier and smoother:

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On the way home from work I saw something that got my attention: part of the street was blocked off, and a market was set up there. There were all kinds of stuff sold, not just food, but clothes, dishes, bed linens, etc. For the food items, it seems that only local producers were represented.

Watermelons and melons are in season:

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Buying sweets. By the way, the word babushka means "grandmother" or "old woman" in Russian, and not a piece of clothing :biggrin:

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I see khalva here

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These photos are for our sweet-tooth Lorna: Russian sweets, cookies and pastries; sold by weight

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House wares were also sold.

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And here’s ikra, or salmon roe. I expect that when Russians do buy it, it’s usually at markets because it is expensive in stores.

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Various kinds of local honey

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These are smoked quails. They are so tiny that two would fit in the palm of one's hand. To be honest, I couldn’t eat these babies.

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These are pryaniki: Russian gingerbread. The city of Tula is considered home to the best pryaniki in the country. But these were made in Pokrov, and boy were they good!

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I bough one; traditionally, they do not have any filling, just sugar glaze. They are soft and very flavorful because of the spices that are added. These days, all kinds are sold, with chocolate glaze, fruit filling, etc. The one I got was filled with boiled condensed milk and nuts. Not bad, very sweet. I, however, would prefer just a plain pryanik.

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Edited by Alinka (log)

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Now, Pille earlier mentioned ikra that she liked. I misunderstood that she meant caviar or salmon roe. Turns out, she meant “poor man’s caviar”: the one made from eggplant. Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables, so I like eggplant ikra very much. I think it's a (very) distant relative of caponata.

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There are many recipes for ikra because it is a very forgiving dish. Here’s how I made it yesterday:

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Baklazhannya Ikra

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, grated

1 bell pepper, seeded, diced

1 eggplant, diced

2 large ripe tomatoes, or canned tomatoes

4 tablespoons oil

Fresh herbs

Saute onions in oil until translucent; add garlic, carrot and bell pepper and sauté until soft. Add eggplant, sauté, then add tomatoes, salt and pepper; cover and stew until eggplant is soft. By the end of the cooking add your favorite herbs. I personally like to add basil and parsley, but you can make it anything you want: cilantro, dill, etc.

Once it’s done, I sometimes partially puree the ikra right in the pot with a hand blender or mash with a potato masher, but it is not necessary.

Another dish that caught someone’s anttention in my dacha album was borsch. Actually, this was not borsch, but svekolnik ("svekla" means "beets" in Russian):

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I’d heard about the dish but never tried it before then. My friend’s mom made it. Basically, you make okroshka first. Then, you cook whole beets separately (with lemon juice added to the water to preserve color and give it some tartness), grate them, add to the dry okroshka ingredients and use the water the beets were cooked in for liquid. Here, you can see partially assembled svekolnik:

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Now, naturally the question is, what on earth is okroshka? :biggrin: Okroshka is this:

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I talked about it in more detail here. Right now, in summer, almost every restaurant I've been to has okroshka on the menu.

One last thing before I leave you here to go out to explore the city on this (overcast) Saturday morning. This is the cabbage that my mom pickled before she left. Actually, I'm not sure whether she used any vinegar or just salt. I know she added grated carrots and some sugar to it. It is a popular way to preserve cabbage and use it winter in borsch, vinegret, or just by itself as a side to boiled or fried potatoes. Here, I added some oil (dark flavorful sunfour oil works best here) and thinly sliced raw onions.

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Okay… The end of the week has rolled around, and there is only one day left.[...]

Only one day left? :sad:

I'm sure that's a relief to you, Alina. Well, anyway, I'll look forward to the posts from the last day.

I really like eggplant caviar. When I was in college, I had a friend named Ina whose mother did a really great rendition that was super popular at parties where people drank entirely too much vodka. :laugh::smile:

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Now, Pille earlier mentioned ikra that she liked. I misunderstood that she meant caviar or salmon roe. Turns out, she meant “poor man’s caviar”: the one made from eggplant. Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables, so I like eggplant ikra very much. I think it's a (very) distant relative of caponata.

There are many recipes for ikra because it is a very forgiving dish. Here’s how I made it yesterday:

Baklazhannya Ikra

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, grated

1 bell pepper, seeded, diced

1 eggplant, diced

2 large ripe tomatoes, or canned tomatoes

4 tablespoons oil

Fresh herbs

Saute onions in oil until translucent; add garlic, carrot and bell pepper and sauté until soft. Add eggplant, sauté, then add tomatoes, salt and pepper; cover and stew until eggplant is soft. By the end of the cooking add your favorite herbs. I personally like to add basil and parsley, but you can make it anything you want: cilantro, dill, etc.

Once it’s done, I sometimes partially puree the ikra right in the pot with a hand blender or mash with a potato masher, but it is not necessary.

Thank you for the recipe, Alinka, looks delicious! :rolleyes: I don't think my friend Galina includes carrots & bell peppers (she's my local ikra source here in Edinburgh), so I'll try your version soon.

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I know you said the gingerbread with the condensed milk and nuts was too sweet, but it looks fantastic! I think the flavours would be really interesting together. :smile:

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Well Alinka I was all set to correct you on "ikra" but then you got all the meanings down.

You've done a fine job here and it seems a shame to let it go gently.

Since you've asked for my input I'll gladly share.

Speaking of ikra, the black stuff has doubled in price at least in the last 3 years, but you can still get 50-850 gram tins of ossetrina, sevruga, and beluga caviar here.

The best place I've found to shop, where the vendors will open up the bigger tins to give you a Baskin-Robbins type taste spoon, is at Dorogomilovski Rynok, near Kievski Station. All the locals know it. Of course, in typical Russian fashion, you can get your caviar, bedsheets, umbrellas and batteries within 100 meters of ech other at that market.

What do the locals eat (beside Russian food)? Well they LOVE sushi and Georgian food, and a huge number of such establishments which are around.

Anyway I will gladly answer a call for recommendations or further questions.

Cheers from Moscow!!!

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Thank you for this sharing of the colours and flavours of your life---the photos are just glorious, all the reds and yellows bold and beautiful, the purples and deep greens mysterious and enchanting.

I especially liked all the soups---home in every bowl, wherever home may be. And I loved the pryaniki, especially the ones on the far left---the startlement on those little kitty faces made me smile.

The svekolnik dinner was beautiful, all the hands in repose, in action, lingering gracefully around the table, and the small, small glasses---are they refilled often? Is it an alcoholic beverage?

I wish you well in your new home; settling in to a new place is a wonderful adventure, and you have the memories of the BEFORE to enjoy as well. This was a wonderful week. I did not at all miss the childhood-imprinted snow and sleighbells---the warm, modern world is equally enjoyable, and you have made it really interesting and enjoyable.

missed a letter


Edited by racheld (log)

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Alinka: You've put to rest forever all the Soviet era browns and greys and GUM. It was instructive and a true pleasure to follow your blog.

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Thank you all for your kind words! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

And thanks, Skinny Guy, for mentioning sushi. I never got around to that. But sushi is big in this town! I've even seen it on the menu in Uzbek and Italian places :blink::biggrin:.

maggiethecat: I'm glad I was able to disspel some of the stereotypes. Yesterday I picked up a copy of the English language newspaper The Moscow Times, and quite appropriately read there: "Analysts largely agree that foreign media tend to paint Moscow in less than a flattering light, reminiscent of the Soviet Era. Old stereotypes of the city focus on its cold weather; serious, communist-style demeanor; and Spartan accomodations, even though many of those impressions are no longer even remotely accurate." Have no fear though: Moscow is starting a PR campain to change its image :biggrin:.

Before we finish here, allow me to take you on one more walk with me. I took these pictures yesterday, in my usual random fashion :smile:.

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Pizza delivery

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This was the most delicious shake we’ve ever had: strawberries, raspberries, syrup, and whipped cream; no ice or anything else to dilute this flavorful goodness.

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This store downstairs is called “The store of real food and juice bar.” It sells organic food, and you can even get wheatgrass shots here. But it looks more like a fancy boutique than a messy health food store I’m used to. The cans with organic cannelini beans look like they’ve been polished, and health food cocktails have a bit of a steep price at around $10 for an 8-oz glass :blink:

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And now, my favorite place in Moscow, as promised. It’s Volkonsky Bakery.

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The mechanical doll keeps kneading and kneading its dough…

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When I saw the book in the window I thought the name looked familiar. So I got online and read more about the bakery. Turns out that it’s a French bakery chain Maison Kayser (a little about it here).

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When you walk in, if you turn left, there is a nice little room where you can have you pastries with hot chocolate or whatever you prefer. The problem here is that there is only one table, and often there are no seats available. This is why we try to go there early in the morning.

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If you turn right, you get your bread

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Seen across the street:

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Italian restaurant Mama’s Pasta. We came across it by accident, but we will certainly come back to try their food. The restaurant’s deli located next door looked and smelled great, with a pizza oven and tables along the walls where you could eat the food you just bought.

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Well… I think our trip to Moscow has come to an end. Thanks for being with me! It was fun. I know we’ve only scratched the surface, there is so much to see and learn about in this great city and this great country. But I am sure we'll come back. See you next time!


Edited by Alinka (log)

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Oh my gosh you have a Hediard!!! Now I know I must go to Moscow! One of my favorite stores when I'm in Paris- their food stuffs, pastries and chocolates are fantastic! As you said- it's truely eastern Europe!

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Thanks for the mini-vacation. Your photography sparkles.

Good luck with your pregnancy and with motherhood.

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Beautiful blog! Thank you so much, Alina, for bringing us up-to-date on what's happening in Moscow! :biggrin:

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Alinka,

thank you for showing us Moscow in all it's bright, sunny, colorful, beautiful glory. I love it when a blog makes me feel like I have discovered a new place. Another city on my travel wish list!

Take good care of yourself and I hope your work- (and family!-)schedule will eventually leave you some time to share more of your beautiful food with us.

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Thanks for bringing back nice memories and showing us the New Moscow.

Congratulations on your pregnancy. I hope it is an easy one.

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