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


Alinka
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Hi everyone! First of all, I want to thank you all again for your interest! I so wish I had more time to devote to the blog; I keep having this feeling that I could have told you and shown you so much more if only I had more time (for instance, if I didn’t have to come home so late :smile:).

Second of all, I’ve solved the mystery of the “Eskimo” bar! It is not the Eskimo bar at all (despite the fact that someone described it as “ice cream bars,” nakji :rolleyes::biggrin:). I knew exactly what we were talking about after I read mukki’s words:

Are these similar to the chocolate-covered cheese confections that can be found in the frozen section of Russian markets? Or are they pure ice cream? The ones I buy are about 2 inches x 1 inch and taste like sweetened cream cheese -- really, really good. I always forget which brand is the best, so I end up having to buy a few to get the good one. In Anya von Bremzen's Russian cookbook, she says they're called Glazirovanniye Sirki and that they're made with a mixture of farmer's cheese, cream cheese, sugar and egg yolks.

So on the way home I bought a couple. They are made not from cream cheese, but from tvorog (I showed it on day 1) which lends them this slightly grainier than cream cheese consistency and slightly tangy taste. I bought two kinds: plain and with a filling of boiled condensed milk (which is used in desserts fairly often; it is similar to dulce de leche):

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Mmmm good :raz:. They are caloric bombs though: 1 such “syrok” contains almost 200 calories. They are somewhat similar to frozen Sara Lee cheesecake bars. I checked the ingredients: there are no yolks or cream cheese, but there ARE tvorog (farmer's cheese), butter and sugar.

Okay, moving on…

Do you miss anything from the U.S.?

I’ve tried to answer this question earlier. I can’t think of anything in particular that I miss (and anyway, some co-workers of mine who have access to the Embassy store always offer to get me something) but I think I miss the general food culture. Being able to run out for lunch and get a turkey sandwich (I’m sure they have them here but it won’t be exactly the same) or something like that. Just generally, the way you get food here is different. I don’t know if I make much sense. But I guess that’s why we live overseas and not in the States: to experience something different.

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!)

There still seems to be a problem with salesclerks having change. That drives me nuts. To the extent that a couple of times, when they demanded exact change, I just walked away rather than start counting my money to see if I do. It's funny: I speak perfect Russian but I still make mistakes like an ignorant foreigner :biggrin:. For instance, I did not know that before you take your produce to the register at the supermarket, you need to have it weighed by a special person unless it is packaged. Or, at the check-out I was expecting someone to bag my groceries for me until I remembered that when I traveled in other European countries, I had to do it myself. Or, I'd give money directly into the hand of the cashier as is customary in the States and get yelled at because "what do you think this special plate is for?!" And I don't get a break the way a foreigner with poor language abilities would :biggrin:.

And just a general comment: I do not want to portray this rosy picture of the fully reformed Russia. There is still plenty of rudeness in stores (although waiters are always nice, perplexingly), and not everyone can afford going to restaurants we go to, for example. The contrast between the affluent and the poor is depressing.

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.)

I know of Mama Zoya’s. It is really popular among American expats. I’ve never been there (only saw their Moscow river location) but Shawn has. He thinks that it is overrated and that Genatzvale is better. I wonder whether it is popular because it was one of the first restaurants that served good food in a good atmosphere – 10 years ago it was probably rare. I’ve been to the Starlite Diner (I think this is what you are referring to) – it’s a nice “greasy spoon” joint with the burgers of predictable quality :smile: I’ve had better burgers here, but that’s not the point, is it? :smile: By the way, if you go to the Moscow album I gave a link to earlier, you’ll see a photo of it there.

And, Catherine, maybe it’s time for you to come back for a visit? We’d explore what new things the city has to offer together, I think it would be fun :smile:

Edited by Alinka (log)
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Very interesting Blog. Boy how Moscow has changed since I visited (1980).

My Mother and Daughter just have returned from visiting family in Lviv Ukraine, my Mom did mention that things were much better on the food front but I didn't realize how much until I saw your pictures.

Thanks and congrats on your pregnancy.

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So on the way home I bought a couple. They are made not from cream cheese, but from tvorog (I showed it on day 1) which lends them this slightly grainier than cream cheese consistency and slightly tart taste. I bought two kinds: plain and with a filling of boiled condensed milk (which is used in desserts fairly often; it is similar to dulce de leche):

Mmmm good :raz:. They are caloric bombs though: 1 such “syrok” contains almost 200 calories.  I checked the ingredients: there are no yolks or cream cheese, but there ARE tvorog (farmer's cheese), butter and sugar.

Aaaahh - kohuke :) They are a popular treat for kids back home. I'm slightly older than that, but still treat myself to couple every time I'm in Estonia :rolleyes:

They come in several varieties nowadays (check this English-language list from just one Estonian producer), my favourite is the plain one and the one with cranberry jam.

And there's even a Wikipedia entry for them!

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We have the saying "Land of Milk and Honey" - similar to those milky rivers and porridge mountains.

“Milky rivers” comes from the expression “Milky rivers and kissel shores,” meaning “the land of plenty.” Kissel, by the way, is this thick sweet drink, served cold. It’s an acquired taste actually: it is slightly slimy because it is made with starch.

I love the picture of the fireboat on the river. I've seen them doing the same in Long Beach harbor.

Oh, so that’s what it’s for! I was wondering why the boat was doing that :biggrin:.

--"Il Patio":  Is the fare at this chain Italian (given the use of the definite article here)? It looks kinda-sorta-Californian-crossed-with-Scandinavian in design.

I’ve never eaten there, but it looks like an Italian chain. I’ve found this site for the restaurant. Also, interestingly enough, there is more information on chains owned by the company: http://www.rosinter.com/menu-chooser/ (must check out if interested what restaurants are available in Russia)

-- And the produce looks gorgeous!  Locally grown or shipped in from some distant point?

It varies. Obviously, bananas were shipped from elsewhere :smile:. But wherever possible, locally grown produce is preferred. People see the difference between large shiny strawberries from Turkey that taste like nothing but have a long shelf life and small and maybe alreay slightly bruised berries (even though they were picked this morning) which are full of flavor. This is why at the market, you see signs on tomatoes, cherries, watermelons, etc. where they came from (usually advertising that they are from one of the southern former Soviet Union countries).

--The proliferation of kiosks, I imagine, is also an outgrowth of the economic transformation.  But I can't recall any other large city where they appear so plentiful.  How did they come to be so common?  That street leading to your Metro station resembles a carnival midway, there are so many kiosks.  Do they all sell foodstuffs?

I don’t know what the origin of these kiosks is. What I do know is that they look ugly and make the city look cluttered; like carnival, as you correctly noted. Not all of them sell food: some are newspaper kiosks, some sell cigarettes or calling cards, some are the places to print photos, some sell small toys and knickknacks, etc.

--Do any Russians grumble about the explosion of Roman-alphabet lettering all over the place?

I haven’t heard anything.

I think we are deviating too far from the culinary topic :smile: .

I did have one question: I got your recipe for Summer Borsch from the Dinner thread and you mentioned earlier that if you want to add beets to the recipe, simply add them with the sauteeing vegetables before adding to the stock with the potatoes. My question is, how much (or how many) beets do you use for your Summer Borsch recipe?

About 1 small or 1/2 medum.

Do you have any favorite Russian cookbooks that are printed in English?  How about a good recipe for Kurnik? 

Well, I don't really read English books to get Russian recipes. To get a recipe, I usually ask on one of Russian cooking forums :smile:. As to kurnik, I don’t have a recipe, but I can ask. I know what it is but I’ve never had one.

Speaking of recipes. Swisskaese asked for a recipe for a lemon shortbread pie. Several Russian friends of mine are following this blog (and providing moral support in the process :smile:) so one of them helped me out with this recipe (thank you, Lenochka!). She is a great cake-maker, you should see her works of art! She says that this pie has always been popular with her friends, and even at her mom’s birthday recently people were fondly remembering it :smile:. So, here goes –

Shortbread Pie with Lemon Filling

Dough

2 cups flour

250 grams butter, cold, cut into pieces

4 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/3 teaspoon baking soda

Filling:

Process 2 lemons (with skin but without seeds) and 1 cup sugar in food processor. Set aside.

Sift flour, soda and salt together. In food processor or using knives, cut butter into the flour mixture until crumbs form. Separately, beat yolks with sugar until sugar dissolves. Combine flour mixture and yolk mixture to form dough. Press half of dough on the bottom of a baking sheet. Spread filling. Crumble remaining dough over filling. Bake 25-30 min at 220-240C.

Edited by Alinka (log)
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In my defense, that description was my roommate's, not mine! :biggrin:

Those look incredibly delicious and I cannot say how glad I am they are not available for my consumption (at 200 calories a pop).

Yes, I know what you mean about eating differently. I shop differently, too. Now I shop daily or for one or two days in advance.

Kiosks were all over Korea as well, in the winter the vendors wear parkas and have little portable heaters. I always assumed they proliferated due to low overhead and not needing to be properly registered businesses. Of course, here in Hanoi, they take it to new levels by carrying whole restaurants - burners and all- in baskets, so they can up and run when the police come round to check!

Thanks for sharing so much of Moscow with us - I'd like to try your plov recipe. There were a few Kyrgyztani restaurants in Seoul I never got around to trying. I always wanted to go, as random Korean people were always asking me if I was from Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan, which seemed like a rather random question. If I looked like these people; and it's fair to say I'm a little plump; then surely their food must be delicious! Right?

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Shotbread Pie with Lemon Filling

This sounds delicious; I'll definitely be trying the recipe.

Your blog has inspired me to pay a visit to my local Russian market, which is quite small, and explore more of what it offers.

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Okay… picture time :smile:

Breakfast was mannaya kasha – cream of wheat. It is always made with milk. Some sugar, salt, and a piece of butter… Every Russian who ever went to a daycare or elementary school remembers it. The word “kasha” means porridge in Russian. Kasha can be made from – yes - buckwheat, but also from millet, rice, semolina, etc. It is usually cooked with milk and is believed to be good for kids.

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For lunch I’m taking you to the cafeteria in our office building. See if it looks similar to the cafeteria at your place of work :smile:.

You grab a tray and slide it along, getting food:

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Salads and appetizers:

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The cafeteria lady ladles you what you want (does this one remind you of YOUR hight school? No hairnet :biggrin:).

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Today, there were two kinds of soup: mushroom noodle and borsch (geez, Russians do eat of lot of borsch, don’t they?!). Other offerings included chicken, fish roll, stuffed cabbage, and pork cutlets, to mix and match with sides – rice, pasta, or buckwheat.

If you want some bread…

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…or one of those pastries we’ve been talking about:

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Moving along we have fruit, cakes, and drinks: kompot, kefir, juice, milk, water, etc.

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Pay at the register

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Sauces come free (ketchup, mayo, salsa, etc.)

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Going back to the register, do you see a box with teabags there? Here’s where you get your hot water. Russians are really big tea drinkers.

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For lunch I was accompanied by my two American co-workers. We were there at around 12:30 which is about lunchtime in the States. The cafeteria was almost empty because Russians usually eat lunch later, at 1 or 2.

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(I do hope I have not messed up the photos as they do not show up on my screen.)

Edited by Alinka (log)
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...

Speaking of recipes. Swisskaese asked for a recipe for a lemon shortbread pie. Several Russian friends of mine are following this blog (and providing moral support in the process :smile:) so one of them helped me out with this recipe (thank you, Lenochka!). She is a great cake-maker, you should see her works of art! She says that this pie has always been popular with her friends, and even at her mom’s birthday recently people were fondly remembering it :smile:. So, here goes –

Shotbread Pie with Lemon Filling

Dough

2 cups flour

250 grams butter, cold, cut into pieces

4 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/3 teaspoon baking soda

Filling:

Process 2 lemons (with skin but without seeds) and 1 cup sugar in food processor. Set aside.

Sift flour, soda and salt together. In food processor or using knives, cut butter into the flour mixture until crumbs form.  Separately, beat yolks with sugar until sugar dissolves. Combine flour mixture and yolk mixture to form dough. Press half of dough on the bottom of a baking sheet. Spread filling. Crumble remaining dough over filling. Bake 25-30 min at 220-240C.

Thanks for the recipe; I've made another style of lemon cake that has slices of lemon (with the peel) in it and I like the slight bitterness it provides. It will be fun to try this.

It would be great if some of your friends considered joining eGullet and expanded our Russian-US food exchanges!

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Trying to eat more veggies, I got a salad called vinegret (very traditional; made with cooked beets, potatoes, carrots, plus canned peas, sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers, some vegetable oil and salt)

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Also, a salad of grated carrots and apples:

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For a hot dish I got one cabbage roll. I thought it would be stuffed with meat and rice as usual, but this one turned out to be with rice, carrots and mushrooms. Really hated this slippery gravy on top, so I just scraped it off.

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On of the guys got chicken and rice. Please disregard the fork: he kept sabotaging my photo session of his food because I was being “weird.” :rolleyes:

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As I was walking home after work (two glazed syrki in tow) I was contemplating what to do for supper as there was nothing to eat at home. Then the phone rang and Shawn (who was already home) said he was going to cook up some pelmeni and whether I wanted some. How could I forget about our contingency box in the freezer?! Of course I wanted some.

So here it is

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Some people like them with sour cream. I like them with adjika (spicy tomato sauce similar to salsa).

This one is for you, Soupcon -

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Edited by Alinka (log)
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Thank you Alina! I asked one of my Russian colleagues at work and she didn't have a recipe for it. I am going to give it to her tomorrow. :wub:

You are making me cry, my great-grandmother, bless her, made me mannaya kasha for breakfast. It brings back wonderful memories.

Edited by Swisskaese (log)
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Dear Alinka!

Fantastic blog!

Though I live in Russia :rolleyes: , Moscow is as another world for me :smile:

It is as different as if I go to other country.

But some things (e.g eskimo, borsch, pelmeny) are common :)

Edited by lenabo (log)

I love to decorate cakes and you may see my cakes here: http://foto.mail.ru/mail/bonya_l/1

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Alina, what was in the filling for the pelmeni?

Your discussion of kasha made me think of kasha varnishkes. Are you familiar with them? They're basically buckwheat with onions and bowtie pasta. Is something like that part of the Muscovite diet lately?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Dear Alinka!

Fantastic blog!

Though I live in Russia  :rolleyes: , Moscow is as another world for me  :smile:

It is as different as if I go to other country.

But some things (e.g eskimo, borsch, pelmeny) are common :)

Welcome to eGullet, lenabo; looking forward to future postings!

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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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.

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It would be great if some of your friends considered joining eGullet and expanded our Russian-US food exchanges!

I am one of of Alina's friends :raz: and I would like to consider Russian food discussion with a great pleasure :rolleyes:

My name is Elena and I live in far noth of Russia, in Yakutia (have you ever heard about it?). And I am a cake decorater.

And the produce looks gorgeous!  Locally grown or shipped in from some distant point?

I may help a little bit :rolleyes: (Alina, may I?)

I've been to the Caucasus this year (south part of Russia) and I've seen plenty of huge greenhouses and plants that are belongs for moscovites. Fresh vegetables and herbs are delivering from there to Moscow directly (especially at a winter time).

ludja

Welcome to eGullet, lenabo; looking forward to future postings!
Thank you :wub:

Alina

thank you, Lenochka
It's my pleasure! I will try to make this pie today and show the picture.

Alina, your pictures are so appetizing that I am looking forward for tomorrow morning to make mannaya kasha (was telling I, taking my cloth on to run to the nearest food shop with Glazirovanniye Sirki)

I love to decorate cakes and you may see my cakes here: http://foto.mail.ru/mail/bonya_l/1

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What a lovely blog!

Alina, one of the things that interests me (and I'm always curious, no matter where the blog takes place) is the price of groceries.

What do you pay for thing, like, let's say a dozen eggs? Your cafeteria meal?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Alinka thank you so much to take the time and show us food culture in Moscow.

You have completely broken through the cultural stereotypes plaguing Russian cuisine! Everything looks delicious!

Could you provide a recipe for "vinegret" please? It is such a sophisticated looking salad.

Thanks and I look forward to more pictures!

She came, she saw. She ate, she blogged.

www.maryeats.com

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Yum, vinegret! That was one of my favorite food discoveries in Russia. And I too have emergency pelmenyi in the freezer, but I really like them with vinegar and hot pepper, which is how I was first shown to eat them.

Alinka, do you work for an American company? That cafeteria could have been transplanted directly from the U.S.

Welcome, Elena!

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I have a couple of minutes to answer a few questions.

Thank you Alinka!! that shop looks just like the ones we frequented. Great photos of everything!

I noticed that the Italian place had items listed in Russian and English, is this for tourists or is that becoming more common in general do you think?

The weather just looks great! and you mentioned your mom, she is living in Moscow also? sorry if I missed that somewhere.

Glad you enjoyed the photo :smile:. As Pan noticed, the signs at the Italian restaurant are in Italian, not English. But elaborating on your question: against popular belief, I have not noticed any difference in quality in the restaurants with an English language menu vs. Russian-only. Perhaps it is true for Europe that truly authentic and good restaurants only have the menus in the language of the country, sort of “hidden gems” unknown to tourists. Here, I’m actually glad when they happen to have English menus: the food is not necessarily better or worse, but it saves me the work of translating and explaining every menu item for my dining companions :smile:.

I talked about my mom on page 1. My parents do not live in Moscow.

Playing off MarketStEl's question, what happens to the kiosks in the winter? Are they still there? Do they take their business indoors somewhere?

I think Catherine and nakji gave very good answers to that question. Personally, I’ll have to wait until winter to see what’ll happen :smile:.

I don't know much about Russian desserts and pastries. Could you tell us some of your favourites?

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); then there are variations of your basic sponge cake with buttercream. Actually, there are so many desserts and pastries that talking about them alone would take a whole blogging week :smile:. My personal favorite at this time (and my taste changes every now and then) is the honey cake. It is very labor intensive so I don’t make it very often. Plus, I don’t trust myself: I will not rest until I eat the whole thing! :biggrin:

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Why don't we ask Lena to tell us more about Russian pastries since she is our dessert lady? (Lenchik, hi! I'm so glad you joined!)

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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); then there are variations of your basic sponge cake with buttercream. [ ... ] My personal favorite at this time (and my taste changes every now and then) is the honey cake. It is very labor intensive so I don’t make it very often. Plus, I don’t trust myself: I will not rest until I eat the whole thing! :biggrin: 

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I'm gasping here, all embarrased :unsure: Honey cake is popular in Estonia, too, and it usually has 5 layers of dough. I've only made it once, and cheated big time by only using 4 layers. And now I see that you've made one with 9 layers!?!? Shame on me...

Napoleon is also popular back home, so we've "stolen" lots of your cakes in Estonia, Alinka :raz:

PS I wholeheartedly second Catherine Nash's suggestion :wink:

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...

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.

Or even a separate dinner thread for Russian dishes in "Elsewhere in Europe"... :smile:

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Hi again, everyone! It’s so nice to come back here in the end of the day and see your interest. And thanks for the compliments to my photography.

Now, some Q&A time!

We were in Russia in winter, so the kiosks were located in indoor malls. One could see (and buy) the pastries as they came out warm from the oven. For the outdoor kiosks, are the pastries baked nearby?

Many kiosks advertise that they serve pastries hot out of the oven. What they do is that they have these little ovens similar to those at Quizno’s. There are many kiosks in the underground passes and metro stations (before you take the escalator to go down to the trains) so the smell of this freshly baked stuff used to make me salivate every time I went underground. But I’ve found that the aroma is better than the taste. These pastries taste ok, but nothing outstanding. As I’ve always been a health nut (although less so now) the taste is not worth it. I’d rather have a croissant or a brioche from my most favorite place in this town, Volkonsky Bakery. We stumbled upon it by accident, but it is now the place we go for breakfast every weekend. I will try to take you there on Saturday.

Пироги слойки = flaky pirogis (he asks with trepidation)?

No need to trepide (trepidate?) :biggrin:. You did great. It says “Priogi da sloiki,” which means “pirogi (which, as we have established, are pies) and puff pastries.”

By the way, you are absolutely right about throwing away that particular Russian-English dictionary. My favorite is a smaller, Russian-for-tourists paperback. It includes lots of food terms, and two pages of colorful slang and insults :biggrin:

I just thought that the English phrase did not make any sense.

Alina alluded to this above, but Russia is a huge country and Moscow is not exactly typical. In many ways, Moscow has more similarities with New York and London than it does with Novisibirsk or Murmansk. As of 5 years ago, going farther from Moscow was like going back in time.

You are so right! As I said, and Lena has confirmed, Moscow is like a different country. Even my 7-year-old nephew, after visiting us for a week and enjoying Moscow, said he did not want to “go back to Russia” :biggrin:.

Very interesting blog!  And congratulations on your pregnancy.  I am also expecting (my 2nd child) at the end of September.

This blog is timely too -- for my parents that is.  They are leaving for Russia on Friday and will be in Moscow for 4 days and St. Petersburg for 4 days.

I have been researching restaurants for them to visit so that they don't get caught up in tourist traps.  I am planning to give them the name of the Georgian restaurant that you visited since the food looks so delicious and I would love to give them the name of the Italian restaurant as well.  What is it called and where is it located?

I know that they are planning to see the Bolshoi Ballet one evening.  Do you have any recommendations for restaurants in the vicinity of the theater?  Thanks!

Congratulations! The Italian restaurant is called Vapiano; it is on Prospect Mira, near the Prospect Mira Metro station, in the Moscow University Botanical Garden. For the restaurants near the Bolshoi I would recommend consulting Frommer’s or Fodor’s. I myself like to use them for info on sightseeing. I would expect that their restaurant recommendations would be good, too. Just make sure you get the latest edition since things change so quickly here.

There were a few Kyrgyztani restaurants in Seoul I never got around to trying. I always wanted to go, as random Korean people were always asking me if I was from Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan, which seemed like a rather random question. If I looked like these people; and it's fair to say I'm a little plump; then surely their food must be delicious! Right?

Right! :biggrin:

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Alina, what was in the filling for the pelmeni?

Your discussion of kasha made me think of kasha varnishkes. Are you familiar with them? They're basically buckwheat with onions and bowtie pasta. Is something like that part of the Muscovite diet lately?

As Catherine pointed out, pelmeni have a meat filling: beef, pork, or lamb.

I have not heard of buckwheat varnishkes. It sounds Polish?..

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.

Surviving on a vegetarian diet in Moscow – you are a brave woman! Cold winters notwithstanding, Moscow is not exactly a vegetarian-friendly place. Although I have read about several vegetarian restaurants, and there are Indian places here as well that should have meatless dishes.

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.

I did not mean to offend you, sorry: I did not know “expat” has such a negative connotation for you. I have nothing against expatriate community; in fact, I consider myself part of it. Although not shying away from my Russianness, in a lot of ways I have more in common with Americans just because we have been exposed to the same things and see things in similar ways.

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.

Sure, come on over, to brush up on your language skills :smile:.

Alina, one of the things that interests me (and I'm always curious, no matter where the blog takes place) is the price of groceries.

What do you pay for thing, like, let's say a dozen eggs?  Your cafeteria meal?

I really don’t remember the price of eggs (not that ever paid attention to how much they are in the States, either :smile:). On page 2 where I showed photos from the market I also talked about the prices and the exchange rate a little. I remember that the price of the cafeteria meal yesterday was about 80-something rubles (two salads, one cabbage roll, and a glass of kefir). It was lower than usually: a lunch of soup or salad, a serving of protein, a side, and a drink usual rings up to around 120-150 rubles at that cafeteria.

Could you provide a recipe for "vinegret" please? It is such a sophisticated looking salad.

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:.

Alinka, do you work for an American company?  That cafeteria could have been transplanted directly from the U.S.

I remember there was a question about our jobs earlier, too. Shawn and I work for different companies. I work at a Houston-based company (before Moscow, I worked for it in Houston for 6 years).

Also, you guys asked what my office is like since I have the opportunity to make salads there. We have a small kitchen with a fridge (European-size, i.e. small), a sink, a microwave oven, a table, a cupboard with some dishes, and even a hotplate which I doubt anybody uses.

Now, Abra, back to your question about the cafeteria. This “tray system” has existed in Russia as long as I can remember. The food is also very traditional. When I first came to this cafeteria I had this strange feeling of being back in time: America has happened to me, and they still serve this institutional-type food I ate in secondary school and colledge! :smile:

Thanks for the suggestion to run a separate thread or blog on the Russian cuisine. It is really exciting to see all the interest it generates. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to do it right now. Even with this blog I’m stretching myself too thin. Maybe when there is a slower time in my life!

Edited by Alinka (log)
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Now, photos. There will be fewer than usual today, sorry. In the morning I had to go to a meeting at an office several subway stops away, on Tverskaya street. So I just had lunch there. We went to a French café called Ле Гато. I think it’s a chain because I’ve seen the same sign on a restaurant on the Garden Ring. I’ve found their web site, but it’s all in Russian: http://www.legateau.ru/

Here’s what it looks like inside:

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Oftentimes in restaurants they have what they call “business lunches” – prix fixe menus. They are usually cheaper than regular entrees and include soup or salad, a main dish, and possibly a dessert.

So as part of our business lunch, we both selected onion soup:

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For an entrée, I had salmon with potatoes au gratin

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And my companion had beef stroganoff and mashed potatoes

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The fish turned out to be cooked very well, tender and not dry yet not raw in the middle.

On the way out I took a picture of heir chocolates

gallery_28661_3386_13730.jpg

and pastries:

gallery_28661_3386_16272.jpg

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