Monday, June 15, 2009

Russia/Estonia Postscript: Food

[Last week I blogged my July 2008 trip to Estonia and Russia. Go here for an intro and previous posts. This is the last part of my travelogue.]I wish I could write more about food in Estonia and Russia, but I tried very few foods that were new to me. We also didn't eat out much because restaurants are so expensive in the major Russian cities. That said, I did sample a few local specialties.

In Tallinn, I really liked a restaurant called Kuldse Notsu K├Árts. I blogged about its delicious potato-mushroom casserole here. The restaurant manager kindly shared the recipe.

In St. Petersburg we stayed with a friend of my mom’s and usually ate at home. We picked up groceries at some of the local stores—Netto is a reasonably-priced supermarket chain that I remember. The stores have come a long, long way from the scarce Soviet times. You can get everything that’s available in the U.S., plus local convenience foods like frozen pelmeni and manti (meat and lamb dumplings, respectively).

I have to note that produce and dairy products tasted better than what you get at U.S. supermarkets. The cucumbers were fresh and sweet; the tomatoes tasted like tomatoes. I’m still impressed by all the different dairy and cheese goodies you can get in Russia—dozens of varieties of farmer’s cheese, different kinds of kefir, rhiazenka and sour cream.In St. Petersburg we went to the famous indoor markets (Sitni Rinok and Senney Rinok), and I wanted a taste of everything. These places sell beautiful (and pricy) fruit, vegetables, pickes and preserves, cheese, fish, meat, spices, dried fruit, sweets, you name it. I didn’t take any photos because the vendors start hawking their goods as soon as you make eye contact, but here’s a sample pic. This photo and the one at the top of the post are by Shannon Rae.

As for restaurants, I’ve become a huge fan of Teremok, which I wrote about here. This fast food chain makes traditional Russian dishes like blini and borsch. The food is good and fresh, and the service is quick and reasonably good by Russian standards. I loved Teremok’s kvass (rye bread beer, below) and mors (a cranberry drink).

10 comments:

Kristen said...

When living in Moscow, my expat friends and I discovered that riazhenka makes the absolute best cornbread. (And yes, the fact that we could get cornmeal in Moscow now was stunning.)

Rozmin said...

Yeah, I have to agree, the produce has been better in every single country I've been to than it it was usually in the States. The only country I can't say that for is India, where I couldn't eat a lot of fresh stuff due to bacterial concerns. I think it has something to do with eating seasonally, and probably also has to do with the fact that the rest of the world doesn't seem to be scared of "ugly" (oxheart tomatoes) or "inconvenient" (watermelon with seeds) foods. Those foods usually taste better!

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Kristen--Yes, riazhenka is kind of like buttermilk! I bet it's good in all kinds of baking.

Rozmin--I actually don't remember produce that I've had in Europe. I did think things like dairy products and packaged cookies, sweets, etc., tasted better in Germany and France.

Maureen said...

Enjoying your blog and the memories of your trip 'home'. I also loved the family photos. Amazing.

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Maureen--Thanks for reading.

Lo said...

I'm thinking if you didn't do much eating out, that means you were sampling all sorts of delicious home-cooked foods while you were traveling. And who can complain about that??!!

Loving these posts. Are you having a good time reliving those memories?

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Lo--Actually, we did very little cooking and ate very simple meals--salads, yogurt, bread and cheese, etc.

Thanks for reading. This was a fun series to write. I like going through my pix.

shushka said...

This is a great post. It reminds me of the bazaar in my fiance's home-city in Ukraine... I tried filming inside, but the vendors would either yell at me and call me a spy or try to sell me everything :)

MJ said...

I spent a semester abroad in St. Petersburg and I fell in love with Teremok. As a vegetarian, I could always find something quick and delicious to eat there. Plus, nothing like a little finger food!

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

MJ--I'm not a vegetarian, but I liked that Teremok had lighter, somewhat healthier options.

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