[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 Kõrts. 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).