I think I can now state quite confidently that after our fantastic trip last week, they totally get my love of Russia. But I don't want to put words in their mouth. So I asked them to both write a guest post on my blog about their experiences. Without further ado, meet my mum, Julie:
Katie recently asked her father and me if we would be willing to write a guest post for the Devushka Diary. “No problem”, I thought. As soon as I get over my jet lag I’ll whip something up about one or two of the amazing experiences we had on our recent journey to Mother Russia..
Now where to start? There are just so many things that I could write about. The architecture, the history, the people? Suffice it to say that the trip was everything we thought it would be, and more.
Being somewhat of a foodie, I thought that what we ate would make a perfect topic for my guest post. It also happened to be the one question that was repeatedly asked of me when I returned. I have to admit that I was a little concerned about that very thing before we left. Not for myself. I can pretty much eat anything, and am quite adventurous when it comes to trying new cuisine (within certain hygienic standards). Rick – not so much. I did assume that potatoes, beets, and bread would be in ready supply, and since he loves those I knew he wouldn’t starve to death.
To most people’s surprise, including our own, we ate very well everywhere we visited. In fact, I have been trolling the internet the past two days for recipes to recreate some of the fantastic meals that we enjoyed.
Here’s a sampling of the wonderful food we discovered in Russia.
The “best salmon I ever had”. I think I uttered this constantly throughout the meal.
Our first introduction to Shashlik came courtesy of Bakinskiy Bulvar in Mytishchi. The meat, fish, and vegetables are grilled over open coals in an outside cookhouse. From my window seat I could see the waiters running inside with the piping hot delicacies served over fresh lavash. As Katie mentioned in an earlier post, Georgian food became our go-to cuisine. I believe Rick had chicken shashlik that evening, and Katie enjoyed an eggplant dish.
Another helping of shashlik. This time a mixture of meat – veal, chicken, and pork, courtesy of Gennatsvale on Arbat.
Somewhere around this point, Rick discovered the absolutely decadent cheese bread khatchapouri. Here`s a photo of it alongside the peppers and eggplant dish that Katie ordered. Yummy!
My meal that night – a tasty lamb stew with garlic-mashed potatoes and some of Rick`s khatchapouri. I don`t know if he knew that we were sharing!
Yes, note the ashtray in the background of the above photo. Sadly we had to enjoy all the wonderful food in Russia with the aroma of cigarette smoke nearby. Canadians slightly younger than me have never had the pleasure. We always asked for non-smoking sections, which are available, and it was never a real problem.
While in St. Petersburg we discovered a gem of a restaurant close to our hotel. Actually it was Rhea and Mike who discovered it. We just enjoyed the fruits of their discovery. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we had two dinners at Balzac. I loved my eggplant and tomato smothered in mozzarella.
Rick was quite satisfied with pork tenderloin in a mustard crust, and served with rice and vegetables.
Katie`s tuna with vegetable spaghetti
Of course I saved room for dessert. A traditional Russian medovnik (honey) cake. Who needs chocolate? This was sinful.
One of my favourite meals was the one we had on our last full night in Mytishchi. This was all about the company and the warm and fuzzy feelings. Instead of eating at a restaurant, Katie and I walked down to the local Perekrestok (a popular grocery chain). We picked up some ingredients to prepare a meal of zakuski. Think “appetizers” if you are in North America, and “dim sum”, “antipasto”, “tapas”, or “hor d’oeuvres”, if you are in other parts of the world. We were even able to score some still-warm-from-the-oven bread. The bread in Russia was varied, delicious, and cheap.
After a relaxing hour or so of nibbling and talking and laughing, we hit the streets of Mytishchi for an after-dinner stroll. It was a beautiful evening – still quite light out for that time of night, and warm. It was wonderful to see and feel the city that has been Katie’s home for the past eight months. Rick made one more stop for ice cream. Seeing the beer, and knowing that his days of drinking in public were soon coming to an end, he picked up a traveller. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me and was not able to snap a photo of him as he walked double-fisted and delirious with enjoyment.
On our return to the flat, Katie put on a pot of tea. The two of us sat in her kitchen, sipping tea and leafing through the Royal Wedding newspapers and magazines I had picked up enroute through London the day after the big event. It was an evening I didn’t want to end.
But all good things must come to an end, and so too did our Russian adventure. It was much too short, but we enjoyed every minute of it.
Now if I could only find some of those recipes! Any readers who know how to prepare some of the fabulous meals featured here please send them my way. And the salty, paprika-like grains that garnish the shashlik – what is that? The sauce that accompanies the beef and pork shashlik – what are the ingredients? The real coup would be to recreate that mouth-watering khatchapouri that Rick (OK, all of us) enjoyed so much. Anyone?