Eating & Drinking, Moscow
Being an ‘Old Russian’, I still remember the days when eating, drinking, let alone smoking in the street was considered utterly bad form.
I mean, school kids would, of course, snatch an Eskimo (11 kopeck) now and then or even an ice-cream sugar cone with a creme rosette (19 kopeck) – that was for a special occasion, you know, a three-course meal in a school canteen was served for 30 kopeck.
But never if they were accompanied by teachers, parents and especially grand-parents – you wouldn’t find many granddads after the war, but Moscow grandmas would make O.Henry's Red Chief behave.
Photo courtesy http://vorontsova-nvu.livejournal.com/120950.html
After vodka, beer is probably Russia's second most popular alcoholic drink. Many of the local brands are nowadays owned by well known international breweries.
I tried a few different brands and found them all tasty. Among them were Baltika, Tinkoff, Bochkarev, Nevskoe and Sibirskaya Korona, just to name a few.
Both small kiosks as well as big supermarkets usually offer a wide range of beers. In 2009 a bottle of beer cost between 25 and 35 Rubles (less than 1 Euro).
Baltika - Website:
Nevskoe - Website:
Resteraunt service can vary in quality widely , although the old service with a scowl stereotype is slowly being replaced by a more western cultural experience it's still possible to find some of the worst service this side of Paris in Moscow and this is normally for one of two reasons.
1 Pretension - we mean you Faq cafe and you Vogue cafe ( where a friends sugar shaker was snatched by the waiter - apparently more than three sugars in a coffee is declassee ? ) . The staff in these places are too sophisticated to do anything like take orders or bring drinks and instead stand around judging people according to their clothes and appearance ( bad luck if you're from Iowa ). If you aint silovki or a model you're service will wither and die like Russian democracy.
2 Tradition - Russians are very honest people and if they don't like their job or foreigners in general they will take it out on you , because you hang youre coat on the back of your chair like a barbarian or you mangle their language.
It's also worth noting that in the states it's possible to alter meals on the menu to suit whichever dieting fad has blown in from California , however this is not traditional in Russia and even in US themed resteraunts should be avoided , unless you want your meal to be altered by people spitting in it or worse have it not arrive at all. This seems strange that a meal can be ordered ( and billed for ) but not delivered but it's quite normal indeed the mark of a good resteraunt is the fact that the meals arrive together and at the same temperature.
Vodka is the national drink in Russia and it's a fact that russians drink a lot of vodka and unfortunately there is a high level of alchoolism in the country. They drink it with the meals, with blinis ( russian pancakes) and just as a drink.
I had never liked vodka until I went to Russia and , in a good vodka shop and advised by the owner, I bought a couple of bottles of the best brands. Well, they were really good, you don't have to mix it with juices because the vodka I bought is truly tasty and delicious.
So, if you go to Moscow, be sure to go to a good vodka shop and ask for advice on the best brands. You won't regret it!
Maslenitsa, Shrovetide, the merriest, the revelriest holiday, have been celebrated in Russia everywhere.
Surely, "fair lady Shrovetide" was awaited for with a great excitement. In many provinces the proper meeting & holding of the whole Pancake Week was arranged before long. Pancake (or Cheese) Week - the last of preparatory weeks, after which the austere Lent comes for seven weeks. On the Cheese Week there were allowed eggs, milk & butter (-maslo-, from which the week received its name Maslenitsa). Maslenitsa lasted for 8 days. All 8 days were crammed full with festival business, rites, traditional games & entertainments - almost unceasing feasting.
According to the custom pancakes Russian consider as a symbol of remembrance of the dead. Thus first pancake baked on Pancake Week was meant for the gone ones, it was put on the dormer window pane "for parents- spirits". In some villages first pancake was given to the paupers so that they prayed for all diseased.
In the first day of the Shrovetide children went around the whole village, congratulating with the coming of Maslenitsa & asking for pancakes. After the dinner the festival tobogganing began. On Sunday, also called "forgiven day", people asked each other to forgive them for all done in a year. Pacifying with each other, they kissed thrice & thus cleared their souls preparing them to 49-days Lent which was beginning on Monday.
In Moscow until the end of XVIII Shrovetide festivity was held on Moskva-river & on Neglinnaya from Voskresenskiye to Troitskiye Gates. Only in Moscow was especially celebrated "Cathedral Sunday", first Sunday of the Lent. There were singing birds & dogs trade, & also an exhibition of speaking starlings & smart dogs. After that the merriment faded away, the 7-weeks long period of austerity, piety & abstention was coming, resolving with Great Divine Passover.
Because Russian food can be quite bland, they sometimes like to eat Georgian food. Although not spicy by our standards, it is more lively than most Russian cuisine. Shown here in this picture are some common Georgian dishes. One is a simple loaf of bread, long and rounded low. The dominant dish, is a kind of flat bread stuffed with cheese and spices, called Hatchipouri. The last dish, whose true name escapes me, was made of mushrooms stuffed with fresh cheese and mixed with some kind of sauce. It was excellent. Notice I'm holding a glass of red wine, uniquely served cool, because Georgia is a warm climate. The wine was excellent and easy to drink once you got used too the idea of drinking red wine cool.
Some people like honey, the other don't. But those of Russians who like it prefer to taste it before buying :)
Honey Fair at Kolomenskoe takes place 2-3 times per year and it's a very good place for tasting and choosing plenty kinds of honey from many regions and republics of Russia.
Besides, it's possible to combine this "honey shopping" with a walk at Kolomenskoe park.
The current (XXIVth) fair will last till 5 of October 2005.
Find some more pictures from Kolomenskoe and honey fair in my travelogue.
The dishes you see right here were also very good. The chicken is called Chicken Tabaka, which is fried in spices, using a heavy weight to press down on it. The meat emerges crispy and tasty. In the rear you see a dish of pork shashlik, a local favorite which many Russians also eat as their own food. This is nice and juicy, with larger chunks of meat than the kebabs most of us know, and much more hearty and filling. To the left is a dish of veal simmered in tomatoes and spices, I think with a touch of wine. Tender and tangy, this dish really hit the spot.
Kvas is a drink made from rye bread and flavoured, typically with raisins. It is fermented to a very low alcohol. Sometimes it is refreshing, sometimes a little thick. The kvas carts of Moscow (outlying areas only, like Ryazansky Station) serve a decent kvas for only three rubles a glass. A little taste of old school Russia.
What you see the people lined up here for, are a kind of Russian waffle that comes sprinkled with powdered sugar. Every one of these little places seems to have lines ten deep or more. What we bought here in this place, was Kvas, a kind of Russian soft drink with a peculiar taste. Not everyone is supposed to like this bread-derived beverage the first time, but after a few it starts to grow on you.
Coffee tends to be served very strong, like a lot of Russian tastes. Its also quite expensive by comparison to other drinks. Sugar is always served alongside, but you normally have to ask for cream.
In Russia, beer (and wine) is not considered an alcoholic beverage. You can drink it on the street at any time day or night. You can buy it as a teenager, you can buy it in kiosks or from coolers. It is absolutely not uncommon to see people drinking beer in parks and especially in the afternoon while they wait nearby public transportation.
Russian beer runs the gamut of quality from the very best to the very worst, with 98% of it conforming to premium American or mainstream European quality. For the most part, it is simple lagers with some variety. They have a few fortified beers, like Baltika 9. Baltika is one of the more popular brands of Russian beer, and is rated on a scale from 1-9, with 9 beign the strongest. Generally speaking its a can't go wrong. Only one brand (Laut) struck me as really bad.
Russian food can take on a different character than that which I just described in Part I. Here, you see something much akin to fast food. Sights like this little grill are quite common on busier streets, with a steady clientele of commuters, students and passersby. A stand might sell baked goods or pierogies of different styles, they might serve sweets, or they might serve a mix of things. I liked the grills. This food is usually cheap and easy to get, though you really need to be able to speak a few minimum words of Russian to be clear. Quite a few of these stablishments are run by ethnic minorities of Russia who serve their own cuisines. Talking to Russians about what they thought of this fast food, it generally seemed that they found them to vary widely in quality and cleanliness. We had no problems. A few things were great, a few things just OK. This pic was taken near Komsomol metro station, a fairly typical place in Moscow. They also serve beer.
This is the oldest brewery in Moscow. Established since 1863. Lev Tolstoy walked there to drink beer , `cos the brewery was very close to his house , and he told : " Beer is the beverage of the healthful nation ".
Russian food might not be known for being spicy, but that doesn't mean its not good. The plates they serve up are hearty dishes of meat and potatoes. What you see in the picture is a dish of pork cutlets with cream sauce, and in the background is a kind of fried pork. Condiments like the butter you see here, are usually extra, but not much, like five cents or so. Russians serve up large portions, though not quite American sized. You will not normally walk away from a Russian table feeling unsatisfied.
This was like nothing I ever tasted before. Not really a vodka, and not quite the same color as in the photo, this had a cool sweet taste to it, which turned to heat in your stomach, the sensation of which was followed by the burn of the pepper on your tongue and in your mouth. You let the pepper linger for a moment, then take a bite of these hors-d'ouevres that are served alonside. Its a very very strong taste, you can feel its power all through you, and literally gives new meaning to the term "puts hair on your chest". If you go to Moscow, give this a try.