We had a game plane in Russia: sample the cuisine. “St. Petersburg is like the Baltic states,” said one hotel administrator. I saw an affluent middle class moving towards capitalism. We went to a few restaurants. Russian food is really an amalgamation of the foods from all the republics. We enjoyed lavish breakfasts at Domina Prestige Hotel, chocolates from a mini market, The Idiot and Teplo restaurants, lunch in a folk restaurant at the Museum of Wooden Architecture in Vitoslavlitsy and сенова трактИрa or Hayloft Inn.
The elegance of the Domina Prestige was unexpected. The breakfasts had wonderful Danish, pastries, rolls, yogurt drinks. We started our five days in St. Petersburg with great breakfasts. Our first day, we tried the сенова трактИрa or hayloft Inn. Young Russians were the customers. The menu included rice, beans, fried potatoes, vegetable and meat pitas and pork kebobs from two to seven dollars. The staff could not understand English. They were sincere, but gave us the wrong orders. No one recommended this dining place.
The staff of Domina Prestige highly recommended Teplo, opposite its side entrance. The Idiot is across, facing the bridge by the Moika River. The city’s infrastructure is composed of rivers and canals of the Neva Delta with incredibly 342 beautiful bridges.
The atmosphere of the “The Idiot” is Old Russian. Folk utensils and an accordion were displayed. They welcomed us with vodka. We ordered tea in an elegant china teapot with oversized white mugs. Grilled vegetables, Pelmeni stuffed with meat with sour cream and tomato sauce and rice was our main course. Dessert included a honey cake with thin pancakes stuffed with chocolate. It was a popular spot. The prices were expensive too. But we enjoyed seeing a different, elegant dining place.
Pelmeni is a traditional Eastern European dish. It is made with minced meat filling, wrapped in thin dough (made out of flour and eggs, sometimes with milk or water added). For filling, pork, lamb, beef, or any other kind of meat can be used; mixing several kinds is popular. Various spices, such as pepper, onions, and garlic, are mixed into the filling.
Teplo was in our price range. Great food including a tip for about $25 dollars. Teplo in Russian mean warmth. We crossed the side entrance of the Domina Prestige restaurant to enter a courtyard with flowers and oversized chess pieces. The atmosphere was like being in a Russian living room, dining room, and kitchen. The Bathroom was retro and immaculate. They gave me a blanket on my second visit because I was cold. Courteous, polite, trying to make friends with us, always with a smile. The staff was Russia’s best public relations ambassadors. They had old fashioned photo albums like my parents’ from the 1950’s on every table for all to read. The walls had old church and persons photos. Colorful purple flowers were on every table. Our first night, we had Beef stroganoff with mushrooms and champignons, stir fried vegetables, rice, chicken cutlets, big white steaming pots of tea on our first night. The owner came out to talk with me, the senior citizen, in English. Throughout Russia, I noticed this respect for the old. Unique. The second evening we had oversize pots of tea, noodles in crème sauce with shrimp, rice, and chicken fillet in a Teriyaki sauce with the addition of sesame seeds, served with rice.
Our guide told us the best chocolate in the world comes from Switzerland and Russia. We stopped by a mini market. We bought a variety of chocolate caramels, 70% cacao in Dark Chocolate bar and lemon drops. Russian candy is really a dessert for candy and chocolate lovers.
On our last day, we visited a folk restaurant at the Museum of Wooden Architecture in Vitoslavlitsy, on the road to Novgorod, the birthplace of Russian Orthodoxy.
The restaurant had the feel of being in a Russian wooden restaurant. A samovar that boils water was at the entrance on display. Colorful red floral tablecloths decorated the tables with matching red fruit punch. I honestly did not see alcoholism in the streets or in dining areas. I bought a similar table cloth and embellished it with sequins, pearls and satin flowers from Michaels. The entrée was a cabbage salad with oversized tea cups and pork stew. Remarkably, I felt great after eating this luncheon. No chemicals in food.
Food is culture. Understanding a country’s food is helping us understand a lot about him/her. Eating where the Russian goes was an exciting experience. Prices were very low. Everyone smiled at us and showed warmth. One person through a translator said he was sorry he could not communicate with us in English. I was astonished that I was with socialists from Cuba, China, Korea, and other countries and was not intimidated. They actually tried to help me select different foods. English was rarely spoken and we decided to speak Greek so we would not be noticed and blend in the international atmosphere. The American dollar is stronger in Russia than in the euro-zone. Promoting good will is to eat at a local Russian restaurant with the citizens.
https://photos.google.com/album/AF1QipP3Nl2MkVO4DFd69Bv_lhnJ3Os5sLj-m6u7x1qF/photo/AF1QipN3Zb1BXA5UUW4DWZV0II3s38q0N8DyxN5WVMno – folk restaurant at the Museum of Wooden Architecture in Vitoslavlitsy.
https://photos.google.com/album/AF1QipOv09NKlEAWUBhBDL9tqUe85YP8_pxoEDLQki4x/photo/AF1QipM8sXHFEo4OBnlMSi5c6WFXXGu3-eGbrhqgr_tD – Russian Chocolates and Caramels