Since I was in St. Petersburg for only about ten days, and five of those were at a scientific meeting, I can’t say that I’m deeply acquainted with Russian food. What I did have I enjoyed very much, but what I’m presenting is just an eclectic selection of pictures of what I ate, or what I saw.
First, two places I did not eat, but which you’ll want to see anyway:
The menu (in Soviet Russia, the cheeseburger noms you):
The plush chicken was advertising some chicken restaurant next door:
The St. Petersburg equivalent of McDonald’s is “Teremok,” a chain that specializes in blini, or Russian crepes. They also have kasha, or buckwheat porridge, and kvass, a lightly alcoholic drink I’ve mentioned before, which is made from fermented rye bread. The food at Teremok is very good, and I ate there several times during my perambulations. Here’s a five-dollar lunch of a cabbage and egg blini, a bowl of pea soup (Russians seem to have soup as a fixture of lunch and dinner), and a big cold glass of kvass, which I like very much:
Breakfast at our hotel, the Oktiabrskaya off the Nevsky Prospekt, was awesome. It was a huge buffet with about five steam tables, a juice station, a fruit station (often with a huge bowl of fresh cherries) and a separate room with pastries, tea, and coffee. The Russians seem to favor cold meat, cheese, and vegetables for breakfast:
Also little pancake-y thingies, which I often ate with eggs, though I don’t know what they are:
And the pastry table:
During the conference, the organizers fed us very well. We had a four course meal for both lunch and dinner at good restaurants. Here are some of the dishes. Lunch and dinner would begin with a salad, usually made of chopped ingredients. Here’s a lovely one with beef and vegetables.
Then a soup, often borscht, which can be made out of vegetables other than beets. It invariably comes with a dollop of sour cream:
Main courses include cabbage stuffed with meat and rice (I love this dish, as my mother often made it when I was a kid):
or stuffed grape leaves (dolmades in Greek); I didn’t know this was a Russian dish as well but I always love it:
Codfish with stewed eggplant:
I haven’t been on dinner cruises on boats (they’re a staple of Parisian tourist life), but my impression was that the food on such junkets was always dire. But that wasn’t true of our cruise down the Neva, kindly provided by the organizers of our conference. The food was fantastic, beginning, as usual in Russia, with a huge and tempting array of salads:
One can easily make a meal from the salads (which include tongue and smoked fish), for they’re often better than the main courses:
And what is a festive meal without many shots of cold vodka? Truth be told, I was scared of the stuff, as I’m not used to downing shots of hard stuff. But I found it surprisingly smooth, and it complemented the food well. In fact, I drank more than my share, so I had a bit of a buzz. Cruising down the Neva and viewing the royal palaces is an absolute delight when seen through a slight vodka-induced fog:
When I was on my own, I got an email from Eric Michael Johnson, who runs the website The Primate Diaries. Eric was in Russia doing his thesis research on the concept of cooperation in evolution, and invited me to lunch at a place called Tolstiy Fraer (The Fat Friar). Here’s Eric:
We had a lovely lunch, and I’d recommend that place for traditional Russian food at reasonable prices. I had blini with mushrooms and sour cream:
Followed by chicken Kiev with potatoes and vegetables (a stent on a plate):
One of my favorite hobbies in foreign countries is visiting both the markets and supermarkets, for there you can get a good idea of what the people eat. I went to one supermarket, called Lend. It was very expensive and carried a lot of foreign goods. But the deli counters were traditionally Russian. Here’s the “salad” bar:
I also checked out the cat food, which I always do in foreign supermarkets. I’ll show some Russian cat food when I post on St. Petersburg cats tomorrow.
I had only once chance to go to a market, and it was on a Sunday, so it was quiet. This is the indoor Kuznechny Market, which I stumbled upon after visiting Dostoyevsky’s house:
The honey vendors had a huge selection:
The honey was sold in combs, jars, and these lovely jugs:
Russians seem very big on mild white cheese; it was popular at our hotel breakfast. The market carried a huge selection:
I rarely visit a place as far away as Russia without staying for several weeks, so I was sad to leave after only about ten days. I clearly had only scratched the surface of the national cuisine. My main impression: I love blinis!