Friday, June 10, 2011

Culinary Tour of St Petersburg - Friday June 10

This morning started with a comedy of errors. Upon receiving vague instructions and the starting point for a surprise-laden culinary tour led by Kostya and Natasha, we rushed out of the house so we wouldn't miss a bite. We hurried over thinking we were late, but we were the first to arrive. When we got there, the restaurant was full, and we didn't have a reservation. Somehow Kostya sweet talked them into seating us, but we didn't understand that we needed to bring flowers (Olga thought 'bring flowers' was the password to get in, and had been repeating it with different intonations hoping to score a seat). Olga ran out to buy flowers, I received some more clues, and meanwhile everybody else left - presumably to make reservations and leave clues at the other restaurants. Then everything became more sane - for awhile.

"Surprise" received in exchange
for bouquet of flowers
Zoom restaurant near Sennaya Ploschad is a "democratic restaurant" (local codeword for reasonable prices and chill atmosphere). The ambient music is funky yet laid back. There are coffee-table books, stuffed animals, and games on every table. The highlight of our breakfast meal was the potato pancakes with cold smoked salmon and buko cheese. The name doesn't do it justice. The pancakes are hot, moist, and soft - with strips of perhaps zucchini and green onion weaved through the strips of potato. Fantastika! Handed the bouquet to the waitress, she beamed and handed back instructions for the next destination.

The pure joy of puff pastries
Took a detour to meet up with cousin Paul and Annita at Metropol: a nostalgic Soviet cafe that is decidedly NOT on the hipster culinary tour. They are made with what locals proudly call "real cream" - even people who don't particularly care for Metropol are proud of the cream there. It lived up to its fame :)

The pride of the Arctic/Antarctis museum: an exhibit on
Northern lights that is animated in a uniquely 1960s way
We stole Annita and found our way to the Arctic and Antarctic museum. The museum is filled with compassed, photos of electric generators, dioramas of icecutter ships, and stuffed polar bears. In fact, the museum itself is ostensibly stuffed and floating in formaldehyde as it clearly hasn't been updated in many many decades - Olga remembers entire rooms from her childhood - and they seemed ancient even then. Although she adds that as a child, the exhibits were "fascinatingly old." I describe Russian museums as museums of museums which show the history of museums.

After several nudging calls from our culinary tourguides, we were back on track to eating our way through St Petersburg. Picked up a picnic basket at Teplichnye Usloviya (Greenhouse Conditions): belgian waffle sandwiches w/ lightly smoked salmon and w/ mushroom and a creamy cheese - scrumptuous. Included were directions to a cafe, and since we were running behind schedule, we ate in the bus on the way.

Arrived at Coffeestation and had Black coffee w/ cardamom, cloves, cinnamon - and an iced latte w/ black currant. Great combinations!

Vegan delights
At Botanika, a pot of tea and a vegan pastry had been preordered - we had a choice of variety (earl grey and a nut muffin). Our next instructions were to picnic in Marsovo Pole (Mars Field) - oops! We had already eaten most of the picnic food (waffle sandwiches), so we skipped to the next stop... En route, Paul called and picked us up, taking us to...

Helsinki Bar. This new Finnish-style restaurant serves Reindeer: it's melt-in-your-mouth soft, tastes a bit like liver and lamb (maybe lamb's liver?) - perfect combination juxtaposed with cranberries. Also we had Minoga (eel with a crunchy shell, deliciously soft roe inside). Washed it down with the perfect match of Titanic Stout.

Clearly enjoying his meal, Paul went back
for a second with help from Annita
At King Pong, our instructions were to try the Vegetable rice - this went well with a Masala chai. After some confusion by the waitstaff, they found the note with our next instruction...

Look who got shy all of a sudden
Pear cider at Fartuk - it is refreshing, full-bodied, and slightly sweet. Ran into an Olga who has visited us in San Francisco a few years ago when we were in the process of moving to our current house.

Wacky guy in front an eyeglass store
Cousin Paul and Annita drove us to dacha where we all (the greater Zilberbourg-Savitsky clan) stayed up late into the night and then all found our ways to the many bedrooms.

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