Georgian food might just take this year’s lead as my favorite international cuisine.
I first experienced a taste of Georgia at Manhattan’s most authentic Moscovian restaurant, Mari Vanna. The American outpost of Moscow’s hot dining destination, Mari Vanna offers high-end Russian fare to smartly dressed expats in a vintage tearoom-meets-underground lounge. My Russian friend, Sage, brought me to Mari Vanna for a kind of culinary dress rehearsal; a run-through intro to typical Russian cuisine before my trip to Moscow. In addition to platefuls of Russian standards, Sage ordered a Georgian specialty: khachapuri, a type of cheese-stuffed pizza bread that just about blew my mind. Read more
Pounding the pavement in Moscow can work up an appetite. I called up Artur, a friend of a friend, in town from St. Petersburg. He agreed to meet me at Old Arbat, Moscow’s most famous pedestrian street, once a cultural center of the city. Historically, the street was once home to Pushkin, the father of Russian literature, and dotted with cafes brimming with aristocrats and artists. I wanted to take a stroll, admire the sights and grab a great local lunch. I have to admit I was disappointed to find the street lined with aggressive souvenir vendors hawking cheap fur hats and made-in-China nesting dolls instead of the artists I had imagined. Here I was, looking for a “real” Russia somewhere between my disillusionment, a Starbucks and a Hard Rock Cafe. Read more
When the wheels of my plane touched down in Moscow, I was overcome by a sensation of wonder bordering on disbelief. I was actually here in Russia, a country forever topping my list of dream destinations. Like many others coming of age during the Cold War, my concept of Russia was based on myth, limited to Boris and Natasha, Baba Yaga, and “The Hunt for Red October.” My mother’s family is Ukrainian, so I was raised with black bread, pickled herring and borscht. My love for Eastern European cuisine only fed my fantasies of gilded towers, fur “ushanka” hats, lipstick pistols and candy-colored cathedrals. Read more