Our intrepid explorer, Mr Nico Polo is has now left Moscow behind and is heading towards Lake Baikal and the East. He's finished off with ten observations on the cuisine he's been experiencing. Short and sweet.
"Russian food is not bad. It can be heavy but salads are plentiful and delicious, and no-one cares whether you have a main course or whether you just graze.Here are some of the things that I've noticed about eating in Russia."
Restaurants seem to be open at most hours of the day and night. You can eat from any part of the menu at any time and no-one questions or comments.
You eat in any order or graze, depending on how you feel. At the same table someone could eat salad, someone else ice cream, someone else grilled meats and someone else just have coffee.
Most restaurants, certainly those in the cities, have a sushi menu. It could be mainly Italian or traditional russian but they also serve sushi. It's all about the status symbols in middle class Russia and sushi is clearly it. Its usually horrible though as in the middle of Siberia, fresh tuna and salmon are pretty difficult to come by
Vodka is drunk with food and never on its own. It usually is accompanied by a jug of Mos which is a cranberry juice drink. Each shot is downed following a toast by the table host.
Many people prefer to drink wine or beer with their meals though. There are some excellent Russian beers but a good array of Czech and German beers in most places. A 23 year old tour guide told us that vodka is now the drink of middle aged and older men, and more sophisticated people drink wine with their meals. Most of the wine is imported from France or Chile it seems and is fairly passable.
Borcht is universal and each resturant has its own recipe. It is served hot and with meat usually but we have also had vegetarian versions and cold versions with shredded hard boiled egg which is delicious.
The other summer soup is Okrashka which is made from Kvass. Kvass is a yeasty lemonade and drunk by the gallon and sold from massive road side water containers. As a soup, it includes egg, meat, raddishes, dill and spring onion. For something so light it weighs massively heavily on the tummy.
Dill is the herb of choice. You might get parsley as a garnish but dill is in literally everything.
Smoked fish with bread is very popular. They use a local freshwater fish for which I havent found a translation. But its delcious, lightly smoked and sliced onto dark rye bread. They do not gut the fish before smoking however, and this was a bit of surprise the first time I ate it on a train with a Russian cabin mate.
Beer snacks are served everywhere. They include deep fried breaded cheese sticks, onion rings, nuts, baked croutons, and corn chips with tomato salsa. I never want to drink beer without snacking ever again!