Well, my time in Moscow is coming to an end. After almost three years in Northern Europe, first in Estonia, now here, it’s time to go home. But before I do, I’ve got some big travel plans: off to the UK and Spain next week, followed by one more Moscow week, then onwards to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, China, and South Korea. The only thing that remains now is that Chinese visa!…and making a series of hotel reservations…and buying train tickets…and packing up my apartment. But it’s really soon!
Also, I wanted to mention that this blog has been around for almost two years, which really does blow my mind. Time flies, so I’d better get to all the things I want to do, all the things I still want to write about. Happy early birthday, Bloggie. And thanks for visiting, all of you!
I never thought Moscow would have the market for farm-fresh food delivery, but I’m so glad it does. There isn’t much competition yet, so you will definitely be paying more than at your local supermarket, but every so often it’s totally worth it. Are we one step away from getting a Whole Foods?!
LavkaLavka: They get produce from all around the Moscow region (and beyond! The plums I got came from–Oo!–Crimea) and deliver it to you in simple brown paper bags. Even nicer, they tell you the origin of each of the items. I ordered from Lavka in the summer and got some milk, tvorog, plums, grapes, corn on the cob, zucchini, peas, potatoes, and beets. Unfortunately, the herring that was supposed to be in my order was nowhere to be found, and my credit card payment did not go through, but oh well. Kinks to be worked out! They did follow up with a phone call asking how everything was, which I appreciated.
I loved the surprise of not knowing what I’d get (and, lazily, not having to click through everything), so I liked the small mix, which costs 1,500 roubles, plus 300 if you want it delivered.
Vegaria: Don’t be deterred by the unfortunate name, which sounds like some strange disease. This is a good place to find vegetarian staples like seitan, tofu, coconut oil, and nut butters. Living in Russia, nut butters are one of the things I miss most, so I practically wept with delight when I found a company that makes peanut butter, cashew butter and almond butter. The company is called, inventively, nutbutter.ru. I did find these elusive nut butters at a market once, but it’s easiest to buy them through their Livejournal (how quaint) and on sites like Vegaria. I ordered something like 8 jars of nut butter, but now that it’s gone I wish I’d ordered even more. Delivery is free if you order more than 2500 roubles worth of merchandise, and they generally deliver between 15h and 21h, which should serve most people’s schedules.
Ferma: Like LavkaLavka, they sell fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy and honey straight from the farm to their quirky, impossible-to-find shop near Chistie Prudi. They bill themselves as an all-organic place, too, if that appeals to you. The other day, the start of “spring” as it happens, I picked up my food order, which included cabbage, apples, carrots, and an enormous pumpkin. I might order from them again, but only in summer, when I don’t have to carry 10 kilos of vegetables through this:
Sadly, they only deliver if you order 3000+ roubles worth of food, though delivery is free if your order is over 6000 roubles. My order came out to a bit less than 1000, so you can imagine how much you’d have to order to hit 6000…
Out of all three, I’ll probably go back to Lavka Lavka first, as it was the most convenient, with the greatest selection and fair prices. But Ferma did give me the chance to put my cooking to the test; I mean, what am I supposed to make with this massive pumpkin?
Sometimes I long for a holiday away from Moscow; getting around the city can take forever, the pollution is really bad, and you may see nary a smile all day. But most of the time I love it here. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be in Russia, but there’s reason that this is my third visit–there’s something so energizing and new about this city, even after all this time. Anyway, here are ten things that I’ve been loving recently.
1. Our new cat:
He is terribly cute, with black and brown stripes, little foldy ears and big, big eyes. In fact, he reminds me a lot of this guy:
It’ll still be a while before all the ice melts, but the sun has been shining all day long, and it has been a low of -5 or so. Bliss! Spring also means Women’s Day (which means chocolate) and Maslenitsa (Shrovetide), a time for blini.
3. The Theatre:
There are about a million different theatres here, many of them extremely good. I didn’t realize how good until I read this list. What’s more, my Russian is finally getting good enough to go to the theatre and enjoy it. In the past month I’ve been to the Mali Teatr, the Stanislavsky, and will be going to the Arts Studio Theatre this weekend. There’s really no reason not to–tickets can be as cheap as 400 roubles.
4. Luxe Living:
The wealth is palpable: you can easily pay $6 for a latte and $1000 for an iphone. There’s a club with a swimming pool on the top floor. There’s VIP coat check at almost every theatre. I don’t like paying the extravagant prices, but I do find the contrasts fascinating: seeing a giant Coffee Mania alongside crumbling cheburechnayas; driving a brand new Lexus while living in a tiny one-bedroom flat. Even English classes are a sign of privilege, which means you can make teaching here a very viable option if you’re smart about it.
5. Easy Traveling:
Easyjet has started flying the London-Moscow route, which means that I just bought a round-trip ticket for a grand total of $225. As more and more Russians have the income to fly abroad, the prices are decreasing and the competition is increasing. Luckily, inner-city transportation has also stayed great. When I leave Russia, I know that marshrutki, shared taxis that go all around the city, will have a special place in my heart. I use public transport every day, and the metro is fast, reliable, and beautiful to look at. Love love love.
6. Fashion Watching:
For pure people watching, no place will ever beat New York. But for watching the women of fashion, Moscow takes the cake. It’s still cold enough to watch women in their beautiful floor-length furs, amazing heels, and tiny Burberry clutches. I may get weird looks for wearing pink lipstick, but my highest heels would never get a second glance.
7. 24/7 Everything:
The working hours of this city are unreal; in my area alone the number of 24-hour shops amount to the following: four supermarkets, two pharmacies, and at least four coffee shops. Further afield you can find 24-hour favourites Respublika (a bookstore), the Sandunovsky Baths and classics like Cafe Pushkin and Starlite Diner, not to mention the countless 24-hour flower shops.
8. The Lack of Tourists:
For such an enormous city, I don’t hear tourist’s voices too often. Maybe I’m oblivious, but I don’t hear a lot of different languages on the street or in the metro, and when I hear English, my ears prick up. That means that there are people in this vast area who have never heard an English-speaker before. That means that you become a kind of special commodity to Russians, and, likewise, there can be quite the bond between foreigners. There are events at almost all the embassies to celebrate this sameness abroad, and you can get in touch with Moscow Interacts or Internations if that’s your thing.
9. New Finds Every Day:
In my experience, in Moscow it can be difficult to escape your comfort zone and check out new restaurants, bars, or openings: there’s no Yelp, no BlogTo, and no Sunday Times supplement. I have found a couple of good tools, though: Cozy Moscow and The Village have been big helps. In print, there’s Element, Time Out Moscow, and The Moscow News.
10. The People:
Recently, I’ve encountered some enormously helpful Muscovites. For instance, the other day I was trying to help a young Italian girl on the metro and, while chatting, I thought we may have missed her stop. To our rescue came about four different Russians, all wanting to help her and speak English. In that same vein, all the Russians I teach are lovely: when you meet Russians in their homes and get to know them, they will feed you with their nicest food, their crunchiest cookies, and their top tea. And look out for the treats you’ll get on your birthday!
That’s all, folks! Have a lovely week!
For a blog called Bread is Best, there is surprisingly little bread on this site. When I was a student, I had but a few hours a day of class time, and the rest of the day could be devoted to letting bread dough rise and fiddling around with weird cooking ideas. Now, with my all-over-the-place teaching schedule, big kitchen projects require a lot more planning. Sometimes, when I get home at 11 after spending all day with crazy children, all I want to do is catch up with Girls. But when I saw another chance to make khachapuri, I was all in.
I had seen Taste of Russia advertised somewhere, and after doing some cooking classes abroad (here and here), I wanted to try one in Moscow. I was rather keen for Caucasian cooking, seeing as how it tends not to be so meat-heavy, and is so much harder to find outside of Russia and the CIS. Oh, and did I mention the khachapuri? Adjarian-style, with the egg on top. One of the world’s most delicious dishes.
What was also funny was that I came ready to speak Russian, only to be met by a girl from California and Victoria, our lovely instructor with the perfect English. Victoria was extremely welcoming and helpful; indeed, I might finally have gotten my vegetable-cutting technique down! And the food we made with her was great: lobio, a cold walnut-kidney bean appetizer, and chicken chahohbili (chicken in spiced tomato sauce), plus lovely dolma and some wine. I had but a few sips of wine (off to teach children, remember), and had to snatch up my still-hot khachapuri to take on the metro, but let me tell you, later on that day, it was the ultimate break-time snack.
Thanksgiving is over and done (long done if you celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving in mid-October), but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some photos of a pumpkin cheesecake. I’ve made this twice, and it’s seriously the best. And I bought bourbon! (Just for this recipe, I promise.) It’s not a difficult recipe either, though it does come in three steps: crust, filling, top. Funnily enough, the last time I made it was in Estonia, where it was equally hard to find things like pumpkin and graham crackers. Never fear. It’ll turn out well no matter what. Even if you, like me, have to substitute butternut squash for pumpkin, maple syrup for most of the sugar, and “health cookies” for the graham crackers. On the plus side, unlike a traditional cheesecake, it won’t matter a bit if the top cracks. That’s what the sour cream topping is for.
My camera battery has been sadly languishing at my mum’s, so I’m indebted to my friend Stasya for taking all these nice photos. I was pretty haphazard about this, throwing in handfuls of this, pinches of that, so I don’t have anything close to a recipe for you. Find it over at Smitten Kitchen instead. I’d only suggest that you double the crust. There’s never enough.
Moscow is now a snowy winterland, with its scary iced-over sidewalks and bouts of freezing rain. But the boulevards especially look so nice. This one from Old Moscow, of the Chisti Prudi Boulevard (right near my flat) captures the feeling quite nicely. Happy winter, friends!