Thursday, November 11, 2004

Russian Shopping Adventure

Our Russian shopping adventure continued down the block from New World Market, at Gastronom which means "supermarket" in Russian. Ironic, because the space is tiny, especially compared with New World which is quite large with a long deli counter running the length of the store. But there are some different things available at Gastronom and it was Alenushka's choice for purchasing caviar.

Tasting before you buy is the ticket when caviar buying at Gastronom. Gastronom sells four or five salmon caviar ranging in price from about $12 to $45 and you won't know which will taste best until you try them all. Sometimes it's the cheapest one that tastes the best. I didn't buy any of the three types of marinated mushrooms this time around, but will definitely try them the next time and possibly some of the cherry vareniki which got rave reviews and were not available at New World. Gastronom has lots of prepared foods as does New World, perfect for taking home to feast on with minimal fuss. Lots of salads, dumplings and sweet and savory pastries filled with fruit, meat, cheese, cabbage, even green peas.

Off to Moscow and Tblisi Bakery across the street where a most unusual treat called "churchkhella" was in the case, a string of walnuts coated with what looked like wax, but was actually layer on layer of grape juice. I was told it is a Georgian or Armenian or Azerbaidzhanian, and not very sweet. At Moscow and Tblisis the day old bread is referred to as "nightly bread" and is only a dollar or so a loaf. There were lots of interesting and inexpensive cakes and breads to take in, but we made our bread purchases at the last stop--Cinderella Bakery and Restaurant, where we also ate lunch. At Cinderella we were joined by Pastrywhiz and we all drank some homemade kvas, a tangy mildly alcoholic beverage made from fermented black bread. Cinderella is just the place for hearty and delicious soups like beet borscht or mushroom barley. But you can also get blini with various toppings, pelmenyi, pierogi, or piroshki. Also recommended was Katia's: A Russian Tearoom, another slightly more elegant Russian restaurant that has been around for ages is down the block and across the street from Cinderella.

The beautiful powdered sugar dusted pound cake at Cinderella was only $2.55 a loaf and had no artificial or mysterious ingredients. Pound cake is the perfect match for strong Russian tea or dunking in chocolate fondue....The dark rye was extolled by the cashier as being fresher than the light rye so that made for an easy decision. Deciding what to try first once I got home was much tougher.

5801 Geary Blvd. @ 23rd

Moscow & Tblisi Bakery
5540 Geary Blvd @ 20th

Cinderella Bakery & Restaurant
436 Balboa @ 6th