From Russia, with (smetana) love

A few weeks ago, I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia to visit my boyfriend, experience a strikingly different culture than my own, and, as it turned out, eat lots of sour cream.

Before I left, I got many food-related questions from my co-workers: “What’s the food scene like?” “Are you excited to eat lots of pierogies?” “Vodka?” I mostly just stammered and told them I figured I’d eat lots of potatoes, cabbage, and mayonnaise. Oh, and no, I didn’t think there was much of a food scene.

In many ways, I was right. There were lots of potatoes and cabbage (it was pretty much still winter there, after all), mounds of mayonnaise, and I certainly drank my fair share of vodka. But there were also pickled mushrooms, chicken hearts, pot-roasted tongue, and pies and dumplings in all shapes and persuasions. There was pickled fish, dried fish, and fish stuffed in dumplings. There was rich, molasses-laden brown bread. There was caviar and salo. There were blini, pigs-in-blankets, and sticks of bread fried in browned butter. There was hatchipuri (Georgian pie filled with cheese and egg) and soup dumplings as big as a fist.

There was the best damn sour cream (smetana) I have ever eaten. You could taste the pureness of the cream through the tangy culture; I probably could’ve eaten buckets, or else made ice cream out of it. Let the French have their creme fraiche. Give me Russian smetana any day.

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One thought on “From Russia, with (smetana) love

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I spent time in Russia in 2002 and found nothing on earth that compares to Russian smetana, other than the Polish smetanka, which is essentially the same. It is difficult to find here in the US, unless you know where to look. One of my best sources was a large Polish store in Hamtramck, MI, which, unfortunately burned to the ground years ago (yes, I cried). There are other shops that must sell it, but essentially, unless you know someone who lives there, you have to go there to get it. There are places in Chicago as well, but I haven’t yet figured out where.

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