Category: Russian

Friday Lunch at the Russian Tea House: St. Paul, Minnesota

There’s an old house along University Avenue in St. Paul with a sign that reads “Russian Piroshki and Tea House.”

Since moving back o the Twin Cities, we’ve driven by the tea house often, curiously commenting that we’d like to visit sometime.

Linda and Nikolai Alenov have actually operated the Russian Tea House for over 40 years. Nikola’s brother Pete used to operate a famous guitar shop in the house, too, called Pete’s Guitars, until his passing in 1998. Bono, Alton Brown, George Harrison and Bob Dylan are noted as guests. According to this Citypages article, Alton Brown described the tea house as his favorite stop in Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run.

One thing to know is that the tea house is only open on Fridays between 11-3pm. 

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Only Got $20 In My Pocket: Fargo’s European Market

It’s an exciting time to live in Fargo-Moorhead. Two, internationally-influenced markets opened, just within the past five months. Katerina Berg opened the European Market in the late fall and, in February, four individuals from Bhutan opened the Himalayan Grocery.

The European Market is located in Downtown Fargo, down the sidewalk from Nichole’s Fine Pastry. Their Facebook updates describe their latest deliveries from the East Coast including pastries, cheeses, and cured meats. In early January, Forum reporter John Lamb wrote about his visit to the Market and the foods he sampled. I stopped in this past weekend to check it out for myself.

The shop is tiny but features a cross-section of foods from Eastern Europe and Russia. Its selection is limited, but thoughtful, as if the proprietor cut to the chase and picked out her favorite things to feature. I chose a bag of frozen beef and pork pelmini dumplings from the frozen foods case that also contains frozen blintzes, and additional pelmini varieties in both a veal and sweet variety. Across from the frozen section is a shelf of dry goods. I grabbed a jar of sweet and spicy eggplant spread and buttery crackers. I was also intrigued by jars of fruit preserves and tiny, pickled patty pan squash, though I passed on this visit.

Next, I visited the deli counters featuring cheeses and cured meats. I tend to be a shy and slightly bashful person, but I’m glad I asked Katerina for suggestions. She encouraged me to sample a variety of cheeses, from smoked Gouda to a mild, dimpled cheese from Lithuania. I noticed a few more cheeses in the refrigerated cooler. One appeared soft and spreadable, while another reminded me of feta. Next time, I’ll explore the cured meats. Finally, the cooler to the left of the cheese case features fancy desserts. Tidy rectangles of layered cakes and pastries in all colors. Like the rest of the store’s offerings, they, too, were affordable.

My bill was $14.

This is frickin’ awesome.

Katerina instructed me to boil the pelmini for seven minutes in salted, boiling water along with a bay leaf and enjoy them with ketchup or sour cream. After I boiled the dumplings, I tossed them into a pan and sauteed them with butter infused with caramelized onions and hot chili.

They were porky and succulent. A nice lunch for two (with leftovers) for $4 a bag. My friend, Yuliya, who coordinates the local Fargo Foodies Network in Fargo makes her own pelmini and recommended this video tutorial. She fills hers with ground beef, garlic, and green onion and serves them with sour cream and sprinkled with dill.

While I was exploring the European market, a couple popped in to visit. They looked around and left without trying anything. Confronting a deli case filled with unfamiliar meats and cheeses can feel intimidating, but don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions or samples. I’ve rarely met a propriator unwilling to show off his or her favorite foods.

Bucket List Chronicles Part III: Happy Hour at Moscow on the Hill

Moscow on the Hill
371 Selby Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55102
Happy Hour: Monday-Thursday, 5-6 & 9-10 p.m., Friday-Sunday: 4-6 p.m.

Earlier this summer, Jake and I walked into Moscow on the Hill to check out their dinner menu.  We decided to eat dinner elsewhere, but wanted to return for their affordable happy hour menu.  Monday-Thursday, happy hour is offered between 5-6 p.m. During our visit, the restaurant was nearly empty save for a few customers at the bar and a couple other parties.

To begin, I ordered a Cherry Gimlet for $5 described as 1.5 shots of cherry vodka with lime juice.

The drink was plenty strong (for me, anyways) and puckery tart.
Jake ordered a shot of horseradish vodka, $3.  I have never met an individual so crazy about the horseradish nasal burn.  If you watched Jake eat sushi, you might also suspect he enjoys eating the wasabi more than the sushi itself.  His sushi to wasabi ratio is about equal.
Enjoy this close-up of a pickle butt.
I stole a sip of the vodka and actually enjoyed its flavor, wishing I had ordered the bloody mary made with this vodka.  I don’t tolerate the horseradish burn as well as a hot pepper burn, and one sip sent my sinuses a flaming.  As you might expect, Jake also loved the flavor of the vodka.
Jake and I each ordered the piroshky and borscht combo, $7.

Of all of the happy hour food we tried, the borscht was both of our favorite.  The genourous serving of soup was scalding hot which was welcome on this cool evening.  It contained silky cabbage, creamy chunks of potato, and beets.  The broth was sweet and sour with vinigar, accented by a dollop of sour cream.  Really comforting and satisfying.

The beef piroshkys also arrived piping hot.


Inside was mix of beef and other seasonings.  I found the light and creamy dipping sauce to taste especially compelling.  The piroshky seemed a little dry, but the frothy dill sauce really helped.

Jake had recently come home from work famished so he added a bread basket for $1.50 described as containing Russian organic rye, St. Agnes sourdough, and whipped garlic butter.  To our surprise the basket also contained a dish of a vegetable dip that reminded me of a dilly caponata.  The bread was fresh, having a firm crust and moist interior.  The butter was pleasantly garlicky.
During happy hour, Moscow on the Hill offers small bites for $3 each.  We ordered this plate of four pelmini described as “Hand-made beef and pork dumplings, sour cream.”  The flavor of the pelmini was mild.  We both enjoyed the pelmini with the addition of white vinegar from a cruet, which was provided with the dumplings.

We also ordered this small tasting of Creamy Mushrooms “gratine in sour cream sauce with cheese.”  I am glad the portion was so small because the sour cream sauce was intensly thick and rich.  We enjoyed sharing a few bites each and sopping the sauce up with bread.

Overall, we had a pleasant evening scented by lots of dill. I was most excited by the happy hour beverage offerings, borscht and piroshky combination (which is a meal for me), and vegetable spread that arrived with the bread basket.
Jake and I are going to Fargo this weekend to look at apartments, but hope to try Afghani pizza on Friday.

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