Tag Archives: food

Taste Test: Red Caviar Lays

Red Caviar Lays

Red Caviar Lays

When you open a bag of Red caviar flavored Lays potato chips, the fish aroma is absolutely unmistakble. In fact, the scent of fish emanating from potato chips is a bit odd, a bit disturbing, and perhaps, a bit scary.

The chips taste like they’re supposed to. Which is to say that they taste like fried potatos, salt, and caviar. But the chips lack the distinctly slimey and chewy texture of fish eggs, which one expects from the taste. All in all, a disorienting experience. And unfortunately, the bag remains unfinished—hoping my room mates will want some.


The American Embassy

We went to the American Embassy in St. Petersburg today.

It has golden arches and serves Биг Мак and гамбургер (That’s Big Macs and hamburgers).

Seriously though, the McDonalds menu is almost identical in Russia—all the food items are transliterated in Cyrillic, even my филет-о-фиш (fillet-o-fish), and there really isn’t anything uniquely Russian.

The McFlurrys (Макфлурри), though, do come in different flavors: chocolate-caramel and chocolate-cherry. I tried chocolate-cherry. It did not disappoint.

The restaurant itself, across from Pushkinskaya Metro Station, is rather upscale by American McDonalds’ standards.

It boasts free Wi-Fi, and dinner time saw a crowd of well-dressed Russians besiege the cashiers (lines work a bit differently here), while others, mostly student-looking types, sat on brown faux(?)-leather stools and chairs and pecked away at laptops perched on bright white tables.

Country music played in the background as families enjoyed their fast food, wrapped in packages identical to their American counterparts, except for the Cyrillic script.

Even the friendly McDonalds atmosphere seemed to infect the joint, to a point—the cashier smiled as I fumbled the Russian words for chocolate-cherry, and thanked me after I had paid for my ice-cream drink and fish sandwich, in English!

Five Strange Things at the Supermarket

Paterson (Патерсон) is our 24/7 supermarket of choice in Russia. Now that I’ve gone shopping too many times, here are five Paterson oddities, or perhaps just general Russian supermarket oddities.

  1. Eggs come in boxes of ten. I always feel like I’m getting ripped off.
  2. Red caviar flavored Lays potato chips. Also: шашлик (shashlik—sort of shiskabob/Russian BBQ) flavored Lays.
  3. There are no granola bars. No chewy bars. No Clif bars. No cereal bars. No breakfast bars. No fruit-filled bars. No low-fat diet bars.
  4. Lots of mayonnaise. But no tomato sauce, damn it.
  5. Plastic bags cost 6 rubles. This is perhaps the most environmentally friendly feature of St. Petersburg (awesome subway system aside) that I have seen thus far.

Potatoes for Dinner

We’re making potatoes for dinner tonight. I’d make a joke about how that’s typical Russian cuisine or something, but Russia actually has a pretty rich culinary tradition. I don’t know too much about it though, at least in part because I don’t eat meat.

But the whole Russia and potatoes (or vodka, etc) joke is the sort of comedy I’m going to try to avoid.

As much as I write about the differences between Russia and home, differences magnified by a difficult foreign language, St. Petersburg and its people have many of the same characteristics as big city denizens throughout the world. Sure, they smile less readily and they’re a bit quieter, but on the whole, the differences are minor.

Of course, people are more attuned to difference than similarity. And it’s also those differences that make foreign cultures so unique and interesting. So while I’ll keep blogging about the unique quirks that make St. Petersburg an interesting place to be, I don’t want to give anybody the impression that there’s a huge divide between “our culture” and the culture here.

The sixth thing Russians like


You can buy Sushi everywhere.

Sometimes, they spell it in Russian: Суши. Sometimes in English.

Given that we’re on the Gulf, I’m hoping it’ll be pretty good. I haven’t tried it yet; I want to stick to authentic Russian food (and Pizza.ru) for as long as possible.

Click here for the other five.

Black Coffee

5/10/09 – 14:30

I’ve figured out the coffee situation here. Seems that no one really drinks black coffee, the kind I like. In Coffee House, when I asked for black coffee, the waitress looked surprised. She asked «без молоко,» without milk?, several times, but I thought she got what I wanted.

What she brought out, however, was nothing like the coffee I drink in the U.S. I got a mug about a quarter full of dark black coffee, or perhaps espresso, a small cup of milk, and instructions, mimed by the waitress, to add sugar from the jar at the table. So I did as she said and enjoyed my milky-sweet-definitely-not-black coffee, still determined to figure out how to get a full cup of dark full-bodied joe.

Later, we found ourselves at Coffee Club near our apartment, in need of caffeine to stay awake for a few more hours and deal jet lag another blow. There, I ordered some sort of mocha, which came piled with whipped cream. Nice, but not a daily drink.

Tom, however, ordered an Americano. Turns out, that’s the closest thing to black coffee you can get here. And even then, they’ll bring you enough sugar with it to bake a cake. So from now on, it’s—perhaps all too appropriately—Americanos for me.

With my Americano this morning, I had, for my first time here, something distinctly Russian: бутербродь c kрасное uкрой-an open sandwich with red caviar.

At Café Bar, which, with its wooden walls, wooden floor, and wooden chairs, resembles a hunting lodge, I tackled a menu entirely in Russian. So, that I had a caviar sandwich stems, at least partly, from the fact that caviar and sandwich are two of the few food-related Russian words I know. But that vocabulary is growing quickly out of necessity. Can’t wait til I can order a whole meal (one that’s без мясо-without meat)!


The jet lag has been conquered, sort of. It’s 7:30 p.m., and I’m exhausted.

In the interest of brevity, I’m going to list some of today’s accomplishments. You’ll notice that a lot of them involve purchases; talking with people in Russian is tough.

  • Rode the metro to downtown St. Petersburg to watch the Victory Day parade.
  • Bought lunch (but the menu was in English and Russian).
  • Bought a surge protector.
  • Bought water from a vendor on the street.

More later, but for now, it’s time to get out and get some coffee in the interest of the continuing flight against jet lag.