I Love Cake:
This snug and cozy bakery was a total delight. Strung with wall-to-wall Xmas ornaments and twinkly lights, the pastel cafe serves gourmet hot chocolate adorned with fresh sugar cookies, homemade cakes and breakfast. And oh, the cakes – cinnamon and ginger bread and cream cheese and wild berry. While we sat perusing the massive menu, and watching the snow fall softly outside, Russian murmurings filled the cafe, as the scent of hot chocolate wafted through the air. I was in birthday heaven. The cafe features a variety of about twenty ornate cakes daily, and the baker’s descriptions were so luscious and detailed. I literally stood in front of this display for five minutes while the baker described the ingredients in each cake – and what’s in THAT one?!?
Taras Bulba – Ukranian restaurant. Bustling, boisterous, full of warmth and good cheer. Great, rich, comfort food – dumplings, chicken kiev, etc. * Note, they serve sour cream with everything!* Features dancing and folk singing. The type of homey, heart-warming experience you are always hoping for when traveling. We had our Xmas dinner here, and this will live on in our memories as one of our most exotic and exuberant Christmas meals.
Bjorn – Decorated with pine needles and pine cones and reindeer antlers, this Nordic restaurant has a rustic yet modern charm. Ordered the mushroom cream soup, served with potatoes and crispy onions and a sparkling rosé Russian wine. (I didn’t even know Russia produced wine!) Served with a basket full of hearty brown bread topped with large flakes of sea salt, and home churned butter. Made me want to visit the Nordic countries. Located across the bridge from the Kremlin.
Mitzva Bar: Underground Jewish bar in Moscow – right next to Bjorn. Taking the winding staircase down to the bar feels like descending into the lair of a changeling. Massive crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Tell the bartender what flavors you like and he will create a cocktail for you. My specialized drink was lemon with Prosecco and a hint of something sweet – citrusy and fresh. Brad’s was…weird. He ended up ordering one of mine. We also ordered a Mediterranean plate with hummus and other dips served in an ornate silver platter. The hummus and olive tapenade were very tasty. There were several other dips that can only be described as overwhelming fishy – just straight fish slime and salt really. Oh well, risk you must take when the entire menu is in Russian!
The Metropol: Iconic hotel, next to the Bolshoi. Order a stranger in Moscow and enjoy it in the grand lobby, while imagining Russian dignitaries, artisocrats and artists swanning about the place. Filled with twinkling xmas lights and gold gilded everything, a piano player adds to the ambiance. This mother of all cocktails is encrusted with ice, served with sugared blackberries, and a mini silver goblet filled with chocolates. The waitress will also bring snacks including some of the best giant olives I have tasted since since our trip to Greece.
Brooklyn Burger: I have to include this place, because the staff was so ridiculously friendly. We arrived from a 20 minute walk down Arbat street absolutely freezing. Upon realizing that we did not speak a word of Russian, the waiter apologized that he had no English menus but would be happy to help us find something we would like, went though the entire menu with us and brought us two tasty burgers (chicken for me), and a pot of fresh brewed fruit tea. The first thing the waiter asked in a thick Russian accent – “Where are you from? I knew immediately you were not from around here, as you look like you are dressed for the Arctic, and it is not that cold.” Brad and I burst out laughing. (It’s 12 degrees outside! We are covered in snow. It’s COLD man! In what world is this not cold?) Then he proceeded to tell us about how, to celebrate his last birthday, he went to a cabin in the forest with friends, and when they tried to drive home, they discovered the oil had frozen in the car. “That was cold, he said, even for me. Negative 40 degrees is cold.”
Next blog post: Four Days In Saint Petersburg!