From Russia, With Love—Once people find out what I do for a living (you're looking at it), it's almost certain that a funny, sometimes emotional conversation about food will follow. It happens a lot, but no two are identical. Food is the great connector, intrinsically bound up in the fabric of every person's life, no matter what their background. Everyone's got to eat, after all.
That's what happened last week when I met my new oral hygienist at a dentist appointment, with one important exception: My hygienist, Ludmilla, is from Moscow.
Now, imagine the exchange we had, owing that 1) I had--at the very least--a dental hose in my mouth the entire time, and that 2) Milla has a razor-sharp sense of humor, 3) a deep love of food and 4) a thick, Russian accent that's as lovely to hear as it is hard to understand. “Do you wrrrite rrrreviews about dayntist oh-ficces, too?” she joked. I smiled and said “yes,” like a total moron.
While suctioning the spit off of my gums, Milla happily described some of the dishes she used to eat in Russia--borscht, stuffed cabbage, little meat-stuffed pies and “democracy salad” (made with a bologna-like meat, potatoes and dressing). She sighed that her favorite Russian foods are virtually unheard of in New Mexico. Her daughter has taken to cooking Thai food instead, she said, sounding worried.
This is what I call divine food providence. A few days later, a new storefront popped up at 4710 Lomas NE (not far from the proposed Eastside Sunflower Market I mentioned in last week's “Dish”). The store is called Red Square. It deals exclusively in imported Russian and Eastern European foods.
Candy freaks, you must see this place for yourselves. They've got bins of bulk Russian candies in colorful, ornate wrappers, candy bars and beautiful chocolates from Belarus--stuff I've never seen before in New Mexico.
In the deli case, there are tins of caviar and specialty meats flown in from New York like “gypsy bacon,” kosher salami and whole, smoked fish. A small refrigerator houses kefir (like liquid yogurt) farmers' cheeses and butter.
The shelves are lined with dense, molasses-scented loaves of dark rye bread, jars of preserves and bottled drinks from Eastern Europe.
“I am probably the only Georgian here,” one shopper said proudly when I went in, gleefully palming a large, glass bottle of water. (Georgia, as in the country, not the American state.) “We drink this water all the time. It's very good for hangovers ... in Georgia, we drink every day.”
Red Square is open from 9:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. weekdays. They’ll supply you with Georgian water on the weekends from around 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Call 255-4303 to speak with store owner Alex Limamovich (or his beautiful wife). If you can speak a little Russian, even better.