In St. Petersburg, I had issues ordering vodka.
At a cafe near my hotel, I told the server I wanted to sample their vodka. She looked horrified and said she didn’t understand English. I thought this was odd since we managed to go through my orders for an appetizer, dinner entree and a cocktail.
“So sorry,” she said, refusing to offer any selections on what some people call Russia’s national drink. I gave up and asked for the bill.
Next, I picked up two cheap bottles of vodka from the grocery store. Same look of horror washed over the cashier’s face. She stopped ringing up my order and tried asking me something. I suspected it had something to do with my age. I handed her my drivers license. That didn’t help.
“Angliskey?” the cashier asked other shoppers. One lady asked me how old I was.
“32,” I answered. Then she said to show the cashier my passport. She helped the cashier decipher my birth date. Finally, the cashier finished ringing up my order. She smiled and chatted about something. I hope it was something flattering about my age. I left the grocery store with burning cheeks.
Later, my colleagues at the university explained the minimum age for buying vodka in Russia was 18. I thought the wedding ring and my gray hair would have tipped off anybody about my age. After more than a decade, I’m still being carded for alcohol. Even in Russia.
I didn’t have the same challenges when I ordered Russian beer.
I loved Tinkoff off Nevsky Prospect. This brewery is behind the Kazan Cathedral and it has a decent selection of beer. I liked the light, crisp flavor of the filtered pilsner on tap.
My half-liter of pilsner went nicely with the Numenberg sausage. The pork product is shish-kabobed with slices of bell pepper and bacon. Yum! The potatoes and sauerkraut rounded out my dinner and helped refuel me after a long day of exploring art inside the Russian Museum.
I think pelmeni became comfort food during my trip. The Musketeers served these meat dumplings with a ketchup-type sauce and sour cream. The light dumpling wrapper reminded me of shumai served at a Chinese dim sum meal. This dish worked well with my Czech beer.
I considered it my scouting trip before my night at the ballet.
An American ex-pat told me ballet dancers would walk into this bar after their performances. I wanted to rub shoulders with Spartacus stars but it was still a school night and I still had classes in the morning.
Sigh. Next time.
I also tried the Shamrock Bar’s “world famous” chicken kiev. (that’s what it was called on the menu). I could barely finish this half-order of breaded chicken and spinach. Each bite was filled with hot crust and moist chicken. I liked it. I imagine it’s a decent meal for any ballerina who needed to refuel after spending hours jumping around on stage.