Russian Food and Spirits
Caviar in Russia? Who can resist? Unfortunately, the black variety became scarce after restrictions on sturgeon fishing were put in place to save this species in the Caspian Sea. However, black caviar that's imported or produced by individual farmers who rear sturgeons in artificial reservoirs is slowly making its way back into stores, at exorbitant prices. Red caviar is much cheaper and ubiquitous.
Alcohol counterfeiting is a big problem in Russia; according to various estimates, illegally produced vodka accounts for 40% to 70% of what's available on the market. If you don't follow safe buying practices, you could end up with a brutal hangover or worse, a severe case of alcohol poisoning. Your best bet is to buy well-known brands such as Beluga, Russky Standart, or Zelenaya Marka (Green Mark) at reputable supermarkets. An amusing deviation from purified brands is Nemiroff's, infused with honey pepper. Note that every bottle of vodka sold in Russia must bear a white excise stamp, glued over the cap, and those sold in Moscow must also bear a bar-code stamp.
Many Russians consider nationally produced brands to be "the real chocolate" and far superior to imported varieties. Babayevsky, Krasny Oktyabr, and Rot Front are popular varieties. Alenka, in a retro wrapper depicting a girl in babushka scarf, is the favorite milk chocolate of Russian kids. Aside from candy bars, Russians eat tons of individually wrapped konfety (chocolate covered sweets with fudge, crunchy waffles, nuts, or other fillings) or chocolate covered zefir (type of marshmallow) with tea.
Nearly all supermarkets now run their own bakeries offering good freshly baked bread including round rye stolichny loaves with a crisp crust and a variety of international types like Italian ciabatta and French baguettes. Of Russian black rye varieties, borodinsky and khamovnichesky are the tastiest.
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