Tag Archive | Russian food

Adventures in Russian Cookery

On a class trip to the Russian enclave in West Hollywood, my roommate bought a bag of frozen chicken-and-pork pelmeni (Russian dumplings that honestly look kind of like tortellini to me–hope that’s not blasphemy). We cooked the first half of the bag in chicken broth, except we didn’t have sufficient chicken broth to make up the amount of liquid the instructions said to use, so I added water. Since one way of eating pelmeni is in soup, like wontons, we tried eating them that way first, but dumplings in watered down chicken broth are really not that good, so we stopped. We read that traditional condiments for pelmeni include butter, sour cream, mustard, vinegar, and tomato sauce, but most of those things didn’t really appeal to me (and we didn’t actually have any tomato sauce). Mustard was the best of the lot, and even that… I don’t know. For the second half of the pelmeni, I wanted to make a sauce, even if it wasn’t a Russian sauce.

Inspired by a meal of homemade gnocchi a couple of my college classmates prepared sophomore year, I decided on a sage brown butter sauce. I had never made a brown butter sauce, nor did I know exactly what it was, except that it sounded vaguely classy, the sort of thing they rhapsodize over in BuzzFeed Food lists. Turns out it’s precisely what it sounds like and simple to make.


Making the sage brown butter sauce

I sautéed some onions in butter to put on the pelmeni as well. Overall, it was a success; I liked the pelmeni better this time around.


Pelmeni with onions and sage brown butter sauce

In other news, I spent several days tracking down a traditional French Canadian song that was stuck in my head but whose words, for the most part, I couldn’t recall. I found it in the end, but I must say, Googling is hard when you don’t know how vocables might be spelled (ridon or ris donc? laridaine or laridène?) or even the lyrics, when some texts try to be more phonetic than others (On prend une platée de crème vs. On prend un’ platée d’crèm’). Anyway, in case you’re curious, the song is variously called “Ridondon,” “Ridondon laridaine,” or “Ris donc la ridée,” and there are recordings by groups with such splendid names as La Vesse du Loup (means Puffball, as in the mushroom), Le Bal à l’huile (The Oil Ball? Like, with dancing?), and Le Diabl’ dans la Fourche (The Devil in the Pitchfork–am I missing something here?).

A Visit to the Getty

This past weekend was a bit of a whirlwind. Be warned: this is a long post with lots of photos!

I devoted most of Saturday to visiting the Getty Center. Allow me to tell you how we got there. The Getty’s website will tell the intrepid public transportation user to take the 761, which will drop you off right in front of the entrance. However, I didn’t really know where to catch the 761 (nowhere particularly close to where we live), and it would cost money (though the fare is admittedly cheap). On the other hand, we have passes for the Big Blue Bus, and I saw that we could catch the 14 practically on our doorstep and ride it to the end of the line, which seemed to be just a few blocks south of the Getty entrance. So we rode the 14 to the end of the line and began walking north on Sepulveda Blvd, only to discover that the sidewalk ended almost immediately. Beyond, Sepulveda looked more like a highway, running alongside the 405. There was no sidewalk on the other side of the street, only the dirt embankment of the freeway.

Silly me for assuming Los Angeles would be designed for pedestrians. But no matter! If we went one block eastward and struck out north, we might find a way back to Sepulveda at a point where it had a sidewalk again. The streets weren’t quite grid-like, but as long as we kept track of the cardinal directions, we would be fine. We found ourselves wandering through the quiet and very exclusive-feeling streets of Bel Air. We hopefully followed a long, meandering lane whose through-ness was ambiguously labeled and reached a dead end. Hopes dashed, we doubled back to the last outlet onto Sepulveda, at which point it became clear we would have to walk on the sidewalk-less curb or retrace our steps by quite a ways to find a 761 bus stop. We chose to go forward.

Happily, after a short stretch of Sepulveda in which we had to push past shrubs, an asphalt path, narrower than a sidewalk, appeared, and we were able to walk on that until the sidewalk returned. The moral of the story: you can’t really take the 14 to the Getty.

Once through the entrance, we rode the tram up the hill to the Getty Center itself. The Getty has gardens, multiple pavilions of art, and panoramic views of Los Angeles, and apparently the architecture of the place itself is impressive, though I’m afraid I didn’t pay much attention to it. I’d heard the Getty had illuminated manuscripts and some famous Impressionist paintings, so seeing those was my priority.

The illuminated manuscripts currently on display are all part of an exhibit called Chivalry in the Middle Ages. This is a page from Tristan and Isolde (or Yseult, or whatever your favorite spelling is). The manuscript is in French, and I was surprised how much I could read and understand of this and of the copy of the Roman de la Rose. The chief impediment to understanding was the script, not the actual words.

Tristan and Isolde

I liked this plate (which might be…Italian?) for the ship in the center. It was only when looking at the photo at home that I noticed the musical instruments around the edge.


This is apparently Orpheus, even though I always picture him with a lyre. On the left side of this vase is a depiction of the prophet Elisha, who, in an episode I do not recall from 2 Kings, had some sort of mystical experience provoked by the sound of a stringed instrument.


You can probably guess why I took a picture of this portrait.

Pink Lady

If you squint at her music, it almost looks like a shape note tunebook!

Music Book

We left this pavilion and took in the view from the hilltop. We could see mountains in the distance, but also the smudgy air settled over the city. We spotted UCLA, which includes the reddish Romanesque buildings in the middleground of this photo.

Getty View

Next, we looked at some more recent art. These goats in J. M. W. Turner’s Modern Rome–Campo Vaccino are so cute!


And Monet’s Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning is really lovely.


The Getty also has Vincent van Gogh’s Irises, which was beautiful.

From the museum, we moved on to the main garden, which is basically a bowl with a fountain/azalea maze at its center. It was pretty enough, and there were some interesting plants, including a huge, tree-like Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia), a pomegranate tree (California is so exotic!), and a vine with unusually-shaped purple flowers that made me think “sweet pea,” though I could be totally wrong. Weirdest of all was the black petunia below; I overheard a woman talking about it and had to go find it.

Black Petunia

By the end of the day, we were exhausted, but our trip to the Getty was well worth it. Oh, and on our way home, we caught the 761 directly in front of the entrance.

Other things I did this weekend:

  • My roommate went on a field trip to West Hollywood with her Russian class and brought back pastries, candy, and a bottle of kvas. We split the pastries, which included a poppy seed roll and a croissant filled with cheese (almost like cream cheese frosting) and raisins.
Russian Candy

What is with Russian candy and squirrels?

  • I finally got myself to the local English country dance group’s Sunday afternoon dance. It was fun, and there was a decent amount of overlap with the contra and shape note communities. It was also open band day, so there were twenty or so musicians playing an eclectic assortment of instruments. Have you ever done English country dance to tuba?