Russia produces a very diverse culinary repertoire. Restaurants, cafes and other eating establishments have made vast inroads since the fall of communism. Beyond Moscow, St Petersburg and other big cities, the choice is far more limited, which is why we include meals in provincial Russia on our group tours.
Caviar, smoked sausage, pickles, field mushrooms, cheese and soured cream are the basis of zakuski (hors d'oeuvres or appetisers) - a popular dish. Also try savoury piroshki (a stuffed pastry) and blini (savoury stuffed pancakes). The Russians excel at hearty meat and vegetable-based soups. The tsar of all soups is Borsch, Solyanka is also good.
Well-loved classic mains include - beef Stroganoff (invented in Russia, as was chicken Kiev), pelmeny (Siberian-style dumplings) and spicy Georgian cuisine such as shashlyk. Russian rye bread is flavoursome and most often eaten without butter. Fish varieties include - omul (similar to salmon and from Lake Baikal) and sturgeon - often poached and served with a sauce or mushrooms. The Russian's excel at the art of ice-cream making. St Petersburg is particularly renown for its ices.
A word on garnishes. Dill reigns supreme in Russia and its use is not limited to fish dishes. You'll find dill zealously sprinkled across many dishes. Russia even produces dill-flavoured potato crisps!