Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Which I Fall in Love

I'm sure I've said this before, but, for someone who has lived as an expat since 1999, I don't much care for new experiences.

I like the Tried-And-True, thank you very much. The Demon I Know.

So although we will have lived in Moscow and this apartment for TWO YEARS as of December, until this week I had not tried the cute little Italian place right behind us.

There are so many reasons not to:
  • What if it's too expensive?
  • What if I can't find anything I like on the menu?
  • What if the Cyrillic is in that cursed italic font that I find impossible to read?
  • What if they are mean to me?
I didn't say anything about my fear was logical.

Anyhow, the girls have been off school the past two weeks, and we have been going out to lunch every day. And since there are only about three places I go to for lunch, it's been getting boring.

Which was how I was driven to try the cute little Italian place on Tuesday.

It's called U Giovanni, and here is their website. If you are not familiar with Slavic languages, the "U" is like the French "Chez."

The girls always order pasta carbonara in Italian places. It was excellent, and about 100 rubles cheaper than Mi Piace's pasta carbonara. I had a nice spinach salad with sliced red peppers, pink grapefruit sections, and sauteed scallops. And a Margarita pizza (if they can't get a plain cheese pizza right . . .). All great.

Then we had dessert. Tiramisu and panna cotta.

A confession: I had never eaten panna cotta before.

This one came with a thin layer of passion fruit on top. Light and lovely. The tiramisu was probably the best I've ever had.

All this in a cute, cute, CUTE little place.

Did I mention it was cute?

I don't know why it struck me so. I think it just felt like a small restaurant tucked in a corner in a really big city. Which it is.

So we took The Spouse there last night. Girls had a repeat of their carbonara. I had an arugala salad with duck breast and the minestrone. The Spouse had a cream of pumpkin soup and pork with gorgonzola. The girls shared a slice of chocolate torte, and we got to have a bite. Heaven.

Coincidentally, the Barefoot Contessa featured panna cotta this week. It seemed like a sign from the Divine that I ought to try making it.

Confession #2: I've never made anything involving gelatin.

I was pretty sure they sell little packages of gelatin in the grocery store. That's when Fun With Russian began.

This definately says "GELATIN."

What threw me was the pictures of vegetables. I looked at the back, but the ingredients list was
  1. microscopic (I really need to carry my reading glasses with me at all times) and
  2. in Russian.

I wasn't sure if  what was on the front of the package was a Serving Suggestion or an illustration of What's Inside.

So I bought this, just to be safe.

But I don't think this is gelatin. I think maybe it's something like pectin, for putting up jelly and jam. But I'm just guessing here. A quick google of the word kvittin gets me quince.

Now, if you look carefully at the pictures, you can probably tell which one I used (um . . . the one with the ripped open packet). But I had to open it, stick my finger in, and taste the powder to make sure it was flavorless.

Which it was.

So I made Ina Garten's Panna Cotta, which is just the simplest thing ever and oh, so delicious! Strawberries are not in season, so I skipped that part, but I ate my portion with some sort of berries I found in the freezer (I think it was part of a fruit crumble without enough crumble).

And it was good.

Next time I get invited somewhere and have to bring a dessert, I'm making this.


Ella said...

My daughter who works in Russia as a journalist can't say enough about this place. She loves it.And she is from New York.

valentina said...

How felicitous to have found a new, close fab restaurant. I imagine you will soon be recognized as their BFF!

Quinces are very high in natural pectin so I suspect that pectin is not what is in the package but something quinceish... Let us know what it turns out to be, this mystery package!!


Anonymous said...

The first package,I think, is the right one - gelatin. The second one is pectin, I am sure, and I agree with Valentina, it must be made from quinces. They are very high in pectin. In Provence they make very tasty fruit candies from quince pulp. Neuhause makes them too.
The name of the company on the package is confusing, it look German to me, and I do not remember the name for quince in German, in Russian it is aiva (or may be aiwa)

Tina in CT said...

Not only have I never made a panna cotta, but I did not know what it was. Learned something tonight.

Maybe we can all meet there to eat when I'm in Moscow next month.

valentina said...

Oh panna cotta is delightful and a staple of Italian households especially where there are children as it is a way to get them to eat their dairy! I have always had it made with milk and cream and never with yogurt. I have watched my friend Elsa make it a zillion times and she serves it with frutta di bosco, fruit of the woods or to us mixed berries... So try it either way. Buon appetito! xov

Amber Page Writes said...

Have you ever eaten meat floating in aspic? I think it's really gelatin, and that must be what's on the front of that package.

I still have nightmares about that stuff.