na zdorovia

dan is a ______ski.  by this i mean that he's polish.  and he's into it.  he named his dog stanislaw and eats pierogies at least one night per week.  he sneaks some pierogies to stanislaw at least one night per week and i can always tell he's guilty of spoiling the pup because there's the inevitable blue cloud that hangs over good ol' stan about 20 minutes after the treating.  stanislaw's love for the foods of his heritage has been known to drive him to hunt down a fresh pierogie box after it's been tossed in the "no!  naughty dog!" zone (the garbage).

if you look closely enough at the photo of stanley after a successful stalking, you'll notice that the dumplings are not, in fact, polish.  they're russian.  (good thing stan can't read!)  but potato dumplings are potato dumplings, right?  i don't know.  don't ask me.  i can't remember ever eating any.  but the reason i bring this up is because dan had his heart set on finding a place that could serve him up some nice, fresh homemade pierogies for his birthday.  as it turned out, there was a little russian restaurant right in our neighborhood, so i made a reservation and we went.

the place is called russian tea time.  i've walked passed it on numerous occasions and have only seen a significantly, er, wiser set exiting through its doors.  a peek in through the windows revealed large tucked leather booths and old-fashioned gold chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.  this should be interesting.  i was actually looking forward to it.

on that snowy birthday evening we trudged out way towards that little awning-ed entry way that sits right across the street from the grand art museum.  we heaved the heavy, dark wood doors open and went inside.  

maroon and gold.  everything was maroon and gold.  and dark wood.  

i felt like i was back at boston college, staring at the colors of my alma mater... at my 50th reunion.  it felt old in there but it had a really cool sort-of original vibe to it.  it felt like the way it should feel when you walk in to a traditional, old-country russian restaurant.  in direct contrast to the decor was the clientele.  there were bunched up groups of late 20- and 30-somethings enjoying some steaming teas in glass and metal mugs and vodka flights.  i glanced at the menu and saw more types of vodka than i never knew existed in the world.  we opted for a bottle of wine from their list of russian varieties to keep with the theme for the evening.  it was too sweet for my taste, but i didn't mind.  if you're going to theme out the night you've got to go all the way.

dan got a pierogie sampling as an appetizer.  he said they were tasty.  the menu was full of rich meats and hearty dishes, and they had some interesting vegetarian options as well.  i asked our heavily-accented waitress if she knew if any of the veggie items wheat free (thought maybe i should feel this situation out before dropping the gluten bomb on her).  to my wonderful surprise, she knew exactly what i was asking.  her hand darted across my menu and she pointed out a few veg options that she knew were safe.  it was pretty awesome.  there was no running into the kitchen to ask.  there was no meeting with the chef to explain.  i was met with no tilted head and funny look.  she just knew.  and it was easy.

i wound up ordering the vegetarian stuffed eggplant, which came as 2 purple halves filled with a tomato sauce-ish sauce that was so good and something i had never had before.  that was mixed with sauteed celery, turnips, onions and peppers, and all of this came lying on a cloud of rice with traditional carrot salad on the side.  oh it was so good.  i've been looking for a recipe online that will take less than 4 hours to make and is on a kindergarten level for those of us that are still unable to play with the big kids.  i want to go back just for this dish, and as obligated as i feel to try something new and post those findings right here on this blog...

sorry kids.  ain't gonna happen.   

if you're craving a hearty supper during these snow-stormy days, and are perhaps out for something new and little, well, russian, this place is a definite go.  and if you find yourself in one of those maroon booths with a non-glutie, recommend the pierogies for dan's (and stanislaw's) sake.  


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