When last we left our two brave and spunky lasses, they were hightailing it out of a Soviet cafe in Brighton Beach, in search of the holy grail of Brooklyn Russian grocers - M & I International. And so, they marched down a couple blocks to 249 Brighton Beach Ave., between 1st and 2nd Sts, and lo - there it was, M& I (pictured above), in all its overstuffed, foodie glory.
Walking into this mammoth emporium we veered right - right into the meat department. (Dr. Biggle's would've felt right at home.) All I could see before me was a kaleidoscope of sausages in a myriad of shapes, textures, in shades ranging from light gray to deep crimson, a plethora of pickled meats, and a dizzying array of sliced cold cuts. The counterhelp was quick to approach, but trying to decode the specifics of the different deli fare on-hand was too much to master. I just pointed to three sundry items and hoped for the best.
Next, Kristin and I approached the much more manageable dairy case, where she picked up some tvorog (farmers cheese), a favorite from her days in Kiev, where she'd slather the stuff with sour cherry preserves.
We continued roaming through the aisles, passing cases of tarragon soda and kvas, jars upon jars of preserved vegetables and fruits, a bakery case of unfortunate brown-colored desserts, a more fortunate bread selection, a prepared food section offering a myriad of pierogies, stews and several types of borscht. The smoked fish counters were plentiful, featuring smoked sable, smoked salmon, mackeral, trout and a hefty supply of caviar.
I had to tear myself away before I lost control. So, Kristin and I tore upstairs.
Upstairs is where Kristin lost control.
There it was: Willy Wonka's Soviet outpost - a floor devoted to gourmet Russian chocolates. Kristin's eyes grew wide. There was no fighting it. She immediately flew into action and ordered two pounds of individually-wrapped chocolates, each carefully enclosed in a beautiful, colorful piece of paper, just waiting to be opened, like a gift on Christmas morning.
Why did I suddenly think that Christmas might just be coming in May this year?
Before we had time to sing a few caroles, I convinced Kristin that we oughta head out and get a proper dinner before we ripped into the chocolates. She agreed and we ran out of M & I, before we could lose all self-control and actually sit down at their ice cream parlor.
Free from the tyranny/blessing that is M & I, we walked over to the corner of Brighton Beach and Coney Island Avenues, where we ducked into a restaurant that specialized in Russian and Turkish fare (can't recall the name - but it's next to Mrs. Stahl's Knishes). I left the ordering to Kristin and order she did.
We started with standard issue Russian salad (lettuce, cukes and tomatoes slathered in sour cream and dill), and then moved on to a platter of manti (big central asian dumplings that are traditionally stuffed with spiced lamb and topped with garlic yogurt; these seemed to be stuffed with beef and had no yogurt, but tasty all the same. We capped it off with lamb shashlik (tender lamb kebob) with garlicky fries. To wash it all down, we indulged in a couple of Obolon lager from Ukraine.
And, finally full, our two heroines, decided to pay their check, grab their gourmet goodies and head back to the Q train. Would they share a few of the chocolates on the way back to civilization? Of course! Would the Vamp like all of the meats she purchased? Heck, no! (The veal was incredibly salty!) Will Kristin, use her spicy, dried adzhike powder to cook up a heck of a BBQ in the coming weeks? I sure hope so!
And, you can be sure, that if Kristin comes through with that day trip to explore the Korean depths of Flushing, the Vamp will be by her side - palate at the ready...