A few month ago, I was announcing that this is a Russian food blog — and it worked. But, as you’ve certainly noticed by now, this is more than that. For example, this is also a Georgian food blog. The Georgia we’re talking about here is the Republic of Georgia of course, in the Caucasus; and I dedicated many posts to its food, its dishes, its cooking and its cuisine.
Seriously, Google, look at the top results when one queries “Georgian food blog”! The first one is an excellent blog that I encourage everyone to read (it’s in my blogroll), but it’s essentially about Estonian cuisine. The third one consists of 50 or so Georgian recipes, all posted in December 2007 (five years ago); it’s interesting, but it’s not exactly a blog. Which brings us to the second one, a single picture from the aforementioned recipes, re-posted on some other site; this certainly wins the Palm d’Or for lamest search result. And so on…
During numerous trips to the Tokaj-Hegyalja region in Hungary, I’ve had the opportunity to taste hundreds of Tokaji dessert wines, and I’ve managed to build a small personal collection. With no great claim to being a sommelier, I will share with you my impressions about the wines, and stories about the people who make them.
Disznókő is a winery located on the road between Tokaj and Szerencs. It’s usually the first landmark winery that visitors to the region will pass, if driving here from Budapest. The name means “boar stone” in Hungarian, and here’s the story behind the name of the winery, from their website:
The hill behind the Yellow Wine House, where there are still stake supported vines on the secular terraces, is the heart of the Disznókő vineyard. Reaching the top of the hill we can see a small white pavilion, the belvedere. The Lónyai family had it built in the 18thcentury and meant it to be a lookout tower. There is the famous stone called Disznókő beside it. A giant rock that looks as if it had come from the sky. According to the local people’s stories the shape of the rock reminded of a wild boar some time in the past. The slope and the estate were named after this rock.
But first, is it varenyky or vareniki? Well, it depends. The Russian word, вареники, should be transliterated as vareniki. But since this is in fact a Ukrainian dish, it makes sense to transliterate the Ukrainian word instead. And the Ukrainian word is… вареники. Even if you can’t read Cyrillic, you probably noticed the two are spelled the same. But they’re not pronounced the same. The Ukrainian и is similar to the Russian ы, hence the transliteration with y’s. Big deal.
Last year, I made Lake Trout Sausage with trout caught in Keuka Lake. This recipe uses Chinook salmon from the Salmon River, but the difference doesn’t stop there. This is really a sausage that copies the model of your usual meat sausage, and it’s definitely not pescatarian. In order to get the level of greasy goodness I want, I’m using beef fat. As it turns out, beef shares many chemical compounds with salmon, and when you think about it, in American food, salmon’s a little bit like the beef of the sea: fatty, full-flavored, and even cut into steaks.
Natural sausage casings can be purchased here, and your butcher’s likely to give you fat from steak trimmings for free. Of course, you’ll need a meat grinder and sausage stuffer.
Back in Russia, fishing salmon for recreation generally requires a taste for northern climates, and, more often than not, some serious travel time. If you want Atlantic salmon, you fish the Baltic, Barents, or Kara Seas, the rivers draining into them, as well as a bunch of lakes connected to them in Karelia. For Chinook or Coho salmon, you look around the Sea of Okhotsk — a region more famous for its gulags and tough climate than its recreational fishing. The fact that you’re probably seeing half of these sea names for the first time right now should tell you something: they’re far, even if you live in Russia.
Here in North America, salmon fishing is significantly simpler. Most if not all of the Great Lakes are stocked with Atlantic, Chinook, and Coho salmon, all in the same place, making the days of countless fishing charters in the summertime. When spawning season comes in the fall, thousands of salmon (and trout) swim upstream the rivers connected to the lakes to build their nests (called redds). At that point you don’t even need a boat anymore — just find a spot on the bank and cast your line!