This summer, we managed to execute Zakuski II and Zakuski III. Happily, we are getting quite good at it and we assembled a fine collection of booze, food, and people.Zakuski II was held in Owen Sound and featured four bottles of vodka and a fine selection of food. We had borscht with sour cream and potato latkes with sour cream and apple sauce. A large selection of meats and smoked and pickled fish were put on the table. One thing though ... perhaps we had too much food? Zakuski, from what I have learned, isn't so much about the food - it is about the vodka. Just like Dim Sum is supposed to be about the tea ... with the food being merely an accompaniment. A fine selection of vodkas
For Zakuski III, we wanted to concentrate on the libations. The booze consisted of five bottles of vodka and a bunch of tall cans of Boris Organic Beer from France. Chosen for the name and certainly not for any belief that the French can make decent beer or that we support this ridiculous organic movement. It was just a big can to help wash down the vodka.
Note the cod liver bottom left and the salo above the caviar
The food was again obtained at the Russian deli at Bathurst and Sheppard. My favourite counter woman was not there and none of the three ladies could understand my English (must have been my very heavy Canadian accent). Luckily my friend Rene was there to assist me. Rene is a black Cuban and now Canadian who studied in Moscow for a few years and speaks quite good Russian. Between him and a fellow customer (apparently a Russian ex-supermodel), we were able to purchase a fine selection of meats, pickles, and fish products. Some notable finds: actual cod liver in cod liver oil that tastes like foie gras, a giant pink dish (which the ex-supermodel was purchasing for herself and who said was essential for zakuski) made up of fish, potato, beets and
Big pink Russian WTF
a pink "dressing", three kinds of salamis from Moscow, salo (which is a very white, very salty piece of pork fat that is sliced, not too thin, and eaten with the vodka - like prosciuto if it was all fat), smoked mackerel from Mendel’s cheese shop in Kensington Market, jellied tongue roll, grilled mushrooms, and pickles out of a bucket.
As for the people, we were originally at 12 but we had various persons pull out for medical reasons. We did have Jeff and Kathleen visiting from Owen Sound, our Cuban Russian crew of party mafiosas, and two journalists to whom I forgot to mention that the evening was "off the record." Egle is an old friend from Havana who works for the Globe and the zakuski was really for her (nice Lithuanian roots and all). She invited Stephen who is the spokesman for white guys everywhere (see his book "The White Guy - A Field Guide") who was at TIFF and writing dispatches to the Calgary Herald. I would like to congratulate (1) Calgary for having enough literate people to support a newspaper (Yeah, Calgary!) and (2) Stephen for getting about half the details right for his story (Yeah, Stephen!). After the quantity of vodka that was consumed, half right is astounding. See half the correct details at http://communities.canada.com/calgaryherald/blogs/bladerunner/archive/2009/09/19/tiff-dispatch-zakuski.aspx
We started off with a bottle of Stoli Elit, a bottle shaped like a Russian tank shell with an extremely heavy cap which we think is made from depleted uranium (we hear Russia has a lot of that lying around). Before opening, we had the obligatory singing of the Russian National Anthem - led by Ariana (our actual Muscovite) and Rene. The vodka was poured and enjoyed. Elit is extremely smooth with a soft finish and only a mild sense of foreboding that the evening was going to end up very badly.
Made it through that bottle, a Slava (an excellent Ukranian premium vodka available at the LCBO), an Igor Dogburoski (sp?), a Stoli regular, and then another half a bottle of Slava.
Some highlights of the evening - me warning a diner that the Russian hot mustard (made in Canada like much of the mustard in the world) was the hottest mustard I had ever tried ... and not being believed and watching a very pretty woman having a wasabigasm from a piece of salami on black bread.
Our petite Russian girl shooting back glass after glass of vodka - I asked her why she didn’t just sip it and she told me that she didn’t know how. Eating the Salo, salt cured pork fat, and enjoying the delicious salty taste and the interesting crunchy consistency. Testing Rene’s knowledge of every Beatles song ever recorded and bootlegged, at risk of imprisonment, onto cassettes for distribution in Cuba. Finishing off the meal with some nice Cuban cigars on the patio ... with Russian chocolates, more vodka, more beers, and whiskey. Having two women pass out on the bed in the spare room with one of them, how to say it delicately ... puking all over everything.
So note to self ... next time, less salami, more smoked mackerel, more pickles, maybe some smoked white fish, and six bottles of vodka next time!
Zakuski IV, coming to Toronto in the spring of 2010.