While in St. Paul, MN this week to speak at their local multifamily housing Fall Conference, I took one selfish hour to run up the hill from the RiverCentre to eat at a restaurant called Moscow on the Hill. I had originally planned on visiting Teasource, as suggested by @JasonWitt and @Teasource on Twitter, but unfortunately time didn’t allow.
As you know from previous posts, I had the pleasure of visiting Siberia, Russia nearly 15 years ago and I fell in love with their food and arts. And so, whenever I have the chance to eat at a thoroughly Russian-feeling restaurant, I take it! And Moscow on the Hill did not disappoint.
My cab dropped me off in the historic district of St. Paul, just up the street from the glorious Cathedral of St. Paul. Red brick buildings sat cozily along the slightly narrow streets that had just a hint of the previous day’s snow storm. I stood cozily with them for a moment, thankful for my coat and gloves (which I had to dig out of the depths of my closet, having come from 70+ degree California weather!).
Inside, the ambiance did not disappoint. Despite being the only patron at opening, I found myself surrounded by the rich reds and golds I associate with the country. On the wall were traditional peasant shirts in the bright hues. Framed photos of Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, and other familiar Moscow landmarks accompanied them. And the music – one can not be in a Russian establishment with out the requisite Russian folk music (which I love). While the restaurant had no tea menu, just an option of ‘hot tea,’ I ordered it knowing that Russian hot tea is strong black tea regardless of brand. Strong and hot it was – and served with a slice of lemon.
And while many go straight for the known Russian entrees like Blini or Stroganoff, my interest typically lies with two things: Borscht and Pelmeni. While in Siberia, I was taught how to make traditional borscht, a bright red beet soup. Apparently there are 2 main ways borscht is made. In the west (Moscow), you will more likely find cabbage included in this all vegetable soup. In the east (Siberia), however, you will not find cabbage, but you will find beef. I was also given a recipe for pelmeni, which is very similar to a larger tortellini made with thinner pasta and filled with simply seasoned beef and pork. Typically, it is served in a light broth. Siberian families often make these pelmeni by the thousands to freeze and use throughout the long winter. Both of these comfort foods are served with a generous dallop of sour cream.
I ordered these two dishes and spent the next half hour in bliss as I ate, reminisced, and enjoyed the leisurely street scene outside my window on the historic streets of St. Paul as the notes of “Midnight in Moscow” floated around me.