Wayland Weston Crier
October 16, 2008
Metro West Daily News
October 22, 2008
From Russian with love: Resident offers cuisine walking tour
By Susan L. Wagner
Have you ever longed for the taste of a freshly cooked piroshki? Cold borscht soup with a dollop of sour cream? Some blintzes? A tangy touch of caviar?
If so, help isn’t far off.
Thanks to Wayland resident Elina Glazer, a native of Minsk, and Ahla Tours of Brookline, you can easily join a Russian cuisine walking tour that takes place nearby on Saturday afternoons from 2 to 5 p.m.
Julia Goldberg and Leonid Naimark, a married couple originally from Russia, created Ahla Tours in the spring of 2007. Initially, it was a single program company that offered Jewish cuisine walking tours. The outings proved so popular that last spring the firm added “From Russia With Love!: A Walking Tour of Russian Cuisine.”
Glazer, a stay-at-home mother who has lived in Wayland for nine years, was looking for a part-time job earlier this year. She saw that Ahla needed leaders for the new Russian tour, and thought it would be just right for her. Like the Jewish cuisine program, the Russian tour has proved so popular Glazer has since been joined by two additional guides to help handle the demand.
A group of hungry and curious gourmands, usually about 12 at a time, start out in Brighton and wind their way over to Brookline – both towns are home to thousands of Russians – making a number of stops along the way to eat, drink, shop, talk and learn.
They drop in at Whole Foods Supermarket, where they find out how to buy ingredients for Russian dishes they can cook at home; Babushka Deli, a Russian grocery store; The Fireplace Restaurant, where the owner makes special Russian appetizers to wash down with ice-cold vodka; Russian Village, another Russian grocery store; Vernissage, a Russian restaurant with a French influence; and Athan’s Bakery, an authentic café and artisan pastry shop.
The foundations of Russian cuisine, Glazer says, were put in place by the modest grain-based meals of the peasantry, enriched with fish, mushrooms, berries and milk products.
Rye, wheat, oat and barley provided the ingredients for the all-important bread, which appeared around the 10th century. Together with a hearty soup and/or a stew, typical Russians ate a pound or two of bread every day. (Glazer’s American husband, she said, still teases her about how much bread she eats.)
From the time of Catherine the Great in the second half of the 18th century, Russians who could afford it began to import both ingredients and chefs from other parts of Europe, most notably from Austria, France and Germany. As a result, many dishes – beef stroganoff for instance – that are considered typically Russian today actually originated elsewhere.
“Russian cuisine,” Glazer adds, “is mainly due to the ‘gifts of nature.’ Russia is a country of many seas and rivers, of two oceans – Pacific and Arctic. It is a country with a great variety of fish. So, it’s only natural that Russians just love fish!”
Glazer says that she enjoys sharing her culture and cuisine with others.
“I can’t actually call this a job,” she said. “It’s so much fun. And we try to make it very interactive, in particular, by sharing personal stories with the owners of the various stores and restaurants that are on the tour. They’re very nice people and are always so welcoming to our groups.”
The Russian cuisine tours will continue weekly through November and resume again in the spring, as weather permits. The cost is $44 per person ($22 for children 6 to 12) and, Glazer says, participants will get the equivalent of a full meal to eat.
For more information and/or to register visit “www.brooklinetour.com” or call 617-821-7667.