Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Russian Tea Time

My parents emailed us with the announcement: They had planned a tour of their six children to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. This trip would take them a few miles across town, hundreds of miles across the prairie, to Northern Indiana, the East Coast, and the Rocky Mountains within a week. They asked us to pick out a nice restaurant for each night of their weekly weddinganniversarypalooza.

I met them in Chicago and took them to a little place I had discovered a few years ago. It is a Russian restaurant, Russian Tea Time, with old world red velvet drapings, samovars, and nesting dolls. Lots of mirrors and attentive waiters. When I was sixteen, I convinced my parents to let me become a People to People Ambassador. I flew to Moscow and studied biology in Sochi along the Black Sea Coast. I viewed Stalin’s mummified body in great solemnity. I visited a tea plantation and ate fresh raspberries atop a mountain.

I was a sixteen-year-old Kansas girl serving as Ambassador of Peace. It was 1991 and political upheaval was the rule, little did I fully realize as I went about selecting the perfect black-lacquered box as a memento for my treasure chest back home.

So the selection of Russian restaurant to honor my parents’ 45th anniversary was no accident. They gave me Russia, and I thought it would be nice to share a Russian meal with them.

We started with a flight of vodkas—bilberry, cranberry, and plain. These vodkas, served with dark rye bread chunks and pickles, go down like velvet. A fine way to start any long, long lunch.

We decided to share a sampler meal because we couldn’t decide between all the delicious options. Borscht (served hot, the traditional way), beet caviar, stuffed mushrooms. Followed by stuffed cabbage, Moldavian chicken meatballs, a breaded chicken delight, beef stroganoff, kashi and rice.

The finish must be handled with care. We managed it properly by drinking endless cups of deep amber Russian tea (available for sale on their website) and a selection of strudels, cookies, and cakes.

A hearty almost three-hour celebration.

The restaurant is located a few steps from the Art Institute, but the day was too mild to ruin by going indoors. So we headed to the Millennium Park to watch kids and adults splash in the Crown Fountain, a public art fountain. If you haven’t visited this park, go now. It is really one of my favorite parks in the world. Very well done. Especially worth it on a mild, sunny, and breezy day.

It was a brief world wind visit. I hope they do the same for their 46th anniversary!

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