Friday, April 1, 2011

Eating Moscow: Eliseevskiy Food Market

In the middle of Tverskaya, the main thoroughfare through central Moscow leading out to the airport, you will find Eliseevskiy Food Emporium, a grand dame of supermarkets. Opened in 1901 by Russian businessman Grigory Eliseev, the store became synonymous with luxury, not only for the imported and hard to find items, but for the architecture and classic Neo-Baroque deco.

In short, the original structure was built at the end of 18 century, when Catherine the Great's Secretary of State invited architect Matvey Kazakov to build a Palace for his wife. The palace was passed down after her death and was eventually transformed into a literary salon where the likes of Pushkin and other writers and artists gathered. 

Eliseev bought the building at the end 19 century who added it to his comestible empire which already included the largest grocery store in St. Petersburg.  

Originally called the "Eliseev Store and Russian and Foreign Wine Cellars", the establishment opened with great fanfare, including a church service and priests who offered their blessings. Which is ironic because today, the wine and liquor section of the store is cordoned off; apparently, state laws prohibit the sale of alcohol within a certain distance from the church. And an official from the neighboring parish recently realized that technically, the store was within the legally unacceptable distance from their alter. Alcohols sales are currently suspended until the matter is resolved.

Yeah, this is what my neighborhood grocery store looks like too..

And the deli counter...

Although no one can claim to have as many mayonnaise-based salads as the Russians..

 Nor, unfortunately, as much caviar...

But we do have plenty of Heinz - which has obviously made its way into the former Soviet Union..

Though my home town grocer's ketchup bottle display definitely does not come with such elaborate columns, chandeliers and gold-flecked molding.

Nor such an extensive smoked fish selection.

Or these gorgeous chocolates with little cherubs on the packaging.

Although the deli looked amazing, the fish, the cheeses, the meats all so tempting, the only thing I walked out with were non-perishable items - chocolates. Four bags of cherubs in various sizes and shapes that I swore would be souvenir gifts for friends and neighbors - needless to say, I have eaten most of them myself. I don't know why I ever buy edible souvenirs "for friends" - they make it to their intended recipients 50 percent of the time - at best.

I guess after hanging out in the store for over an hour oogling the deli counter, drooling over the baked goods, handling the beautifully packaged confections, snapping photos of the enormous chandeliers and the hairnetted staff, we felt compelled to purchase. A small price to pay to visit this palace/literary salon-cum-grocery store.

The beauty! Of the grocery store!


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