I’ll be up front about my experience with Russian cuisine and culture. I know “nul” about its food and ways of life, but I know enough not to assume any Eastern European accent is a Russian one when it may, in fact, be Ukrainian. I’d made that mistake when I first met Alla of , and she kindly (and politely) corrected me.
Since then, I’d been curious about the number of Russian and Ukrainian markets in Valley Village. I’d seen the colorful trucks advertising fresh-baked European bread parked outside , and since carbs are my weakness, I knew a visit was a must.
I stop in on a Thursday morning just after 8:30 a.m., not knowing what to expect — for locals of Eastern European decent, their mundane grocery routine became my wide-eyed cultural experience in my own neighborhood. I arrive early enough to see the empty produce shelves being stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, and I marvel at all the softball-sized apples, tea named after Czar Nikolas II, the variety of French and German coffee, and the rows of Russian cookies and snacks. My empty, pre-breakfast stomach grumbles at the sight of refrigerators full of yogurt and dairy, and I quickly eye the deli counter stocked with olives, cheeses and meats.
I’d already made up my mind to try something new before I even walked in, so I ask the man stocking the shelves if there's a debit card minimum. He refers me to an older man wearing a grey sweater at the front counter, who tells me, “No, not really…Maybe fifty dollars?” I laugh, almost not quite sure whether he is serious or joking (his short chuckle hints at the latter).
I ask him for a recommendation for some good Russian coffee. Unfortunately, he tells me, he doesn’t have any at the moment, but he suggests I try Jacobs Krönung, a German brand of instant coffee. I grab it, along with an apple and a small package of honey bread cookies. I’m already running behind on my schedule (my day job was beckoning), so I decide I’ll need to return to check out the other side of the grocery store that I’d missed.
As the man at the register rings up my purchases, I notice a quotation on the wall behind him written with blue vinyl lettering.
“What does that say?” I ask him, pointing to the text.
He does his best to translate the Russian quote’s meaning in English, and he tells me the passage is about one’s goals in life and how to follow them.
It’s from Rami Bleckt (whom I later find out is a Russian-born psychologist, philosopher and spirituality writer), he says. If I were to meet Bleckt and tell him my birthday, he’d give me a reading of what’s to come in my life, he says. The man thanks me for reading the quote in blue – he tells me he has customers who’ve been coming for years and never take notice of it.
is located at 5340 Laurel Canyon Blvd. Hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.