Saturday, the Detroit Institue of Arts will host, "Dining with the Tsars", a lecture presented by Darra Goldstein which covers 200 years of Russian haute cuisine from its start in the 1700s to its demise in the early 1900s. Goldstein, a professor at Williams College and author of four cookbooks, including "A Taste of Russia", will also be part of the Russian Tea Reception immediatley following the program.
Goldstein is in Detroit this week and reached last night, via email, for an interview.
What will guests find different about a "Russian Tea"?
The focal point of a Russian tea is the samovar -- an urn that has a central chimney for coals or twigs that keeps water hot and is always at the ready. Typically Russian tea is brewed into a very strong concentrate, and then water is added from the samovar to taste, depending on how strong each person likes it. Another feature of Russian tea drinking is that the men traditionally drank from glasses held by silver glass holders, while women drank from teacups. As for food, tea could be elaborate in the high English style or simpler, with just a few pastries or cookies.
Are there specific types of tea that are more popular in Russia?
Black tea is what the Russians love. They will sometimes add lemon, and almost always sugar. They also love herbal teas and have many different blends that they mix for their healthful properties, depending if you have a sore throat, a headache, and so on.
Are there certain foods that are served at tea time?
Again, it depends on whether the tea is served in late afternoon or, as often happened before the Revolution, around 11 p.m. It can range from a light collation with open-faced sandwiches, smoked fish and charcuterie, and also some sweets to just a selection of sweets. Hard candies and chocolates are also typical.
How did you get interested in Russian cuisine?
I first fell in love with Russian food through reading the amazing descriptions of it in 19th-century Russian literature, even before I had ever really tasted the food itself. The works of Chekhov and Gogol are filled with food, which almost becomes a character in itself.
What is your favorite tea?
I really like the various blends made by Kousmichoff, which is based in Paris. They are mostly black teas with different flavorings. My favorite is Anastasia, with bergamot, orange blossom and lemon.
In addition to "Dining with the Tsars" lecture, Goldstein will also be signing copies of the 30th Anniversary Edition of her cookbook, A Taste of Russia. The Russian Tea Reception is a sold-out event, but seating for Dining with the Tsars is still open.
For more information on Dining with the Tsars and the current Faberge Exhibit (now through January 21, see the DIA website.
For more information on Darra Goldstein and a full list of all her books, go to darragoldstein.com