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From Russia with Love

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Lisa Antinore Mar 26, 1998 01:21 PM

A couple of weeks ago my colleague and dear friend Janice opened the door to my classroom mid-lesson and quietly handed me a lavender wrapped little oval. The minute the kids began their tasks I opened it up and found nestled inside a piece of dark chocolate. My favorite!!!

A bite later I realized it was not simply dark chocolate but a dark chocolate covered dried plum. Immediatley after class, I asked my fellow food-friend where she had gotten the delicious treat. She told me about a small Russian store on a block that I had walked down countless times. Strangely enough I had never noticed the little place.

A couple of days later I decided to check it out and there it was a few shops down from La Palma Pupuseria, a tiny, dingy storefront on Bowne St. near the corner of Ash Ave. (42-24 Bowne St. 961-7928) with Cyrillic letters on its shabby awning.

Inside it was dark and musty and strangely barren. It was exactly the way I had pictured Russia during its food-rationing days. A few older women, heads covered with babushkas, were clustered around the cash register waiting for the proprietor to slice meats for them. I really liked the feel of the place.

In the back of the stamp-sized store, all along the top of the counter were canisters filled with different kinds of foil-wrappd chocolates. I told the counterman about the chocolate covered plums I had sampled and he suggested that I purchase an assortment and placed one of each of the chocolates in a bag for me. He avoided certain canisters and when I told him I wanted to to try ALL of them he laughed and said he wanted me to try only the best ones on my first visit or I might not come back. The ones he avoided were the Polish candies because "Russian chocolate is much, much better.."

I ended up leaving with about 30 pieces of individually wrapped dark chocolate for $4.06!!!! Zak, the owner, told me to save the wrappers of the ones I liked best so that I could show him next time. My faves were the chocolate covered plums, apricots, cherries, and hazelnuts and something called "Mishka-Clumsy Bear" a much richer version of a Kit-Kat. The store, whose name I still do not know, gets the candies from a place on Smith Street in Brooklyn called Golden Chocolate.

I'll definitley be back to explore the dairy products, dried fish, aged cheeses, and homemade poppy seed pastries in the refrigerator case. Maybe when he sees me a second time, Zak will let me buy the Polish chocolates....