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Feb 19, 2003 09:32 PM

russian vodkas

  • t

I have been buying $10 liters of Russian vodka from Trader Joe's. They rotate the selection available. Anybody have favorites?

Anyway - I've always disliked most vodkas - like Absolut and Stoli. Seemed like the more money you spent, the less flavor you got. Seemed sad. Me, I like bourbon. Knob Creek. Mmm. Wild Turkey Straight Rye. Double mm. (Has anyone seen *this* around town? It is incredible stuff. Nothing like regular Wild Turkey, which is empty. This, and Maker's Mark, are the bargains in the bouron-and-related-world.) And the single malts, when I can get them.

Anyway, then I found some stuff called Wymborowa. (Anyone find it around here? I can't.) Polish rye vodka. Christ! Full of flavor. Cheap. Burned me. Great tasting.

Then: Ketel 1. Loved some of the bottles. Problem: irregular. Some batches fantastic, some sad.

Then: Stoli gold. Turns out, most Stoli out here is American-made, for Americans. Aim is cleanliness. Stoli Gold is Moscow made. Tastes like vanilla, cashews, walnuts, orange zest, everything. Love it. Expensive as hell.

So: Russian vodkas at TJ's. Cheap and a few I've had are quite, quite tasty. I've had aobut 6 different kinds. But I can't remember which ones I liked, and the selection keeps changing. Anyone help me out? Any particular favorites to look out for?


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  1. yo're proabably pretty mistey-eyed at the closing of uncle darrow's. you think the one on washinton in the marina is any good.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Jackson

      Yeah, the Marina one wasn't quite as great in the gumbo department (though I hear there are other places I should try, once I get off my current Latin American/Chinese kick), but the po boys are still perfect, in my book. Same right textures.


      1. re: Thi N.

        You definitely have to try Stevie's on the Strip for gumbo, but you should probably skip breakfast and go there for lunch - it's a huge bowl crammed with all sorts of delicious creatures.

        1. re: Chris G.

          I tried to go once and they didn't have it that day. Is there some sort of schedule?


          1. re: Thi N.

            I think I've only been there on Saturdays, so maybe it's only a weekend thing.

            1. re: Chris G.

              Stevie's Gumbo Rocks!!!!!!!!

              1. re: Chris G.

                They used to only serve it on Fridays, then on fri/sat. Some time back they went to always having it, but I haven't been in a while so maybe it's changed again. It's definitely one of the top two or three gumbo values. Harold and Belle's tastes perhaps a bit better but gives you a much smaller portion (and is actually a sit-down restaurant). La Louisianne (corner of Slauson/Overhill just east of La Brea) gets a mention because it is a lot cheaper ($9 at lunch time) and not bad.

          2. re: Thi N.

            Just got back from a bowl of great gumbo at Memphis in Costa Mesa. All this talk about gumbo gave me a craving..... Roux wasn't heavy or too thick, nice and spicy, and chock full of chicken, shrimp, and all the good stuff that makes a deep, rich brown gumbo - served with a dollop of rice in the center of the bowl. That and a salad (arugula, goat cheese, and beets, garnished with sweet potato chips) was dinner - and I couldn't finish it all, either!!!
            Memphis is at Bristol where the 73 freeway crosses over it (just north of Bear).

            1. re: LBQT

              is the gumbo made with pork suasage or beef? is it a pretty causual place like uncle darrows?

              1. re: kevin

                I believe it's real andouille, which means pork. It's not as casual as Uncle Darrow's. Memphis is a funky little restaurant and bar, very small. They have tables inside and on the covered patio out back (with heaters).

        2. There was an article last year in "The New Yorker" about the Russian vodka industry. You might try to track it down, it takes all of the mystique out of that particular libation.

          1. I have had a vodka drinking friend recommend Volganaya Vodka, from Tallinn, Estonia to me and supposedly available at Trader Joe's. He said that it is quite good at about half the price of the better known Russian vodkas.

            1. Vodka at TJ's? Please, get serious. Go to Jon's. (former Von's I guess originally, same graphic). There's one at La Brea and Fountain, one on Sunset near Western, one in the Valley at Laurel Cyn and Magnolia or Chandler, can't remember. They have great vodkas. And cheap. Moskovskaya and Stoli jug size for under $20 as I remember. Got a great gift vodka bottle, Polish vodka "Jazz" in a trumpet shaped bottle. And they have Wodka Wyborowa and other former Eastern Block alcohol at excellent prices.
              Thi, I'm surprized.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Jerome

                Woo-hooo! This is the hook up.

                The Stoli jugs wouldn't happen to be Moscow-made, would they? That would be a goddamn dream.


                1. re: Jerome

                  Yes, the Jon's chain is a good source for eastern european vodkas, eastern european spirits(such as Slivovitz), and eastern european beers, too, all at bargain prices. The one at Vermont and Hollywood is my favorite.

                  1. re: 2chez mike

                    Second the hollywood and Vermont store. They have a wide selection other drinks-alcoholic and non-that makes it a one stop shop for a (dinner) party. I like flor de cana rum from nicaragua, also sold at jons.

                  2. re: Jerome

                    although they do carry moskovskaya at tj's for $7 or $8/liter & it's pleasant.
                    jerome is correct, jon's is great for vodka. i got a wonderful czech bottle there a few years ago...can't remember the name, but the bottle was wrapped in a sheet of tissue paper,silver label w/some blue & red packaging stickers. a nice addition to any freezer.

                    also, warsawa in santa monica makes good martinis w/polish vodka.

                  3. Wine House in West LA has a large selection of vodkas as does Topline Wine & Liquor on San Fernando Road in the Glendale/Atwater area. Prices are very good at the latter, ok at Wine House.