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Going to stay with Russians...what's a treat they would like?

My friend's parents, who are Russian, will be hosting me for a couple nights in SF. What would be a good host gift that I can buy here in LA that Russians would appreciate? Thanks!

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  1. I live in a Russian part of SF. I can tell you what they buy tons of at the store: beets, buttermilk, cabbage and dill.

        1. Marinated herring, good (corn) rye bread, pickles and, of course Russian vodka. Suprisve them and bring some home-made kvass, a very mild fermented bread and raisin beverage.
          Also make piroshkie, babka or paske, sweet easter cheese.
          Learn to say, "Na zdrovia"! Pashalusta and Spaceeba!
          Ochen Horror Show!

          1. Caviar ;-)

            But seriously, don't buy them stuff they already eat or drink on regular basis. Bring something that you would like to give (like a nice bottle of wine or whatever else you'd like).

            1 Reply
            1. re: TatyanaG

              It seems silly bringing Russians Russian food, doesn't it?

              Since you're coming from LA, I'd bring something local and fresh that they can't get in San Francisco. Maybe some delicious citrus, or preserves, or something along those lines?

              In my Russian family, traditional hostess gifts are baked goods, chocolates and booze (esp. cognac). But my Mom's favorite gift ever was when my American boyfriend brought over a really great bottle of ice wine.

              So you know, expand their horizons! Russians love good food. Just don't bring anything too spicy! ;)

            2. My wife is Russian, so I have some experience with this. Pickled mushrooms are a popular host gift. Also Russian chocolates - I find them insipid and bland myself, but the Russians love them. But you'll need to have access to a Russian store to find these.

              More widely available items: vodka, sure - especially Russian Standard brand from St. Petersburg (the label reads Русский стандарт). Some nice smoked fish. Really good black tea - loose, not bags.

              You might ask your friend which of these (s)he thinks they'd most appreciate.

              1. While I appreciate the sentiment that goes along wit being a good guest, do not underestimate the joy provided when one gives food gifts that are a challenge to procure-- or those which are not common to a locale.

                Seriously, if someone thought that because I lived in Scotland, all I'd want is shortbread, I might break down weeping and then resort to violence. Unless of course, you bought me whisky, in which I'd be grateful, get drunk and then resort to violence.... :)

                3 Replies
                1. re: Lizard

                  But these guys don't live in Russia, they live in San Francisco. I don't know what the Russian expat community there is like - here in Boston, it's huge (something like 30,000), so it supports a number of very good shops selling Russian products. If they don't have easy access to such products locally they may well appreciate a taste of the old country.

                  1. re: BobB

                    There is a good supply of Russian groceries available in SF.

                    1. re: BobB

                      You raise a good point that should be heeded....in the instant case, the Russians in SF are in a world that has some Russian (or Russian-like) food....and Russians in San Francisco are not exactly "new" (but there is a new group, to be sure.) Were I to go into this party without any advance warnings or advice from the family, I would do two things: take a bottle of wine, or cognac...vodka will be there already...and some flowers for the hostess---only delivered as an odd number because even numbers are for the dead--at the graveside). But a Russian party is the Definition of Hospitaly, even when the hosts have no money...when a Russian (OK, a slav) puts on a party then all worries and distinctions evaporate.

                      BTW I agree with earlier posts about pickled mushrooms and so on but, to be fair, these Russians have surely had better mushrooms than you or I can normally find. Stick to basic gifts, sit down and eat and, as I did, learn.

                  2. There are a lot of good ideas here, but I would add a note of caution: unless you know for sure that they drink, I wouldn't give them alcohol. All the Russians that I've known take drinking very seriously. This can either mean they love to drink, or think that alcohol is some great evil. Russia might be famous for its vodka consumption, but they also have the highest drinking age in Europe (21) because the temperance movement there is quite strong.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: danieljdwyer

                      +1. If the Russian expat community in SF is similar to that here in Sacramento, it will have a lot of Pentecostals, who tend to be teetotalers, and would not appreciate gifts of alcoholic beverages.

                    2. Thanks for everyone's thoughts. With everyone's collective input, I think the best thing is to bring something fresh from these parts that they can't get up there so easily. And if I can't figure out what that thing is, then I will resort to BOOZE!

                      But it was extremely informative to read about what Russians like to eat, and also makes me realize I've never had real Russian food and will now seek it out in LA. And I will definitely brush up on my Russian phrases to express my gratitude. Spasiba!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Lynndsey Rigberg

                        And maybe you could do some CH searching and find a great Russian restaurant to take them to. They could teach you lots of things, I bet.

                      2. Bagels from House of Bagels (on Geary)
                        Fancy cookies/pastries (like Rulli in Larkspur)
                        Smoked fish
                        Excellent rye bread

                        1. My vote goes to real maple syrup.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: EWSflash

                            Ooooh, that is the one thing I would NOT get. Russians don't *get* maple syrup. We eat our pancakes with sour cream or fruit preserves. I can't think of a single use for that substance that my parents would enjoy.

                            1. re: EWSflash

                              If they like maple syrup, they have easy access to it in San Francisco.

                            2. A work of Russian literature either in Russian or in translation, but don't forget flowers.

                              1. You could go the other direction and get something they couldn't get in Russia and don't know how to prepare here. For example, my friend from the Ukraine became obsessed with making artichokes. Why? Because she had never seen them before coming here and didn't know what to do with them. i have a friend from Japan who had the same experience w/artichokes. I think maple syrup is a good idea too for similar reasons.