When foreigners come to Russia, their first and last gastronomic impressions of the country are usually pancakes, caviar and vodka. In order to destroy, but rather to supplement and diversify these taste “cliches”, in order to correctly present the national cuisine at the international level and in order to make gastronomic tourism an integral part of a visit to Russia, President Hotel has developed The Tastes of Russia series of dinners. It was about them that we talked with Liana Antonova, the marketing director of President Hotel of the Administrative Department of the President of the Russian Federation.
Evgenia: Please tell us about the idea of The tastes of Russia?
Liana: The tastes of Russia project is designed to show both the whole variety of cuisine of this country and the capabilities of our hotel itself. The purpose of these dinners is to introduce our guests to the traditional Russian courses in a modern interpretation. For a Russian guest, these dinners are an original gastronomic experience when you try a taste familiar from childhood in a new, completely unexpected combination. For a foreigner, the dinners are a unique opportunity to get acquainted with Russian food and spices, because it is hardly possible to be able to do that anywhere else.
We have analyzed a large study of Booking.com, where the top 40 largest cities of the world were ranked by their attractiveness to tourists: New York City, Moscow, Istanbul, Dubai were assessed in terms of culture, nightlife, friendliness, gastronomy and so on. It was pleasant to perceive that in many respects, Moscow is one of the leaders of the rating, but the food aspect was always inferior. And then we decided to set ourselves a very ambitious task – improving the position of Moscow and Russia as a whole in the foreign market of gastronomic tourism.
The concept of modern Russian cuisine has not yet been clearly formed. A traditional and already obsolete concept exists: “Russia is borsch, cheese pancakes, and pickled products.” But this is a standard, rather narrow, stereotypical set. After all, in addition to pancakes, we have plenty of other options: just take buckwheat porridge with boletus mushrooms, and you will be surprised at the interest with which it is perceived by tourists.
With these dinners we want to show how, on the basis of traditional, local food products, it is possible to create modern, complex, really interesting and conceptual courses, to form new culinary bases, and how to promote them internationally.
Evgenia: Each particular dinner is a new gastronomic story, an experimental story in many respects. What is its basis?
Liana: For each dinner our chief, Semyon Zharkikh, creates a separate menu. The composition is built around products traditional for one of the Russian regions. For example, the menu of our northern dinner included both king crab, and sea hedgehogs from Murmansk. Cooks develop different versions of courses, and ways of serving them, in order to present something interesting, unique, and offbeat. And, of course, national wines are added to the gastronomic heritage of the region.
Evgenia: And how does the spoilt Moscow public perceive our wines?
Liana: Enormous attention is currently paid to the development of the national wine-making, and most of our guests already know and appreciate wines of the Krasnodar region and Crimea.
Separately, it is worth noting how exquisitely wines are combined with courses. The person responsible for the selection of wines to our dinners is Alexei Mitrofanovsky, our director of restaurant services, the to-class sommelier: he prepares unique wine selections.
Evgenia: And how do you choose the theme for dinner?
Liana: We try to develop dinner menus together with chefs of well-known restaurants and we devote a theme to an area in gastronomy. For example, we had an evening of gastrobotany. And quite recently we had a “Dinner à la President”: we presented a selection of courses on the basis of the preferences of top officials of foreign states who stayed in President Hotel. In addition to the gastronomic component, we have an art part as well. within the framework of The tastes of Russia, we had a National Geographic exhibition and an exhibition of modern painting.
Evgenia: What awaits those courses that were created specifically for The tastes of Russia?
Liana: The positions that have gathered a lot of positive feedback during an evening are included into a special offer from the chef. They will be served in our bar and restaurant in a test mode. And then the courses that won the special love of the guests will be transferred to the main menu. Because we infinitely cherish the experiences of our guests. Many of them still remember the amazing carpaccio of porcini mushrooms. And this is fantastically pleasant and truly valuable and suggests that we are moving in the right direction. It is important for us to make our guests fall in love with our hotel, our city and our country.
Author || Evgenia Plokhikh