"Even in Russia, Russian food has a negative connotation," says Bonnie Morales, chef and owner of the Soviet-inspired restaurant Kachka in Portland, Oregon. "In Moscow the streets are lined with sushi restaurants." But now a slew of Russian—and Ukrainian and Georgian—restaurants and cookbooks are popularizing this heritage in the US. For instance, when Maia Acquaviva opened the Georgian restaurant Oda House in New York City three years ago, "my friends and family told me, 'People don't even know where Georgia is,'" she says. That didn't matter. Her khachapuri adjaruli—a bread filled with melted cheese and a runny egg—became a minor sensation.
Why is Russian and other Eastern European food popular now? For one thing, many of today's food trends—bone broths, no-waste, fermentation, pickles—are integral to these cuisines. Ukrainian chef and cookbook author Olia Hercules, for example, grew up eating the fermented foods that are catching on in the US, but, she says, "I never thought of it as a health thing. We never said, 'This is going to make you so probiotically active.'" Morales, for her part, believes that interest in Nordic cuisine is "a nice little springboard" toward countries farther east. "There are lots of similar ingredients and philosophies," she says. In terms of flavors, "Russia is kind of like the last frontier."
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