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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Prêt-à-Porter Food Shopping
by Linda Lippner

Most of us expats have heard of or even been to, the new Yevropeyskiy shopping mall near Kievskaya train station. Until recently, most nonboutique Euro-style shopping was only to be found on the edges of Moscow. Not the greatest location for inner city folk who aspire to a certain upscale lifestyle that doesnt include a Lexus SUV with a driver or even a friend with a Lada. Yes, you can catch the metro and then a shuttle bus to IKEA or Marktkauf and the adjacent stores, but what do you do with all the packages getting off the metro on the trip home? And grocery shopping? For most of us in the inner city the corner produkty or kiosk does the trick between trips to rynoks or the Ramstore near the apartment.

But while window shopping at the Yevropeyskiy Mall - since real shopping is not a viable option for me there - I ran into a friend on her way to do her weekly grocery shopping at the mall! Grocery shopping at the most elegant shopping venue in the city? Yes, indeed, my friend said. Its down in the basement. How appropriate, since the Prt--Porter section that has just opened on the first level would not tolerate being adjacent to canned goods and the smoked fish section of the Perekrestok store that has set up shop on the ground level. So, after checking out the price on a skimpy little cotton blouse (6,000 rubles), I followed her down to the grocery store. And what a treat! The selection of foods from around the world is pretty darn good down there. Perhaps not as huge as the big box stores out at the mega malls, but suitable for my pared down spring and summer diet fare. And then my friend gave me a tour of the neighborhood food stores that were working to keep the oligarch and his wife with the Lexus SUV as loyal customers.

My favorite was the newly expanded version of Azbuka Vkusa which took over the store space from an Arbat Prestige. There you can get pomegranate seeds already plucked out of the pomegranate and ready to eat in a little plastic container. Or artfully cut and arranged fresh tropical fruit stacked like little colorful jewels in their plastic container. The next best thing to a store employee standing beside you giving you the requisite clear plastic bags to slip your veggies and fruits into, were bags pulled off the usual roll, and artistically arranged in a container ready for you to plop your purchases into. While your driver or mate sits it out at the coffee or wine bar (well, maybe not your driver at the wine bar), you can easily shop and spend several hundred dollars among the tastefully arranged display cases. What a pleasure to buy my yogurt or freshly caught fish, knowing that I might get out of the store with my credit card balance not seriously threatened. And I could feel good about my shopping habits; food bought for my health and well-being, instead of a 6,000 ruble summer blouse!

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