Thursday, June 18, 2009

Would you like a glass of Kvas?

Ken enjoys the foods of the world. When he's not eating sashimi, or feasting on blazing hot Indian curry, you might find him searching for other wild gustatory pleasures.

We live only a few miles from a neighbourhood populated primarily by Russian immigrants. Of course they import their favourite foods from the motherland. Family-owned stores like "Yummy Market" stock smoked salmon; deep brown rye breads; and chocolate-covered marshmallows. Also, they offer Kvas.

Kvas, spelled Kbac in the Cyrillic alphabet, is a fizzy beverage. According to one website it's as popular in Russia as Coca-cola is in America. The ingredients: Dark rye bread crumbs, filtered water, yeast, sugar, and raisins. Actually that's only one possible variation on Kvas, but you get the picture. It's a lot more different from Coke than Pepsi is, lemme tell you. Blind taste test? You'd have no trouble telling the difference. At all.

Because Kvas is fermented, the bubbles don't have the familiar carbonated look and mouth-feel that we're used to in a soda. It's more like the head on a mug of beer.

And the taste... What can I say about the taste?

The first time Ken brought home Kvas, it looked legit. The 2-litre bottle was the same shape as a normal pop bottle, and the label was nice: glossy, 2-colour, well-designed. That Kvas went down pretty smoothly with a twist of lemon and a couple of ice cubes. I like the taste of malt. I rarely get to enjoy it anymore since it's usually offered in a milky base (Ovaltine, malted milkshakes, etc) so I enjoyed this refreshing, malt beverage.

Yesterday Ken brought home more Kvas. This time Yummy Market was sold out of the brand with the pretty blue label. Ken was advised by a gruff Russian man who was minding the store: "You like Kvas? You take this one. This the BEST Kvas. All Russians like this Kvas."

He gave Ken a bottle that looked like it had been filled in someone's unfinished basement from a rusty vat. The label was slapped on crookedly. Ken, being game to try almost anything foodwise, bought it, and brought it home.

He poured some into a glass for a taste test. We sniffed it. It had a definite "potting soil" aroma, with a whiff of "sewage treatment plant". We checked the expiry date. "It's good until July," said Ken. "Unless they meant July 2008." We decided that we would trust the Russian proprietor, which was pretty bold of us, I think. Only last month I read a book about all the different methods used by Russian special services agents to assassinate politically inconvenient people. They are expert in poisons.

However, I didn't think Yummy Market would want to lose a customer. I took a sip, and tried to decide if I liked it or not. It was right on the line between "interestingly good" and "disgusting". I took a closer look at the bottle and became alarmed.

"What are those chunks floating in there?" I asked Ken.

"Those are the raisins," he said.

Oh right, the raisins.

In the end, I drank most of my Kvas with dinner, although I was somewhat frightened by it. It's been almost 24 hours now with no ill effects, I'm happy to report. But I think next time we'll go back to the Kvas with the pretty, blue label, the one that the gruff Russian turned his nose up at. If that's Kvas for wimps, then I'll be a wimp. I don't need any hair on my chest, thanks.


darcsfalcon said...

Ah, your hubby and you are brave souls in my book!

Let me put it this way - I was in my 30's before I would even try a tomato. 'Nuff said! :D

~**Dawn**~ said...

I'm sorry...raisins in your beverage?? You are a brave brave woman. ;-)

darcknyt said...

Wow, you've got courage. I wouldn't drink anything like that. And I bet your hubby likes you better without hair on your chest too. Just a guess.

powdergirl said...

Whoa, lady there is steel in your spine! I'm descended from 100 % Russian immigrants and you couldn't get Kvas past my teeth with a sledge hammer!

Nice read though, thanks : )

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Hmmmm... interesting. Where could one find Kvas in Ohio??? LOL

unsigned said...

Kvas? Sounds like a Klingon beverage.

Probably goes good with Gach!

Karen said...

Interesting. I am not an adventurous eater/drinker to that extent. Good Bless the two of you. I will not drink anything with malt and chunks. ;-)

wigsf said...

Raisin bread juice... You drank rainsin bread juice.

First off, raisins are disgusting. It's like you take a grape, remove anything about the grape that makes it tasty and you're left with this shrivelled grape carrion.

Then, to put those raisins to use as part of some concoction of rye bread juice. No. No no no no no. NO!

LL Cool Joe said...

You are brave, or maybe just stupid. ;)

I didn't even drink the water when we were in Italy. Mind you I did drink all the booze, even this dodgy looking lemom liquor.

SoMi's Nilsa said...

I love how experimental you two are with your foods! I should probably find a Russian grocery store, too, since my ancestors are from Kiev (technically, Ukraine, but I'm sure there are plenty of similarities). Just last week, we tried Ethiopian with some friends - great experience!

NicoleB said...

Oh boy - that sounds like a little adventure :D

Sparkling Red said...

darcsfalcon: I personally witnessed a woman in her mid-twenties taste a raw tomato for the first time in her life. She thought it was disgusting!

Dawn: I expected there to be ground up raisin paste diluted into the drink, not whole raisins floating around. I guess it's kind of like Bubble Tea, but not.

darcknyt: He doesn't even want hair on his own chest.

powdergirl: And here I was going to claim that my liking for Kvas is because I'm 75% Russian. You disproved my theory! ;-)

Ron: Heck, why go looking for it when you can make it yourself? There are plenty of recipes on the internet.

Unsigned: Good point. I'm sure Lt. Worf would like it.

Karen: We are all adventurous in our own ways. I won't get behind the wheel of a car, but I'll drink stuff that others wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole.

wigsf: A raisin hater, eh? I don't have anything against raisins, although I find they're often used as a healthy and much less enjoyable substitute for chocolate chips. In this case, I don't suppose having chocolate chips in the mix would have been any better.

LL Cool Joe: While I was drinking my Kvas with dinner I did consider how stupid I'd feel if it ended up making me sick. It was pretty sketchy, with the hand-done packaging and the slight sewage smell.

Nilsa: According to my Google results, Ukranians also drink Kvas, imported from Russia. I'd love it if you'd find it and give it a try. That would be a blog worth reading! ;-)

Nicole: Yup - see why Torontonians don't need to travel? We have the whole world right in our city. :-)

Aurora said...

I'll take the first Kvas you had! but not the second!!