Just like at our own tables, Easter in Russia is celebrated with a massive feast. But due to an Orthodox calendar, the holiday rarely falls on the same day as our Western one. This Sunday the two will coincide for the first time in many years, providing the perfect excuse to bring something different to your Easter meal. Los Angeles has remarkable Russian bakeries, restaurants, and delis, though such sights as chain-smoking seniors with grim reaper patches on their bomber jackets often steer non-natives away. So where can the adventurous diner find easy Russian Easter eats this year?
We suggest Sunset Blvd.'s Grandma's Deli, AKA Babushka, which could justifiably be described as the Russ and Daughters of Russian Hollywood. Gorgeous spreads of sausage, tongue meat, smoked fish, Golubtsi (meat-stuffed cabbage rolls), and pickled everything gleam from glass cases, while storekeepers are welcoming, even smiling on occasion. Screaming both "springtime" and "Easter" at us is a smoked whole chicken balanced on top of the display, above very affordable smoked salmon and red caviar, with plenty of Ryazhenka (baked yogurt) and Kvas to back them. Since you can see everything yourself and some of the staff speaks a little English, this is one of the more accommodating (and gorgeous) stores in the neighborhood to get your feet wet.
A few doors down past Troyka restaurant and the biggest assemblage of nicotine addicts L.A. has rallied in thirty years, Golden Wheat Bakery has its shelves stacked with kulich, which along with the cheese desert paska we never seem to find here, is Russia's signature Easter pastry. This bready cone is made of a sweet yeast and typically comes studded with fruit, nuts, candied citrus, and raisins, though it is much better than fruitcake and cheaper. Babushka's variety might be made with more consideration, but Golden Wheat has several different varieties, along with fresh rye and Armenian flatbreads. If you're having problems communicating what you need, pointing is acceptable. Bringing a little Russian tradition to your holiday is easy in L.A., at least easier than telling everyone "Христос воскресе!" all day.
Grandma's Deli: 7300 W Sunset Blvd. Hollywood 323-851-2312
Golden Wheat Bakery: 7300 West Sunset Blvd. Hollywood 323-876-3932