My desire to get into Druskininkai, The balneological resort in the south-west of Lithuania matured for a very short time and took much less time than the journey itself by car at 14 hours, including the lightning-fast intersection of the Belarusian and then Lithuanian parts of the border. This time I was just lucky with the border guards.
And maybe lucky, because the weather was good, and due to this circumstance, the customs officers had a great mood.
By the way, the weather is definitely not the kind of gift that you need to go to Lithuania at the end of March, be it its south-western forest part or the seaside northeast. To say that the weather in Lithuania at this time is unstable and poorly predictable means that it is realistic to assess your prospects for opening the umbrella five times a day, alternating this process with putting on sunglasses on your nose. But in this weather inconsistency one of the charms of Lithuania itself consists.
And there are many of these charms.
As well as discoveries for the interested gastronomic tourist.
Frankly speaking, I begin my every arrival in Lithuania with a portion of famous zeppelins and a couple of mugs of not very dense dark beer. I have a ritual like that.
And more to zeppelins in the process of traveling do not return.
There are zeppelins every day boring and short-sighted. Moreover, the recipe of their preparation is so simple that this Lithuanian specialty is prepared exactly the same everywhere.
Moreover, the taste of zeppelins in Moscow restaurants is no different from the taste of zeppelins in Kaunas, Vilnius or Druskininkai.
So, if you want to pay homage to the cuisine of ancient Samogitia ritually, find an obschelitovskaya network Forte dvarаs, Taste zeppelin under a liter of very decent beer and tick yourself.
Famous Lithuanian zeppelins in Forte dvarаs
By the way, about Samogitia: a reminder of this historical cradle of Lithuanian gastronomic traditions can be found in the menu of any tourist restaurant. The trick is that if you get into an institution where reconstructed Samogitian dishes are offered, be prepared for the fact that these dishes are designed for steel stomachs of people who lived in the 16th century: everything is fatty, high-calorie and somewhat coarse. And, like any attraction for visitors, expensive.
A check for two in a historic restaurant will be at least 70 euros with wine (fortunately, not ancient), and this is very expensive for a country with very affordable prices. But such restaurants even in Vilnius — count on fingers.
For six trips to Lithuania, I found only three such places.
In this Baltic country, you are more likely to come across variations on the theme of a pan-European view of Lithuanian cuisine in the countryside: dishes with potatoes, mushrooms, cabbage and beets prevail in the menu.
For garnishes — in «Sicily«
Tourism is a very significant part of the budget of Lithuania.
And those young Lithuanians who did not go to work to their western neighbors or have already returned are building modern Lithuanian cuisine, not canceling national peculiarities, but at the same time making it tasty and interesting for gourmet tourists.
This March trip unexpectedly for me personally opened the Lithuanian «catering» from a completely different side.
“Not the season” in Druskininkai, where the local population is just over 10 thousand people, makes half of the restaurants work only from Thursday to Sunday.
But there are exceptions. The perfect exception to this “off-season” rule is a network of only two (a tiny city) restaurants with an unexpected name. Sicilia.
Both «Sicily» do not complain about the lack of guests: there are even small queues in the evening. The main dish in the menu of «Sicilian» restaurants is pizza, which pleases not only children, but also adults who are used to gastronomic cosmopolitanism.
By the way, pizza in Lithuania can do no worse than anywhere else, making a thick dough for the base offering “on request”.
Pizza — the main dish in the restaurant menu Sicilia
European-style menu is not long, there are dishes from the chef.
There is no bias towards Mediterranean cuisine. The Lithuanians apparently mixed up the stage of Paris with Nizhny Novgorod (or Kaunas). You can try everything here — from the «banal» beef steak with any degree of roasting to a complex roe deer.
The love of meat and the subtle understanding of its “essence” will be expressed precisely to the degree of roasting or languishing, which will force the Russian tourist to say “just melt in your mouth!”, And the Lithuanian citizen — sparingly, but succinctly — “hero” (good).
But completely magical side dishes have become a complete surprise, and a very pleasant one. In another way to call them even the language does not turn. The local chef and his team do unimaginable things with their national Lithuanian, seemingly so commonplace product — beetroot.
When you cannot recognize beets in a mousse that accompanies a delicately cooked piece of thick edge, you get excited.
When I finally found out — delight! Mashed corn makes a completely different look at this rather boring cereal (if you do not drive out whiskey from it, of course).
Perhaps someone at that moment had avocados with Kamchatka crabs on the plates — I didn’t see them in the menu and don’t regret it.
The truth, which has turned into an alphabetical word: in place X, it is most interesting to try a product grown in place X. Lithuanians very skillfully use the centuries-old tradition of cultivating vegetables growing in their mild but not hot climate, while not forgetting that vegetarians are among visitors cafes and restaurants is not a great many.
You can try everything in “Sicily” — both “banal” beef steak, and a complex dish of roe deer
In order to find out how tasty it is to be meat grown not in New Zealand or Argentina, and licked, surprised, wait for Thursday — the first day of the week, when a small and cozy restaurant opens Velvetti. In order for the guest not to be deceived in his expectations, to know where he is going and what awaits him, an impressive construction of empty wine bottles stands in front of the entrance.
Wine and meat — the eternal unbreakable dualism of a good evening mood. By the way, pizza is present in the menu and this restaurant.
Prepared in your presence in the furnace and served on a white craft.
I cannot say anything about taste: I did not go there then.
And I went to this place “according to the advice of friends” precisely for meat. And was not deceived.
The meat of Lithuanian bulls is completely non-marbled and aged in a chamber installed in the restaurant’s hall for dry fermentation for about a week to a month. I wanted to try the local lamb, but the lamb leg to my arrival had not yet fermented plenty, so I had to be satisfied with the beef.
I do not know whether the great artist and composer Mikalojus Ciurlionis, a native of these places, loved the local beef, but after half an hour spent above the plate, I had an inspiration like our archipiite in Boldino.
The wine list in Velvetti is small, but covers the main wine-producing countries and, importantly, almost all price categories. Democratic libations adds despenser five bottles. Although, of course, you can restrict yourself to beer.
Over the past ten years, Lithuanian brewers have gone from the “dictate” of the omnipresent Švituris and offer an insane amount of local beers that are not called craft, but in fact they are.
In front of the entrance to Velvetti, guests are greeted by an impressive construction of empty wine bottles.
Where to go, what to do in Druskin
In the off-season in Druskininkai, one can have an appetite for feeding in an aquapark and on … alpine skiing. One of the largest indoor ski centers in Europe allows you to diversify your local holiday. Imagine: overboard plus 13, inside — minus 5, shredded snow and almost no one.
So the ski season was interesting to close in Lithuania.
Here you can ride a bike or walk to the parks, looking at the squirrels. You can even drink mineral water. I really did not succeed.
Yes, I did not try.