Category Archives: Russian

Puttin’ the Poutine in Putin (or vice-versa)

Putin with poutine

Putin with poutine

I am fully aware that this Putin/Poutine business has already been covered in various corners of the internets. Everything on the internet has been done before, a truism almost as obvious as everything in real life already happened on Seinfeld — although I don’t think either Putin or poutine ever appeared there.* In fact, the venerable William Safire addressed the Putin/Poutine etymology nearly nine years ago in the New York Times – read that for a thoroughly awesome explanation of pronunciation, derivation, etc.  Despite that, it’s all been on my mind lately thanks to current events and so here we go again.

* Ukraine did, during the famous Risk game episode, see below – at the time it was THE Ukraine.

Similarities between Putin and Poutine:
Originated in cold northern climates
Can be deceptively photogenic
Not currently available in Wheaton
Bad for you

Differences between Putin and Poutine:
Poutine is warm, Putin is cold
Putin wrestles bears, poutine wrestles your digestive tract
Poutine is swathed in delicious gravy, Putin is swathed in expensive suits and cheap rhetoric
Poutine has never worked for KGB
I wish poutine were available in Wheaton
I wish I had a nice big plate of poutine right now
When we say “poutine” we emphasize the “teen”; when we say “Putin” we emphasize the “poo”

When an intrepid Québécois journalist asked Putin a couple of weeks ago if he liked poutine, this was his reported response:

No, I do not like poutine
I do not like it, you Canadieeen!

I would not like it in my dacha
I would not like it with sriracha
I would not like it with kefir
Not even chased down with a beer

I would not like it at Bolshoi
I would not like it with Tolstoy
Not at sunrise, not at sunset
I would not like it, Нет Нет Нет

Not in Murmansk nor Lake Baikal
I do not like poutine at all
Not in Kremlin, not in Red Square
I would not like it anywhere!

No, not in an osteria
I would not like it in Crimea
I would not..…wait, I’m getting ideas.  Let’s try it in Crimea…

[private helicopter to Crimea]


Heyyyy, I do like poutine in Crimea!  This Crimea place is niiiiice.  Say, Ukraine, you don’t really need your Crimea, do you?  No?  Xорошо, I think I’ll just hold onto it for a while…

Red and Black

Finally made it to Russia House (1800 Connecticut) armed only with hunger and no clear expectations. We ate early-ish, 6:30 p.m., and only one other couple was in the downstairs dining room when we were seated promptly upon arrival. The dark baroque-meets-Brezhnev decor contrasted with the Russian pop music, it all kind of works. Our server was great, friendly and responsive and efficient but not intrusive. I liked the food too, starting with the pierogis (Russia’s answer to the empanada!), essentially puff pastry with a veal-duck-potato-mushroom filling and a creme fraiche-and-chive sauce, light and savory and quick to disappear. More puff pastry for me for main course, this time with salmon inside, also good but nothing I couldn’t easily replicate at home. Mrs. Me got the beef stroganoff, which was very good, nicely presented, and successfully walked the line between perfectly seasoned and too salty.

Russia House isn’t cheap, and I don’t know that I would hurry back for dinner, but it would be a fun place to hang out and have drinks and share some small plates, which if the pierogis are any indication is the strongest part of the menu; almost all the small plate options look enticing to me. They have the wide array of vodkas you would expect, plus some interesting beers; I enjoyed the Lithuanian Svyturis lager, billed on the menu as a pilsner but…not a pilsner. Not clear if they had to switch temporarily or if the menu is just wrong. Didn’t matter, pretty good beer.

Then we walked all the way to the Kennedy Center to see Seinfeld, stopping at the Black Rooster (1919 L Street) for a Leinenkugel special ale, well-balanced and very good. It may have a more specific name, not sure. BR is a fun dive bar, not even really that divey.

Seinfeld (and opening act Mario Joyner) was heelarious, if you like that kind of thing, which we do. Hello, Newman!