Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Armenia: The Four Things You Must Try

Dinner at Afrikyanneri Pankok restaurant in Yerevan

Before I went to Armenia, I was told by Georgians there were four things I must try:
  1. Tolma
  2. Cognac
  3. Sujuk or basturma - types of sausage, with the latter being quite peppery
  4. Go to Lake Sevan
None of these Georgians had actually been in Armenia, mind you, but they had their recommendations nonetheless.

On our first day in Armenia, Kathy and I were able to tick three things off the list:

Yerevan is filled with basement restaurants and clubs. By chance, we selected the Afrikyanneri Pandok restaurant, which has been in business since 1829 or so.  At least according to a sign.

Dinner at Afrikyanneri Pankok restaurant in Yerevan

The interior was castle-ish and intimate. An oxymoron, I know.

There were musicians.

Dinner at Afrikyanneri Pankok restaurant in Yerevan

A variety of bread was served. I thought it was just so-so, though it looked delicious.

The tolma tasted good, though I find the Georgian version, whether wrapped in grape or cabbage leaves, to be just as fine.

Kathy deemed the hummus the best she'd ever had. 

Dinner at Afrikyanneri Pankok restaurant in Yerevan

The salad Kathy ordered had a delicious yogurt-and-cheese dressing that I thought was the best part of the entire meal. But we both loved the fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and parlsey. Winter in Georgia makes one long for such garden-brightness. Locavority be damned sometimes.

Kathy and I finished our dinner with two different kinds of cognac: Ararat and Ani. Not being a connoisseur, my humble opinion is that they tasted like a very smooth tcha-tcha, with a pleasing amber color. For my money, I'd just go with a good tcha-tcha. 

After dinner, we walked back to Center Hostel, noting that Yerevan's pavement was not as treacherous as that in Georgia.

We stopped at a corner market.

Corner market in Yerevan

I bought a sujuk, which the proprietor sliced for me.

Sujuk from Armenia

I also bought a smallish bag of tiny spiced crackers and two of what Kathy and I thought were dried fruit - maybe peaches or oranges.

Herb in corner market, Yerevan

We climbed the four floors to our hostel and chatted awhile with the warm hostess, Suzanne. Kathy speaks some German and so does Suzanne, so they were able to communicate fairly effectively, Kathy keeping me apprised of the conversation. I shared some of the Gori wine I'd brought with me (which Mariami had given to me on that glorious, rainy day where we picnicked in a Fiat), and we cut into the dried fruit.

Which turned out to be a peach packed with sugar and chopped walnuts. To me, it was like eating a tablespoon of sugar (not a tasty experience), but Kathy, who loves sweets, liked it.  I'm still not sure how all of this sugar/walnuts got into the peach, but I think it involved boiling the peach for a long time, and then .... I dunno.

Presently our tasty day was complete.  We got into our respective bunk beds, under the most soothing-swaddling of duvets and the simple pleasure of not having to wear socks to bed! What freedom!

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