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HandleBar serves up a night of Russian culture in the Grove

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For one night, HandleBar was transformed from a favorite Grove hangout to a Russian-inspired bistro complete with white tablecloths, soft candlelight and an authentic family-style menu. The intimate setting last Monday w-2as an opportunity to celebrate the customs and culinary traditions of owner Tatyana Telnikova, who grew up in Moscow before coming to St. Louis as a teenager.
Right when guests entered the door they were welcomed by the Russian tradition of bread and salt by bar manager Keeley McGrew. The custom is a symbol of the host’s hospitality and all were offered to tear off a hunk and dip it into the salt. Guests were then handed a complex harvest cocktail anchored by barrel-aged Samogon and the juice of apples, beets and lemons. During the cocktail hour guests were free to snack on a beautiful row of hors d’oeuvres that included bread coins topped with red caviar, eggplant spread and chicken liver pâté.
Dinner began with bowls of assorted fresh pickled cucumbers and tomatoes that served as the chaser for a shot of chilled Stiletto vodka. A wonderfully rich Borsch kicked off the meal on a high note that continued with the next course of Solyanka – a Ukrainian-style stew with chicken, beef, tomato and pickles. Bright flavors were abound in the following stacked beet salad and tossed green herb salad that paved the way into the three-dish entrée course.-1
Led by chef Flynt Thompson, the kitchen staff at Handlebar was able to prepare an incredible Russian feast. As Thompson set to work on carving his brined and then spit-roasted goose stuffed with apples, the rest of the team dished up slices of a rabbit roulade wrapped in cured pork belly and filled with house-made sausage. Each plate also received a roasted baby bell pepper stuffed with turkey, pork and rice. Between rounds of applause for impromptu toasts, guests passed the accompanying sides of marinated carrots, roasted mushrooms and buckwheat with aromatic vegetables. Vodka infused with horseradish and honey was paired with the main course as a palate-cleansing sipper.
The tour of Russian cuisine ended with a traditional tea service, which was followed by a slice of apple cake studded with raisins and a pour of Stone Imperial Russian Stout.
Though touted as a one-time affair, we can only hope that HandleBar makes their family-style dinners a new tradition.
Find a few of the Russian dishes on the daily menu at HandleBar, such as the Borsch and Solyanka. Other Russian fare will also be served at Telnikova’s soon-to-open Craft Art Bar on Cherokee Street.

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