ABOVE PHOTO: Zakuski fit for a Russian czar: Russian Standard Moscow Mule and Seared Salmon with Poppy Seed Yogurt Sauce.
Here’s a word that will soon be tripping off both foodies’ and trendinistas’ lips: zakuski. It’s Russian for “small bites,” and is the latest entry in the small-plates dining trend.
Zakuski has its roots in 19th century czarist Russia, when the wealthy served a smorgasbord of delicacies—along with their finest vodka, of course—to guests who’d traveled as long as several weeks to reach them. Each zakuska (singular) was plated separately and often served in a prescribed order, perhaps starting off with cold fish and pickles, then moving on to warm meats, and mixing things up along the way with treats like caviar or rich cheeses.
“Zakuski were originally created to pair with vodka, which is to Russians what wine is to most of Europe—a true expression of their natural bounty and character,” says cocktail consultant Dushan Zaric, who’s advised such zakuski-serving hot spots as L.A.’s Bar Marmont and New York’s Pravda and Employees Only.
The go-to vodka at Zaric’s establishments is Russian Standard Vodka—the No. 1 premium vodka in Russia—whose high quality has helped create quite a buzz across America.
Russian Standard Vodka’s distinct, bready flavor adds an extra dimension when pairing a cocktail like Zaric’s own Moscow Mule (which he serves in a branded copper mug, available at www.RussianStandardMoscow Mule.com) with a traditional Seared Salmon Zakuska. Recipes courtesy of Dushan Zaric and Julia Jaksic of Employees Only.
Seared Salmon with poppy Seed Yogurt Sauce
4–5-oz. salmon fillets
1⁄2 cup Lebanese or Greek yogurt (strained)
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. finely chopped shallot
1⁄2 tsp. chopped garlic
2 tsp. poppy seeds
2 tsp. chopped dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Place into a hot skillet and sear on each side for 4 to 5 minutes. For the yogurt sauce, mix together yogurt, vinegar, shallot, garlic, poppy seeds, dill, and salt and pepper. To plate, place yogurt on plate with salmon and dress with optional salad.
Russian Standard Moscow Mule
1½ oz. of Russian Standard Vodka
1 lime wedge
5 oz. Regatta Ginger Beer
Directions: Build cocktail over ice in your Russian Standard Copper Mug. Add Russian Standard Vodka. Squeeze a wedge of lime. Top with Regatta Ginger Beer.