There are so many desserts at Pirogovyj Dvorik (Пироговый дворик) that ordering can become quite overwhelming. Luckily, I’ve been eating lunch there with my friends three to four times a week every week since the beginning of the semester. That means I’ve already eaten there about 40 times. And although it’s still early December, I know that I’ll only eat five to nine more lunches there before I leave. This will naturally lead to further urgency at each remaining visit as I strive to try every dessert at least once while I’m here. The complications are compounded by the fact that some of the desserts that I’ve already had are so good that I just want to get them again. But the fear of missing an even better dessert compels me ever onward.
The first dessert to become one of my favorites is the “potato cake” картофельный пирог, which looks much more like a potato than it tastes, since it in fact does not contain any potato. In reality it consists primarily of cookie crumbs, sweetened condensed milk, and butter, often with a splash of rum (which is likely what led me at first to associate these truffles with marzipan). They were popularized in the fifties, when ingredient shortages led cooks to try to scrape something together with the scraps left over after making cakes and cookies. Further evidence that the potato cake is a top-notch dessert: our phonetics professor also considers it her favorite sweet.
My next favorite dessert was the “strawberry-tvorog dessert” клубнично-творожный десерт. Tvorog is a Slavic soft cheese, and it is unclear whether it differs in any way whatsoever from quark or cottage cheese. Thanks to the tvorog, this, too, is a satisfactorily Russian dessert. Although it’s not as provident as either the fruit salad or the fruit smoothie (in terms of both economy and, I imagine, nutrition), the strawberry-tvorog dessert is nonetheless one of the tastiest and most filling desserts offered at Pirogovyj Dvorik.
Lately I’ve been trying the various cakes and sweet pirogs, which I avoided early on out of fear of overspending on lunches. Later I realized that even a banquet of soup, salad, two pirogs, tea, and a slice of cake only costs six or seven dollars; that is, about three times less than it would in the US. It was important to get started early on the cakes so I could space them out more, since I would feel guilty if I ate a piece of cake every day. And trying all these new desserts also consistently gives me something new to talk about during the third class of the day, when the memory is still fresh in my mind and my mouth.
By: Dylan Charter
Program: Advanced Russian Language & Area Studies Program, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Term: Fall 2019