Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lithuanian Beer and Bread--in San Francisco!

This week, we have asked Morgan Kulla, a retired Foreign Service Officer who served in Vilnius in 2010 and now lives in San Francisco, to share with us the inside scoop on Lithuanian food and beer in California. It's not a coincidence that we want to talk about beer: Don Russell aka Joe Sixpack, an award-winning beer writer, will be traveling Lithuania and advancing beer diplomacy this week -- but that, of course, is a completely separate story. 
Morgan Kulla:
I first came to Lithuania in 2010 for a short assignment in the Public Affairs Section at the Embassy.  In addition to everything else, I loved the bread and the beer.  When I went home to San Francisco, missing all things Lithuanian, imagine my surprise to find a selection of Lithuanian breads and several types of Lithuanian beer – all within blocks of my house! I have introduced many friends to my favorite Lithuanian bread sold here: Vilnius Amber Rye.
I live in the Richmond District of San Francisco, a destination for successive waves of Russian (and other eastern European) immigrants for almost a hundred years, since just after the Bolshevik revolution. There are numerous restaurants, bakeries, video shops, bookstores, etc. with products from eastern Europe. And apparently Russian-Americans like Lithuanian foods and beer because most of the shops carry some Lithuanian products.
I plan to come back to Lithuania soon, and to surprise my friends in Vilnius, this week I decided to do an informal survey of Lithuanian foods – at least bread and beer - available in my neighborhood.

The Gastronom Café and Deli on Geary at 22nd Avenue has three Lithuanian beers by Svyturys: Ekstra Premium Lager Beer, Dark Red Baltijos, and my fav White Baltas. They cost $2.69 plus tax, coming to just under $3 each. That day they also had one Lithuania bread “Borodinsky” from Vilnius, and even one from Latvia “Hanza Klasiska Saldskamaize.”
Europa Plus on Geary at 18th Avenue is where I usually buy my Lithuania breads. They had three types this week, all only $3.99 each:  “Borodino” (Borodinsky), Vilnius, and Palanga Caraway Rye. 
“European Food” on Clement Street at 32nd Avenue has some Lithuanian cheeses. One of the staff told me recently that their Russian-speaking clients like Lithuanian cheese the best.
Europa Express on La Playa between Balboa and Cabrillo, just next to the Great Highway and Ocean Beach, had six Lithuanian beers this week. Their Lithuanian bottled beers on the shelf were: Utenos Porter, regular Utenos, and Svyturys Premium Lager, Ekstra Draught, White Baltas, and Dark Red Baltijos. They also had three breads from Vilnius: Caraway Rye, Vilnius, and Borodinsky. Plus another Latvian bread “Klasiska Rudzu Maize.”
The Russian Deli on Geary at 10th Avenue, also had two or three breads from Lithuania. You can find more on Internet on these and many similar grocer/deli shops, which may carry foods and beer from Lithuania. I know for sure that the five shops mentioned above have Lithuanian goodies.  Food can truly open doors to another culture and bring people together in unmediated appreciation of taste and smell. And anyone can be a food diplomat: just talk about what you love and share a bite or a drink!