La Gourmandine will take over the former Penn Avenue Fish spot on Forbes Avenue
Paraphrasing the "sacramental Russian rules for drinking" from "Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking," "Never drink solo, never drink without food, never stop shooting the [breeze]."
Salted cucumbers: Kolos International Food, the Ukranian family grocery in Carnegie, brings fresh salted Russian cucumbers with crunch and aroma from New York twice a month. They sometimes sell out, so call ahead. If no salted cukes, a good stand-in is a European cucumber, quartered lengthwise, and a sprinkle of sea salt. The cabbage: I brined shredded cabbage, letting it ferment two weeks on the kitchen counter with good results. Well-rinsed fresh kraut could be a substitute.
Pickles: Look for a good Eastern European-style pickle.
Bread: Both Pittsburgh Russian stores bring in breads from New York. Their sour gutsy rye and sweeter darker rye with any sturdy white bread make a great combo.
Fish: A holiday splurge: Penn Avenue Fish Company's (pennavefishcompany.com) hand-sliced salmon and smoked white fish could be the center of your zakuska table. Consider the drama of a whole white fish with its curving tail. We added pickled herring and whitefish salad. Salmon roe also is available. A friend made buckwheat crepes for our party -- folding whipped egg white into the batter to give them a little loft. They were to die for and not difficult. Both Russian stores have frozen blini.
Chicken liver mousse: The Thin Man Sandwich Shop (thinmansandwichshop.com) in the Strip prides itself on chicken liver, which is worth a trip.
Russian-style ham: Both Russian stores have mild ham, as does the S&D Polish Deli (sdpolishdeli.com) in the Strip.
Salo: Kiev and Kolos have the cured fatback.
Salad: We served Anya Bremzen's delicious beet "caviar" with walnuts and prunes. The Olivier salad should be added -- symbol of so much Soviet-era nostalgia in Ms. Von Bremzen's book. You can buy the real deal Russian mayo, "Provensal," the Olivier's defining ingredient, at Kiev.
Essential: Lots of fresh dill, hard-cooked egg, chopped purple onion, small boiled potatoes, sour cream. Stir some horseradish in your mustard, and you're set. Recipes below.