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Slowing Down for a Bite to Eat

French-American chef Michele Haines is on a tour of Russia spreading the good word about Slow Food.

Published: June 21, 2013 (Issue # 1764)



  • Storytelling is an integral part of dining with Chef Michele.
    Photo: Allison Geller / spt

  • Chef Haines believes in the merits of taking time to savor a meal.
    Photo: Allison Geller / spt

Hailing from Paris-via-Philadelphia, chef Michele Haines stopped by St. Petersburg to both teach and learn from the locals as part of a trip to promote the Slow Food movement in Russia.

Slow Food, a grassroots organization with members in 150 countries, has as its goal linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to community and the environment. More of a lifestyle than a campaign, the international movement encourages people to live and eat closer to the earth a matter of course for some, a revelation for others.

I became interested in Slow Food from their beginning in 1986, in Bra, Italy, Haines said. I believe in good health, in good, fresh, local produce, seasonal meals, organically cultivated if possible, no pesticide or chemicals.

I believe in food to be enjoyed in good company or family, taking your time.

The 71-year-old chef, who has visited as many countries, owns a French bistro, Spring Mill Cafe, outside of Philadelphia. Its a good thing she has her older son to run the restaurant when she is out of town, as Haines spends much of her time hopping around the globe, working as a personal chef, learning new cuisines and pursuing her Slow Food and charity projects.

Haines spent her days in St. Petersburg going to the market and picking out fresh produce and farmers products, eating at both new and well-established restaurants and meeting with Russias most precocious chefs and food personalities, such as food writer Maxim Syrnikov. After St. Petersburg, shell travel to Nizhny Novgorod, Moscow and Suzdal to lead workshops and demonstrations.

At a Slow Food gathering on Russia Day in the apartment of St. Petersburg Slow Food leader Svetlana Haliavina, friends and Slow Foodies gathered eagerly around the stove to watch Haines prepare an authentic Moroccan couscous and pate de foie gras. A neighbors fridge had already been borrowed to make room for the chocolate mousse that Haines had already prepared.

As people milled around, lending a hand to the cooking under the chefs watchful eye or chatting and drinking wine, a pot of the traditional Russian soup ukha simmered on a burner. Gathering around the stove and then the table, guests took part in the simple essence of Slow Food: Uniting people across cultures through the preparation and enjoyment of a meal.

Slow Food is organized into local chapters, or convivia, from the Latin word for a banquet or feast. There are now 14 convivia in Russia.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Aug. 20


AmCham gets back to business after a summer hiatus with todays EHS Committee Working Group Meeting. Check their website for more details.



Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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