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Lithuania Dinner

Vilnius, March 28, 2014

For its late spring dining event the Bailliage organised this dinner at Ida Basar Restaurant. The highlight was the opportunity to become acquainted with the cuisine of the old Lithuanian nobility.

Ida Basar is housed in a very old building in the heart of the old part of Vilnius. As well as specialising in the cuisine of the grandees of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 14th to 18th centuries, the restaurant is also a culinary heritage museum.

This museum houses some 6,000 exhibits of antique silverware, flatware, porcelain and ceramic from world-famous manufacturers such as Meissen, Rozenthal, KPM, Villeroy & Boch, Kuznecov. The principal exhibits are from the 19th and 20th centuries. These are housed in eight classical-style rooms, each decorated with antique furniture and paintings from the respective eras.

The Managing Director of Ida Basar is Henrita Kontrauskienė. Before dinner she invited the group to tour the museum. Explaining the theme for the dinner, her husband, Vaclovas Kontrauskas, said “Old Lithuanian cuisine was very diverse. There was one selection of dishes for the peasants, another for residents of the towns, yet another for the clergy. Then there was the cuisine of the nobles and royalty. The cuisine was based on “everything that grows in the garden, everything that grows in the forest”. 

For our dinner an aperitif of kvass flavoured with nutmeg and violet root was served. Titbit accompaniments were sweet horseradish mousse, kohlrabi with carp and pickled juniper berries.

For the first course a lemon flavoured borscht provoked much speculation as to its component parts. Evident was chicken broth, egg yolks, lemon juice and a fragrant hint of leafy vegetables. Not everyone was able to solve all the ingredients!

“Quail royally” was the main course. Venison, quail and pheasant stuffed with forest herbs and sorrel gratin was accompanied by a parsnip pancake and peanut sauce. This dish was chosen at random for inclusion. Using one type of meat with several others was extremely popular with the Lithuanian nobility as it was considered to be chic and royal.

With the wonderful flavours of the main course deliciously lingering on, the arrival of the dessert soon took pride of place. Champagne marzipan mousse with saffron apple slices was the epitome of luxury. Paradise Apples were immensely appreciated for their taste. So much so that only nobles and Kings could afford them. Expensive saffron had to be imported so it was only available to the rich.

With the visit and then the dinner, overall it was a spectacular evening revisiting the luxury and style of the past. Each course was prepared with great care and much thought.

Rasa Ščeponienė