The night before last, several people connected with the “Ratio” science event repaired to one of the two most famous “local cuisine” (i.e. Bulgarian) restaurants in Sofia: a place called “Under the Linden Tree,” which of course is nearly the name of a famous street in Berlin. Below you can see the restaurant from the outside after it became dark. Built to resemble a traditional Bulgarian home, it’s is on several levels, and entirely paneled in wood on the inside.
To begin, a traditional Bulgarian beer: this is a Stolichno white beer, and though it is made of wheat, it’s darker than American wheat beers. Accompanying it is the traditional Bulgarian hard liquor, rakia. It comes in several flavors (peach, apple, grape, and so on), but this is the traditional one distilled from grapes. It was surprisingly tasty and smooth.
I suppose this is the Bulgarian equivalent of a beer and a shot.
To begin, two heaping platters (for the eight of us) of the most famous Bulgaraian salad, shopska. It’s made with Bulgarian feta cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other stuff; you can find the recipe here. Delicious!
With the shopska came a heaping plate of various spreads for bread, which you can also eat on their own. They included cucumber/cheese spread, pepper spread, eggplant spread, and another I couldn’t identify. They were all scrumptious:
You can also dunk the bread (delicious, served warm, and made in house) into a dry mixture of various spices, which is supposedly secret. There is salt and cumin, but I couldn’t identify the other flavors. Here’s Vassi showing me how to do it:
There was also shish kebab for the table: chicken and grilled vegetables. The roasted onions were to die for:
Vassi also recommended (at the waiter’s suggestion) a special stewed pork dish with wild mushrooms and potatoes. It was great, but I could barely finish it after chowing down on the bread, spreads, shashleek (shish kebab) and salad:
The dinner was accompanied at intervals by traditional Bulgarian music: a man playing a Bulgarian bagpipe made from goatskin, and accompanied by a wonderful folk singer with an eerie, nasal voice. (I took a film of this and will put it up when I return.
And there were three desserts. First, a cake made with yogurt and fresh peaches:
A Bulgarian equivalent of baklava: crunchy, syrup-covered pastry filled, I was told, with loukom (Turkish delight):
Finally, what is called “dried yogurt with fruit,” which was a very concentrated yogurt (probably left in cheesecloth to let the water drip out) covered with local berries and served in a clay pot (I’ve scraped the berries aside so you can see it). The yogurt was very thick and concentrated, much richer and heavier than the Greek yogurt one buys in the U.S.
Needless to say, the only utterance I could make after this feed was, “Oy, am I full!”
What a dinner!