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Russian Tea
Russian Cafe ''SAMOVAR'' 2004
Restaurant owner opens door to village of Nikolaevsk
By McKibben Jackinsky
Homer Tribune Wednesday, April 3, 2002

The tiny picturesque village of Nikolaevsk sits on the edge of the Kenai Peninsula's Caribou Hills, a popular snowmachining area nine miles easet of Anchor Point. The Samovar Café and Gift Shop sit on the edge of Nikolaevsk. Anyone wanting a taste of Russian cooking can sit at the counter surrounding owner Nina Fefelov's kitchen and sample from a variety of tasty dishes.
Softly played recorded Russian music and life-sized Matryoshka doll, painted by Fefelov, welcome guests into the dining room. The gift shop, which shares the same room, is filled with a collection of red, gold and black lacquered dishes and spoons. Babushkas, or scarves, are draped across tables and chairs, their brilliant reds and brightly-flowered prints fill the room with color. Jewelry, clothing, smaller Matryoshka dolls, photographs and books from Russia set the stage for a menu of authentic foods.
Fefelov, her Russian mixing with English, will gladly describe the different dishes and list the variety of ingredients. In spite of the resulting wide range of flavors, all the selections share one common ingredient.
''Love,'' she says, laughing.
The guest book, which can be read while waiting for the meal to be served, is filled with signatures and addresses from across the United States. There are compliments about the food, but mostly there are notes of appreciation to Fefelov for her warm and generous hospitality.
Borsch comes out of the kitchen steaming hot. The soup is thick with cabbage, beets, potatoes, tomatoes and celery. A spiral of sour cream and a sprinkling of dill float on its surface.
''This keeps people together,'' Fefelov claims of the soup's popularity.
And the slices of hearty whole wheat bread baked by her husband, Dennis, are a good excuse to keep diners asking for more of the tasty soup.
Piroshoks are dumplings that can be filled with meat or made to fit a vegetarian diet by stuffing them with rice, mushroom and vegetable mixture. Pelimeny are Siberian dumplings filled with beef and boiled in chicken broth ''until they float.'' As with the borsch, sour cream and dill make a perfect topping.
As satisfying as all that may be, Fefelov will still encourage sampling her cream puff dessert, topped with cherries, chocolate, and whipped cream.
After dinner, cups of Russian tea, a mild mixture of raspberry, strawberry, mint and fireweed blossoms, prove a perfect finale.
Guests are also offered the opportunity to slip into a Russian shirt or dress and don a scarf or fur hat for photos.
And if the food is too good, the service too warm and the scenery too beautiful to leave, overnight accommodations are available.
Nikolaevsk was settled in the summer of 1968, by five families whose ancestors fled Russia some one hundred years ago.
Many of the residents speak an archaic form of the Russian language that is familiar to descendants of Russian families from other areas of the Kenai Peninsula.
Fefelov is an electrical engineer from Khabarovsk, in the Russian Far East. She has lived in Nikolaevsk for 10 years and teaches the Russian language at Nikolaevsk School.
Samovar'' Cafe and Gift Shop is open
10 a.m.-10 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
It is a good idea to call ahead, (907) 235-6867.
web site: russiangiftsnina.com