|Euro Foods, Charleston, S.C.|
From Russia with Love, Euro Foods by Sandy Lang
A smiling bear of a man, Alexander “Sasha” Pavlichenko lifts link sausages and blocks of farm cheese from refrigerated cases, speaking in Russian or English, depending on the customer. Pavlichenko is the Ukraine-born co-owner of Euro Foods on Ashley River Road in West Ashley. Opened just before Christmas two years ago at one end of a building of professional offices, the small store is easy to pass by. However, once inside, the feel is that of a neighborhood grocery, but with Cyrillic lettering on the food labels, wall posters, and deli chalkboard.
Aromas of coffee brewing and dark chocolates wrapped in foil give the three-aisle store a cozy feel, and every week or two, the stock is refurbished with shipments from distributors in Atlanta, New York, and New Jersey. Packaged foods and beverages (including wine and beer) are made in Russia, Georgia, the Ukraine, Latvia, the Republic of Moldova, and other former Soviet countries. There are also many products on the shelves and in the refrigerated cases that are made in the U.S. but in Russian or Eastern European style. Among the most popular, Pavlichenko says, are the cakes from the Kiev Russian Bakery in Brooklyn. Individually made and decorated, each is frozen and boxed with elaborate icing and ingredient lists, like the “Princessa” with meringue, nuts, lemon soufflé, and chocolate cream.
Euro Foods also stocks rye breads and other dense, dark loaves from Russian and Ukrainian bakeries in New York. And Pavlichenko always orders several of the long loaves with a thick and sugary poppy seed filling. “These are so good,” he says. But then, in his thick accent, he relates the story of a college student who bought one, ate the whole thing, and later got a positive result on a drug test, blamed on the poppy seeds. (Euro Foods also carries candy bar-sized chocolate-covered pieces of poppy cheesecake in the freezer-, which are deliciously worth the risk.)
The delicacies here seem particularly suited to cool weather and holidays: smoked sprats in fancy black cans from Latvia; plum and pomegranate wines from Georgia and Armenia; and boxes as big as Monopoly games filled with dark chocolate candies and decorated with paintings of Czar Nicholas. As if a shopper could possibly have any doubt, Pavlichenko often assures people, “This is very special!”
He advises which foods taste good with a little vodka, and if you ask, he will package up some of the sour tomatoes, whole brined herring, or crunchy pickles that he buys in bulk and keeps in a cooler in the back room. So far, though, not many American customers have asked for those. It’s the same story with some of the beverages, like the Ukraine-made malt drink, KBAC, which features an image of a monk on the label, and the bright green bottles of anise-flavored TAPXYH from Russia. Then there’s Borjomi, a Georgian mineral water first bottled in 1890 that he says was standard issue for soldiers and tastes almost salty. “Drink this,” he says, “and it’s like having a little bit of Russian history.”
Euro Foods (Russian, German, Latvian, Georgian, and Bulgarian)
1727 Ashley River Rd. Charleston (843) 571-1451