What to Do: Drool at the Royal Table

For MT
If you haven't been to the Tsaritsyno park since its remodeling, the upcoming long weekend offers plenty of time to stroll the pathways, feed the ducks and visit some of the exhibits. On the third floor of Khlebny Dom (kitchen building), you can check out the 18th century cakes and centerpieces that graced the dinner table of Catherine the Great.

Feasts of Russia's royalty were largely modeled after those of the French. In fact, desserts were made for Alexander I and Napoleon by the same renowned chef, Marie-Antoine Careme. He became quite famous for his multi-level cakes, or pieces mont?es. Such cakes were reconstructed for the Tsaritsyno exhibition by French chef Laurent Bourcier who works in Moscow's Volkonsky bakery.

The dinner table of Catherine II also included up to 100 courses, all of which had to be beautifully presented. Stuffed swans and Caspian sturgeons several meters in size were extremely difficult to transport during the Russian winter but served as proof that the host was particularly wealthy. The pieces at the exhibit include pheasant and grouse displayed on tiered platters made to look like extravagant pyramids.

To recreate most of the dishes and centerpieces, Bourcier used the same ingredients as Careme: sugar, marzipan, starch, dragee and gelatin, holding them together with "glue" made of egg yolks, lemon juice, and sugar. Sugar was also the building material for the suckling pig on display.

The 18th-century cakes and table decorations were so elaborate that patissiers had to study architecture to keep them upright. Careme did this on his free time at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. As architectural styles changed over the decades, so did the cake shapes.

Contacts

Tsaritsyno Park and Museum, www.tsaritsyno-museum.ru,

1 Dolskaya Ul. M. Tsaritsyno, 321-0743

Khlebny Dom admission 100R, 20R reduced fare

Open Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekends to 7 p.m.