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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Food Fest Serves Art On a Dish

According to Moscow's first historical chronicle, the founder of the future capital, Prince Yury Dolgoruky, invited a neighboring prince to visit. The Kremlin was not built yet and there was nothing much to show -- so why?

Mayor Yury Luzhkov's guess is that his ancient namesake had asked his peer round for a gourmet treat.

"Moscow has always been famed for its glorious feasts," Luzhkov said Thursday at the opening of the Moscow Christmas Festival of Culinary Art. "Our cookery specialists carry on these centuries-old traditions ... they are artists, magicians and masters."

Reviving Russia's culinary tradition is the stated goal of the festival, the first in the series of events dedicated to the 850th anniversary of Moscow's founding by Dolgoruky.

Thursday's opening brought together culinary marvels created by the best chefs from more than 50 restaurants, cafes and culinary schools around the city, as well as guests from 22 regions of Russia. It is slated to be an annual event.

The festival turned into a colorful event with a craft fair, cooks in chefs' hats reading poetry about borshch and pelmeni, and a concert featuring comedian Gennady Khazanov, who began his career as an unsuccessful student cook.

The main attraction, however, was a set of spacious rooms on the second floor, where tables bent under the weight of victuals displayed for the contest. In one room, actors dressed in the gilded clothes of medieval noblemen milled around as if at a feast laid on by Ivan the Terrible.

The second room looked like an illustration to Vladimir Gilyarovsky's novel "Moscow and Muscovites," peppered with depictions of scenes from the city's 19th-century inns.

The most popular foods on display were sturgeon and suckling pigs, stuffed with mushrooms and garnished with caviar or pickles. Baskets made of braided bread held pies with various fillings. Edible churches towered here and there -- a multicolored St. Basil's, a snow-white Kolomna and a couple of Christ the Saviors.

Singer Iosif Kobzon said Russian cooks are particularly good because they went through a hardening school of food deficits, when they had to make "something from nothing."

"This exhibit is a work of art, and people should know what our chefs are able cook for them at a restaurant," Kobzon said.

On Friday, the winners will receive 26 different awards from the mayor and his department of consumer market and services.