If you’re looking for wine, Moldova is waiting for you. For the last 25 million years (give or take a few), grapes have been growing in the region, ripe for the juicing. There’s even evidence that, if you were to travel back in time about 5,ooo years ago, you could meander through vineyards sipping wine from cultivated grapes. Not out of glass, perhaps, but you’d be sippin’-happy all the same.
Thankfully, you don’t have to travel back 5,000 years to enjoy a good selection of Moldovan wine. Simply amble over to “Mileştii Mici,” the world’s largest wine cellar located in central Moldova.
Trust me, one bottle won’t be missed. Spread over hundreds of miles of cellars you’ll find approximately five million bottles.
What would you fill 5 million bottles with?
Wine is so integrated into the Moldovan culture, many people make table wine in their very own kitchens. They serve it up with an array of food that is unique with bits of Russian, Turkish, Greek, and German influence.
For starters, there’s all manner of stuffed vegetables – peppers, zucchini [Recipe], and cabbage – either heaped with meat or vegetable fillings. Many dishes are loaded with garlic (seemingly a national favorite). I also noticed quite a bit of the food is enjoyed cold – especially meats. Even a deep fried piece of breaded chicken or pork will usually end up on a chilled platter.
The ultimate example of Moldova’s love for cold savory food is chicken (sometimes rooster meat) cooked and preserved in its own gelatin (called Răcituri). We’re talking savory chicken jello. While the presentation is usually a far cry from fancy, I ran across a festival all about these meaty jello dishes – where they become elaborate still lives, including such oddities as frogs floating in a sea of meaty gelatin, surrounded by green onion towers. Hello.
Moldova can’t be mentioned without discussing mamalgia [Recipe]. Just about every dish is served with mamalgia, cheese, and sour cream. Mamalgia is essentially super dense polenta – so thick it can be sliced like bread. There are numerous variations – stuffed, fried, and even baked in the embers of a campfire.
Enjoy it all with a happy helping of pickled veggies [Recipe] and preserved fruits, and you’ll be in Moldova in no time.
Just don’t forget the wine.