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Beyond borscht: a food tour of Russia

There’s much more to Russian cuisine than sour cream, beetroot and dill, as this culinary journey from St Petersburg to Moscow proves

At Taste to Eat, a contemporary restaurant with a distinctly SEO-unfriendly name in St Petersburg, I am about to plunge into a chicken kiev, its heart bursting with garlic. Over the past five days I have eaten hot pyshki doughnuts covered in sugar, scarfed down herring under fur coats, and gobbled barley porridge with blood sausage. I have looked askance at beef wobbling in grey-brown aspic. I’ve tasted mead and pickled mushrooms where you can practically taste the mud on the fingernails of the people who made them. I have had borscht (exceptional) and borscht (execrable) and borscht (middling). In tearing the pizza-like crust of a katchapuri and dipping it in its central egg and molten cheese vat, I have learned the joys of Georgian cuisine. Despite all this, I worry I am no closer to answering the question I set out to answer: what’s Russian food actually like?

This is a culinary immersion into Russia organised by Intrepid, a travel company that likes its visitors to get under the skin of the destination. Clearly it is not without a sense of irony. After all, a Russian culinary tour sounds about as paradoxical as an English weather tour or, I suppose, an English culinary tour.

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Tykes and bikes: cycling Yorkshire’s World Championship route

Yorkshire folk have long known the region is brilliant for cycling – hosting the 2014 Tour de France just confirmed it. As it welcomes another world-class event, we road test three famous climbs

I have achieved a sort of cycling singularity. The UK cycling scene is obsessed with professional racing, hills, Yorkshire, social media – and pretentious coffee. And a couple of weeks ago, I set out to ride the undulating West and North Yorkshire route of the 2019 Road World Championships with a small-batch coffee roaster called Ben whom I’d met on Twitter.

Over the past five years, Yorkshire has become a global cycling destination. As Ben and I, and another Twitter acquaintance called Tom, rode out of Otley, north of Leeds, there were dozens of other riders heading out of town, up Wharfedale towards Bolton Abbey. None of them was in an organised group – just ones and twos, including quite a few children and teenagers.

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