Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

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Counter-Terrorism revisited – Social Media Ukraine

January 8, 2015

Over the past week or so, a few entries have appeared here relating to the slide into sporadic and ad hoc standard forms of low level terrorism occurring beyond the boundaries of the war in eastern Ukraine.

The latest entries here, here, and the most cited of them across the Internet here.

Within the prose relating to societal resilience in the last link above, appeared this paragraph:

“Just as with the volunteer battalions that formed after Kremlin shenanigans in eastern Ukraine, following terrorist incidents there is often sections of the community that feel a “need to do something”. Channel that need into something productive – at the very least it reduces societal fear and/or tension.”

Quite so – human nature often demands a reaction to events, and a “need to do something” – even if in being seen to be doing something, very little is actually being done – as oft displayed by the political class in response to matters that temporarily irk the voting public.

The key is to channel the “need to do something” into doing something productive – and in the case of responses to terrorism, in doing something productive with societal inclusion, as that often reduces societal fear and/or tension.

Naturally it does not always do to have the public running amok and quite possibly compromising counter-terrorism operations, or indeed smudging the line between concerned and patriotic citizen to marauding vigilantes either.  To be quite clear, there were legitimate reasons for bringing the volunteer battalions into the military and Interior Ministry frameworks when they appeared – command, control, and legal accountability, being high on the list of reasoning.  Uncontrolled paramilitaries there cannot be, any more than unaccountable vigilantes, if rule of law is to be effective across Ukraine.

However, in the era of social media, each can play their part from the comfort of their own home, and in their spare time, when tracking down, identifying and informing upon those that seek to disrupt everyday life through acts of violence.

All that is required is a central collating node, and the ability of the citizenry that feel the need to “do something” to surf the social media websites such as VK and Odnoklassniki or local forums and social media groups.  After all, do we not all feel obliged to post photographs with rocket launchers or AK’s for our friends to see, or brag about barbaric acts, or indeed seek out like-minded people to ourselves?  Isn’t that what social media is for?

As such, a central node has appeared.

PSB4UKR.ORG has not only appeared, but has also had some successes.

It is no doubt also getting some attention from the 3 letter international intelligence agency alphabet soup, as well as the SBU who actively monitor the site – complete with SBU hotline number 0800 501-482, presumably not only urgent matters, but also for the “terrorist low level plankton” that suddenly find themselves featured and then decided to try and cut an amnesty deal of some sort.

It is not, however, an SBU front.

The website is run by volunteers and hosted on European and US servers – hence the Privat Bank donations option.  The plan for the site, eventually, is for it to become something like a Simon Wiesenthal Center, tracking down those who carried/carry out the most grievous of crimes.  Whether it will succeed in such a lofty goal remains to be seen.

As of yesterday, approximately 9,000 known and suspected terrorists have been identified via this website, with 150 detained (most at ATO checkpoints).  Bravo – though undoubtedly it will get harder and harder to collect and collate social media information on such individuals, as many that would identified will begin to delete their social media accounts to avoid appearing at PSB4UKR.

Although trial in the court of social media is definitely not a place to go, the collective gathering of evidence and submission to a central node for the authorities to sift through, seems an entirely appropriate response from society that is not only “doing something“, but is doing something that has already produced results.

A website to keep an eye on.

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A taste of Azerbaijan – Apsheron Restaurant, Odessa

September 23, 2012

As summer began in Odessa, not that far from me, a restaurant called Apsheron opened at Fontanskaya Doroga 20/3.  It is owned and run by a good citizen of Azerbaijan.

As is always the case with Odessa in summer, all restaurants are busy, and Apsheron was packed to the rafters from the moment of opening.  As such this is no inferred recommendation and the really good restaurants are those that are busy all year round.

Thus, despite passing it at least twice daily, only yesterday, on an overcast Saturday afternoon did I venture in.

At 3pm on a dull Saturday afternoon there were about 30 people inside the restaurant and about 20 sat outside on the patio.  I was quite surprised considering this restaurant, despite being on a busy street and situated in a fairly affluent area, is a long way from the city centre.

A closer look at the clientèle displayed what appeared to be a 50/50 mix of Slavs and those from the Stans/Jans.  Always encouraging when there are a decent amount of those ethnically able to tell good from bad when it comes to their national cuisine, sat eating.

I have to say the food was as good as any served in Baku, even at the most fancy and expensive restaurants there.

To say it was good would be an understatement.  It was somewhere between great and sublime.

The menu is in Russian but in small brown writing underneath each dish, it is also in English, though you may well miss that such is the bold Cyrillic Russian text.

For those who live in, or spend a lot of time in Odessa, discount cards are available for those who spend UAH 5000.  Before you fall from your chair and say “UAH 5000!!!” – You can simply keep the receipts until they cumulatively reach that figure.  Admittedly that may take you some time, as my total bill for 2 courses and coffee came to UAH 201.  Indeed I have a way to go to eat my way to a discount card it has to be said.

Anyway, for those ever passing along Fontanskaya Doroga, I absolutely and unequivocally recommend Aspheron if you are feeling a little hungry.

That is especially so if you are heading to visit me – as it means I won’t have to cook.  In fact, if you are coming to see me, then come here first and we will head back to Aspheron – where I will keep the receipt to add to my collection in an attempt to reach the UAH 5000 mark and get my discount card!

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Lonely Planet Guide recommends Ukraine

November 13, 2011

The Lonely Planet Guide, not unfamiliar to millions of travelers and would-be tourists has put Ukraine as joint 3rd in there list of nations they recommend visiting.

I am of course pleased to boast that my adoptive city of Odessa gets special mention.  Well is would.  It is a very nice city to live in by and large as it is just far enough away from Kyiv to be free from too much interference.  In fact I can be in Romania, Moldova or Turkey in the same amount of time it takes to get to Kyiv.

A note though to all those who would take notice of the Lonely Planet Guide, the best time to visit Odessa is between May and October when the weather is warm and the streets become a far more obvious cosmopolitan extension of the underlaying  vibe that runs through Odessa.

As the saying goes here, Ukraine is Ukraine, but Odessa is Odessa!

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Rokka Restaurant Odessa – Seriously good!

May 1, 2011

Well dear readers, it has been a long time since I have been enthused by a gastronomic discovery in Odessa, at least to the point where I wanted to write about it and share it with you all.

However, just down the road from the British Council at the crossroads of Admiralsky and 5 Station Bolshoi Fantan you will find a large glass facaded building.  Here you will find a true gem in the culinary landscape of Odessa. Restaurant Rokka.

Entrance to Rokka

Yes I know for you tourists it means leaving the familiarity of Deribasovskaya and taking a 10 minute taxi ride out of the city, but it is certainly worth the trip.

Rokka can very easily have been lifted directly from the more trendy restaurant areas of London and beamed into Odessa.  It is comfortable, aesthetically pleasing with a modern Japanese decorated feel but with a menu that far surpasses the sushi orientated expectations when you walk in.  The sushi there is, however, great and prepared directly in the full view of the customer.

English menu-18.04.11

Unlike many restaurants in Odessa, there was no music.  It was possible to have a conversation without raising your voice.   Surprisingly at 4.30 in the afternoon it was half full of young Ukrainians and in the evening, the owner, Alexander Bergart states he can fill the restaurant 3 times over such is the demand.  Once you try the food, it is easy to understand why.

Inside Rokka

The steaks at Rokka are better than any steak I have had in Ukraine in all the years I have been here.  There is truly no effort or chewing required.  They simply melt in the mouth.

My personal favourite – The Rokka Steak, which to my undisciplined palette retained the memories of a honey and garlic marinade to perfection, was sublime.  Quite simply I could not fault it.

Where so very many Odessa restaurants fail is desserts.  I am not a big fan of desserts and have a taste for the savoury rather than the sweet, therefore the usual disappointments regarding desserts in Odessa do not overly bother me.

However, if you are like me in this regard, go to Rokka and try the chocolate fantan – You will be converted on the spot.

It arrives as a chocolate pyramid of thin sponge surrounded by a green tea souse and a small amount of mint ice cream.  Those readers who actually know me will understand than anything to do with green tea is automatically my first choice and thus why I decided to even bother with a dessert.  Intrigue!

Upon breaking the seal on the sponge pyramid copious amounts of hot quality chocolate ebbed forward like a lava flow meeting a green tea sauce similar to a volcano meeting the sea.  My skills with the English language will never do justice to this particular dessert.  I can only recommend it so you can experience this sensation yourself.

Whilst I am not converted from my savoury palette, I am a true fan of the chocolate fantan, even if it makes me more rotund than I already am in the coming years.

Sorry, the chocolate fantan didn't last long enough to be photogrpahed - You will have to make do with another interior shot!

Those lucky people at the British Council having such a wonderful, if waist expanding, restaurant within 400 meters of the building.  It’s almost enough to make me want to work for a UK NGO…..or more specifically that particular branch of a UK NGO!

The service is also faultless.  There when you want it, invisible when you don’t.

If you are ever in Odessa, get a taxi and head to Rokka, 5 Bolshoi Fantana, when you are bored of the usual tourist restaurants in the centre.  You will not be disappointed by anything you will experience…..unless you cannot get a table…..so here is the telephone number if you want to book – (048) 7070070!

If Alex is there, he speaks good English and will regale you with tales of his 30 years in the restaurant trade around the world…..and if you are a Brit, he loves the London restaurant scene and is a frequent visitor.

In summary, it is hard to find a better all round restaurant experience in Odessa, but very easy to find a worse one……and it has more than its fair share of very very pretty clientele!

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Useful map of Odessa

August 1, 2010

Here’s a useful link to find just about anything a tourist needs in Odessa.

http://www.citymap.odessa.ua/map/?lang=1

Zoom in, zoom out, tick boxes and watch all the hotels, or post offices……whatever you pick…….appear.

(Yes, I know, nice place to live).

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Cooking up weapons of war……..What do we have in Ukraine?

March 24, 2010

On a slightly lighter note……and being more certainly more spicey than anything in the “Women and Sexpat” category of this blog……have a read of this……

Associated Press GAUHATI, India (AP) — The Indian military has a new weapon against terrorism: the world’s hottest chili.

After conducting tests, the military has decided to use the thumb-sized “bhut jolokia,” or “ghost chili,” to make tear gas-like hand grenades to immobilize suspects, defense officials said Tuesday.

The bhut jolokia was accepted by Guinness World Records in 2007 as the world’s spiciest chili. It is grown and eaten in India’s northeast for its taste, as a cure for stomach troubles and a way to fight the crippling summer heat.

It has more than 1,000,000 Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chili’s spiciness. Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units, while jalapeno peppers measure anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000.

“The chili grenade has been found fit for use after trials in Indian defense laboratories, a fact confirmed by scientists at the Defense Research and Development Organization,” Col. R. Kalia, a defense spokesman in the northeastern state of Assam, told The Associated Press.

“This is definitely going to be an effective nontoxic weapon because its pungent smell can choke terrorists and force them out of their hide-outs,” R. B. Srivastava, the director of the Life Sciences Department at the New Delhi headquarters of the DRDO said.

Srivastava, who led a defense research laboratory in Assam, said trials are also on to produce bhut jolokia-based aerosol sprays to be used by women against attackers and for the police to control and disperse mobs.

Of course not to be out done by India, I am now experimenting on behalf of Ukraine, with the results of a soggy sharama, 3 day old green borsh, gallupsie and vareniki rammed through a blender on full power!

I will let you know how it goes…….of course.

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Spuds!

February 19, 2010

Ukrainian companies importing potatoes from Saudi Arabia and Egypt
Ukrainian companies will boost imports of potatoes to cover a domestic deficit, UKRINFORM has reported, citing the Delo newspaper.

The main suppliers of potatoes are Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The ships with products from these countries are already at a Ukrainian port. The Ukrainian trade and economic mission in Egypt said that potatoes supplies were a project of private companies, rather than a state program. The average cost of Egyptian potatoes is three times higher than Ukrainian. Import companies said that potatoes supplies on the Ukrainian market would grow at least by a third this season.

Well, what can I say, a country bigger than France with the best agricultural land in Europe and once the bread basket of the USSR is……..importing potatoes!

How mismanaged can a country get?

(Oh and yes, it’s true…….the spuds from Egypt are labelled as such in the local supermarkets here in Odessa.)

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