A Gentleman in Moscow Latvian Stew recipe from Amor Towles (2024)

A Gentleman in Moscow Latvian Stew recipe from Amor Towles (1)

Photo: Hiba Matalka

A Gentleman in Moscow Latvian Stew recipe from Amor Towles (2)

Amor Towles is author of New York Times best sellers RULES OF CIVILITY and A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

In writing a novel, I work from an extensive outline that describes in detail the events of every chapter, the settings, and the psychological states of the characters. As a result, when I began composing the “Advent” chapter in A Gentleman in Moscow, I knew that the Count would visit the Piazza (the main restaurant in the hotel) moved by memories of Christmases past; I knew that he would end up spying on a young man on a first date who, in choosing his entrée, risks appearing either unsophisticated or pretentious, yet makes an inspired selection; I knew that an A Gentleman in Moscow Latvian Stew recipe from Amor Towles (3)inexperienced waiter would make an ill-advised wine recommendation and that the Count would intervene to save the day. I knew all of this as I started writing the chapter. What I didn’t know is what the young man was going to order.

When I eventually got to the point when the young man is hesitating over his menu—on the verge of making his fateful decision—I turned to my own cooking for inspiration. What dish did I know that was situated between the Scylla of those lower-priced dishes (that might suggest a penny-pinching lack of flair) and the Charybdis of delicacies (that could empty one’s pockets while painting one as pretentious). After a few minutes of consideration, I knew it had to be the Latvian stew.

In the twenty-four years that my wife and I have been together, we’ve split the cooking—each developing our own repertoire of family favorites. For my part, living in New York with a full time job in the investment field and two young children, I have always been on the lookout for a new stew to add to my roster. After all, a good stew has many advantages to the working family man: it’s a perfect winter comfort food, it generally doesn’t rely on seasonal ingredients, it can be made on Sunday afternoons, and served to the kids twice in a week without complaint! Irish stews, beef bourguignon, tajines, I’ve made them all with pleasure. But when I first ran across this recipe for a Latvian stew in Saveur magazine in 2005, I was pretty skeptical. In scanning over the ingredients, I saw that the dish included pork, onions, carrots, apricots, prunes, a little tomato paste, and water—but that was it. How good could a stew be, I wondered, without any spices, wine, or stock?

Putting my trust in Saveur, I marshaled on and discovered that the lack of spices, wine, and stock was part of the dish’s genius. The simplicity of the composition allows one to experience the surprisingly complex contribution of its quotidian elements. Or, as the Count observes: “The onions thoroughly caramelized, the pork slowly braised, and the apricots briefly stewed, the three ingredients come together in a sweet and smoky medley that simultaneously suggests the comfort of a snowed-in tavern and the jangle of a Gypsy tambourine.” Yes, the dish is unquestionably delicious, but I also prize it because it evokes for me the ingenuity of the country cook—who must make the most of what little remains in the larder in the depths of winter.

While I design my narratives in great detail, there are always surprises that surface in the course of the writing. One good example is that in the outline of A Gentleman in Moscow I planned to have the Count observe this young couple order their stew and then head to the fine restaurant upstairs for a fancier meal. But as I was writing the scene, almost spontaneously, the Count decided to forgo herb-crusted lamb chops at the Boyarsky in favor of staying in the Piazza where he too could order a bowl of the Latvian stew.

For those who venture to serve this wonderful dish, I’ll make three suggestions. First, make sure your pork shoulder or butt is reasonably fatty, so that you end up with fork tender meat. Make sure that you cook the onions until they are a deep golden brown (which means cooking them for much longer than you would normally cook onions in a stew), so that you get that smoky essence. And finally, despite the Count’s assurance that Georgian wine is perfect for this meal, do not scramble about looking for one. Any good table wine will suit this dish to a T.

For ananimated book trailer, Metropol hotel history, an author Q&A, upcoming author events, and more, visit Amor Towles’s website.

“A GentleBlend in Moscow” Book Blend

Amor Towles's Latvian Stew Recipe from A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

A Latvian Stew recipe with pork, apricots and prunes from author Amor Towles, paired with his novel, A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW.


3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

6 carrots, peeled, trimmed, and sliced crosswise

4 tablespoons tomato paste

5 cups water

1 cup dried apricots

1 pound white boiling onions, peeled, each cut into 6 wedges

1 cup pitted prunes


Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until meat releases its juices and is no longer pink all over, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and cook until slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and water, then add apricots. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and gently simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until deep golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Add onions and prunes to stew and continue to simmer over medium-low heat until pork is tender and sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes more. Adjust seasonings.


Serve this stew accompanied by boiled potatoes, buttered and garnished with chopped parsley, if you like.

From Saveur Magazine

Also see Amor Towles’s recipe for The Lincoln Highway Fettucine Mio Amore

A Gentleman in Moscow Latvian Stew recipe from Amor Towles (2024)


What wine goes with Latvian stew? ›

One of the most amusing and heartening scenes in the book is where he observes a young couple on a first date, and as the waiter suggests a poor wine pairing for the Latvian Stew, the Count interjects to suggest a Mukuzani instead of the Rioja.

What is the lesson of A Gentleman in Moscow? ›

"A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles is a book in which every page is a lesson in mindfulness, even if the word mindfulness is not mentioned even once. Of course, it is also a book about strength, humility, grace, open-mindedness, and kindness.

What is the point of A Gentleman in Moscow? ›

"A Gentleman in Moscow" offers a chance to sink back into a lost attitude of aristocracy — equal parts urbane and humane — just what we might expect from the author of that 2011 bestseller "Rules of Civility." But if Towles's story is an escape we crave, it is also, ironically, a story of imprisonment.

Is A Gentleman in Moscow appropriate? ›

There are a handful of mild swears in English and a few in other languages. There's a scene where a woman removes her dress and it's implied they have sex, followed by an ongoing affair, but nothing explicit. No graphic violence.

What is the best Latvian drink? ›

Riga Black Balsam (Latvian: Rīgas Melnais balzams) is a traditional Latvian balsam often considered to be the national drink of Latvia. According to tradition, only the Head Liquor Master and two of his apprentices know the exact recipe.

What dry red wine is best for beef stew? ›

Go for a pinot noir if you like your stews light and fruity, cabernet sauvignon if you like it strong and rustic, and a merlot if you fall somewhere in between. But most importantly, use a wine that you're also happy to drink.

What is the criticism of A Gentleman in Moscow? ›

My true opinion about this book is that it is neither charming or fun. I could not stand the main character as I found him pretentious and superficial. The plot lacked realism and I do not feel it reflects the Russia of that time.

What is the irony in A Gentleman in Moscow? ›

Only a poem the Count wrote in praise of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution stalled his execution. The irony is he didn't write it. The poet is his former university friend Mishka (Fehinti Balogun), who attributed his work to the Count to save him from execution.

Who is the old lady at the end of A Gentleman in Moscow? ›

Anna Urbanova

Girlfriend of the Count. Anna, described often as the “willowy woman,” is a successful actress with connections in high places.

Who is the woman Rostov meets at the end of A Gentleman in Moscow? ›

Quick answer: The “willowy woman” on the last page of A Gentleman in Moscow is Count Rostov's girlfriend, Anna. The author uses these words to describe her on a number of occasions throughout the book.

What happened to Mishka in A Gentleman in Moscow? ›

Gradually the oppression of the new society takes its toll on Mishka, and towards the end of the novel his lover, Katerina, informs the Count that Mishka has died. The Count also reveals after his death that Mishka had in fact written the poem for which the Count was imprisoned.

Why did Count Rostov become a waiter? ›

The day after his failed suicide attempt, the Count asks the Metropol's maître d' for a job as a waiter. Knowledgeable about food, and skilled in dealing with people, the Count becomes the headwaiter within four years.

Is the hotel in A Gentleman in Moscow real? ›

The Metropol is a real hotel which was built in the center of Moscow in 1905 and which is still welcoming guests today.

How old is Count Rostov in A Gentleman in Moscow? ›

The book begins when Count Rostov is almost 33 and ends when he is in his mid to late 60's. After four years, a young girl arrives on the scene of the hotel and turns the hotel, that the Count thought he knew so well, upside down, adding more spice to the Count's days than Emile ever could.

Is A Gentleman in Moscow anti communist? ›

From the first page of A Gentleman in Moscow to the last, their stifling and punitive presence is felt not only by the count but also by the reader. This theme of political oppression is so dominant that I have come to regard this novel primarily as an anti-communist manifesto.

What wine goes with tafelspitz? ›

Mr. Sohm has even been known to pair white wines with red meat; he points out that Tafelspitz, the boiled-beef specialty of his native Austria, is traditionally served with Riesling or Grüner Veltliner, a match that is mediated by the bouillon in which it's served.

What wine goes with stew? ›

The dark fruit and rich tannin notes of full-bodied red wines stand up to the strong taste of the beef stew. Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon are terrific with beef's earthy taste. Punchy and peppery French Bordeaux and Syrah also balance nicely with strong flavours.

Which wine is best for stew? ›

Top pairings

Stews tend to be intensely flavoured with a rich thick sauce so you could argue that you need a big wine to hold its own. But that can be overwhelming. I prefer a slightly lighter more rustic red - grape varieties such as Syrah, Grenache, Malbec and Tempranillo hit the spot for me.

Does red or white wine go with beef stew? ›

Red Bordeaux.

Made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, the reds tend to have dark fruit and very present tannins that are great with beef.

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