Riga, Latvia

To the eternal gratitude of our aching backs, Team Dinosaur didn’t sleep in the Justy last night. We logged onto the CouchSurfing Project and contacted Riga local Daniella, 24. She let us crash on her floor. In the morning, we ask Daniella to recommend a place for dinner.

“Do you like dumplings?” she asks.

“Oh, yes,” I say, salivating a little bit.

“You must go to Pelmeni. You just mix up all the dumplings in a big bowl.”

She gives us directions to Pelmeni XL, located on an Old Town street packed with souvenir stands. But the brightly lit shop, which has colorful wall mosaics, caters only to locals. It’s a serve-yourself restaurant, featuring various boiled dumplings submerged in pots of oily broth. We spoon bite-size circles and triangles into white bowls and top them with sour cream, vinegar, and a peppery vegetable oil in liberal amounts. An unsmiling woman weighs our bowls, and after paying a couple of Latvian dollars (about $4 U.S.) we grab a seat.

The dumplings are packed with lamb, pork, beef, and some sort of minced greens. The flavors meld together in great big flavorful forkfuls. After we finish, a woman wearing a white cap scoops up our empty bowls, nodding in approval.

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