At Yeltsin <i> Dacha</i> , Dinner Guests Pucker Up for . . . Moose Lips?


Macbeth’s witches had their eye of newt and toe of frog. But moose lips?

Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin had President Clinton and aides out to his country dacha southeast of Moscow for a three-hour summit feast Thursday night, and if some elements of the evening were familiar, others were like nothing the man from Hope, Ark., had ever seen before. But then neither had the most cosmopolitan of his aides.

The evening started with some sober talk of Russian politics and East-West issues, but when it came time for dinner, the menu featured a traditional Russian delicacy: moose lips. “And I don’t mean a chocolate dessert,” a senior presidential adviser said later in a briefing for reporters.

Well, how were they?

“It was . . . it was good,” the aide replied, and after just the slightest pause for the diplomatically correct word, he added, “It was unusual.”


Other elements of the menu were more conventional. Roast suckling pig (two of them). Duck in red wine. Caviar. Vodka, wine and lots of mineral water.

The dacha , named Novoye Ogaryevo and built just before the turn of the century for an uncle of the last czar, is an elegant, three-story, yellow brick and stone affair nestled in the woods on an expansive estate and surrounded by a tall wall and iron fence. “Nice little digs you have,” Clinton remarked as he met Yeltsin at the entrance.

Lighted Christmas trees could be seen here and there on the snow-covered grounds and in one of the drawing rooms inside.

Before dinner, a string quartet serenaded the distinguished company. After the feast, there was the now-ritualistic surprise: Of all things, the dacha turned out to have a saxophone. And soon the President was warming up.

Unexpectedly, the pianist from the string quartet in the adjoining room began to chime in, picking up on the notes and musical phrases the President was playing before he launched into his recital. Clinton responded, and soon an impromptu jam session was under way, though the two musicians were in different rooms.

Finally, Clinton stopped and suggested the entire company move into the room with the piano. Out trooped the dignitaries, and the performance resumed.

Clinton’s finale was his signature renditions of “Summertime” and “My Funny Valentine,” in C minor.