• Embassy Listings • Ambassador Listings • Medical • Education • Hotels • Travel • Automotive • Real Estate • Foreign Film Directory • Diplomatic Spotlight • Classifieds


Latvian Embassy Showcases Its Culture Through Food

By David Jahng

As campaigning for the midterm elections goes into full swing, Latvian Ambassador Andris Teikmanis invited Washingtonians to his residence to take a break from politics and sample a taste of his Baltic homeland.

On Sept. 5, Latvian celebrity chef Mārtiņš Sirmais prepared traditional Latvian cuisine for dozens of guests.

Teikmanis and his wife Inguna Penike called the occasion a “back to school” event, and hoped the evening would provide an opportunity for friends of the embassy to converse and learn more about Latvian culture.

“That’s what we are here for, to try to acquaint the American public with what Latvia is all about,” said Penike. “We try to show some of our culture, our music … I think cuisine is part of culture.”

On Sept. 5, Latvian celebrity chef Mārtiņš Sirmais prepared traditional Latvian cuisine for guests at Ambassador Andris Teikmanis’s residence.

The main room of the stately residence, with the smell of home-cooked food, felt like home. Holding glasses of red and white wine, guests circled around high tables draped in vibrant red tablecloths before moving on to dinner, where Sirmais served a variety of dishes.

Wild cod fileted and fried with Jerusalem artichoke, and whole lamb leg with a cilantro and parsley topping were among the many favorites. Others preferred the lighter fare of trout with watercress, or hemp-seed butter and tomatoes topped with goat cheese and wild sorrel.

Sorrel, a garden herb that grows throughout Europe, Asia and some parts of North America, was one of many ingredients Sirmais requested that were difficult to acquire in the U.S. But he took up the challenge an effort to surprise both his native Baltic guests as well as his American guests.

Lithuanian Ambassador Rolandas Krisciunas said he particularly enjoyed the cod and trout, and admired Sirmais for his ambitious, wide range of ingredients. He said he was also happy to support his Baltic neighbor.

Latvian Ambassador Andris Teikmanis welcomed guests to his residence to sample homemade Latvian cuisine.

“I would say we [Lithuania and Latvia] are probably as close as it gets,” said Krisciunas. “We both usually stick together.”

Ian Campbell, a diplomat at the State Department who is responsible for U.S. relations with the Nordic and Baltic states, told us that lending an American presence to embassy events is vital to furthering U.S. diplomacy.

“If we can do it while celebrating with good friends and good food and good wine, what more could you ask for?” said Campbell.

Campbell said he was especially impressed by Sirmais’s ability to fuse aspects of traditional Latvian home-cooking with tastes and ingredients that have universal appeal.

The connection between food and culture was highlighted by Sirmais, who started culinary school at age 16, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sirmais described the Soviet-era school as “garbage,” but after participating in internships, he decided to become a full-time chef, opening the restaurant 3 Pavāru (Three Chefs) in the Old Town section of the Latvian capital of Riga.

Latvian celebrity chef Mārtiņš Sirmais prides himself on incorporating sustainability and a creative approach into his food preparation and restaurant management.

In addition to publishing several cookbooks — including the fairytale cookbook “The White Bear” — Sirmais also gained success by hosting a Latvian TV cooking show called “Cult Food.”

Sirmais prides himself on incorporating sustainability and a creative approach into his food preparation and restaurant management. The chef visits the market every morning, cooks what he can find and sells out each day. His restaurant has no menu; instead, diners are treated to customized meals.

“I ask them each personally what do you want?” Sirmais said. “I have this lamb here, I can do this sauce and I have this sauce, [all] which I cook really, really personally.”

Sirmais credits his success to “hardcore” cooking and his dedication to buying and sourcing his own food. Whether he is cooking for the rural natives of Latvia or diplomatic higher-ups, Sirmais puts the same dedication into his cuisine.

“This is the identity we are proud of,” said Sirmais. “This is what the chef’s job is about — put your ego in a bin and cook.”

David Jahng is an editorial intern for The Washington Diplomat.




Join us for a one-on-one interview with Ambassador of Georgia David Bakradze and

The Washington Diplomat’s News Editor Larry Luxner for an evening of discussion

and networking. Thu. June 20 from 6-9 p.m. at the Embassy of Georgia, 1824 R Street NW, Washington D.C. 20009. Click here for tickets or more information.

List your upcoming events here. For $275 per listing (as low as $150 with a term contract), your event listing will reach our thousands of subscribers. If you are reading this ad, you know it works. Call (301) 933-3552 for more information.

Subscriber Services

• Advertising • Contact us

You are receiving this message because you provided your email address to us for The Diplomatic Pouch. If you do not want to receive future emails from us, please click Unsubscribe to be removed from the list.

About the Pouch

The Diplomatic Pouch is an email newsletter distributed to opt-in subscribers and produced by The Washington Diplomat, an independent monthly newspaper. The Pouch covers the diplomatic community, international affairs, politics, arts and culture, and social life in Washington, D.C. Although a complement to The Washington Diplomat newspaper, all content is original and exclusively written for the Pouch.

© 2017 The Washington Diplomat. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication is prohibited.