MOSCOW — Donald Trump is hearty, meaty and a bit overpowering: beef, chicken, anchovies and potatoes, drowned in a potent mustard sauce, with the slightest bit of cucumber and lettuce to provide at least some cool restraint to the savory onslaught.
Hillary Clinton is complex, sharp and salty: Gouda and Gorgonzola mashed together with beef, olives, chili peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and red onions, wrapped in an oat flour and cheese tortilla and decorated with briny string cheese.
At least that's how they appear in the culinary imagination of chef Igor Panteleyev, who has created a hot wrap recipe in honor of each U.S. presidential candidate, and put them on the menu at Roll's Race Kafe, a small chain of fast-food eateries in Moscow where he is chief cook.
Selling at about $4 a pop, the Trump Roll and the Hillary Roll provide culinary evidence of how hard it is to avoid the American presidential campaign in the Russian capital. It's all over the broadcast news and newspaper front pages. Radio announcers can't stop talking about it.
Even Muscovites who elect to tune out the Americans, say, by heading to the mall and wandering into the food court, may be confronted by a shiny Roll's Race storefront with a large depiction of the Republican nominee's face sticking out of a wrap next to the words “Have a Taste of Trump!”
“You have to pay attention when one of these people is going to be president of the world's largest superpower,” said the manager of a store just outside central Moscow, who, like many Russians who agree to comment for a U.S. newspaper story, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Because however it turns out, it's going to affect Russia.”
Panteleyev, the chef, insists his creations have nothing to do with politics.
“I really don't care who wins, I just want Russia to be okay when it's over,” he said as he urged me to try the rolls. “I based the rolls on their characters, their biographies, things they've said about what they like to eat.”
Trump's bluntly carnivorous offering reflects “his attitude he's made money, he can solve everything,” Panteleyev said. “He said he likes hamburgers, steaks, we've seen how he eats chicken, he spoke about the 'fish delight' they serve at McDonald's, but it turned out that it's not on the menu.”
And Clinton? It's easy to see what the string cheese, which cascades out of the open end of the wrap like golden locks, is for, but all those pungent cheeses and tangy vegetables?
“She's had a lot of different jobs, and she's woman, and she has a certain softness of character,” Panteleyev offered. “Women are more experienced than many, they are more mature.”
Anything in that mix about Vladimir Putin's renowned dislike for the Democrat?
“I'm telling you, I'm not into politics,” Panteleyev said again. “I just want to show them for who they are as people, with their gastronomic tastes.”
About the taste: After some debate, I decided to try one of each, a bipartisan decision that left me a bit bloated. The rolls are big. And they are pretty tasty.
As a reporter, I can't tell you which candidate I prefer, but I can say that everyone at the cafe while I was there voted for less expensive, less calorific offerings.
Panteleyev insisted that the wraps have been yuugely popular since he began serving them Nov. 1.
“Especially at the stores in downtown Moscow,” he said. “The closer you get to the Kremlin, the more people want to eat them.”