Now that there are several stores catering to the large and growing Russophone community of Houston, it's possible to pick the best one. This little spot, located in an obscure strip center in southwest Houston, is a true general store in the American sense, selling foodstuffs, prepared to-go items, CDs, videotapes and even Russian-language editions of Playboy and Good Housekeeping. Those nostalgic for a taste of home cooking as it was prepared in Minsk, Pinsk or Minusinsk can acquire such hard-to-find items as unfiltered sunflower-seed oil, canned cod livers, Georgian sour plum sauce, salt-pickled mushrooms and jellied veal. Those non-Russophones who find themselves in need of a bit of shopping advice can turn to co-owner Aleksandr Kogan. He's a walking encyclopedia of a man who can discourse authoritatively on Russian and Soviet food, with forays into topics such as history, literature, electron microscopy and even the poisonous reptiles of Kyrgyzstan. For further research, one can browse a Russian-language lending library in a back room. An adjoining storefront houses a Russian folk-dance school, and the store sells tickets to Russian concerts, plays and even the odd Moscow cat circus when such undertakings find a Houston venue. And you thought synergy was an English word.