Tag Archives: Ukraine

A Taste of Ukraine at Veselka in NYC

The iconic, long-running Veselka (144 Second Avenue, NYC) has been on our list of “to visit” places in NYC since we started going there regularly in 2006, but somehow we never made it there until our last trip over the Winter. It is kind of hard to pin Veselka (which means “rainbow” in Ukrainian) down. On the face of it, Veselka is a 24-hour Ukrainian diner – but with slightly higher prices and a huge line of club kids waiting to get in every night after hours (or at pretty much any time). Still, on the menu you can get Americanized brunches and the waiters rush you through with an efficiency that will make your head spin – bringing it back to a diner feel. In any case, Veselka has been serving up comfort food in the East Village since 1954, so we figured they must be doing something right to still attract crowds after all these years.

There are no reservations – so we had to wait about a half an hour for our table of five. Fortunately it was an unseasonably warm day so we didn’t mind just people watching outside (a prime area for that activity). The menu at Veselka is extensive, and there are two basic genres of food available: American diner food and Ukrainian specialties. At our table we went with a little of each. On the Ukrainian side, the favorites were clearly the pierogies – or varenyky in Ukrainian – you can get them boiled or fried, with a myriad of fillings like cheese, sweet potato, mushroom, meat, and even the more esoteric goat cheese and spinach – all served with applesauce, onions and sour cream on the side. They also make a hearty borscht beet soup (either vegetarian or meat-filled- Pint $4.95 and Quart $8.95), and a classic Ukrainian “Hunter’s Stew” dish called Bigos with Kielbasa, roast pork and onions ($17.25). For even more Ukrainian flavor, you can also get kasha (buckwheat groats) and potato pancakes as side ($4 each). On the American side of the menu, you can get breakfast all day including waffles, omelettes, and pancakes with all of the trimmings. Burgers and other sandwiches like the Reuben and egg salad round out the offerings.

M got a Veselka signature sandwich: the Baczynski ($15)which was piled high with Polish ham, Ukrainian salami, Polish podlaski cheese, pickled vegetable relish on pumpernickel. M really enjoyed the sandwich – but it was too big to eat in one sitting – even for him. I ordered a platter of 7 varenyky ($11), which was also a popular order at our table – and with good reason. The varenyky were the stars of the show, and the mushroom and goat cheese and arugula varieties were deemed to be the favorites. Opinion was split on if fried or boiled varenyky are superior, though I think my personal preference is for fried. To finish off the meal, Veselka has a range of diner favorites  – you can order one of their ‘individual’ pies – which are really quite big! We got a New York staple – the black and white cookie – and a miniature banana cream pie ($7.50). Veselka serves up good, hearty comfort food with an Eastern-European flair – and we can’t think of a better place to get dumplings at 2 AM.

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Pastry Post-Doc: Pampushky for Malanka – Ukrainian New Year’s Eve

Ukraine FlagHappy New Year! Even though it is almost 2 weeks after the Gregorian calendar marks the new year – January 13 is celebrated as Malanka – “Old New Year’s Eve” – in the Ukraine. The holiday marks the Julian calendar’s new year and is one of the most festive days in Ukraine, full of caroling door-to-door, costumes, dancing the Kolomyjka, merry-making and of course food.  We are novices when it comes to Ukrainian desserts, but we have found a holiday recipe for pampushky – fried donuts filled with poppy seed or prune. These seem to be a cousin of the paczki, another Eastern European donut (this one popularly eaten on Shrove Tuesday). You can find pampushky recipe from Claudia’s Cookbook (below) and Ukrainian Classic Cuisine. Who doesn’t love something indulgent and fried as a perfect cap to the holiday season?

pampushky

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Perogies / Pierogies for Canada Day

Ukraine FlagcanadaPolandWe’ve covered recipes for Canada Day before, but we are interested to learn that one of the iconic foods of Canada is the Ukrainian pierogie/perogie/perogy/pyrogy (plus any other spellings)! Due to the large number of Polish and Ukrainian immigrants to Canada, the dish has become entrenched in Canada’s cuisine and culture. Canada is even home to the “world’s largest pierogie.” Pierogi(e)s are also popular in Chicago, due to similar immigration patterns of Eastern Europeans, and they are one of our favorite dumplings. And really what’s not to love with a dough pocket stuffed full of meat and/or cheese? As is befitting of their popularity, you can find them all over Canada and they are especially popular in Winnipeg. If you want to taste for yourself, here is a recipe from Black Peppercorn, direct from the Canadian prairies, and another recipe for classic potato and cheddar perogies from Canadian Living.

Perogies

Perogies in Saskatoon by Christopher Porter

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Celebrate Easter with Pysanky – intricate Ukrainian Easter eggs!

Ukrainian Easter Eggs by Vanberto

Ukraine FlagHappy Easter – enjoy these beautiful Pysanky eggs from the Ukraine! These types of eggs are made using a wax-resist method where the designs are drawn on with a wax stylus and then dye is applied. These Pysanky definitely make American-style food-colored eggs jealous. Though it may be a little late, Instructables and Design*Sponge have guides on how to make your own Pysanky.

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Ukraine: Shokolad

Ukraine FlagShokolad
2524 W Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL

On the border of Ukrainian Village on Chicago Ave., Shokolad is an oasis of baked goods and borscht. When we entered the bright, airy space on a Saturday afternoon, a group of regulars were chatting in Ukrainian and a few others sipped coffee with newspapers at the coffee bar. The menu boasts a variety of Ukrainian favorites like Ukrainian dumplings  – varenyky – filled with cheese and potatoes ($8) and a classic borscht ($3.25 for a bowl). Those feeling more brunchy can opt for the cheese and blueberry crepes ($6.50).ShoCook

However, we were hungry for an afternoon snack, and the dessert case at Shokolad looked amazing. The prices didn’t hurt either. Featured was a delicate Opera cake ($4.25), alongside chocolate-covered cheesecake lollipops ($1.25), which were the perfect portion for snacking on the go.

Cookies rounded out the dessert selections, and at only $0.50 a piece we felt we could sample a few varieties, including Raspberry and Apricot spritz and Raspberry crumble (see above). The best cookie was the chewy gingersnap sandwich with cream, speckled with rock sugar crystals. Shokolad’s melange of cozy American cafe and Ukrainian hangout really work well, and anyone in the area should drop by for brunch – or an afternoon snack.

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