A whole deer, even if you keep the backstraps and legs whole, yields a lot of ground meat, mostly from the neck and the belly. This is nothing to worry about: these are the perfect cuts to make burgers. All you need is a good repertoire of burger recipes. And of course, if you don’t like venison, ground beef from your favorite butcher or CSA (what, you don’t have a CSA???) will do.
I’ve already blogged about Bohemian Venison Burgers and Hungarian Lángos Goulash Burgers. This time, I’m doing a Polish / Belarusian / Ukrainian version. Hey, with enough deer meat, I might post one burger recipe for each country of the Eastern Bloc!
In addition to my New York restaurant reviews, I’d like to share with you my thoughts on random Eastern European restaurants I visit during my various trips. These posts may not always have the depth of my traditional reviews, so I won’t provide any ratings. I’m also unlikely to write about a place if it’s not noteworthy in some capacity.
Scotland isn’t reknowned for its Eastern European food, and it takes some dedication to find restaurants from the other side of the Iron Curtain. Glasgow has U Jarka (“Polish and European cuisine, with the good old traditions”) and Cossachok (“Scotland’s first and only authentic Russian Restaurant which represents people from former USSR in cooking, culture, and hospitality”). But if you’re in Edinburgh these days, like I was during my family holiday trip, then Yellow Bench, a Polish hole-in-the-wall in Leith, might very well be your only option.
Back when I wrote of my adventures in wild Abkhazia, I talked about shashlyk, spices, cheese, honey, and wine. And of course lodochka (aka Adjaran khachapuri). But there can be more to Abkhazian cuisine. Some time ago, I published a recipe for Honey Cake Gagra with Mandarin and Black Tea. Here is another original recipe that combines many local flavors into a more elaborate dish.
- Yes, there are deer in Abkhazia. I even remember that the driver who picked us up at the Ingur border was a hunter. I suppose that people have got to find a use for all their guns, now that they’ve (sort of) got their independence!
- The idea for a blackberry sauce comes from a sadly unidentified Abkhazian cookbook, though the recipe below is mostly adapted from Michel Roux’s Sauces. I believe the Abkhazian version contained garlic and adjika; I’m keeping it for another time.
- The cheese polenta is called abista in Abkhazian. In Georgian it would be called elardji (it’s particularly popular in Mingrelia). The cornmeal is traditionally white, but yellow polenta works just as well. If you don’t have the courage to make your own cheese, and don’t have a Russian supermarket in your area, you can substitute mozzarella for the sulguni.
I feel like I spent all my dinners out eating in Eastern European and other post-Soviet restaurants this year! As is now the tradition, here’s a summary of the places I reviewed, rated on a scale from 0 to 10, and grouped into three categories: recommended (rating > 6), not worth a special visit (rating between 5 and 6), and avoid (rating < 5). While I usually mention decor and service in my posts, only the food is being graded.
Drawing by G. Valk
2013 was the year of the Manhattan restaurants. Call me lazy, but I figured I might as well review some of the eateries closer to home before venturing too often to Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay. The conclusion is that they tend to be better than their Brooklyn neighbors (with one exception that’s so blatant that it can only confirm the rule). This doesn’t really come as a surprise: a restaurant can’t hope to survive long among more discerning diners if it’s got average food and poor service, especially when there are a dozen other joints within a one-block radius. Not that Outer Borough restaurants can’t rate well — look at #1 Uzbek Palace. Continue reading
I wish you all happy holidays! I’m leaving for a 10-day trip to Scotland — no Eastern Europe this time, and even my prospects for a Russian restaurant look very slim. But if you’re still looking for ideas for your dinner parties, or you want to use your time off to try some of my more time-consuming recipes, here are some recommendations from my 2013 posts…
So you’ve made your 10 pounds of Imeretian cheese and you’ve been eating grape and cheese salad for the past two weeks. You’re starting to regret letting me enroll you in that slow food movement. Here’s a half-baked solution: make sulguni! Why half-baked? Because it will shrink your cheese supply by half!
Like mozzarella, sulguni is a stretched-curd cheese — the technique employed in making it is called pasta filata in Italian. However, the result has a firmer texture than mozzarella, closer to Polly-O than the real Italian stuff. At least, this is the version I’ve encountered most of the time, but I know that several variations exist.
After the debacle of 2012′s deer hunting season, when I spent 3 days on a tree stand and 3 nights in a tent in the middle of the Adirondacks without seeing a single deer or bear, and eventually rushed back home to NYC on deserted roads moments before Superstorm Sandy hit the shores… I needed a better plan for 2013.
I thought I was all set once I convinced huntsman Wayne to take me to a property on the Finger Lakes, a top deer-producing area in New York State, but fate decided otherwise. Only two months away from opening weekend, I suddenly found myself with no plans, no doe permits, and limited options…
In my previous posts (here and here), I’ve talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly in Moldovan winemaking — probably with more emphasis on the ugly than the good. But what about the food? Is there a good reason why you probably can’t name a single Moldovan dish, or have I found some hidden gem? Here’s a sample of Moldovan food, as served in some of the better restaurants in the country.
As in many former Soviet republics, if you’re an aspiring restaurateur who wants to open a high-end joint in Moldova, you typically pitch Italian or French cuisine instead of the local grub; or, at least, claim to do so in your advertisements, even if neither you nor your cooks have ever set foot in Western Europe. I suspect that many locals would dismiss my restaurant picks as tourist traps, where waiters in ridiculous costumes serve overpriced everyday dishes and bored fiddlers play “Ochi chyornye” for patrons that don’t quite get that Chișinău ”isn’t part of Russia anymore”. And the locals would be partly right, except that there aren’t any reasonable alternatives (don’t worry, I’ll talk about the unreasonable alternatives in another post).
By now, you have doubtlessly made pounds and pounds of the Imeretian cheese I blogged about earlier this week. You must be wondering “oh, what to do with all this delicious cheese?” Brush aside all the fuss about seasonal cooking, and try this very simple salad, one of the simplest posts on my entire blog! The dish is inspired by something I found in Michael Natkin’s Herbivoracious. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the book; I only found the one recipe interesting. But this salad tastes great, and uses typically Georgian ingredients.
So you want to make your own cheese but don’t want to break the bank buying a cheese press? You don’t want to spend your weekends monitoring the temperature of your milk, or get up in the middle of the night to heat / stir / drain / flip your curds every 30 minutes? Well why not try Imeretian cheese!
Imeretian cheese is a fresh cow’s milk cheese. Although it originated in the Imereti region, you can find it everywhere in Georgia, whether it’s homemade or bought at the market. There are many variations, the subtleties of which haven’t really been recorded in a book so far, to the best of my knowledge. This is the cheese traditionally used in khachapuri, the infamous Georgian cheese bread. This is also the basis for another well-known Georgian cheese called sulguni (more on this in another post).