Moldovan Impressions: The Breakaway Territories, Part 3

Tiraspol - Lenin StreetOur mock tourist guide of Transnistria continues! After the history and travel logistics sections, let’s talk about the attractions, the gastronomy, and the souvenirs.

I have to warn you: “pretty” isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind when thinking of Transnistria and its capital city, Tiraspol. And I dare anyone to name a Transnistrian national dish. Don’t expect to find much Soviet memorabilia for sale, either. There aren’t enough tourists for that. So, why visit?

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Red Alert: Veal Cheek Goulash at Seäsonal

Red Alert! Random Eastern European dishes are invading our streets and restaurants! Should you duck and cover, or welcome the enemy?

Seäsonal Restaurant & Weinbar, in Midtown West, is an Austrian restaurant. It is not owned by Kurt Gutenbrunner — an important detail, since New York City counts 10 or fewer Austrian eateries, and the KG-NY Group owns three of the most famous among them.

Seäsonal’s web site provides a good idea of their philosophy, which is more than many places that I’ve reviewed on this blog can claim:

Wolfgang Ban and Eduard Frauneder have perfected their own modern take on Austrian cuisine – one which combines traditional techniques, contemporary innovations, and updates to some of their favorite childhood dishes.

Austrian Cuisine - Seasonal - Veal Cheek GoulashWhat makes the place Red-Alert-worthy is the goulash, of course. A dish hailing from neighboring Hungary but transformed into something quite different (and closer to a pörkölt) in Austria.
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Yellow Perch Cutlets, Artichoke Varenyky and Morel Sauce

So spring is here (sort of — it was still 35 F in upstate New York yesterday). While I still have dozens of yellow perch from a recent ice fishing trip, I’m starting to see spring vegetables here and there. As the freezer must be emptied and the vegetables consumed in the name of seasonality, I wanted to create a dish to celebrate the transition from winter to spring.

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Restaurant Report: Currywurst in New York

Now that spring is here, you know that sooner or later you’ll find yourself in a beer hall of some kind. And after the first pint, you’ll inevitably want to grab a bite, if only to make yourself thirsty enough for the next round. Currywurst is exactly what you need. It goes great with beer, and the spicy sausage together with salty fries will make you long for another mug.

I’ve found four German joints in New York that feature currywurst on their menus. This post won’t really have restaurant reviews, since I’m only focusing on that one dish. All of these establishments are indoors, but what better way to spend a hot summer afternoon than inside an air-conditioned beer hall?

First, a brief history of the currywurst…

Currywurst - Wechsler's

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Blueberry Pie with Sour Cream and Vodka Chiboust Cream

The idea to make a blueberry pie started with a rather prolific day of blueberry picking last summer at Fishkill Farms, which left us with way more berries than we really needed to make preserves. Having found a recipe for blueberry pie filling, I decided to give it a try.

It didn’t strike me, then, how misguided this solution was for the original problem. First off, we ended up with even more jars than we would have if we’d just done a bunch of preserves, and these jars further reduced our usable refrigerator space, sitting next to my bric-a brac of wine bottles, sausage casings, and onion jams (a piece of advice if you ever make onion jam: no matter how good it tastes, you probably won’t eat quite so much of it). Second, my regular readers — and WordPress tells me they really do exist! — will probably have noticed that opening a jar, pouring its contents into a store-bought crust, and calling it a day isn’t exactly the style we go for on this blog.

Blueberry Pie with Sour Cream and Vodka Chiboust Cream

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Happy Paskha 2014!

Happy Paskha 2014! Here are a few suggestions to keep your paschal meal interesting:

Kustodiev - Easter Greetings (1912)

Moldovan Impressions: The Breakaway Territories, Part 2

9 November 1989: the Berlin Wall falls, marking the end of the division between the East and the West. Within a year, the Eastern Bloc ceases to exist.
27 August 1991: following the failed Soviet August Coup, Moldova, like most other republics in the USSR that haven’t done so yet, declares its independence.
8 December 1991: the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus secretly meet to declare the Soviet Union dissolved.
25 December 1991: Mikhail Gorbachev publicly resigns as the President of the USSR, and that office ceases to exist.

The communist dream is over. Everywhere across the Empire, the red flag is taken down, statues of Lenin dismantled, the Hammer and Sickle emblems on buildings and monuments desecrated.

Well, almost everywhere.Transnistria - Entering Tiraspol

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Venison and Root Vegetable Tourtière

Some readers may remember the tourtière du lac from M. Wells Steakhouse, a debauchery of game meat encased in pie crust that fits quite well with my somewhat idealized conception of Eastern European cuisine — the one wherein everyone hunts for their own food, and then spends their days making excessive yet elaborate recipes overflowing with meat, root vegetables, rich sauces, and pie crust.

As much as I loved the idea, I was a little disappointed that the various meats in M. Wells’ version were hard to distinguish from one another and suggested offering fewer meats, with variations on texture instead. Putting my money where my mouth is, I started working on my own venison-centric version.

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Venison and Beet Sausages

I’ve already posted recipes for goose sausageslake trout sausages, salmon sausages (with beef fat). With two deer in the freezer, venison sausages were the natural thing to do next, and I might very well come up with more than one version. Today’s venison sausages are made with beets.

Beets contain a flavor compound called geosmin that’s responsible for their earthy taste. In fact, the word geosmin comes from “earthy smell” in Greek. This is the same compound that you find in red wine with earthy notes, and fish with a muddy taste (more on this here). I couldn’t find a list of the flavor compounds in venison, but in my sausages, the smell from the beets serves as a subtle reminder of the deer’s natural habitat. While you can’t really pinpoint the beet flavor in the final product, you do taste something that complements the flavorful venison meat.

Venison Sausages

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Red Alert: Petrossian

Red Alert! Random Eastern European dishes are invading our streets and restaurants! Should you duck and cover, or welcome the enemy?

PetrossianPetrossian, just a block south of Central Park in Midtown, is a strange beast. Contrary to what many people might think, it’s really not a Russian restaurant. It’s an “expensive ingredient” restaurant. And yet there’s a Russian connection. Kind of. Armenian, rather. Sort of.

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