[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Pretty Pocherovok"]
It was about 18 months ago that I started this site. I remember saying then that "I'm not familiar with West Indian culture at all."
I know a good deal more about West Indian food and culture now, to the point where I'm comfortable enough to show you how to cook a few dishes from that cuisine, and I can riff on those influences elsewhere in my cooking. And I will. That's huge for me - I'm gaining a culinary education by boot camping it through as many eating experiences as possible.
The beauty of our mission here at MOTB is that I will be saying the same thing about dozens and someday maybe hundreds of ethnic cuisines, because we'll never run out of cuisines to learn about and explore.
And for today, I'll say I am not that familiar with Russian food. But I'm getting there.
Before my trips to Brighton Beach last month and in 2009, I had had pierogies, stuffed cabbage, borscht and a few dried sausages, and that was my only reference point for any Eastern European food.
As I've mentioned, the way I like to get to know an ethnic community's national dishes and food preferences is to get out and eat at a bunch of its restaurants. Then I find someone from that culture with the patience and knowledge to teach me how to make a few of the dishes, and then I show you how to do make them. If you live somewhere that doesn't have what we have here in New York, or if you are just curious about what's in a Chinese egg tart or Siberian style pel'meni, then you can make them anytime you're up for it and enjoy the same flavors that I do.
But going back to that first step, going out and eating/shopping at a bunch of places in an ethnic neighborhood: This is part one of several in recapping the restaurant visits so far to Brighton Beach.
In this post, we'll just focus on one place, which I went to both times I visited the neighborhood.
1) Glechik (Ukranian)
3159 Coney Island Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11235-6443
Brighton Beach (Q, B)
What we ate (on two separate trips - Glechik was one of many places on the itinerary each time):
- Julienned mushrooms baked with glorious cheese
- Siberian pelmeni
- Kompot (drink)
- Troika Kavass (drink)
Fatty, cured meats and dumplings are hallmark foods of Russian culture and throughout Eastern Europe. Dude, it's COLD in Russia in the wintertime and you need that padding to keep you warm. Despite its name, Brighton Beach was on my list of MOTB neighborhoods to check out during the winter this year so that I could justify all this heavy food.
So, we leapt right into the traditional experience here by ordering the pelmeni
(I devoted a whole post
to them last week) and an unfamiliar meat appetizer, pocherovok
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Slice of pocherovok"]
Pocherovok was a plate of fatty pork belly, breaded, roasted with garlic cloves in the center and sliced crosswise. The slices were served on hearty bread with a pickle. This was homey and satisfying. As an Italian, I appreciated the roasted garlic in the center. However, some slices were a bit too fatty for me and I wound up eating around the fat. Silly American.
The mushroom casserole
was freaking glorious (and was recommended to us by a fellow Glechik fanatic).
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Hit me, baby."]
If you've ever had a burger with mushrooms and super melty cheese on top, this casserole is what was on top of your burger. It was that gooey, unnecessary and delicious. Like scooping the top off a slice of pizza, but a whole bowl full of it. This casserole was flecked with dill through, and this is another thing you should know about Russian cuisine. Dill is everywhere. If you don't like it and you're eating out, good luck dodging it in or on almost anything you order.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Beet borscht at Glechik, Brighton Beach."]
There it is. The ambassador dish of Russia. People either love or hate beets. It's like a civil war between the two groups - no middle ground, no room for negotiation. It follows then, that if you love beets, you will likely love this comforting, bright-hued and flavorful beet-based soup. Note the dill in the photo. I told you.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Kompot"]
I sipped on a glass of kompot
during our lunch. This drink is made by steeping/stewing dried or fresh fruits with sugar water and then extracting the juice. I don't usually drink soda or much of anything besides water and booze, so this is a little sweet for me. If you like 100% natural cranberry-apple juice blend, you may like it.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Like a mashup of malt liquor and root beer, but minus the actual alcohol."]
On my earlier visit to Glechik, my friend who came with me ordered a bottled root beer-type drink called Troika Kavass. I tasted it. It's what would happen if you took all the joy out of grape juice and put it in a time out with prune juice and a bottle of Colt 45 malt liquor. Do not like.
Mainly hits, not misses here. And this is just the start of our exploration into Brighton Beach's Russian and other Eastern European foodways. Check back next week for a new rundown on more spots from our visits to Little Russia. We also may make an event announcement next week on the site: Midnight Brunch, Mouth of the Border's new supper club, is setting up shop in Brooklyn for its first edition where we'll bring you the flavors and flair from the ethnic neighborhoods we've explored here straight to your plate.
I love sharing details about upcoming tasty trips and adventures, so you won't want to miss a bite. As always, please feel free to chat with me on Twitter
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