Decision 2006: The Great De-Beet

27 Dec

I promised you a borscht-off, and a borscht-off you shall have!

(Insert Rocky music here).

In this coooorner we have the undisputed, never defeated, world famous Christmas Borscht from VESELKA!

Veselka Christmas Borscht

And in this cooooorner we have the newly discovered upstart with the impeccable pedigree, Clear Borscht with Mushroom Uszka from POLONIA!

Polonia Clear Borscht with Mushroom Uszka

Now that you’ve met the soups, it’s only fair to introduce you to the judges which are me and the boy. We feel we make excellent judges for The Great De-Beet because we love beets, borscht, mushrooms and soup. Nuff said. Let’s get down to the judging.

Point No. 1 ~ Prettiness.

I was taken by the shapeliness of Polonia’s uszka and their plump, sensuous nature and turned off by the slight film of oily-ness floating on the surface of the soup. The boy was taken by the gorgeous, deep, intense ruby-red color of Veselka’s broth and how clear it was; you could see all the chunky-bits hiding shyly beneath the surface. I grudgingly agreed.

Point No. 1 winner? VESELKA.

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Point No. 2 ~ Aroma.

It’s funny, having the two borschts right next to each other brought out aspects of the Veselka borscht I had never noticed before, like it’s overwhelming perfume of beef stock. Polonia’s soup smelled mysterious, exotic, earthy, sweet and redolent of unseen spices.

Point No. 2 winner? POLONIA.

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Point No. 3 ~ Taste (broth only).

Just as the two soups had wildly different aromas, their flavors were polar opposites as well. Veselka’s is a manly broth; salty, beefy, spicy, chunky, garlicky, vinegary and well, delicious. Polonia’s is utterly feminine; sweet, beety, earthy, subtle and well, also delicious.

Point No. 3 winner? A TIE. I preferred Polonia’s, the boy, Veselka’s.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Point No. 4 ~ The Dumplings.

POLONIA.

Polonia's Mushroom Uszka

VESELKA.

Veselka's Mushroom Uszka

The pictures do not lie. This decision was as easy to make in person as it is to make over the Internet.

Point No. 4 winner? No contest. POLONIA.

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Point No. 5 ~ Ease Of Procurement.

Polonia.

Walked in waited for 5 minutes next to about 10 Polish men of every generation doing shots of vodka at 1 in the afternoon. The lady behind the counter told me she didn’t have any borscht to sell me as I hadn’t ordered it a month (!) in advance and that she might have some for me on Sunday (this was on Saturday just before we headed Upstate to celebrate Christmas with my family). I guess I put on a pretty good pout when I told her I wasn’t going to be around tomorrow because she agreed to sell me a small container. It was $4.50.

Veselka.

Walked up to the branch on 2nd Ave and E. 9th St, decided it might be more prudent to get the borscht from Little Veselka at 1st Ave and E. 1st St as it’s closer to home and would be warmer. Walked over there, walked up to the window, placed my order, paid $4.25, got the soup, walked away.

Point No. 5 winner? Hands down. Veselka. (But if you like a little color, go with Polonia).

And In Conclusion?

Yep, we have a tie!

If I were the only judge Polonia would be our winner. I preferred the broth and the uszka and I love the, *ahem* charm, associated with a trip to Polonia.

But, this was a team effort and while the boy preferred Polonia’s uszka, the wait made him cranky and he vastly preferred Veselka’s broth.

So, I say unto you, there are no borscht losers!

Unless you really hate beets.

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8 Responses to “Decision 2006: The Great De-Beet”

  1. s'kat December 27, 2006 at 3:26 pm #

    Sigh. I do really hate beets, though I keep trying to like ‘em! It looks like you sure had fun tasting them!

  2. Julie December 29, 2006 at 4:29 pm #

    I don’t like beets but despite that this soup looks delicious. Are those porcini mushrooms and cabbage in the dumplings?

    Love the tasteoff idea.

  3. ann December 29, 2006 at 5:12 pm #

    S’kat — it really was fun! silly, but fun, and tasty to boot!

    Julie — I think they’re actually called Borowik and I believe they’re related to Cepes. You can buy them at any Polish deli or meat shop in long strings. I was just buying some pork for New Year’s Eve dinner and came very close to buying a $25 string of them. They’re expensive, but sooooooo worth it! They generally sell for about $100/lb. Here’s a link so you can oogle them ;-)
    http://polartcenter.com/Polish_Mushrooms_s/234.htm

  4. lee December 30, 2006 at 11:30 am #

    Oh my god! The picture of that dumpling is so tantalizing! I have a friend who lives in Greenpoint (and he’s Polish) and I crave the pastries there. Next time I’ll be looking for borscht.

  5. sher December 30, 2006 at 7:58 pm #

    Well, I was humming the theme to Rocky as I read that!! I can’t see how you could choose a winner in this case. A tie was the only proper solution!!!! I also am still reeling from the pictures of the dumplings! They were both knock out punches!

    Have a great New Year Ann!! See ya next year!!!!!!

  6. Kristen December 30, 2006 at 8:29 pm #

    Y’know… I was just going to spend a nice quiet day inside tomorrow, but no, now I have to go all the way downtown — seriously, like 185 blocks worth — to get to Polonia and its borscht.

    [shakes angry fist at the internets]

  7. ann January 1, 2007 at 5:02 pm #

    Lee — Make sure you visit him around Christmastime!

    Sher — They’re all winners in my eyes ;-) Happy New Year to you too!

    Kristen — That’s what I’m here for, to give people unavoidable cravings for borscht ;-) I hope you got some!

  8. robert August 7, 2007 at 11:42 pm #

    I,m a retired chef ,,my grandmother born in Russia used to make Borscht when i was a child and i loved it ,,havent had any in over 50 years ,now that i have time i,m going to introduce my children and granchildren to this wonderful Russian Peasant soup

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