Le Borscht Noël Est Arrivé!

6 Dec

Oh joyous day!

Veselka Christmas Borscht

Christmas Borscht has arrived at Veselka for it’s once yearly appearance!

Just like I said way back during the dog days of August, for the last week or so my walk home has been a little less ambling. It’s had more purpose. Every night it has taken me to the southeast corner of 2nd Avenue and East 9th Street. Finally tonight, it was fruitful.

This is my Number 1 Thing To Eat Before You Die. So, New Yorkers, I implore you, if you have any room in your heart for beets, a wee frosting of dill and luscious mushroom dumplings, today’s your day! Get out there! Call for delivery! Or stop by and bring some home for someone you love.

Veselka Christmas Borscht

As the sign over the counter says, “Only 19 More Borscht Days ‘Til Christmas!”

Coincidentally, just this past weekend we ate lunch at a very old school Polish joint in the East Village called Polonia. I had the original version of this soup, Clear Borscht with Uszka. It was less vinegar-y, and the meat filled dumplings were very strange, good strange, but strange nonetheless. (Oh, and tomorrow night’s special soup is Cucumber Pickle, you know where to find me…)

But here’s what’s really got me all excited; The very nice waitress told me that they will be serving the vegetarian mushroom version of this soup in the week leading up to Christmas.

Yes, dear readers, you’ve guessed correctly.

Please stay tuned for the first annual A Chicken In Every Granny Cart Yuletide Christmas Borscht Off between Veselka and Polonia!

Coming to you sometime in the next 19 days!

11 Responses to “Le Borscht Noël Est Arrivé!”

  1. Lydia December 7, 2006 at 3:13 pm #

    Oh, I miss Veselka…and Polonia! Long time since I’ve lived in the neighborhood. Boston has a few good Polish markets, but no great restaurants, and certainly no great pastry shops (even, pardon my saying so, in the North End). And here in Rhode Island, well, I haven’t yet found a Polish “enclave.” Enjoy New York!

  2. hungrygirl December 7, 2006 at 3:44 pm #

    Lucky you, able to go to Veselka whenever you wish. On January 6, Ukrainian Christmas, I’ll be serving borscht at my house, with all the trimmings. But there’s nothing like going to a restaurant to eat Baba’s home cookin’.

  3. sher December 10, 2006 at 12:50 am #

    Those pictures are gorgeous!! Great detail–something I’m trying to master! :)

  4. ann December 11, 2006 at 8:25 am #

    Oh Lydia, that sounds like exile!! I could never live without handmade kielbasy and pierogis! But then again, if I didn’t live in NYC I could probably make my own pierogis in my cavernous kitchen…

    Hungrygirl — I’m so happy someone else acknowledges Ukranian Christmas exists. My boyfriend thinks I’m crazy… But yeah, you’re right, it is nice to be able to eat grandma’s cooking made by someone else… especially since my gramma’s forgotten all her recipes due to old age :-(

    Sher — I swear, it’s just dumb luck, but THANKS! I’m sure your new photos will be amaaaaazing!

  5. Annaliese December 11, 2006 at 2:30 pm #

    So I grew up in a totally Polska heavy town but I have to admit total ignorance about slavic holiday borscht. Is it a traditional special treat just for the holiday season? Do the dumplings make it special? I guess I have borscht down as an everyday workhorse kind of soup.

    Explain it to me, oh mistress of borscht!

  6. ann December 11, 2006 at 5:18 pm #

    Hi Anneliese!!! Boy, you left a comment on a huge day!! Over the weekend, I discovered yet ANOTHER kind of borscht; White Borscht!!

    Okay, so, let’s break it down.
    I think everyone’s kinda familiar with the regular run of the mill borscht, full of meat and beet chunks.
    In the summer, there’s a more refined version, also fairly common, that is chilled and served with sour cream and bits of cucumber and boiled egg.

    Less familiar than these two is Clear Borscht which I was made familiar with first through Christmas Borscht and more recently as simply Clear Borscht. This is a more refined soup with less clutter. I believe it begins with a beef stock and then is flavored with garlic, vinegar and some unknown spice, something redolent of mulling spice, perhaps Allspice or Clove.

    For most weeks of the year, Clear Borscht is served with meat dumplings called Uszka, but in the week leading up to Christmas (and here’s where it gets confusing) the dumplings are filled with a lovely mushroom mixture. Now, most Poles and a lot of their related kith & kin are Roman Catholic, and so thus, much like the Italians, do not eat meat leading up to the Christmas holiday

    It seems that there was a time when Poles and their ilk were part of the Eastern Orthodox church, like Greek Orthodox they followed a different calendar, I think this is what Hungrygirl’s comment is refering to above… Ukrainian Christmas in January, at the end of the meatless fast, so you might be able to find this meatless version for longer, depending on the community you’re in.

    And finally, my new discovery, White Borscht! I couldn’t get a clear description of what the broth is made of, but it is, yes, white, from the addition of sour cream. But the killer app on this soup is the kielbasa. Lovely, smokey chunks of kielbasa, floating in a creamy broth full of hard boiled eggs and a dusting of dill. This is good stuff people! Head thee to Polonia next Sunday and score yourself a big, steamy bowl!

    :-)

  7. Julie December 11, 2006 at 7:08 pm #

    I need to come to NY to do a borscht tour. The Christmas borscht sounds particularly wonderful, but I want to try them all. And I can’t believe I’ve never heard of any of these borscht variations until you wrote about the Chrismas borscht this past summer.

  8. Tiny Banquet Committee December 13, 2006 at 11:19 am #

    Yay, borscht! Ann, I thought of you yesterday when I went to Veselka for a bowl of this; I was/am waaaaaay behind on my blog-reading but I remembered your list from waaaaaay back in August! The calendar said there were only 13 MORE DAYS of Christmas borscht and I am certainly going to have to go back for a second bowl before time runs out. The soup was amazing, a bit tangy from just the right amount of vinegar; the dill tasted super-fresh and the little dumplings were earthy and perfectly seasoned.
    I had never heard of white borscht either but now I am thinking of New England vs. Manhattan clam chowder, and isn’t there a white gazpacho too, made with almonds and bread rather than tomatoes?

  9. ann December 13, 2006 at 1:06 pm #

    that’s awesome TBC! I’m so glad you liked it! I need to go back and get some more soon.

  10. lobstersquad December 13, 2006 at 3:16 pm #

    dammit, why did I go to NYC in May? it seemed such a good idea at the time…

  11. Kristen December 19, 2006 at 5:18 pm #

    Holy shit, I am so freakin’ there.

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