Monday, April 4


Do you know those giant refrigerators that are just about the right size for a body?  They make occasional appearances on TV shows like Dexter or any of the Law and Order series.  My grandmother (Grandmama or GMM for writing purposes) has a refrigerator that is about one size smaller than its body-sized counterparts.  Thankfully, she only stores soups and the occasional carton of ice cream.  The ice cream usually disappears quickly (especially when the rest of my family is at my grandmother's house) but the soup tends to hang out for awhile because my grandmother hates to throw anything away when she can simply toss it into a soup.  As a result, her refrigerator is Maine's version of Mary Poppin's bottomless carpet bag.  (All of these factors culminated last May in a soup GMM offered to me that was labeled, "Turkey Soup - 2004."  I chose the recently frozen potato leek soup instead.)

Anyway, over Winter Break, tucked away in the cosy woods, GMM reheated a container of borscht from her magic refrigerator.  It was the first time I had ever tried the earthy and beet-y stew and I loved it.  So when one of my professors mentioned Veselka, vendors of New York's premier "Ukrainian soul food," I jumped at the chance to rediscover borscht.

Veselka is in the East Village, on the corner of 2nd Ave. and 9th St.  I've been there twice thus far and each time I ordered take-out.  That said, the interior is casual and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.  Both times I ordered a bowl of borscht and a small iced apple cider, all for about $8.

First of all, the apple cider was hardly small but it was delicious.  The perfect blend of spices and sweetness, this was one of the first times the supposed cider was more than just apple juice.  The borscht was unbelievable.  It wasn't the vegetarian version (although I've heard that both the vegetarian kind and the kind with meat are considered traditional borscht), but the beef was perfectly tender and balanced the earthy flavor of the broth.  One of the things I love about borscht is the deep crimson color of the soup and the way the flavors meld into a stew that is not overpowered by the beets.  Moreover, the bowl of soup came with not one but two pieces of warm bread that completely satisfied my soup-absorption needs.

a Bowl of Borscht

If you ever have a chance to drop by, you definitely should.  If it's too crowded, don't despair - there is the beautiful St. Mark's Church nearby at 2nd Ave. and 10th St. (you can see it from the restaurant) that has lovely benches.  Also, Tompkin's Square Park is two blocks over at Avenue A and 9th St. (just exit the restaurant and turn right so that you walk two blocks east along 9th St.).  The park is full of trees and perfect for a casual meal outside, especially now that spring is (theoretically) here!

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