Thursday, March 1, 2012

This Post is Dedicated to my Ukrainian Fans!

3/5/2012 Update:  In the short couple of days that have passed since I wrote this blog post dedicated to my Ukrainian fans, the Ukraine has held the #2 slot in most readers of after my home country, the United States of America.  Evidently if you put out a message to the Ukraine, the Ukrainians definitely listen!  Thanks for reading!

I love data.  I think I was a statistician in a previous life.  By the way, that would totally fit into my world view -- if reincarnation does exist, I definitely believe that I was not Cleopatra, some great artiste or some heiress - I was probably a flunky office worker who died of typhus, unfulfilled.  I do not have an issue with the theory that I may have gone from life to life with minimal spiritual learning; since I seem to make the same mistakes over and over again in this life!  Ahhh, but one can dream!

I do feel that everything in this life happens for a reason.  I do believe the universe is constantly sending us messages; we may just not stop our hectic lives to take a moment and listen.  This past weekend I was in New York City.  With my love of data, I was intrigued to see that is read in a variety of countries.  During the lifetime of my blog (since 2010, people!), the top eight countries reading my posts are (in order of most readers):

1.  United States
2.  United Kingdom
3.  Germany
4.  Russia
5.  Ukraine
6.  Netherlands
7.  China
8.  Canada

I love to travel and have been extremely fortunate to be able to see a lot of this wild, wacky world we live in.  Of the 8 countries listed above, I have been to 7 - which I think is pretty darn awesome.  Perhaps this is why I have readers in these countries-- evidently my visits have touched the heart of each nation.  Or um perhaps their Google searches steer them my way!  Whatever the reason, I think it is beyond cool that I have readers around the world.

The one country on the list that I have not visited is the Ukraine.  My European travel has primarily been around Western Europe, with the exception of Turkey, Latvia, Estonia and Russia.  The Ukraine achieved their independence from Russia on July 16, 1990.  And here is some trivia that you should feel free to use at parties or when trying to pick up a gorgeous woman in a bar:  "The Ukraine has more than 6,600 recorded species of fungi."  If that line doesn't get you laid, then you're obviously doing something wrong.  

Since I was in New York and have no plans to visit the Ukraine in the near future, I thought I should research Ukrainian restaurants in New York and review one as a tribute to my Ukrainian fans.  New York City is a hub to the entire world.  If any city in America had a Ukrainian restaurant, I knew New York City would probably be the one to have it!

However, I didn't have time to research Ukrainian restaurants.  I was on my way to the East Village from Chelsea to grab a quick bite to eat and then see "Coriolanus" at Village East City Cinema.  I know what you're thinking - why are you going to see a movie in New York?  Because Tampa Bay, where I live, is deficiently short in quality indie films.  The "major" indie films tend to hit Tampa and nearby Orlando, but quantity-wise we are lacking.  I figured that there was little chance that "Coriolanus" would be coming to Tampa and who knew if it would be released on DVD?  "Coriolanus" is Ralph Fiennes' project - he not only stars in the movie, but directs it.  (See the YouTube movie trailer here.)  He has played the role on stage as well.  "Coriolanus" also stars Gerard Butler.   Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler?  I don't care if it's Coriolanus or "Herbie the Love Bug Gets an Oil Change" - I was definitely going to see any film that starred these two unbelievably gorgeous actors!  Count this girl in!

Read The New Yorker review of Coriolanus here.

In addition to seeing some hot actors in a Shakespeare production I have never seen before, seeing "Coriolanus" would top off my Shakespeare week.  KRG and I had attended the Orlando Shakespeare Theater's production of Shakespeare's "Cymbeline."  Then I attended the BAM- Brooklyn Academy of Music's production of Richard III, starring Kevin Spacey.  (Read my two blog posts about the production here:  Part One and Part Two.)  "Coriolanus" would be the third Shakespeare work I had seen within a week.  I have seen many Shakespeare works on stage, but I am eager to see the less famous plays as well.  (And by the way, if you have not seen the film "Anonymous" - go rent it NOW!)

When I was at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater to see "Cymbeline", an audience member said during the intermission: "This is the most convoluted of all of Shakespeare's plays."  And I could not have said it any better.  It was like every construct of Shakespeare's other plays was shoved into Cymbeline - star crossed lovers, cross dressers, the gods, ghosts, poison that makes you appear to be dead, revenge, evil stepmother, clueless father ... I saw so many of Shakespeare's other play plots within Cymbeline.   It was like the soap opera "All My Children" on steroids.  That being said, I loved the Orlando Shakespeare Theater's production of "Cymbeline."  If you are near Orlando, definitely make time to check it out.  (Also, I learned that Cymbeline refers to King Cymbeline.  I always assumed the name referred to a woman!  Live and learn!)

Back to my New York tale -- I grabbed a cab to the East Village.  I figured I could find a restaurant nearby the Village East City Cinema to grab a quick bite before seeing "Coriolanus."  The cab dropped me off on the corner down the street from the movie theater.  I looked up and this is what I saw ...

I told the universe that I should visit a Ukrainian restaurant in honor of my Ukrainian readers.  And then what happens?  My taxi cab just happens to drop me right in front of a Ukrainian restaurant????  WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF THAT?  I knew that the universe was telling me that I needed to visit this restaurant - the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant.  Now I could take a minute and gripe about how I also wish to win a very large Powerball lottery jackpot, so why is the Universe not delivering THAT?  But nooooo ... I won't digress from the topic at hand.

I walked up to the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant and checked out the specials on the sandwich board. The Ukraine borders Poland and I am 1/2 Polish, so I figured there would be items on their menu that I would enjoy.

I walked inside the building and found the restaurant inside and to the left.

Always happy to see an "A" rating from the health department!
The restaurant was wood paneled and I seriously felt like I was in Europe.  I have eaten in restaurants similarly decorated in Latvia, Russia and Germany.  I loved feeling like I had stepped into a transporter and was in Eastern Europe - if only for an hour over lunch.

I ordered the matzo ball soup and a plate of cheese pierogies.  I love a good pierogi - an Eastern European filled dumpling.  What I also appreciated was that for 75 cents extra, you could have your pierogies pan-fried.  I love a good crisp shell on a dumpling - Asian panfried dumplings are my favorite.  So I splurged and agreed to up my bill an extra seventy-five cents to have the pierogies pan fried.

First, a basket of bread arrived.  I usually shun starchy carbs, but I felt my blog readers really needed to know how the bread tasted.  (I am doing it all for you, readers!)  The basket contained two kinds of bread - a multigrain rustic country bread.  Your usual heavy, dense rustic bread.  The white bread however tasted like a cross between a beer bread and a Hawiian sweet bread.  It had a very weird fermenty but sweet flavor.  At first it was off-putting, but it soon became addictive.

Because my Floridian blood was freezing in the New York winter, I ordered soup at every meal I ate in New York City.  The matzo ball soup from the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant was quite good.  It was basically like any other good matzo ball soup you could get in NYC, but more carrots and the addition of fresh dill really made the flavor of the soup "pop" with fresh flavor.  I very much enjoyed it.

Even though I have been shunning starchy carbs, I felt that the universe demanded that I enjoy a lunch of Ukrainian food and what better than some delicious cheese pierogies?  My very friendly server brought out this gorgeous plate of pierogies.  I was eager to dig in!  Pan frying added a crisp chewy outer crust that I very much enjoyed.  It was tasty with oil, caramelized onions and I added a health dose of salt and pepper.

The pierogies were pretty good, but if I went back to the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant I would try a different filling for the pierogies.  The white farmer's style cheese was incredibly bland and brought nothing to the pierogi flavor.  Even added salt and pepper did not elevate the blandness much.  I prefer the white farmer's style cheese pierogies from The Pierogi Grill in Clearwater, Florida.  (If you are near Clearwater, check out this fantastic Polish restaurant.  My favorites are the potato and cheddar cheese pierogies and the Polish Letcho - a spicy vegetable stew.  See The Pierogi Grill's menu here.)

Farmer cheese filled pirogues

My entire meal at the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant was around $11.25 plus tip, so from a heartiness and a value perspective - it was a great deal.  I would visit this restaurant again.  They have a wide variety of Ukrainian foods and the service was great.

I then went to see "Coriolanus."  As usual, Ralph Fiennes did not disappoint.  I appreciated his modern day take on the Shakespeare play.  A wonderful production.

I truly do believe that the Universe is delivering messages and blessings to us every day.  On this particular day, the Universe also delivered pierogies!

Thank you to all my readers - especially my Ukrainian ones - for reading  I thank you all for your comments, your emails and Tweets.  I hope you enjoyed this post.  If you have a Ukrainian restaurant in your neighborhood, please leave a comment with the name and address of the restaurant.  Let's spread the word on great Ukrainian cuisine!

And an additional thank you to the universe.  Any universe that "magically" delivers pierogies to me is a pretty darn good universe.

Happy First Day of March 2012, readers!

Ukrainian East Village Restaurant on Urbanspoon