|Notice anything missing?|
Sometimes fate intervenes, and The Restaurant Dieter is helpless.
Growing up in ethnic Detroit, the foods of Eastern Europe were plentiful. Stuffed cabbage -- "pigs in a blanket" we called them -- were a staple. Only in adult life would I learn that others use the term to refer to that curious American cocktail party concoction of a Vienna sausage wrapped in biscuit dough.
Even though we were Italian, my mother learned to make these the real polish way from my Aunt Shirley. Done poorly, the meat-and-rice mixture inside is dense and hard, like an overcooked hamburger. But when they are done well, there's nothing better.
So I found myself in the East Village recently, after going to the gym, with no lunch and time to kill before the vintage shop opened. And right there, on the corner, was Veselka -- "Ukranian Soul Food in the Heart of the East Village." The rightness of this choice was only enhanced by discovering that The New York Times restaurant critic, Sam Sifton, had listed it among his 50 best.
I suppose one could work the menu and come up with something diet worthy -- homemade pea soup and a veggie burger, turkey burger or salad. Buy why, when you can rationalize that you just went to the gym and somehow deserve one of the "hearty combo plates." At $13.95 with soup and salad, it was a bargain by New York restaurant standards.
I devoured the thick and hearty pea soup, one of nine choices. It actually needed salt and pepper, a sure sign that it was fresh made rather than assembled from a cheap commercial base. The pierogi -- two meat and two potato -- were chewy and took well to the condiments provided -- shredded beet relish, caramelized onions, sour cream and applesauce.
The single stuffed cabbage, smothered in a mushroom gravy were melt-in-your-mouth wonderful. How wonderful? Did anyone notice that unlike my typical posts, this one has no photograph of the plate before the food was consumed. Hoovered that one up nicely, I thought.
But that's why they make the gym in the first place.