A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Friday, May 06, 2005

May. 6.


Veselka - 144 2nd Ave., East Village
Bigos with a potato pancake side, a banana chocolate chip cupcake

It was a joke that lasted eight months. Ever since Vince and I spotted this item on the Veselka menu, we couldn’t get past it. “Bigos,” it said. “A substantial meal fit for a hunter.” I had visions of burly men in neon orange vests, the carcasses of fresh-killed elk protruding from pick-up trucks, double-barrel shotguns and… bowls of hearty Eastern European stews? It was incongruous enough to capture our imaginations.

Made from Polish kielbasa, roast pork, sauerkraut and onions, the bigos became a legend, an inside joke of epic proportions. Small portions in a restaurant could be met with the criticism, “Well, this isn’t a substantial meal fit for a hunter.” A walk past Veselka’s windows always prompted a suggestion to finally broach the bigos. In short, the idea of consuming this stew consumed us, until we decided to make the legend a reality.

On Friday, Vince and I made the fateful call to order the substantial meal. I was ready and even excited, if a little wary. My recent visits to the restaurant (see Feb. 21, Jan. 31) had proven uneven and disappointing, and the level of hyperbole this dish was carrying would’ve intimidated Daniel Boulud let alone the Veselka line cooks. So I warned myself to evaluate it as I would approach any other entree. Even by those standards, it sank.

The portion was indeed large, and the ingredients could have made for a very satisfying mixture. Instead, the sauerkraut was overcooked and mushy and everything was disturbingly salty, disguising the better flavors of the tasty kielbasa and minced pork. I ate as much of the meat as I could, but after a while, I’d had enough of it. The bigos, as much as I’d wanted it to succeed, was a bust.

On the bright side, for my side, I chose a potato pancake. Trying it originally last year to celebrate Hanukkah, I found it quite good still and even better with applesauce. I also had a banana chocolate chip cupcake, which was tasty if a little dry. Both proved to be comforting foods that helped me recover from the loss, the death of a legend. 4/10


Anonymous Catherine said...

Hi there, I'm a big fan of your blog. I pretty much live vicariously through your food adventures. The writing style is also great- it's very experiential, it makes me feel like I'm there.
Anyway, I hadn't posted before, but I had to after giggling to myself for several minutes at the idea of 2 guys at an upscale restaurant, commenting that the portions aren't a substantial meal fit for a hunter. That's fantastic.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Lonesome Hero said...

Hey thanks. I appreciate the appreciation. Just wondering, for you and any other readers out there, where are you reading this from?

8:18 PM  
Anonymous Catherine said...

I'm reading from Brooklyn and came across your site via Chowhound.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Roma said...

Hey, since you're asking, I'm from just west of Toronto, Canada, in Oakville. And I miss Veselka,epecially when I use to meet up with friends for some borscht.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Lonesome Hero said...

You heard it here first. My blog is officially international...

4:19 PM  
Blogger la depressionada said...

the first time i ever ate bigos (pronounced bigosh) was at the unkrainian national home about 25 years ago -- that's the place next to veselka in the back. i'm not sure it's still there -- even though i live in the nabe, you can't tell from the street. go there if it's still open, it's weird and good.

10:59 PM  
Blogger la depressionada said...

must be open, it's on here.

11:01 PM  
Blogger la depressionada said...

here: http://www.ukraineinfo.us/diaspora/restaurants.html

11:02 PM  

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