Ukraine – Black Sea Blackout

Hearty Homage

While I’m not of Ukrainian descent in any way, Ma Sip always made a point of celebrating Ukrainian Christmas in late January. With that, came a healthy dose of perogies and cabbage rolls. Borsht is also an originally Ukrainian dish, which has been adapted around the world. You might not want to read this article on an empty stomach, because we’re delving into the best of Ukrainian cuisine!

Borscht

This soup, made from beets, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions, and spices is a Ukraine original. There is said to be about 30 different varieties of borscht, depending on ingredients used. Borscht can be served either hot or cold, just like pizza, although I don’t think the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will be going out of their way for soup. The country is also known for a number of other brothy offerings, none of which seem overly appetizing, in the Sip Advisor’s opinion.

Borscht Dog

Similar to the fabled Bible Belt in the United States, there is a Borscht Belt, referring to parts of Upstate New York, where many Jewish immigrants vacationed between the 1920s and 1970s, bringing the Ukrainian dish with them over to America. Also dubbed the Jewish Alps, the area consists of many out of business summer resorts, although many stars got their start performing there, including comedians, singers, dancers, musicians, and variety acts. The area even inspired Fozzie Bear!

Pierogies

Although the pierogy was invented in Poland, it is a staple of Ukrainian meals. The people of Ukraine call these dumplings varenyky and they can be found stuffed with potato and cheese, meat, cabbage, mushrooms, or anything else that meets your fancy. Pierogies can be either savory or sweet and while some choose to boil their dumplings, the Sip Advisor is an advocate for the fried variety, especially if topped with crisp bacon, sautéed onions, and drizzled with ketchup and ranch dressing (freaky deaky!).

Pierogi Eater

The dessert pierogy options are typically stuffed with various berries or even cheese. They are topped with anything from butter to jam to honey. There is even a type of pierogy called Lazy Varenyky and we all know how fond of laziness the Sip Advisor can be. Varenyky monuments can be found in a couple Ukrainian towns and have even popped in in Glendon, Alberta, Canada, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States.

Cabbage Rolls

While never likely to make the Sip Advisor’s list of favourite foods, cabbage rolls have a devoted following around the world. In the Ukraine, cabbage leaves are either pickled or parboiled and then usually stuffed with only rice. This was because cabbage rolls were a meal of the peasants and meat was too expensive. Of course, the recipe has evolved in recent times to include meats, vegetables, and even tofu.

Cabbage Rolls Food

Cabbage rolls are typically cooked in or topped with sauces such as tomato juice, beef or vegetable stock, or different soup broths. Variations of this Eastern European classic have travelled the globe, to places including China (bai cai juan); Japan (rōru kyabetsu); Brazil (charuto de repolho); Iran (dolmeye kalam); Quebec, Canada (cigares au chou); and numerous other locales.

Babka

Famously known for its inclusion in an episode of Seinfeld, where Jerry and the gang are picking up a cake for a party they’ve all been invited to and in typical fashion, things go quite differently than intended. The Babka is a sweet bread, often baked with raisins and other dried fruit. It is mostly only produced at Easter to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ – as the dough rises, so shall the lord… or something to that effect!

Babka Barker

Unlike most cakes, which are long/round, the Babka is tall and cylindrical. The Babka dates back thousands of years, with evidence that ancient Greeks and Romans dined of the delicacy. Some versions of the dessert, typically from Sardinia, Italy, are decorated intricately with flowers and become more of an art form than a holiday food item. You’d feel horrible scarfing down something that looked so festive. Now that we have an appetizer, main, side, and dessert, I think it’s time for a drink!

Ukraine: Black Sea Blackout

Black Sea Blackout Cocktail

As I mentioned in one of my 25 Days of Christmas articles, Ukrainians (as well as other Eastern Europeans) also have a 12-course Christmas Eve feast, consisting of 12 meatless dishes, meant to symbolize the 12 Apostles. This year, I will do my own 12-course meal consisting of 12 different flavours of potato chips!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
This cocktail is supposed to use the regular Khortytsa Vodka and more Blue Curacao than I was willing to let into a drink, so I adapted the recipe a smidge. The results were quite nice, especially when paired with my Cran-Lemonade mixer, which is a wonderful addition to any bar. The Honey Hot Pepper Vodka also lends a nice little burn at the end of each sip.

October 11 – Gummy Bear

Bear Naked

The majestic bear is one of Pa Sip’s favourite animals and I can’t really say I blame him. Bears are pretty damn cool and despite their mostly cute and cuddly depiction in media, you wouldn’t want to mess with one of these beasts. Here are the Top 5 bears:

#5: Yogi Bear

The picnic (or “pic-a-nic,” as the always hungry bear calls it) basket-obsessed Yogi has made a living out of terrorizing Jellystone Park and in particular, Ranger Smith. Along with his little buddy Boo Boo, visitors of the site can expect to have their meals interrupted and more headaches for the disgruntled ranger. Yogi was actually the first star character of Hanna-Barbera and without him, we might not have later enjoyed The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Wacky Racers, and numerous other memorable animated legends. Yogi Bear’s First Christmas is a favourite of Mrs. Sip and myself during the holidays.

Yogi Bear Professional Thief

#4: Baloo – The Jungle Book/TaleSpin

While Baloo was first introduced in The Jungle Book, he is even more fondly remembered for his turn in TaleSpin, as a transport pilot always on the search for adventure. Many moons before ‘Hakuna Matata,’ Baloo taught us that all we need to be happy is the ‘Bare Necessities.’ I’ll also give a tip of the hat to Baloo’s little sidekick, Kit Cloudkicker, a young cub who has basically been adopted by Baloo. Despite his aloof behaviour and disheveled appearance, Baloo is actually a member of the aristocracy (if bear’s have that) and his full name is Baloo von Bruinwald XIII.

#3: Ted

The stuffed bear come to life, Ted and his best buddy John Bennett and practically inseparable. Trouble comes in the form of a woman (it always does!) who wants John to grow up and for Ted to finally go out on his own. As a “grown up,” Ted is a foul-mouthed, hard drinking, womanizer… all the personality traits the Sip Advisor likes to employ. Created by Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame, Ted was originally intended to be an animated TV show rather than a live action film. A sequel to the movie will be out in summer 2015 and I simply can’t wait to get some more naughty stuffed animal action.

Ted-hangover

#2: Winnie the Pooh

This honey-loving, sometimes forgetful, but always generous and loving bear (and his friends Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, etc.) were originally based on the stuffed animals of writer A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin. Simply, Pooh, as he’s affectionately known by the other residents of the 100 Acre Forest, the bear’s roots come from Canada, where Harry Colebourn, a Canadian Lieutenant, bought a real-life bear for $20 and named it Winnie after the city of Winnipeg. Winnie ended up at the London Zoo, where a young Christopher Robin spotted it and took the name for his toy.

#1: Fozzie Bear – The Muppets

The perpetual jokester, Fozzie is always looking to up his act and shine as one of the brightest stars among the Muppets roster. Kermit the Frog is a huge supporter of the bear, despite his corny routine of practical joke gags and word play. It’s a misconception that Fozzie got his name when his performer, Frank Oz’s names were combined. He’s actually named after Faz Fazakas, who designed the equipment that allowed Fozzie to wiggle his ears. The original Fozzie puppet resides in the Teddy Bear Museum in the United Kingdom.

Super Saturday Shot Day: Gummy Bear

Gummy Bear Shot

  • 0.5 oz Vodka (I used Grey Goose)
  • 0.5 oz Raspberry Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz Cranberry Juice
  • Garnish with Gummy Bears

A special shout out to the Berenstain Bears, who established a moral code in the Sip Advisor that exists to this day. Without them, I would probably be a drug-addled thug instead of an underachieving liquor jockey. Sliding doors, my little sippers!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
They didn’t make the list, but gummy bears are a pretty big deal, too… famous around the world, even! This shot tasted exactly like the candy and had a nice tang to it, thanks to the use of my Cranberry-Lemonade mix, a recently released product from Ocean Spray.