August 12, 2020

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Opinion

Russian or Jewish, they're deli-cious

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/8/2009 (4002 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Russian Deli Market owner Dmitriy Kirman with blueberry perogies, rolled pork roll and pickles.

KEN.GIGLIOTTI@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Russian Deli Market owner Dmitriy Kirman with blueberry perogies, rolled pork roll and pickles.

When was the last time you bought pickles from a tub? Ever? Well, now you can, and they are big, crunchy and delicious, with the half-sour flavour of cukes that haven't been brined very long. You'll find them at the Russian Deli, a seemingly tiny place next to what once was Harman's drugstore. But there's more here than meets the eye from out front since it stretches into a sizable L-shaped area in the rear.

That's where the shelves are stocked with innumerable jars and cans of East European goods, but they weren't what I had come for. No, what drew me were the freezers packed with several house-made preparations -- Russian-style, or (as the server called them, despite the name of the deli) Ukrainian. On the other hand, I wasn't quite sure what I had truly understood during our conversation.

Desserts Plus owner Barbara Reiss offers all kinds of tasty traditional Jewish foods for take-out.

MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Desserts Plus owner Barbara Reiss offers all kinds of tasty traditional Jewish foods for take-out.

Those who speak Ukrainian or Russian should have no trouble, but although one phone call was answered by a woman who spoke unaccented English, she wasn't there on my visit, during which communication with the male server was difficult. An additional problem was due to the fact that many of the products are described in the Cyrillic script only. However, that server was endlessly good-natured, and my persistence, and a pointing finger, resulted in bags loaded with goodies to try out at home.

I still miss the good Russian restaurants we once had, but this deli offers some consolation. From the kitchen in the rear come some savoury treats, the plump, flavourful pelmeni meat dumplings, for instance (900 grams for $7.99). A tube of something like mayonnaise, with a faint mushroom flavour, was said to go well with them, but not for my taste -- I like mine with a pat of butter and a splash of vinegar, although sour cream is good, too.

There are the usual potato-cheese perogies, which I didn't try. But I did try a couple with less usual fillings -- potato-mushroom, for one, which was good (900 grams for $7.99), and another with blueberries, which was superlative (900 grams for $9.29). Delicious blinchiki (a.k.a. blintzes, to some of us) are filled sparingly with sweetened cheese, dotted by wee bits of raisins, and I was lucky enough to be there when a hot, cruller-like puff emerged from the kitchen, thinly stuffed with flavourful meat, and quite addictive.

There were enough cured meats to leave me dithering (most $15.99 to $18.99 per kilo). Tops among them, spectacularly good boneless chicken rolled with ham -- described by my English-challenged server simply as chicken. Other notables were the lightly smoked krakovskaya sausage; a deep scarlet, semi-dry beef salami with a tangy-sweet flavour; a Ukrainian salami -- oddly named since it was a dead ringer for genoa salami; and various kolbassas, including one made of chicken. There was also a slab of salted back fat -- meant to be spread on bread and clearly not for everyone, although one Ukrainian friend is mad about it.

 

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You can still have a Kosher corned beef on rye ($5.75), but Desserts Plus (for take-out only these days) has recently expanded its repertoire of microwave-ready meals to include such Yiddish comfort staples as garlicky beef brisket with buckwheat kasha and a few spears of asparagus, or a light and flavourful meatloaf with mashed potatoes and a blah mixture of frozen veggies ($12.95 each). If you're not interested in the fixings you can buy the meatloaf on its own ($14.95 a pound ) as well as individual portions of a terrific chicken pot pie under the flakiest of crusts ($5.95), or homey shepherd's pie ($7.95), or meat balls in tomato sauce ($14.95 a pound).

The kitchen isn't certified Kosher, but all the ingredients are, and since the dietary laws of Kashruth dictate that meat and dairy products shouldn't be mixed, your chicken Kiev will be stuffed, not with butter, but with mushrooms ($7.50). Alternately you can opt for half a moist and flavourful cornish hen, its skin beautifully burnished with apricot honey ($8.50).

To round out those dishes into a meal there are potato latkes that are light and crisp ($2 each), or such Jewish K rations as killer knishes stuffed with mashed potato or kasha ($15.95 a dozen) or cheese ($18 a dozen). There are fewer calories in the tangy cole slaw and it too is delicious ($7.95 a pound).

And what Yiddish meal is complete without a clear chicken soup with ethereal matzo balls ($9.95 a litre), plus, possibly, ravioli-like meat kreplach ($9.25 a dozen)? Or, for that matter the sweetish meat-based beet borscht $10.50 a litre), or earthy mushroom barley soup ($10.50 a litre).

The blintzes bulge with only slightly sweetened pot cheese -- have them with jam and sour cream ($9 for half a dozen). And if, like me, you could happily live on those double decker, egg-plus-tuna-or-salmon party sandwiches, they go for $8.50 the half dozen.

Hours are Monday to Friday, but the main selection of prepared foods is Wednesday to Friday. Choices vary from day to day, so if you're interested in a particular item, call ahead.

 

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Despite its name, Desserts Plus' desserts are now available on order only. In which case you couldn't do better than go next door to Eva's Gelato, for some of the city's best gelati (most $6.99 a pint). The chocolate is deeper and more velvety than any other I know, the fruit flavours fruitier, and since the owners are from Argentina, there's also a wonderful, slightly caramel-y dulce de leche.

marion.warhaft@freepress.mb.ca

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