Eastern Europe: Eastern European “Salade Nicoise”

fish course

After Zwack hour(s?) we were ready for some solid sustenance.  The opener was a beautifully interpreted course of smoked fish.  Smoked fish is a major part of cuisine throughout Eastern Europe.  Some might find it to be heavy and traditional, but in this recipe, Dave gave us a lighter and more modern, delightful presentation.

Eastern European “Salade nicoise”


Two different smoked fish (used trout and Alaskan black cod/sable)
Hard boiled egg, sliced
Red radishes sliced thin, preferably by mandolin
Persian cucumbers sliced thin, preferably by mandolin
Finely diced serranos
Fresh dill
Lemon vinaigrette


Set up (individual serving): Put the two fish on opposite sides of the plate. Then put 2-3 slices of egg on each fish, then 5-7 slices of cucumber, 4-6 slices of radish, sprinkle some of the diced serrano (to taste) over the salad, then some dill sprigs and finally just a spoonful of vinaigrette.

Thanks for coming by! Please visit the overview of our Eastern European Supperclub and make sure to return next week for the next course.

Eastern Europe: Zwack! Cocktail Hour and the Perfect Challah


Chris proved his chops as a Master Mixologist with a survey of Zwack liqueurs from Hungary.  Not satisfied with shots of each of the liqueurs in their pure forms, he also treated us to 3 masterfully mixed cocktails bringing out the unique fruity character of each.

For a little history, Chris found this information on drinkhacker.com:

Zwack Unicum Liqueur – This spirit, originally crafted from more than 40 herbs and spices in 1790. Very bitter, it’s a digestif for the Fernet fan, with sweetness a distant afterthought. Pushing past the initial shock of bitterness, Unicum offers a heavy cinnamon note character, with orange peel beneath. Secondary notes include licorice, dark chocolate, dried herbs, and some wood, driven by the six months Unicum spends in oak barrels before bottling. This is a solid alternative to Fernet, offering its own take on the bitter liqueur without reinventing the category.

Zwack Liqueur – Alternately known as “Unicum Next” internationally, this is Unicum’s lighter-colored and far sweeter take on Unicum, clearly designed for a younger, more sweet-toothed audience. Slightly syrupy, Zwack is quite fruity, driven as I noted in my original review by cherry notes — though these are more of the cherry jelly variety than the fresh fruit. It’s quite a different beast than Unicum, one which lends itself to drinking as a shot, using as a mixer, and generally appealing to a more novice drinker. That’s neither good nor bad… but it’s not Unicum.

Zwack Unicum Plum Liqueur  – Take Unicum and age it instead for six months in oak casks on a bed of dried plums (huge in Hungary) and you have Unicum Plum. The nose isn’t immediately distinguishable from Unicum, licorice and spice notes. The body is instantly familiar, but brings more fruit to the table — a Port-like prune character that helps to balance out some of Unicum’s overwhelming bitterness. If you’re looking for something somewhere in between Unicum and Zwack on the bitter to sweet spectrum, Unicum Plum may fit the bill, though I find the bitter Unicum more exciting.

zwack shots


Zwack Cocktails


Adapted from recipe by Joaquín Simó, the New York City bartender best known for his work at Death and Co. and Pouring Ribbons. Unicum and Zwack are traditionally consumed as shots, but their herbal makeup gives you plenty to work with when mixing drinks.

Hungarian Orchard

1 ounce Zwack

1/2 ounce apple brandy

1 ounce fresh orange juice

Apple slices for garnish

Fresh grated cinnamon for garnish

Combine Zwack, apple brandy and orange juice into a cocktail with ice and shake vigorously. Strain contents into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with apple slices and fresh grated cinnamon.

Masked Man

1/2 ounce Unicum

1 ounce apple brandy

1/2 ounce pumpkin spice syrup

1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Grated nutmeg for garnish

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir well and strain contents into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Unicum Plum Cobbler

1 ounce Unicum Plum

1/2 ounce aperitif (I used apple brandy)

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

1/4 ounce simple syrup

1/2 tbsp strawberry preserves

3 dashes aromatic bitters

Lemon peel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake vigorously. Pour contents into a Nick & Nora glass (or a coupe). Garnish with lemon peel.


Both to serve as a warm and meaningful welcome, and to to ensure that the Spicebox Supperclubbers could make it through the meal, Dave presented us with a beautiful challah.


Dave writes,

We were going for two different traditions with the bread:

Slavic tradition of welcoming distinguished guests with bread and salt.


Jewish tradition of serving challah with salt.

From a culinary point of view, the salt provided a nice flavor contrast to the slight sweetness of the dough and the raisins.  The recipe from the challah comes from Zabar’s, that great New York deli, to which Dave’s family has a personal connection (almost could have been related!)

Simple Sweet Challah
from Andrea Watman


This is my favorite Challah recipe. It is easy to make – and the sweet taste of the bread is just wonderful. I serve it warm with honey on Rosh Hashanah. Growing up my Grandma Bertha made dinner every Friday night. She set a beautiful table with a Challah as the centerpiece. No, she didn’t bake it – she walked to 161st Street and Gerard Avenue in the Bronx – to The G & R Bakery. If you lived anywhere near Yankee Stadium The G & R Bakery was where you met on Friday’s. You had to go early in the day because there would always be a line. The Challah was so shiny that as I child I thought it was polished. For years I tried to bake Challah and could never master it. This recipe has never failed me – so I hope you’ll give it a try.

2 packages dry yeast
2/3 Cup Warm Water (110 degrees)
5 Egg Yolks – Lightly Beaten
3 Whole Eggs – Lightly Beaten
7 Tablespoons Corn Oil
½ Cup Sugar
2 Teaspoons Salt
4 ½ Cups Flour
1 Cup Raisins (Optional)
1 Egg Yolk – Beaten
Poppy Seeds (optional)

1. In cup or small bowl dissolve Yeast in the warm water with approx 1 tablespoon of sugar. After just a few minutes the yeast should begin to “bloom”. It will become foamy and it will give off a sweet smell. If your yeast is not fresh this will not happen – do not go any further – start over with fresh yeast.

2. In a large bowl mix Egg Yolks, Eggs, Oil, remaining Sugar, Salt and Yeast mixture.

3. Add enough flour to form stiff but sticky dough (you can do this in a stand mixer – using the dough hook attachment).

4. Then turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (adding more flour if needed) – about 6 minutes – work in raisins as kneading.

5. Form a ball and place in a greased bowl and turn dough so all sides are greased. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place in warm area to double in bulk – about two hours.

6. Punch down and knead briefly.

7. Roll dough into a 24” long rope. Create a spiral round loaf. (Sometimes I divide the dough into three parts, then I make three smaller ropes and braid them – then I form a circle from with the braid).

8. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment.

9. Brush loaf with beaten egg yolk, sprinkle top with poppy seeds (if desired), and allow too rise until dough doubles in size – about 45 minutes.

10. Bake until golden brown in a pre-heated 375 degree oven – 35 to 40 minutes.

11. Allow to cool before slicing and enjoy!


Did you enjoy this sample of Eastern European food and drink? Visit the overview of our menu and come back next week for the delightful first course.  Thanks for coming by!

Spicebox Supperclub: Eastern Europe Edition

challah map

From the warm rhythms of Trinidad, the Spicebox Supperclub took a journey to a very different place– the cultures of Eastern Europe.  This was to celebrate the heritage of our hosts, Dave and Rani, whose heritage trace to many parts of Eastern Europe.  Rani’s ancestry includes Croatian, Lithuanian and Polish and Dave’s, Ukrainian Jew and Polish/Belarusian Jew.

For this Supperclub, we went all out, to also dress in the style of our theme.  It was interesting to discover that “Eastern European dress” did not mean the black and wine velvet that Heather and Linda imagined.  Rather, flowing white cotton blouses and skirts elaborately embroidered in colorful patterns appear to be traditional, including headdresses for the advanced.  Somehow, the women managed to carry it off.  Rani made a great find at a local thrift shop, accentuated by an apron from her daughter’s collection.  Diana borrowed a convincing headdress from her daughter, purchased from a grandparent’s trip to Eastern Europe.  And Heather and Linda both managed to assemble Eastern European outfits from their everyday wardrobes (not sure what that says!).

e eur womendaveThe men were less embroidered, with Peter, the Island Boy, excepted.  In face, somber hues of charcoal and black seemed to be the unspoken theme, and appropriately dour for Eastern European history.

e eur men

And the food was fresh and inventive, yet true to theme.  Here’s an overview of the menu:

Spicebox Supperclub Dinner #4, May 3, 2014

Eastern Europe

e eur table


Hosts: Rani and Dave

Executive Chef: Dave

Bartender: Chris

Sommelier: Peter

Pastry Chefs: Heather and Nalin



Sweet Challah served with salt


Zwack Unicum Liqueur

Zwack Liqueur

Zwack Unicum Plum Liqueur

Hungarian Orchard

Masked Man

Unicum Plum Cobbler

Main Courses:

Eastern European “Salade nicoise”

Coronica Malvasia 2012 (Istria, Northern Croatia)

Russian borscht

2009 J&J Eger Eged-Hegy Kékfrankos (Hungary)

Chicken and wild mushroom blintzes

2011 Fekete Béla Juhfark Somló (Hungary)

Sarma (Croatian cabbage rolls) with olive oil mashed potatoes

Umathum Zweigelt Classic 2011 (Austria)


Pickled carrots
Pickled turnips and beets
Dill pickles (cukes)


Apricot filled dumplings

Chocolate Beet Cake

Oranges in rosemary syrup with crushed pistachios

Tinon Dry Szamorodni 2007 (Tokaj, Hungary)

2008 Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos (Tokaj, Hungary)


And here’s a bit from Sommelier Peter, who delved deeply into the history of Eastern European wines:

Coronica Malvasia 2012

Coronica was established in 1992 by Moreno Coronica after the fall of communist Yugoslavia.  Today he lives in his family home with his wife children and father who still prefers to speak in Italian.  He is dismissive of wines that boast of flavors foreign to Istria, like tropical fruits, as for the ‘market’. To quote Moreno, “wine must taste like wine”.
He professes a faith in the terroir of Istria and its indigenous varieties and strives to develop his own ability to interpret them.

Moreno Coronica’s Malvazija is considered a benchmark example of this indigenous version. It represents almost 75% of his entire production. Peppery citrus, sea shells and bright without being overshadowed by acid alone. In lieu of Garrigue, Croatians champion ‘Freškina’ (sent of the sea) – imagine the sun beating down on rocks covered in seaweed.  Malvasia Istriana, one of Friuli’s favorite grapes, is named for the rust-colored soil of Istria in northern Croatia, where it originates. Like many of its Italian cousins, Coronica Malvasia 2012 smells of Meyer lemons and the sweet-scented acacia that blankets the countryside.

2009 J&J Eger Eged-Hegy Kékfrankos

J and J Eger Wine Company is the product of an unexpected partnership between Canadian born Hungarian and Master Sommelier John Szabo and physician and Eger native and winemaker Dr. János Stumpf. Ultimately it was their shared fascination with the cool North Hungarian terroir of Eger and the exotic mineral rich reds, made from the local variety Kékfrankos (Blaufrankisch). Their tiny 500 case production, more a professionally attended to hobby than a production is based around prime parcels of vineyards located on the steepest most exposed hill overlooking the town of Eger. The soil here is almost completely limestone overlaid with a thin layer of clay.

The 2009 is a revelatory balancing act between acid and gripping pungency. Harmonious, layered, and age worthy, the wines of J&J Eger Wine Company have the potential to be legendary. Still very much in its youth, it is a deep garnet hued wine with a perfume that leaps from the glass. Complex aromas of cranberry sandalwood and rose hips contrast its not so subtle minerality. Though grown in limestone it smells of granite. Rich without being overripe, the structured and savory almost herbal nature of the variety and its fresh acidity make this wine versatile for the table as well. Pair with herbed pheasant, lamb, pungent creamy cheeses and whole grain based dishes like barley or faro. For the authentic experience try Dr. Stumpf’s recommendation of wild venison sausage.

The 2007 was Sommelier favorite from Eastern Europe Wine & Spirits Magazine “It drinks like a Rhône syrah in terms of the depth of fruit; but it feels more like Burgundy – it has that sort of texture and acidity. One of the most successful pairings we’ve ever done with it is a 16-hour sous vide belly crisped in skillet. It’s good with duck, too; some people even drink it with fish.” —Santos Uy, somm/owner Papilles and Mignon, Los Angeles

2011 Fekete Béla Juhfark Somló

Juhfark (Sheep’s tail) is a distinctive, almost extinct white grape variety found almost exclusively in Somló. The clusters are long, tightly packed and curve a little at the end hence the Sheep’s tail moniker. Naturally very high in acidity, it’s also fairly neutral on its own and instead absorbs and communicates the volcanic terroir rather than pronounced fruit flavors. However, after a few years in bottle this wine really comes alive. According to Bay Area restaurateur Jeff Berlin, “it’s the ultimate yin and yang wine in that it is at once rich, opulent and elegant but has such prominent veins of volcanic ash and minerality running through it at the same time. Super sexy, both masculine and feminine, like a Caligulan feast in a glass.” Although Béla recommends drinking it with roasted wild fowl, Middle Eastern flavors like green olives, roasted red pepper and Za’atar are all amazing flavor combinations.

90 Points Wine & Spirits Magazine for the 2009 vintage: “At 84 years old, Fekete Bela still tends his ten acres of vineyard in Somló by himself, lending some credence to the old Hungarian belief that Juhfark has health-giving properties. His version is as sharp and mineral as a Fino Sherry, with a wooly lanolin-like texture padding the searing acidity. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it would make short work of grilled bluefish.

Want to learn to pronounce it like a native? Here’s a short video clip from one of Peter’s residents:


Umathum Zweigelt Classic 2011

Zweigelt is a dark-skinned grape that has, since its development in 1922, become Austria‘s most widely planted red-wine variety. This high-yielding vine is now grown in almost every Austrian wine region from Bergland in the west to Burgenland in the east. Following its success in Austria, the variety is now becoming popular in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia. Small-scale plantings have also been trialed further afield, in Canada, Japan and England.  A crossing of Saint-Laurent with Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt was developed by Dr Friedrich ‘Fritz’ Zweigelt, the viticulturist after whom it is named.  Farmed biodyamically, the juice ferments on its native yeasts and it finally aged in large neutal oak casks for about eight months.

FROM THE WINEMAKER: “Grown in mineral rich, stony soil in the country surrounding the village of Frauenkirchen, a very warm and dry soil adds a mineral taste. The resulting wine is dark red with purple rim, peppery and fruity aromas in the nose, on the palate cherries and spicy notes with impressions of chocolate, fine, mild and full-bodied finish.”
TRY WITH: Spicy dishes and game.

Tinon Dry Szamorodni 2007

Although born in the sweet wine appellation of Sainte-Croix-du-Mont in France, Samuel Tinon has chosen Tokaj as the best place to grow wine and raise his three children. He’s also quick to remind us all that Tokaj was the favored drink and muse for Leo Tolstoï, Pablo Néruda, Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Diderot, and Voltaire, so he’s already in good company. As the first Frenchman to settle in Tokaj in the modern privatization era, he’s also convinced that Tokaj possesses all the same greatness as Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy.

Originally called Ordinárium (ordinary wine) in the 1600’s, Főbor (prime wine) after that, and later, due to the immense popularity in the Polish market, Szamorodni (as comes off the vine) became the official name (itself a Polish word) in the early 1800’s. In short, this refers to healthy, shriveled and botrytized grapes all being harvested and fermented together. However, dry Szamorodni goes a few steps further by adding Claspodorium cellare (a special mold that covers the entire cellar) and a native yeast veil (flor) that protects the wine in barrel.

93 Points Wine & Spirits Magazine: “Samuel Tinon grew up in Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, a sweet wine appellation in Bordeaux, and came to Tokaj in 1991, to work at Oremus. He ended up buying a house and two hectares of 90-year-old vines in Olaszliszka, and started producing his own wines in 2000. Tinon looks to the old tradition of aging wine under a veil of yeast for his Szamorodni and ages it long enough for evaporation to drop the alcohol to less than 15 percent. It smells like an Amontillado Sherry, all nuts, button mushrooms and salt; it feels succulent with crisp green fruit, fresh radish and a scent that recalls a moist, chalky underground cellar. As easy to drink as a Fino with fried things and grilled vegetables, this will last for months in the fridge after opening, ready to incite an appetite.

Sommelier favorite from Eastern Europe Wine & Spirits Magazine Pascaline Lepeltier pours this at Rouge Tomate in NYC is pouring it with her tasting menu—”to go with a porcini farrotto with some Anson Mills farro piccolo, a little bit of parmesan and a white asparagus espuma—you also have a little bit of white and green asparagus, and some roasted porcini.

2008 Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos

Better known for its paprika than its wine, Hungary is nonetheless one of Eastern Europe’s most significant wine-producing countries. Exerjo, Furmint, Hárslevelü and Mezesfeher are just some of the indigenous (and unpronounceable!) varieties most widely planted. And Tokaji is Hungary’s biggest success story. Made since the sixteenth century, Tokaji is an extremely sweet wine that was adored by the Russian Tsars. It is made in a manner similar to Sherry, and is reputed to be the longest lived, non-fortified wine in existence (a few hundred years is not unheard of).

93 points Wine Spectator: A ripe, lush sweetie, with bright acidity backing notes of golden raisin, dried apricot and pineapple that linger through the spicy finish. Drink now through 2024. 2,500 cases made. –NW (6/ 2013)

Thanks for visiting! Appetite whetted? Come back next week for cocktail hour!