Ukrainian cooking that’s tough to ‘beet’ [Article]

From the Vancouver Sun:

Cindy Lazarenko won’t take her heritage for granted, ever, ever again. That’s because serving the Ukrainian foods she grew up with has just landed the self-taught cook a top-10 national designation for her restaurant, Culina Highlands.

Air Canada’s enRoute magazine, the only magazine in Canada to publish a yearly review of the country’s best new restaurants, has just named Culina Highlands, 6509 112th Ave., one of the most inventive fresh entrants, coast-to-coast.

“I just feel so grateful, and I’m just happy for the guys here in the kitchen,” says Lazarenko of the award, announced Wednesday and to be featured in enRoute’s November issue. “We take Ukrainian food for granted, but we’re just revisiting everything and learning more about the food.”

The magazine gave Culina Highlands the prestigious nod, according to Toronto food writer Chris Nuttall-Smith, for the way Lazarenko and her cooks execute classic East European fare. During an anonymous visit to the restaurant, Nuttall-Smith writes that he was impressed by the kitchen’s use of typical Ukrainian ingredients such as beets–in particular, “a silky reduction of beet juice and local honey, which is drizzled over whipped goat cheese and poppyseed custard and crispy bread.”

Nuttall-Smith also noted Culina Highland’s lazy cabbage rolls with brown rice and kimchee, and the pork tenderloin served with nachynka (cornmeal).

The enRoute magazine is found on all Air Canada flights and, according to Nuttall-Smith(who is food editor of Toronto Life magazine), is one of the few Canadian publications that takes food journalism seriously.

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1 The kids share a bowl of Culina Highlands’ berry cobbler with Bourbon-vanilla ice cream. 2 Lyndon’s Borscht, served with sour cream and fresh dill at Culina Highlands.

Modern Ukrainian? This deeply charming Edmonton room (picture grandma’s farmhouse kitchen, but lit with Nelson bubble lamps), does it with a silky reduction of beet juice and local honey, which is drizzled over whipped goat cheese and poppyseed custard and crispy bread. Cindy Lazarenko, the young, self-taught chef, puts horseradish in her salad dressing and serves cabbage rolls “lazy,” which is to say that they’re not rolled so much as open-faced. The roasted local pork tenderloin is served with nachynka – cornmeal stuffing – and a healthy lashing of pan jus; dessert is apricot and walnut varenyky topped with vanilla ice cream. Ukrainian fare may have fuelled the settling of the Prairies, but it was ripe for such an inspired makeover. All but the Ukrainian vodka, of course, which is served straight-up with a slice of cucumber on the rim.

6509 112th Ave. N.W., Edmonton, 780-477-2422,

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