If you need a homey catered meal at work that is going to conjure your grandmother’s apron strings, try Eastern European cuisine. While Eastern European food varies widely, you’ll always find comforting dishes like rich meats, savory noodles and dumplings, and plenty of marinated, pickled, and smoked things (think Russian and Polish fish, veggies, and meats). Eastern European cuisine is possibly the most underrated foodie pleasures. Fortunately, its glory is finally being recognized by food critics and upstart chefs who are modernizing ex-Soviet cuisines. In light of all this activity, we decided the time was right to highlight dishes that add a little oomph to the table, to keep you and your colleagues happy.
Blini are divine pancakes tucked with sweet or savory fillings. Sold as street food across Eastern Europe, the Russian pancakes go off script once the crisp, buttery cover gives way to the stash of jam (or savory filling). Perfect for a morning conference or a seminar, savory blini can be found at Pushkin Restaurant and Russian Samovar.
If a long week is coming on, stuffed cabbage (with copious amounts of deep-fried pickles and sausage on the side) will work its magic on you. Called holishkes or golubtzis, these braised parcels feature silky cabbage and savory fillings. Because this Eastern European food staple has been perfected across cultures and over generations, you’ll find hundreds of variations, even gluten-free and vegetarian options. The Polish version smells heavenly as it is perfumed with sweet-and-sour tomato sauce. Others are filled with pine nuts, lamb, and rice, or scented with dill. The restaurant Masha and the Bear nails a version that can totally alter the mood in the office.
When hosting hours-long company events, we want our food to withstand crowds and be able to sit out while people mingle. Golden-browned sausage is fork-able, tasty at room temperature, and great with nearly any seasonal produce. We love Russian and Polish sausages because their smokiness adds a little intrigue. To experience Eastern European flavors the right way, order up sides of pickles and braised cabbage, to lend the rich meats a counterbalance of intensely pickled flavors. The restaurant Belvedere Polish Deli will spoil your crew with their Polish sausages.
Of all the dishes of Eastern European cuisine, beef stroganoff has got to be the most familiar and quite possibly one of the most comforting. Quick-seared beef is tossed with buttery noodles. The sauce is made from beef drippings thickened with rich crème fraiche. This dish, without question, would be appreciated by the whole team. If you’re in need of a portable, less-mess version of the classic for a sales meeting or a training, Southern Baked Pie Company hand-crafts a delish beef-stroganoff pie for their ready-to-go box lunches.
People go crazy for this cake. The top is blanketed with a “snow” of pastry crumbs symbolizing the snow of Russia, which helped the country to defeat Napoleon in the Patriotic War of 1812. One of the beauties of this terrific Russian dessert is its cream to pastry ratio, which creates a moist, delicate cake. The alternating layers (as many as 15!) contrast the dense, rich custard and crumbly pastry. Your colleagues will be completely obsessed (here’s one of the best delivery options we found).
America has always been a great dumpling nation. Tons of restaurants across the country offer fantastic versions, like Italian tortellini and Shanghai soup dumplings. But the ones that are going to be in your face this year, if you follow national food trends, are Eastern European dumplings. There are plenty of styles of dumplings to try in the Eastern European food landscape. Tasty beef- or lamb-filled Russian dumplings (pelmeni) are doused in butter and plenty of black pepper. Ukrainian dumplings (vareniki) are topped with tart cherry sauce. Large Georgian dumplings (khinkali) are shaped like money bags with sturdy knots. Georgians pick up the parcels by the knots and snip off the juicy soup dumplings with their teeth and discard the dough knots. If you have adventurous eaters at the office, or just hungry people, make sure you order enough (here’s a portion guide).
Need more lunch ideas for your catering order?