I was wandering around the Salisbury Farmers’ Market a few weeks back, when I stopped to talk with Owen from Prairie Mill Bread Co. And in classic, small world Edmonton-style, I discovered Cindy Lazarenko from Culina Highlands, was also using a few of her precious moments away from the restaurant, to chat with Owen. After some initial jibba-jabba, we finished in a flurry of excitement as Cindy invited us to come by for the restaurants perogy dinner. Held just once a month, Owen and I quickly agreed to put this on our calendar for the summer.
Normally closed on Sunday evenings, Culina Highlands opens up for just two hours on the 2nd Sunday of every month for a perogy dinner that features a $15 set menu featuring Baba’s own pyrohy, Marchyshyn’s kubassa, Jam Lady mustards and seasonal slaw. Arriving just a tick after five, with the sun still high and warm, we decided to sit out back on the patio. And I must say, what a patio it is. Calm, and perfectly relaxing. The small space was expanded this year and will soon be awash in greenery. I really loved the small wall of swiss chard growing!
Taking our seats, we were given beautifully prepared menus; which we were allowed to take for our scrap books. What! Who says a grown man can’t have a scrap book. 🙂 Thinking there would be no options to this set menu, I was surprised to see a few more things than expected. A soup, a salad, side, and dessert to be exact. And why not I guess. The salad, with was Picked Herring and Beet’s, was ordered by 3 of us, while Sarah batted clean up with the Borscht. If you are in any way nervous about pickled herring, this would be the dish to try. The smooth, clean fish worked so well with the salad that it would have won over even the pickiest of eater. Even if you didn’t like dill, I somehow think this would work for you. The borscht, which came quite a bit more pureed than anything I’ve ever eaten, or prepared, reminded me of a thick tomato soup. Beety enough to know it’s borscht, I think the little bit that Sarah shared with me wasn’t enough to make me wish for more. Instead, I looked down at my salad and just kept on smiling.
The perogy platters were next, and boy did they look pretty. The heaping mound of Ukrainian dumplings occupied half of the plate, while the sausage and coleslaw did a good job fighting for space. Having grown up surrounded by perogies, I give Culina credit for selling some of the best. Perfectly done, the dough was not sticky or tough, while the potato filling was smooth and seasoned the right touch. A bit of scallion and a dollop of sour cream to finish, was all everyone needed to finish off each serving. The sausage, with its accompanying Jam Lady mustard, was with the colesaw, a great combination of flavours to place alongside the carb load. And maybe just the best part of all, this is the kind of plate you could see at home for perogy night. I love it! There was also a Korean style slaw during our visit. And if you know how much I like kimchi, you know it’s gonna be a hit!
With the Eton Mess not available during our visit, we were told there were Ukrainian Cookies on tap. Described as thin deep-fried cookies that are showered in powdered sugar, I don’t think any of us thought this was a bad idea. Deep fried cookies, can I get a amen. They reminded me of elephant ears, in that there was a bit of chew, but not enough to require any real work. The cookies dissolved nicely in my mouth and could easily be the perfect finish to a heavy meal. But no, somehow we were told there were Blueberry Perogies as well. And with 4 in an order, we said let’s do it.
The pergoies looked different from our earlier versions and came with a scoop of cream, lemon sugar, powdered sugar, and lemon zest. Looking sexy enough to eat, I was taken aback when the wheels fell off the tracks. After coming this far, in an otherwise phenomenal meal, the blueberry perogies were just not there. They had a cool, slimy feeling that was tough and didn’t improve in the mouth. Cooked differently, filled with riper fruit…who knows what it would take.
I don’t know of many meals that start and finish (minus the blueberry perogies) with such a tasty presence. And for a restaurant to remain so strong on a night that only happens 12 times a year, it speaks volumes. Put some amazing service on top, with an at home, and very welcome feel, and Culina Highlands may have just made my week. I know I’ll be back.