I have a soft spot for New York’s legendary Estonian House, where I spent a magnificent evening eating salt herring, drinking heavily, and pretending to be a barn swallow. So when the Estonians graciously allowed me to return to the club to eat more Estonian food, I jumped at the opportunity.
This time, the Estonian House was hosting a special event: a piruka bake-off. Pirukas are a baked cousin of Polish pierogies, consisting of meat, vegetable, or sweet fillings stuffed inside a small pocket of fresh dough. For a mere $10, we joined a large herd of official “tasters.” More importantly, for $10, we got to gorge ourselves silly on homemade pirukas. What could be better than that?
There were 21 entries in the bake-off: 10 meat-filled pirukas (mostly stuffed with beef or ham), 8 vegetable-stuffed pirukas (primarily cabbage and carrots), and 3 dessert pirukas. The “tasters” rated each piruka on a scale of 1 to 10. Judging isn’t my thing, really–I just like to eat homemade food, and nearly all of the 21 pirukas were insanely delicious. I felt like a big meanie giving anybody’s homemade pirukas a bad rating, so I inflated accordingly.
That said… well, all of the pirukas were good, but a few were mind-blowingly good. My favorite pair of meat-stuffed pirukas contained a mix of minced ham and pickles. And that may not sound all that good, but they were fantastic. And all of the dessert pirukas were tasty, but one was reminiscent of an amazing piece of cheesecake; my cheese-loving pal from a Wisconsin dairy farm was literally weak in the knees when she first tasted it.
Sadly, I had to deal with a minor family drama before the judging was finished, and my weak-kneed friends weakly left soon after I did. (Maybe they were mildly afraid of Urve the legendary bartender after reading my earlier post?) So I don’t know whether any of my three favorite pirukas became the champion.
But my partner and I got to share 21 homemade pirukas from 21 different kitchens. So we definitely won, even if neither of us ended up imitating a barn swallow before we left. I still love you, Estonia.
New York Estonian House (members only)
243 East 34th Street, Manhattan
Subway: 34th Street (6 train)