Japanese gastropub delivers quality fare at reasonable prices.
We all get busy and involved with our own issues and families. The downside is that even though our intention is to keep in touch, sometimes an old friend falls off our radar screen.Rebecca Droke, Post-Gazette
Nick Jordanoff runs Hazelnut Catering and often works with Morning Glory Inn on the South Side.
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As I drove a few weeks ago past Old Europe restaurant, now closed, on East Carson Street, I thought about the former owner and chef Nick Jordanoff. What ever happened to Nick? I called him. And it's good to be in touch again.
"I closed the restaurant last June after seven years in business," he says. "It was a really good run. We built a nice business serving Eastern European food that you'd never find outside of private homes. Every time relatives came over from Bulgaria, they'd bring authentic dishes and plates to me, so it felt like a home. We had a loyal following, and we even had a spot on the Food Network."
The most requested dishes? Hungarian paprikash, Polish bigos (a hunters' stew), palachinka, pierogies and Bulgarian apple streudel.
But it was time for a change. Nick now owns Hazelnut Catering. After years of 15-hour days and working weekends, he gets to work in daylight and loves it.
"Over the time that I had Old Europe, I became friends with Dave and Nancy Eshelman," he says. "They own Morning Glory Inn, a six-bedroom bed-and-breakfast on Sarah Street, right behind Le Pommier. They would often send out-of-town guests over to my place for a real taste of ethnic Pittsburgh.
"Just about the time I closed Old Europe, they expanded their operations to include wedding rehearsals and receptions and meeting planning for up to 120 people. They invited me to be one of their preferred caterers. I plan traditional American menus, but if someone wants something unusual, I go to my roots, ethnic Eastern European. When we serve in their private, landscaped walled-in patio, you'd think you were in Europe."
Nick's high-end ethnic menus for the Inn include Chicken Kiev, Russian Filet of Salmon and his signature dish, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Prune Apple Chutney and Hazelnut Cream Sauce.
His catering kitchen has moved from South Side to the Bulgarian-Macedonian National Educational and Cultural Center in West Homestead, where he can cook for up to 150 people.
"I've been involved in the Bulgarian club my whole life," he says. "My dad is Nick Jordanoff, who was artistic director of the Duquesne Tamburitzans in the 1970s and '80s. He was involved in the Pittsburgh Folk Festival for about 30 years starting in the '50s.
"My aunt Pat French, Dad's sister, worked right alongside him. Between the two of them, I've been cooking and dancing my whole life. I can't remember a time when I wasn't."
Mr. Jordanoff, 42, starting dancing in the Bulgarian performing ensemble when he was 4.
He's now the director of the dancing group, and he says they are ready to start rehearsals for this year's Folk Festival at the Convention Center over Memorial Day weekend.
"At times I've been in charge of the Bulgarian food booths, too," he says.
"The favorites are always our stuffed peppers and banitza, spinach- or leek-stuffed phyllo. We always sell out."
When Mr. Jordanoff, a study in perpetual motion, does find time to relax, he's usually at home with his wife, Stacy, and their vizsla, a hunting dog called the national breed of Hungary. And he thinks about dishes he'd like to make.
"The one dish nobody has asked me for is Armenian Moussaka," he says. "I combine ground veal, roasted butternut squash and apricots, scent it with cinnamon, cumin and allspice and top it off with Kashkaval cheese. It's a wonderful recipe."
Oh, my. I'll bet someone orders it now!
HUNGARIAN COLD CHERRY SOUP
This dish, Megyleves, was the most requested recipe at Old Europe. Choose pinot noir or zinfandel wine.
- 1 quart tart cherries in juice (fresh, frozen or canned)
- 1 quart water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- Pinch salt
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
- 1 cup heavy cream
In a large saucepan, combine cherries, water, sugar, cinnamon stick, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil.
Stir cornstarch into 1/4 cup of the wine. Stir into the cherry mixture. (You want to tighten the soup, with just a bit of body. Do not make it the consistency of pie filling.)
Simmer for 2 minutes until the mixture has become clear and a little thickened. Remove from heat.
Add brandy and lemon juice. Cool to room temperature. Then add the remaining wine and the cream and thoroughly chill.
Serve with a garnish of mint leaves. Makes 6 to 8 servings, depending on the size of the cups or bowls.
-- Nick Jordanoff
Marlene Parrish can be reached at email@example.com or 412-481-1620.