Deck the halls, Device the Café Kiev
The Twelve Courses of Christmas
Deck the halls, Device the Café, it’s Christmas time in the city. This season is one of the biggest and brightest for many, not just for Frosty, Rudolph and the illustrious Snegurochka, but for the people you celebrate it with. This past 8 December was a great example of just how Holly Jolly Christmas truly is as friends new and old gathered to roast a few chestnuts at the last TUCC event for 2011.
The snow has yet to fall. But that hasn’t put a damper on the fine mood we find ourselves in as we make our way out into the boonies of Kyiv this evening. What are the boonies, you ask? The sticks, the middle of nowhere – a “place” Saskatchewan has lots of. It takes a while tonight as the traffic is heavy, and we’re getting antsy. No matter, it simply escalates the anticipation of what I’ve been told is going to be an incredible evening.
A Round of Christmas
When we do finally arrive, the place is already buzzing. It seems we weren’t the only ones to have trouble with transport this evening – everyone else has also only just showed up. We are, however, the last and so after a round of kisses and hugs and “have you met”, we toast to a wonderful evening with a glass of Pinot Grigio.
Talking about this and that, it isn’t long before the ever-present TUCC bell brings us to attention and sends us to our seats. There, we find Christmas crackers filled with all sorts of goodies. Made especially for the evening by the lovely Sveta and Natasha, these are an integral part of the holiday for those in the UK and many Commonwealth countries. Pulling back the paper, I pull out a fortune for luck (I can’t tell you what it says lest I have 100 bad hair days – you know, ‘bad’ luck), holiday noise-makers, a little plastic gem and a stuffed penguin, which soon finds itself hugging my wine glass for dear life. It is all we could have wanted and more – this evening is already off to a five-star start.
With the paper cleared and the toys off to the side, we are introduced to two girls dressed in vinky and vyshyvanky (wreaths and embroidered Ukrainian blouses), who have been brought to entertain the 30 strong we are this evening. They start off with a rendition of We Wish You A Merry Christmas and move on to Jingle Bells. There are a couple of people at our table eager to join in, and the evening begins to take shape. What that shape is just yet I can’t tell. All I know is that the muscles that pull my lips into that thing called a smile are already sore.
A Song and a Shell
With the girls gone, out comes the food. First up there is gently seared tuna that has been marinated in the chef’s own special sauce. Florets of broccoli and cauliflower accompany, as does a little bouquet of bean sprouts, and “oh by gosh by golly” it’s good. It’s so good I clean the plate, forgetting completely there are four more courses to go.
Ironically enough, with the plates gone, the girls come back. It’s a funny little performance that reminds me a little of vaudeville. Working without the giant canes to pull the different acts on and off stage tonight, Ukrainian Christmas carols (kolyadky) are up next.
Treated to a beautiful albeit not long enough Shchedryk (Carol of the Bells), the second course arrives. Sat in a shell which then sits atop a rather interesting sandstone sort of structure, its name is very simple and very plain: scallops in mini ratatouille. Delicately taking my fork to the small structure, I lift a scallop to my mouth. Soft and tender, juicy and delicious, the white sauce that bathes the miniature seafood ragout is heavenly, and I can’t find anything simple or plain about this dish at all.
Having cleared my dish once again, I look to my right where there sits another, as of yet untouched. Smoking is not allowed in the dining area and we have a couple of smokers here tonight. They return just in time to find the shell and its contents in tact. I return my attention to the chatter going on at the helm.
Tradition Turned Tasty
In addition to the incredible Christmas crackers, TUCC, along with Device Café, have put together a few presents for those, well, present. The men get something I know my darling will be able to use – an agreeable bottle of red wine! While the ladies are treated to homemade chocolates by the restaurant! They are our first gifts this year, and neither of them will last very long.
My nose alerts my brain the third course is on its way, but it’s too late – my salivary glands are already hard at work. Every year TUCC has been in operation, they have returned to a restaurant they enjoyed at some point during the year to hand over the turkey-dinner-reigns to the chef. Given a list of the traditional elements, he or she is then given carte blanche to go ahead and create. This year, chef Viktor Tymchyshyn has outdone himself.
Upon a rectangular plate with the Device Café insignia etched at the top, there lays a tender piece of white turkey breast (with the skin attached – very tasty), crème brulee with just the right amount of torch and a baked chestnut. Peppered with a drizzle of cranberry sauce, it is quite possibly one of the most elaborate turkey dinners I have ever had. I tuck in, and do the best I can. In the end, however, the bird defeats me, and not unlike the real thing, there is just too much.
Surprises of all Sorts
There is more visiting and talking about holiday plans. There are even a few season-ed jokes from the chairman, which are duly interrupted by a madman on the piano. Just as that feeling of ‘full’ begins to subside, the roast beef appears. The girl to my left turns and says, “But we’ve already had dessert!” Meant to cleanse the palate, the berry sorbet was a sweet affirmation that delicious food is not found just in the city centre. If you’re willing to take the trip out to the, say it with me now, boonies (well done), you’ll have just as unforgettable an experience.
Cut and placed on plates right in front of us, is a massive piece of roast beef done to pink perfection. Escorting the main event are potatoes au gratin and deep-fried – yes, that’s right – deep-fried Brussels sprouts (now there’s a method many-a-mom has never tried). My fork and I have been more than forth-coming up to this point and so rather than dig in, I nibble. The beef, seasoned on the outside and succulent on the inside, could not have been better, and I think it a shame to leave as much as I do. The potatoes are just as creamy and delicious as, maybe even better than, those of my Aunt Bertha. And the sprouts, well, two out of three. They’re just too deep-fried for me. I will give snaps, however, for the effort. They certainly are different.
Bathing in Brandy
Trying to survive until we get to the fifth and final course, my table has had enough liquid courage (helped along by those earlier Christmas gifts) to overcome their initial shyness and break out into a proper round of My Way. It’ not bad, but as I listen I bite my lip and wonder if the girls from earlier in the night have well and truly gone home.
Left to wonder no longer, dessert arrives. It is a variation on a theme, Christmas pudding, with all the fancy accoutrements: brandy, fire, and brandy butter. Full of dried fruit with a rich aroma, I can’t help but have a few spoonfuls; there is no one where we are going this holiday season to make this old favourite, and I need a fix.
With just a few last thank yous to pass around, including a bouquet of flowers to Natasha – the TUCC administrator, Chef Tymchyshyn receives an award for TUCC Best Chef of the Year. It is a title he will have to share, however, as the Hyatt outdid themselves when TUCC came to call this autumn, and Sebastian Kellerhoff, who also happens to be in attendance, is given the same fine accolade.
It has been an incredible evening sprinkled with Christmas cheer and seasoned with a good and lively crowd. There are many more to look forward to come the next year. Will you be a part of the magic?
Tuna in Marinade
Scallops in Mini Ratatouille
Special Recipe Christmas Turkey
Roast Beef baked in Phyllo Pastry
Pinot Grigio (France)
Siglo Grianza (Spain)
Device Café (Peremohy 136)
tel: 277-1555, 12.00 until the last guest
Lana Nicole by Whats on Kiev