Borsch, Vodka And Tears

Food To Drink With

Benny Roff

A book review by Franz Scheurer


This book is a celebration of Andrzej Kacmarski's determination to create a Polish restaurant that would make any Polish grandmother proud and in the process of doing so, created a Melbourne institution. This is a book that re-created the comfort food of his homeland and it's naturally food that is meant to be enjoyed with Vodka. In his Vodka Bar and Restaurant you can enjoy both and the tears might come later...


You can't but fall in love with the opening page: a double-page spread of a party of Vodka bottles, designed to whet your appetite; it's a resounding success. Ben Vere Roff who wrote the book graduated from the California Culinary Academy, then worked at Le Bernadin in New York City, Jardinière in San Francisco before he made his way across the pond and managed Borsch, Vodka and Tears for three years. He immersed himself into Vodka research and history. He says:


First (Vodka) is drunk for heath

Second for pleasure

Third for tears and

Fourth for madness


I tend to agree.

The book is divided into





You will find a brief history of Vodka (or a long one if you have the time to read it). You will be guided through the distillation, told which are the notable Vodkas and how to taste the drink and how to match it to food. Naturally there is a chapter on Vodka cocktails.    

In the Borsch section you're lead through Polish food, from appetisers, soups, sides, mains to desserts. This is a comprehensive book on one of the world's favourite spirits with gorgeous, down-to-earth food to match.


Being a 'spirits nut' I find the section on notable Vodkas both interesting and educational. There are few things Roff doesn't touch on and you'll be working up a thirst going through the pages after pages of great Vodkas. He even describes one of my personal favourites, Dziegielowka, a rye Vodka which is infused with Angelica Root.


If you're into cured food then the Ocean Trout Cured With Beetroot & Vodka on page 115 should take your fancy and I simply love the Potato Blintzes on page 121. Of course there are stuffed cabbage rolls and Chicken Meatball Soup and a lovely Cold Beetroot Soup With Buttermilk (page 138). One of the recipes, Kohlrabi Salad on page 152 should be a lot more popular as Kohlrabi is underused in Australia and this is a perfect salad for our climate. A few pages are dedicated to Polish Dumpling (Pierogi) arguably one of the most Polish of Polish dishes. Another favourite of mine is the Russian Honey Cake (Ruskie Przekladaniec) which had to be one of the world's most amazing cakes.


This is the perfect book for any 'Heimweh' Pole, Vodka tragic or foodie with a penchant for comfort food.


Published by Hardie Grant Books

ISBN 978-174270244-5

RRP: $ 34.95

It will be available in stores from 1st May onwards