Eastern Europe in Astoria: Bulgarian Appetizers and Dessert, Cured Meats, Cheeses, and More at Parrot Coffee Grocery

One thing I love about New York City is the diversity of food.  Not only are there all different types of restaurants, but there are all different types of grocery stores.  You can find speciality grocery stores that carry Asian, African, Eastern European, South American, and the list goes on.  Queens, the great New York City borough, being one of the most diverse places in the United States, unsurprisingly is home to many of these shops.  One store that I love going to is Parrot Coffee Grocery in Astoria, Queens.  As per their awning, they market themselves as “European Mediterranean and Middle Eastern.”  I have mainly seen Bulgarian and Turkish products, but that’s okay with me because I go specifically for Bulgarian food 🙂  Parrot Coffee Grocery is the last stop on the N train, on the intersection of Ditmars Blvd. and 31st Street.

I buy cured meats, packaged and fresh cheeses, spread, bread, chocolates, and sweets.  Specifically I go here to purchase:

  • Lukanka
    • Pronounced: loo-khan-ka
    • Cured pork (could be beef) made with different spices
    • It’s comparable to a salami but it is a lot more dense and packed.  Depending on the brand/variety that you buy, the taste may be spicy, it may be softer/chewier, etc.  There’s a Wikipedia article on lukanka that’s kind of helpful.
  • Fillet Elena
    • Cured and dried pork, that pulls apart like a chewy salty jerky pork chop.  This is my absolute favorite, and I love the spices on the outside of the meat.  It’s a combination of black pepper and savory/salty spices.
  • Bulgarian feta
    • Bulgarian feta can be either cow or sheep milk, but the one that I buy at Coffee is sheep.  The sheep feta is creamier and softer.  It’s a little less crumbly and salty than a Greek feta cheese.
    • Note: FreshDirect and Whole Foods both actually sell Bulgarian feta.  I think the Whole Foods variety is a little better, but I buy it from both places.
  • Kashkaval
    • Pronounced: khash-ka-val
    • Soft/Semi-Hard fairly mild cheese made from sheep or cow milk.  I prefer the sheep’s milk because it’s a little more tangy.  Kashkaval has a very balanced taste, and it’s not very acidic or salty.  It goes really well with clear spirits or red wines.
  • Lutenitsa
    • Pronounced: you-te-nee-tza
    • Red pepper spread made with some tomato paste, oil, and spices
  • Baked Goods
    • Baklava
    • Kadaif
    • Banitza

Here are pictures from some of my Parrot Coffee Grocery hauls.  Obviously, there are some patterns!
img_4154img_4155They also carry Polish chocolates that come in a few flavors.  I’ve tried the cherry and orange flavors — so good!Grab your kashkaval and lukanka, and have a drink!  Here’s a plate that I made with kashkaval, lukanka, and some sesame bread.  (The white spots are because the bread got too close to the Bulgarian feta.)  Think of these plates like a Bulgarian antipasto plate that goes really well with pre-dinner drinks and wine.  You can also just have them out for an evening of drinks and appetizers, but not an actual dinner.   Bulgarians drink “rakia” which is a clear smooth brandy/grappa type drink.  It is meant for before, during, and after dinner!I make these plates about twice per week, when I have supplies from Parrot Coffee Grocery!  They’re so good for days off, when you want to hang out for a couple hours and have something to eat and drink.  Cheers!


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