“Smachno,” the Ukrainians would say– without hesitation. The Russians and the Americans would agree. The Latin-x would chime in with “saboroso” and they would all be talking about TK Food Carousel, an authentic Ukrainian packaged goods store and restaurant serving an array of hard-to find delicacies.
Despite its unprepossessing appearance in the Lords Valley Mall, just north of Hemlock Farms on Route 739 (you could almost pass it), it opens a world of gustatory delights, mostly Ukrainian, but also some gourmet specialties from other European countries.
Its owner, Tetyana Tserkovnyuk, is a dynamo. This little bundle of energy is much of the reason for the success of this Ukrainian oasis. Tanya, as she is known to all, is warm and welcoming and is proud of both the packaged food she carries and the homemade dishes she cooks from scratch. TK Food Carousel just opened in April of this year. The “T “ is for Tanya and the “K “ is for Kim Parisi, the owner of the property. Kim is Korean and her husband is Italian. The place is like an international haven.
Tserkovnyuk describes the food in current terms. “We carry gluten free, diabetic friendly, and Keto products. All the food is fresh and made from scratch, with no preservatives,” she boasts.
There are 27 different kinds of soup, 15 kinds of cheese, nut cakes from Kiev and Prague, 30 types of homemade organic sugarless jam with no preservatives, 25 kinds of buckwheat and organic flour, and a dizzying array of gourmet finds on the shelves and in the freezer. In addition to this, Tserkovnyuk makes home-cooked dishes at reasonable prices, such as stuffed cabbage, beef stroganoff, red borscht, green borscht, meatless vareniky (dumplings aka vareniki in Ukraine and pierogi in Poland and Slovakia).The food is take-out or eat-in. They also do catering for large and small groups. The latest addition is that they offer a full buffet lunch every day except Mondays.
Many customers are repeat visitors and Tserkovnyuk knows most by their first names. . “Come, sit, eat, try this,” she says with a smile. In many ways, Carousel functions as a home-away-from home or a cultural center for Ukrainian customers. Ask Anastasia Usmanova why she comes here almost every week from her home in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. “It’s like coming back to my homeland, to my city. It’s so warm, like a part of me, very welcome place, and the food is so fresh,” she says.
Julia Marchuk, a Ukrainian graduate student at the National University of Kiev, is staying with Tserkovnyuk while she finishes her master’s degree in math online. She talks about how life was in Ukraine, where they had go to the basement every time there was bombing. “It is what it is,” she says stoically.
Etta Lance, an American, is a friend and customer. She often comes to try new dishes and observes that more Americans are coming all the time as they discover what she calls, “a hidden gem.”
While there is a smidgeon of Ukrainian food in the local supermarkets (perhaps a shelf or two), there is nothing like the culinary and cultural offerings of Carousel. Tserkovnyuk says she donates a percentage of their profits to the Ukrainian army for ammunition and for purchasing goods every month.
Tserkovnyuk is also a certified teacher in New York State and runs a testing and training center in the building next door with her husband, where they train and test teachers to work with special needs children and children who are learning English as a second language. She is also studying to get her Ph.D. For her circumstances, she says, “Schuro dyakuyu (thank you).”