Mirror photo by Patrick WaksmunskiDoug Simon, executive chef and owner of The Casino prepares quarts of borscht to sell. The soup is typically served cold, but Simon opted to make a hot beef borscht to appeal to more people.
In an effort to raise money for humanitarian relief in Ukraine, The Casino at Lakemont Park is partnering with several St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy churches to sell quarts of beef borscht soup.
The soup is $10 a quart, with 90 to 95 cents of every dollar raised going to charity, according to Doug Simon, executive chef and owner of The Casino.
By partnering with St. Josaphat churches, The Casino was able to connect with Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations. According to Father James Davidson of St. Mary’s the Annunciation Mother of God Ukrainian Church in Ramey, Caritas Internationalis has two sites set up in Ukraine: one in the center helping with the supply chain and one near the border with Poland.
With the donated money, Caritas Internationalis will continue their operations of providing refugees with blankets, hygiene kits, food, shelter and transportation, Simon said.
“Everybody has concerns on where to send money to make sure it’s getting to the right people,” Davidson said, hoping the soup sale will encourage people to donate.
Davidson and Simon are hoping to sell between 500 and 600 quarts of soup, with 300 quarts already sitting in The Casino’s walk-in freezer.
“I thought my kitchen has the capacity and I’ve got the time and I feel like I need to use my talents to help,” Simon said about his decision to contact Davidson with his soup sale idea.
While borscht is typically a cold soup made with beets, Simon opted to make a hot beef borscht to appeal to a wider range of people.
“There’s the beef flavor of the broth, then you sweeten it with a little bit of the beet — but that’s not a main ingredient,” Simon said. “The main ingredients in this are cabbage, beef and carrots, onions and celery.”
There are small chunks of beets in the borscht, but their flavor isn’t very noticeable over the beef flavor. The only reason he chose to make borscht is because it’s a traditional Ukrainian dish, Simon said, adding that it was his first time making it.
Wanting to ensure every quart had an equal ratio of broth to “guts,” Simon made the two components separately. Then, with the help of his staff who donated their time, he portioned the soup into the quart containers.
“I have a measure of broth, I have a measure of guts, put them all together, cap them, freeze them and then they’re ready to go,” Simon said, adding that people can make the soup more hearty at home by adding cooked potatoes.
The cost to make the soup would have been close to $2 a quart if The Casino’s vendors hadn’t donated the quart containers, meat and produce — bringing the price down to just 50 cents a quart for the herbs, spices and beef base, Simon said.
“My cost right now is under $200,” he said. “Everybody is looking for a way to help these days, as hard as it is out there.”
If someone isn’t interested in the soup itself but still wants to help, they can make a monetary donation, Simon said. For every $10 donation, a quart of soup will be given to St. Vincent de Paul’s Food for Families Soup Kitchen for distribution to their patrons.
All orders of soup are due by Monday, March 21. To place an order, can call St. Mary’s at 814-378-7688 or 814-592-8321 or The Casino at 814-944-6775. The soup will be ready for pickup at The Casino on Friday, March 25 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For non-local orders, churches will advise for pickup.
“The funds coming in are amazing and the people are calling, concerned, so yes, monetary gifts are helpful but what we need is prayer,” Davidson said. “We need a combination, so those who can’t give can pray.”
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