My Delicious Day in Paris

Monday, August 18, 2014

I’ve been loving the summer season of Chanterelle mushrooms here in Warsaw!
Of course, I buy my Polish kurki at Hala Mirowska.
However, sometimes I get in a rut of how to cook these delicious, golden mushrooms known as kurek, kurki or kurka in Polish. The traditional Polish recipes often feature a lot of heavy ingredients like cream and butter. I wanted a healthier option.

Amongst my vast cookbook collection, I stumbled upon a 2011 August edition of Saveur Magazine that featured several recipes for different types of mushrooms. I decided to adapt Saveur’s recipe for a special Chinese dish called Jiyou Jun Bao Ji (Clay-Pot Chicken Stew with Chanterelles). I love Asian flavors and this recipe was just the inspiration I needed!

Instead of a clay pot, I used my trusty Le Creuset Dutch oven, but I’m sure any large cooking pot would work as well for cooking this scrumptious stew.

This dish is full of the rich Asian flavors of ginger, soy sauce, chilies and sesame oil that we both enjoy at home. Luckily, hubby is not picky and pretty much enjoys whatever I cook for us.

If you enjoy Asian flavors like us and find a batch of Chanterelle mushrooms at your local market, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this recipe too!

All the fresh ingredients ready to go.
My finished dish of Asian-Inspired Chicken Stew with Polish Chanterelle Mushrooms.
Asian-Inspired Chicken Stew with Polish Chanterelles
Serves: 4

500      g.                     Chanterelle mushrooms/mixed mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed in half if large
200      g.                     ham (I used Polish baleron), chopped small
1          Tablespoon      ginger, minced
1          Tablespoon      garlic, minced
1          Tablespoon      soy sauce
1          ea.                    jalapeno or Serrano chili, sliced in half
4          ea.                    green onions, cut in 1-inch pieces
4          tsp.                  granulated sugar
1          ea.                    large onion, chopped small
500      ml.                   chicken stock
1          kilo                  chicken legs and thighs
Optional:         4, small bok choy, sliced down the center, and chopped into 2-inch pieces

Cooked rice or brown rice vermicelli noodles for serving.

Dipping sauce:
4          Tablespoons    soy sauce
1          Tablespoon      cilantro, finely chopped
2          teaspoon          toasted sesame oil
2          teaspoon          ginger, finely minced
¼         teaspoon          ground black pepper

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the dipping sauce ingredients and set aside.
2. In a large Dutch oven  or pot, place all the stew ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to medium-low so stew is just simmering. Cook for about 30 minutes.
3. Then, add the bok choy. Let the stew cook for another 10 minutes until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
4. Serve the stew over rice or noodles. Drizzle the dipping sauce over the top, at least that’s how we did it.
5. This stew works great as leftovers, but you might want to add a bit more chicken stock when reheating it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

When I first wandered around the Borough Market in London, I was not impressed.

Being the month of December, perhaps only half the stalls were open, which should have been expected. Even with the Christmas décor, I simply didn’t feel like I was in my happy place as I usually am when I visit foodie markets. Should I blame that offset feeling on London’s gray weather?
The saving grace was visiting my favorite cheesemonger, Neal’s Yard Dairy, which has a storefront nearby on Park Street. This place is a cheese lovers paradise filled with specialty cheeses from the U.K. and Ireland! The U.S. restaurants I worked at used to buy some of the company’s cheeses, so that’s how I first was introduced to Keen’s Cheddar, Lincolnshire and Stichelton. Every time we visit London or a Londoner visits us, I stock up on my favorite English cheeses.
Fast forward seven months, in July, I tagged along on one of my husband’s business trips to London. I decided to repay Borough Market a second visit after talking to his London colleague who was crestfallen that I didn’t love the market too!

This time, the market was bustling with people, many tourists, of course. Simply put, Borough Market felt more alive than my first visit.
I tried some so-so pad Thai, but then I sampled some yummy Turkish delights from the friendly Turks.
The market features cuisines and products from all over the world including: Croatia, India, Italy, Spain and even American desserts.
The moist (nut-free) chocolate brownie I bought was easily the best I’ve had outside the U.S. except for my own, of course. I followed that sweet treat with a refreshing IPA beer at the nearby Wheatsheaf.
I wandered by several stalls selling fresh, seasonal produce.
The market had everything that any foodie would love! So this time, I was very pleased!

I still cannot put my finger on why I disliked the Borough Market so much on my first visit, but I’m happy I gave it a second chance.
The nearby Wine Wharf looked like the perfect place to spend happy hour, especially when it's buy one glass, get one free from 4-7 p.m.
Borough Market
8 Southwark Street, London (A short walk from the London Bridge Underground stop.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

At least once or twice a week, I trek down to my local market in Warsaw so I can handpick my own fruits and vegetables.

I detest the major grocery stores here except to buy dry goods like cleaning supplies, cereal or canned goods. I’d much rather buy my fresh produce from a small, local vendor than some corporate giant.

To some, Hala Mirowska may look a little rough around the edges as you’ll find its exterior riddled with bullet holes from WWII. But to me, the building’s history is just part of its charm.
Originally constructed between 1899 and 1901, Hala Mirowska functioned as Warsaw’s largest market until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The building has survived bullets and a raging fire and even served as bus depot following the war, but today you’ll find that the “hall” offers a one-stop shopping experience. In fact, Hala, as I affectionately call it, reminds me of my beloved pazars in Istanbul.

Here, you’ll find more than 50 stalls selling fresh meat, fruits, vegetables, sauerkraut, Polish sausages, yogurt, baked goods, bread, nuts, quinoa, spices and more. You can even get your watch repaired, your shoes shined or a pair of pants hemmed. You’ll find cheap dresses, shoes and even women’s underwear. There’s a small kitchen store with odds and ends including a great selection of canning jars and baking pans.

There’s the egg lady on the corner who sells GMO-free and organic eggs. She’s finally warmed up to me and smiles when I ask her for my “dziesięć jaja” even though my Polish grammar is incorrect.
For the best market experience, you’ll definitely want to speak some Polish, but there are several stalls where the younger vendors do speak English. Of course, a smile, hand gestures and a simple “proszę” go a long way.

Around the corner, I stop at the meat lady for some of the best Polish kielbasa, cured meats and even her own Polish prosciutto. I’m guessing she’s about 70 years old, but still has a feisty spirit and makes everything from scratch with the help of her daughter. She's awesome!
The summer months are the best time to visit Hala Mirowska. In June, strawberries and blueberries arrive. By July, all the berries are in season and it’s wonderful.
In August, you’ll still find blueberries, raspberries, red, white and black currants, gooseberries, apricots, peaches and the beginning of apple season. For vegetables, you can buy tomatoes galore, colored sweet peppers, eggplants, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
Summer bounty! I just took this photo yesterday!
Late summer strawberries in August.
In September and maybe part of October, if you’re lucky, watch out for the Polish mushrooms. The Poles go crazy over their mushrooms, and rightfully so, as they are quite tasty! You’ll find lines of people even outside the market selling jars and plastic containers of mushrooms of all varieties. Maybe this fall I’ll figure out what all the mushrooms are!
These mushrooms make the best soups! 
Not all the produce is locally grown. From what I understand, there is a produce wholesale market where the vendors can buy their goods and then sell them at the market. During the winter months, you’ll find root vegetables and lots of imported produce such as limes, eggplants, berries and more, which of course, you’ll pay a premium for then.

But I’d still rather shop at my local market any day!

Where is your favorite market to buy fresh produce?

Location: Plac Mirowski 1
Poland is the largest producer of apples in Europe. Earlier this month, Russia slapped an embargo on Polish produce in retaliation against Western sanctions. However, Poles are fighting back with an “#eatapples” campaign online.
Homemade Polish dill pickles are delicious!
The Damas stall, number 17, sells a variety of Mediterranean goods such as legumes, bulgur, couscous, hummus, pita bread, baklava and more.
As you approach Hala Mirowska, the first thing you will notice are the plethora of flower stalls outside.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Summertime in Warsaw is very different from winter here!

The city buzzes with activity. There’s a free concert, movie in the park or some kind of activity every night and a festival every weekend! I cannot even keep up with everything that’s going on….though I do try! And it has been a pretty awesome summer in Warsaw!

If you’re visiting Poland’s capital city or even if you live here, you might wonder what activities you can do for FREE or at very little cost. Well, I’ve finally compiled a list of my favorite summery activities to do in Warsaw (in no particular order) and am sharing those ideas with you. I hope you enjoy exploring Warsaw as much as I have!

7 Summery (Free) Activities to Do in Warsaw

7. Jazz Concerts in Old Town
On Saturday nights in July and August in the Old Town Square, the city hosts free jazz concerts starting at 7 p.m. This year marks the 20th year for the International Jazz at The Old Town Square Festival. The square provides a picturesque surrounding to listen to jazz musicians from all over the world. However, the square gets packed!
Your best bet is to book a table in one of the restaurants overlooking the square and treat yourself to some excellent live music with your meal. Or you can hang with the locals on the sidewalk and grab a cold can beer from the nearest sklep.

6. Fountain Light Show along the River
On Friday and Saturday nights at 9:30 p.m. in August (and 9 p.m. in September), head to the Podzamcze Multimedia Fountain Park near New Town for a colorful music and light show.

The 30-minute show features 350+ nozzles which are capable of firing water 25 meters into the air over the 3,000-square-meter pond accompanied with fancy flashing lights and stunning visual effects. I swear we saw Luke Skywalker in the fountain one time!
If you plan it right, you can go straight from the jazz concert to the fountain show so you can find a place to sit in advance. The fountain show is definitely an enjoyable way to end the night after dining in Old Town. TIP: bring some bug spray to ward off the mosquitoes!

5. Sunset and BYOB at Temat Rzeka
A few weekends ago, we found ourselves in what is perhaps the most hip place to be along the Wisła River at night, especially at sunset. We joined several hundred other youngsters at Temat Rzeka and caught the tail end of the sun setting over Warsaw. We brought our own picnic blanket, hubby brought his own Polish beer in a plastic bag and I bought a glass of white wine with ice cubes from the nearest beach bar. Totally classy!
The sun was rapidly setting as we walked across the Poniatowski Bridge near Temat Rzeka.
Temat Rzeka, covers an area of 23,000 square meters, is a popular beach area by the Poniatowski Bridge on the Praga side of the Wisła. This summer, the space was even selected as one of the top 25 finalists for the 2014 European Prize for Urban Public Space.
Temat Rzeka has such a relaxed and lively atmosphere.
Maybe it's because everyone is BYOB-ing. 
If you want to party, the bars and beach stay open till 5 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. It was nearly midnight when we left, but young(er) girls were still crossing the bridge in their party dresses and heading to the beach!

4. Chopin Concerts in Łazienki Park
Until September 28th this year, Polish and international pianists will perform classical Chopin pieces in front of thousands of people in Łazienki Park. All for FREE! This year marks the 55th season, as the concerts started as a cultural tradition in 1959. The Fryderyk Chopin Society contracts pianists for the whole season.
Every Sunday, there are two concerts with the first one at noon and the second at 4 p.m. in front of the Fryderyk Chopin monument. As many as 4,000 people attend the concerts. I’d recommend arriving at least 15 minutes early if you want to secure a good seat.

Location: Royal Łazienki Park, ul. Agrikoli 1

3. “Secret Garden” at Warsaw University Biblioteka
On top of a strange-looking, oxidized, green building is one of Warsaw’s best-kept secrets, and what I like to call the “secret garden.” The Warsaw University Library is covered with a two-tiered rooftop garden filled with bridges, a small stream, plants and sculptures. I love taking our visitors here!
The 14-year-old garden was designed by Polish artist Irena Bajerska and offers panoramic views of lower Warsaw along the river, the Copernicus Centre and across the city to Centrum. It’s a wonderful place to explore or take a break in like you’ll see all the students doing when school is back in session.
View of Centrum and the Palace of Culture from the Warsaw University Biblioteka's garden.
Location: ul. Dobra 56/66

2. Free Ferryboat to La Playa
Until mid-September, if you want to pretend you are at a beach, head to LaPlaya, another popular beach and music night club on the Praga side of the Wisła. 2014 marked this tropical-style club’s 10th year. There’s no cover charge to access the beach club, simply pay for your drinks.

What we liked best is that we could access this fun beach by taking a free, city-provided water ferry. Look for the ferry boat named Wilga along the river near the Podzamcze Multimedia Fountain Park. The free ferries run until August 31 and include 4 crossings across the Wisła River: from the Czerniakowski Cypel, Poniatowski Bridge, Nowodwory and Podzamcze – Fontanny (at Sanguszki Street). Here’s the ZTM Ferry Boat Schedule.
Location: La Playa, ul. Wybrzeże Helskie 1/5

1. Almost Free Rental Bikes
In order to get to those free Sunday concerts mentioned above, we often ride bikes thanks to the city’s convenient rent-a-bike system by NextBike. After paying an initial 10zl annual fee, we can rent bikes from more than 50 stations around the city. Rentals for less than 20 minutes are free, and 1 hour only costs 1zl. Warsaw has numerous bike trails and wide sidewalks that are perfect for long bike rides or quick trips down to the river.
I’ve been using these convenient bikes more often this summer because my main tram line on Al. Jana Pawla is under construction. It’s often quicker for me to ride a bike 15-20 minutes rather than wait for a (never-on-time) bus or a different tram that gets me kinda close to where I want to be.

My only complaint is that pedestrians and drivers do NOT pay attention to cyclists, so you must always be alert on the road and the sidewalk!

Do you have any other recommendations for free activities to do in Warsaw? 

For more activity ideas, you can subscribe to a weekly email events list (in English) from the Warsaw Tourism Office. That’s how I stay up-to-date!
No matter what time of day, it's always busy at Temat Rzeka with the National Stadium in the background.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

On August 1st in Warsaw, I witnessed thousands of Varsovians freeze in Old Town and stop what they were doing for one minute.

Flares were lit and smoke filled Plac Zamkowy where I was standing with friends.

Polish flags waved in the slight breeze.

Sirens wailed and horns blared throughout the city.
I couldn’t help but become a little misty eyed as I watched everyone honor the 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, which broke out at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 1, 1944, during World War II. The day’s code name was “W-Hour” as in Wolność, which means freedom in Polish.

Every year on August 1st, Warsaw pays tribute to the Polish insurgents that fought and died in the battle against the Nazis. The insurgents had wanted to liberate the capital city from the Hitler’s occupation before the Soviet Army arrived. Unfortunately, approximately 16,000 members of the Polish resistance and 200,000 Polish civilians died as a result of the Warsaw Uprising.
Plac Trzech Krzyży (Plaza of Three Churches) in ruins post WWII in Warsaw, Poland.
August 1st is an important day in Polish history – and one that should never be forgotten. This year’s ceremonies hit me much harder than last year. I teared up on more than one occasion. I couldn’t help it. I think living here for over a year as an expat and understanding more of Poland’s tragic history has made me more aware of what the Polish people have suffered and endured. 
I think the most moving ceremony to watch was the celebrations at the Monument to the Polish Underground State and Home Army (Polskie Państwo Podziemne I Armii Krajowej) located on Wiejska Street. Here, I saw several dozen WWII survivors being honored for their bravery. There was one elderly Polish lady, donning a beret and military uniform, who radiated with something special. I wish I knew enough Polish to speak with her and express my gratitude for her bravery.
These are very courageous men and women, who are now in their 80s and 90s! That night, a Polish friend told me about her grandmother who was a nurse during the Uprising and was honored that day for her bravery. She’s in her 90s.

Another emotional and surprising moment happened shortly after 5 p.m. by the Little Insurgent Monument (Podwale Street, near the Barbican). This monument commemorates the Scouts and younger participants of the Uprising. As I was taking photos here, we heard loud motorcycles roaring along the street and stop nearby. Suddenly, about 20 Polish bikers approached the monument carrying red and white flowers, decorated wreaths and candles. I was not expecting this!
Lastly, I was impressed by the number of young boys and girls and teenagers participating in the Uprising ceremonies. The youth are members of the coeducational Polish Scouting and Guiding Association (Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego or ZHP) which is recognized by the International Boys and Girls Scouts Organizations.
During WWII and the Uprising, the Scouts cooperated with the Polish underground and Army and helped carry out sabotage activities and armed resistance and later fought in the Uprising battles while the Girl Scouts generally worked as nurses and liaisons. The youngest Scouts assisted the wartime efforts by distributing leaflets and painting the kotwica symbol (the initials P and W together meant Polska Walcząca (Fighting Poland).
The Polish kotwica symbol in candles, representing the initials P and W for the Powstanie Warszawskie (Warsaw Uprising). 
I bet there were hundreds, if not thousands, of Scouts in Warsaw on August 1st!
If you ever find yourself in Warsaw on August 1st, please remember to stop what you’re doing and honor the “W-Hour.” I’m sure you’ll feel like I did – amazed, impressed, thankful and even a bit saddened.
Polish nuns light candles at the Warsaw Monument to Insurgents (Pomnik Powstania Warszawkiego 1944) on ulica Dluga.
(Sorry for the delay in posting this post, but I had more than 200 photos to edit and choose from the ceremonies on August 1. I hope you still enjoy this detailed photo post!)
Colorful memorial candles at the Warsaw Monument to Insurgents (Pomnik Powstania Warszawkiego 1944).
Participants of the Warsaw Uprising used sewers like this one to escape the Nazis and get around the city.

If anyone knows the significance behind the different color of Polish Scout uniforms, please let me know.
"The Insurgents" - a wonderful photo exhibit of the remaining Warsaw Uprising survivors.