There’s a whole lot more to Polish cuisine than pierogies and very cheap vodka shots.
If you want to go beyond those staples in Poland, you might want to try - chleb ze smalcem (bread with rendered bacon fat – one of my favs), schabowy (fried pork cutlets), barszcz (beetroot soup) as well śledź z jabłkami (salted herring with apples) and herbal or potato vodkas.
And the best way to sample these Polish specialties is on a food tour with a local! This past year, while living as an expat in Warsaw, I’ve done two separate Food and Vodka Tours with the friendly folks at Eat Warsaw. I was introduced to one of our guides, Michał, through Eastern Station Warsaw, which organizes cultural tours for our local expat group. These 3-to-4-hour tours are a fantastic introduction to Warsaw – whether you are a tourist or an expat like myself!
During the summer, I joined two other Americans with our energetic guide, Magda, a local food blogger at Crust and Dust, for the Eat Warsaw Food Tour. Even though I’d been living in Warsaw for a couple months by then, Magda introduced me to Polish food I hadn’t tried yet like all kinds of varieties of śledź (herring), which is not my favorite.
Sadly, I simply dislike smoked, cured, salted and pickled fishes – from any country.
|The herring dish served in a tangy mustard sauce was the best for me!|
But I do enjoy anything with pork, and the Poles do a superb job with that! On the tour, we sampled traditional cured meats, bacon-wrapped prunes, fried pork cutlets with Polish coleslaw and mashed potatoes and smalec, which I affectionately refer to as bacon butter! Mmm! To me, smalec is the perfect bar snack washed down either with cold beer or vodka.
We ended our food tour on a sweet note with a slice of “Wuzetka Cake” – a rich, layered chocolate cake with whipped cream and ganache at Shabby Chic in Old Town. This tasty cake is named after the Trasa W-Z – one of the arterial roads in Warsaw built in the city after World War II. So you can have a piece of history and still eat cake!
On our recent Vodka Tour with a large group of expats, Michał and his partner took us round to some of their favorite haunts from Old Town to Centrum. They filled us in on a lot of Polish history and information about vodka, which I sadly failed to remember. But I do remember how much fun we had as we sampled our Polish vodkas on our pub crawl!
|Michał kindly explaining some Polish history to us outside the Presidential Palace.|
The tour included six shots of very different types of Polish vodkas – rye, potato, bison grass (Zubrówka – which is one of our favorites), herbal and even hazelnut! There also were plenty of Polish nibbles on the way such as white kielbasa cooked with caramelized onions, smalec and pickles.
My favorite shot of the evening was of Zołądkowa Gorzka – an herbal infused, sweet vodka – which makes a fantastic vodka tonic! A small group of us even stayed after the tour at Gryzę i Połykam to sample some more vodka flavored with bubblegum, vanilla beans and even hot chilies! Look for the friendly Australian bartender here!
Oh, and this small pub whips up a divine steak tartare!
|Don't forget to mash in the raw egg yolk which was served on the side!|
Eating and drinking around Warsaw is much more fun when you know what you’re doing!
(Note: I paid for these two tours on my own, and I was not asked to write a blog post about the tours. However, I really enjoyed myself and want to support local businesses such as Eat Warsaw. As always, all opinions expressed here are my own.)