Friday, March 7, 2014

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!

Na zdrowie!

(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.)

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15 comments:

Cuisine de Provence said...

Looks like a fun tour!

jaz@octoberfarm said...

you are killing me here, just killing me!

Backto Bodrum said...

I think I should move!

Joy said...

@Barbara, It definitely was!

@Joyce, yes, you would definitely love the food scene here in Warsaw! :-)

@Annie, maybe for the pork, but doubt you would enjoy our winters!

Sara Louise said...

You had me at 'sampling vodka' :)

Joy said...

@Sarah Louise, Yes, very fun to sample! ;-) Hope you are enjoying sampling that Tex-Mex back home!

Julia said...

The short amount of time we were in Poland, we really enjoyed the food - much more than we thought we would. Think I'd have to stick to beer though - me and vodka don't get along too well. :)

Joy said...

Luckily, there's plenty of good beer to drink in Poland! And even more craft brew pubs opening all the time. Yay for beer! :-)

Sara Louise said...

Now this is something I would LOVE to do! And I know my husband would be more than happy to bite into that tartare :)

Joy said...

@Sara Louise, we don't do wine well here, but the Poles do make fantastic vodkas and beers! :-)

Vito said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Denise said...

Tried to schedule both a food and vodka tour with them via their website...no response! I even sent a follow up inquiry and still no response. Disappointing because they sounded like fun...

Joy said...

@Denise, Bummer! The Eat Warsaw guys are really good! If you still have time, I'd recommend contacting Magda of the Crust & Dust blog. She's Polish, but she speaks perfect English and was my tour guide for a small foodie tour I did before in Warsaw. Here's her blog or find her on Facebook:
http://www.crustanddust.pl/

Anna Kwk said...

Great post! I have visited Warsaw few weeks ago and my Polish friends also wanted me to get to know their culture better. We went to few museums as well as Polish restaurants. One Friday they took me to the Akademia Restaurant, as it was a Vodka Friday there. What an amazing dinner! We have tried different kinds of Polish vodka as well as traditional meals. Everything was delicious! And I love the atmosphere of that restaurant - elegant but cozy at the same time. I hope I will get to go back to Poland soon!

Julia said...

I love visiting Warsaw, it is one of my favourite European cities. I was always associating Poland with vodka and pierogi, but this country is much more diverse. Warsaw is a great, modern city, where you can try many different things and flavours. One of my favourite culinary spots is a bar in the Old Town called Bubbles. It is a cozy, friendly place with unusual culinary combinations. They serve simple dishes with champagne. I would never guess that it will be so delicious!

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