Sunday, April 19, 2015

Eating in Poland

During Christmas break, Frankie and I flew to Krakow, Poland.  We stayed there a few days touring the city, then hopped on a train heading north to Warsaw, Poland.  After staying there a few days we flew home.

Normally when I blog about our trips, I do them in a very chronological order: day 1, day 2, day 3, etc.  I can't help it, I am a very order oriented person!  I teach math for a living, what can anyone else expect from me?

I decided to shake it up this time, just to prove I can!  I have multiple talents, people, really, I do!  I went through all the pictures and grouped them by subject.  I am going to blog by subject this time.

First subject?  The food!

Now, I feel I have to have some order to my post.  So I will go through as if you, Frankie, and I sat down at a restaurant.  The first thing that usually happens is that you are handed a menu.

Polish-English Menu

The nice thing about both Krakow and Warsaw is the fact that many of the restaurants have menus with English translations and a lot of people there speak at least basic English!

Once you have your menu, you are asked what you would like to drink. (Yes, this same pattern happens outside of America!) I am going to mix breakfast, lunch, and dinner drinks here. (I have to keep y'all guessing, you know!)

Let's start with woda (water).

Polish water bottle

They don't have free tap water at restaurants generally, you have to buy bottled water. We found out that tap water wasn't really considered clean to drink until four years ago! So that makes sense, but it still hurt my cheap self to have to buy water with a meal!

Moving to something with more flavor. Look at this beautiful beautiful vending machine.

Lavazza Coffee Vending Machine

Look closer!

Lavazza Coffee Vending Machine Buttons

This was the best coffee vending machine EVER! Lavazza coffee! Drool! It reminds me of the coffee vending machines in Rome. *happy sigh*

Since we are on the subject of coffee, let's stay there for just a little longer. Poland isn't really known as kawa (coffee) nation. They drink more tea, which you can get just about anywhere, but they do have a growing coffee scene, which even included Starbucks. (Sorry about that, Poland. Although I am sure y'all love it!)

Poland can hold their own, however. Check these lovelies out, none of which came from Starbucks!

Heart latte

Leaf Latte

Espresso in Poland

Now let's show some love to the teas! I loved loved loved the ways that herbata (tea) was presented. You didn't just get a cup of tea, you got a whole stinking pot! Every time!

I didn't get the same presentation twice.  It was fun to see what was going to be delivered each time.

We had sushi for one meal, this gave me the  most interesting teapot.  It was cast iron and stinking heavy!!

Teapot at Sushi Bar in Poland

At a small tea/coffee shop I got the most practical one for loose tea.

Teapot in Poland

At another restaurant I had the fanciest set-up.

Tea presentation

The fancy set-up actually contained the fanciest tea.  It was a winter tea with black tea, orange slices, ginger, and whole cloves.  Wonderful!

Winter tea with ginger

So now that you have ordered a drink, let's talk about the breakfast items.

Breakfast didn't seem to be a big deal there.  In some places we have been, we would see signs to try a "name the place" authentic breakfast.  That wasn't the case in Poland, but they do have some lovely pastries!

We had a tasty blueberry muffin at Coffee Heaven.

Coffee Heaven and Blueberry Muffin

We found out that Coffee Heaven, which we have only seen in Poland, recently got bought out by Costa Coffee.  We have seen Costa Coffee's in just about every European country we have been to!  They are the Starbucks of Europe, equally priced as well (meaning, overpriced)!

Tasty, but overpriced!

At a pastry/bread shop we found a delicious apple pastry.  It isn't much to look at, but trust me, it was good!

Coffee and apple pastry

Now for the most wonderful of all pastries, cinnamon pastries!  Bulle is actually the Swedish word for bun.  They had different flavors, but I figured the word cynamon had to be cinnamon.  I didn't care what language it was, I was getting a cinnamon roll!   Luckily, many many many people spoke English, so we had very little trouble getting what we wanted.

Cinnamon pastries

I love cinnamon so much that I am going to force you to look at another cinnamon pastry!

I'm so evil!

How dare I make you look at scrumptious, delectable, yummy pastries!!

Coffee and Cinnamon Pastry

I just wanted to throw this in there for fun.  I have never seen a fork/knife combo like this plastic one.  It was just too interesting!

Knife Fork

"So, how does it work?" I hear you asking.  Well, lucky for you, I took a video.  Other people do stranger things!!

Just two more pastry pictures and then I will move on to other food topics.

These were meant to be gawked at.  Go ahead, don't be shy.

Polish pastries

They have these pączki (donuts) with various fillings.

Paczek-Polish donuts filled with jam or choclate

Some had wiśnia (cherry), others had czekolada (chocolate), you know the normal things you can find in America. But then they had some filled with róża (rose) jam, which is a Polish specialty.  They smelled so wonderful and tasted even better.  If you could take the smell of a rose and then add sugar, this was the taste!  It tasted exactly like I thought it should.

I would go back to Poland just for another one of these.  My mission is to find a place a little closer that just might have something like this.  Actually, I would settle for just the jam filling and I can make that at home using this recipe!!!  Or this one that INCLUDES the recipe for the entire donut with filling!

Ok, ok, I have talked about breakfast enough!  For a meal that doesn't get much attention in Poland, I sure hammered on and on about it!

Now let's talk about the snacks and soups.  I don't care if it is wrong to throw those together, I'm doing it anyways!  I'm throwing caution to the wind. (Actually, it is because I don't have many to share in any one category, I'm really not that ornery!).

In Krakow on just about EVERY corner we saw women in little booths selling these circles of bread.

obwarzanek-Polish pretzels

Us being us, said, "Hey, we have to try those, whatever they are!"  Turns out they are obwrzanek (soft pretzels) which are a Krakow tradition. They were harder on the outside but nice and chewy in the center.

I don't know how Polish this appetizer is, but I do know it was GOOD!  How can you go wrong with fried cheese (Camembert cheese at that) with a warmed cranberry dipping sauce??

Fried Camembert Cheese with warmed Cranberries

On Christmas Eve there were some restaurants that were closed but we managed to find several to choose from.  The one we went to had a special Christmas menu and we both ordered from it.  One of the options was barszcz (beetroot soup with dumplings) which is a Christmas tradition.  The color of the broth is an amazing deep red from the beets.  This picture doesn't do the color justice!

barszcz wigilijny-beetroot soup with dumplings

I am not a big fan of beets.  To me they taste like dirt, and yes, I do know what dirt taste like.  When you grow up in west Texas where the wind never stops and there is no grass to hold the dirt down, you KNOW the taste of dirt!   Despite that, I still wanted to try this traditional soup and I a GLAD I did!  It was very good. No dirt taste at all!

Now on to the main courses!

The most Polish of Polish main courses!  Pierogies!

This was a mixed batched with some having potato, others having meat (not sure of which kind though, maybe chicken or pork...), and others had spinach.  All were good!

Mixed Pierogies

Surprisingly, I had never heard of pierogies until a few years ago.  A co-worker whose Polish family came over just a few generations back was eating them for lunch one day and I asked her what they were.  That point started my love affair with the delectable pillows of dough and potatoes!  I can even find some frozen ones at Wal-Mart in the small town I live near!!

This next one is not so much the meat or forgettable fries that I want to point out.  It is the three colored salad.  This was served with almost every meal!  It was carrots (sometimes sweetened sometimes pickled), pickled beets, and pickled cabbage (also known as coleslaw to us Americans!).  I am sure this salad has some name, but I am not sure what that would be.

Kebab meat with fries and three color mixed salad

Maybe you are starting to feel full?  Did you leave room for dessert?  Please tell me you left room for dessert!

How about some smooth Polish cheesecake called sernik?  Look at those strawberries and ribbons of chocolate sauce.  Oooohhh!  Aaaahhhh!

Sernik-Polish cheesecake

Not a fan of strawberries?  How about a different version of sernik with orange and chocolate??

Sernik- Another version of Polish cheesecake

On Christmas Eve the restaurant we ate at had a wonderful dessert! It was gingerbread with nuts and raisins and caramelized oranges on the side! It was many of my favorite things all rolled into one!

Christmas Gingerbread with nuts raisins and carmalized orange

Have you noticed the presentation of all the food?  Just about every plate that was set before us was picture worthy!  It was like dining with royalty at a peasant's price!

While we were there we had the opportunity to eat more than just Polish food.  Both Krakow and Warsaw had many ethnic restaurants.  In America, these types of restaurants usually cost so much more than a typical  restaurant!  That might also be the case in Poland, but with the exchange rate it was a decent price to us!  Let me share some of our ethnic food adventures.

Middle Eastern!

Chicken kebab meat with a yogurt sauce and warm soft pita bread accompanied by a Turkish tea!  (Loved the glass it was served in!)

Chicken kebab and pita bread from Kebab King


Paneer Makhani with white rice and naan!

Paneer Makhni and Naan


Sushi, like the real stuff, with raw fish and everything!

Fresh Sushi Set in Poland


This was more of spur of the moment, hey, I'm hungry and here is a place to eat type of moment.  A hey, this is our last meal before we go home.  A hey, we can't afford to eat Brazilian at home IF there even is a Brazilian place to eat at home so let's do this type of moment.  It was OK.  Frankie had a huge steak, so he was happy.  I had a chicken dish.

Brazilian Steak in Poland

The truly special part for me was the dessert.  I ordered the ananás which is Portuguese for pineapple.  I didn't really know what I was getting into, I just knew it was grilled pineapple with cinnamon which is a winning combination in my world.


Grilled Pineapple

Then they brought it out.  A WHOLE pineapple that had been grilled on a spit like the kebab meat of the Middle East!  They started carving fresh pieces of pineapple off just for me.  I was so excited that I forgot to hold the camera the correct way!

Most if not all of the food was very tasty.  Just about all of it had a beautiful presentation.  But the meal to trump all meals happened on Christmas day at supper-time.

We have been very lucky to find restaurants open on Christmas day in everyplace we have gone except for Dublin, Ireland.  The only reason we didn't find anything there was because of the fact that our hotel was too far out from city center and the metro did not run that day.  We knew this in advance though and went to the grocery store the day before.

We were in Krakow on Christmas and after wandering around the city all day we were ready for supper.  We usually just walk and stumble on a place.  It is too much trouble to try to use the guidebooks and their recommendations.

Our stumbling lead us to an empty restaurant, which usually isn't a good sign, but in this case that sign couldn't have been more wrong.  Let me show you our fancy Christmas meal!

The Bread Course!

We were given smalec, a spread made of pork lard, to go with our bread.  I can't say this was my favorite part of the meal, but I did find it interesting and it is a Polish food!

Smalec-Polish lard spread for bread


We each got one.  I chose pierogi with boar meat served with honey chanterelle (mushrooms) and rosemary.  Look at that presentation!!

Pierogi with boar meat served with honey chanterelle and rosemary

Frankie chose Baltic herring with yogurt and horseradish ice cream served with apple and onion salad.  We both were confused but Frankie decided to just plunge in.  The herring was good but he isn't a big fan of ice cream and then to get one with yogurt and horseradish??

We both tried it and it was alright.  Different but alright. But again, the presentation!!  That dark green stripe down the middle of the plate was some type of food, it wasn't part of the plate design!

Amazing, right?!?

Baltic herring with yogurt and horseradish ice cream served with apple and onion salad

Main course!

Frankie chose a traditional fried pork chop served with fried cabbage and mashed potatoes.  Pork use to be very hard to come by during Communist times, I guess to make up for that, since then it has been a staple in Polish cooking.

Traditional fried pork chop served with fried cabbage and mashed potatoes

Again, the presentation, was what put this meal over the edge as far as fancy!  Check out my order of soup!

Presentation of sour rye soup

I chose sour rye soup with white sausage, wild mushrooms and hard boiled eggs served with rolls.  The white stuff in the spoon....well I wasn't sure what it was and am still am not 100% sure.  I asked and the waitress said it was cheese.  It had no taste, but it did have the consistency of cottage cheese.


I ate it and am still alive months later to tell you about it, so it must have been safe.

Sour rey soup served with white sausage wild mushrooms and egg


We didn't have any.  We were stuffed!

And finally when we were done with all the eating we were presented with the bill.

Christmas meal bill

100 Zloty-dinner bill

So here we are slapping down 100 Polish Zloty bills like it was nothing.  Conversion....100 Polish Zloty is just a little over $26 USD!

It was AMAZING prices and really good food!  A win-win all the way around.

I hope you enjoyed this food tour of Krakow and Warsaw.  Stay tuned there is more to come from our trip to Poland.   I do need to start cranking these out faster so that I will be ready to tell you all about our next adventure which happen in June when we travel to Singapore!

Until then!