Restaurants, Coffee and Pies

Restaurants

Polish restaurants are wonderful, If you are dining out be prepared to be amazed, if you see something on the menu that you can’t pronounce, go ahead and order it anyway, your taste buds will love you for it. Sometimes the food can look a bit bland (I’m thinking pierogi here…) but believe me, it tastes very good. To a British person the sound of beetroot soup may well cause fear and dread as indeed will the inordinate numbers zeds you have to negotiate in barszcz czerwony, but once you taste it you will wonder where this elixir has been all your life.

Be careful though, the portion control can sometimes be a bit hit-and-miss. In Warsaw at a restaurant called „Restauracja Podwale 25” I was treated one day to a dish called Golonka which consisted of a gigantic pork knuckle with a sort of honey glaze and not much else. It was a dish to be shared between two people and as luck would have it I was with another person. I bravely sliced into it, with the especially sharp carving knife supplied and did my utmost to eat at least the greater portion of what was on offer; in fact my female co-diner insisted that I eat more than she did. It was delicious, that goes without saying but there was an awful lot of it.

Eventually we had to admit defeat. When the waiter came to clear away the plates, and the wooden platter upon which the knuckle had been served; he erected a small folding table affair in the middle of the area in which we were sitting and placed the empty plates and not so empty wooden platter upon this table as if to say, “Look, they couldn’t finish it”. I imagined that other diners were casting reproachful eyes in our direction.

Another time I was in Anatewka, a Jewish restaurant in Łódź; I looked through the menu and decided that I’d have the duck, I like duck, duck seemed like the thing to have. The waiter arrived and ceremoniously draped a bib across my chest and tied the ends behind my neck. Shortly thereafter another waiter appeared bearing a platter upon which rested half a duck on top of a very large portion of potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables. Again I was with a co-diner who took great delight in my predicament. I looked at the menu again; there was no mention that the duck dish was in fact half a duck. I tucked in and again, it was delicious. I managed to finish the meat but a lot of the vegetables fell by the wayside.

Another lesson I have learned is to ask for the bill early. If you are going to have dessert, ask for the bill when you order your choice of sweet, if you are not having a dessert ask for it about half way through the main course, that way it may arrive just about as you are ready to leave.

Coffee

Most Poles (that I have met) seem to be obsessed with coffee; this is fine because in Poland they know how to make good coffee. If you just ask for coffee, “Poproszę kawa” then you will get black coffee; this is also fine because it tastes good. If you want coffee with milk then you must ask for coffee with milk, “Poproszę kawa z mlekiem”. If you want a double skinny Frappuccino with chocolate sprinkles then you’d best go to Costa or Starbucks but you’d be missing the point…

“Kurwa”, this useful little word sounds (to English ears) a bit like the Polish word for coffee (kawa) and can be used almost interchangeably. You hear it all the time in cafés, bars and restaurants;

„No to kawa.”
„Nie ma kawa.”
„Poproszę kawa.”
„Przepraszam, nie mamy kawa.”
„Kurwa, gdzie jest mój kawa?”
„Kurwa, nie mam kawa!”
„Nie masz kawa? Kurwa!”

This is, believe me, a bad state of affairs, there is no coffee.

If you like plain black coffee then ordering it in Poland is so simple:

„Kawę poproszę”.
„Tak, oczywiście, już podaję.”

Ordering the same in Britain is far more convoluted.

“Plain black coffee please.”
“Americano?”
“Is that plain black coffee?”
“Yes, Americano.”
“OK, I’ll have a plain black coffee please.”
“Would you like milk with that?”
And so on…

All of which leads me to this:

Uwaga Pies

 These delicious pies are originally from the Uwaga region in the south east of Poland around Rzeszów but can be found throughout the country. Originally made as food for the family’s pet dog but using only the finest ingredients; pork and potatoes, these pies are now a firm favourite with people too.

The Uwaga Pie story is also symptomatic of a resurgent, post-communist Poland burgeoning with private enterprise. Many private houses sell them from their gardens where signs proclaiming “Uwaga Pies” usually with a picture of a dog, can be seen on garden fences and gates.uwaga-pies-tablica-tlocz_356

Alright, you got me bang to rights, the Uwaga Pies bit I made up but upon seeing my first „Uwaga Pies” sign that little story formed itself in my brain almost unbidden so I just had to write it down. Had to… 😉

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