Oh yes sir!
Now let’s be truthful, Polish cuisine like German cuisine, has a reputation of being rather stodgy so there’s no getting away from that but that isn’t everything. As I told you a few weeks ago, Poland is an old country dating back from 966 and is enormously proud of its historic roots as well as it’s post-communist background. It has also been heavily influenced by it’s neighbours such as Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia (not Slovenia), the Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Russia and Italy.
During the short time that I spent in Warsaw, I managed to find a couple of bars. Most of them dark and dingy, but selling vodka shots from 2 PLN or €0.47 to 4 PLN or €0.94!
I’m a cultured lady but living in Prague taught me the virtues of vodka.
Hell! When I used to live in Prague. I was forced.
To have a bottle of beer AND a shot of vodka with my habitual cup of tea, every morning!
Travelling solo means that you can spend a bit more time with other people rather than with your loved ones so I reached out to the oldest Warsaw Pub Crawl group who very kindly asked me to be their guest, so I hopped along with one of their groups.
We were a group of about 30 revellers, possibly more. I lost count after the first cocktail..!
Our meeting point was the palm tree on Jerusalem Avenue and then we were accompanied by 3 party leaders including Kamil a tall, lanky fellow, who is the brainchild behind Warsaw Pub Crawl. I hung out with two (2) lovely girls from Cardiff and a few German students from Leipzig. Our group also had a bunch of happy-go-lucky and should-we-or-shouldn’t-we Australian bankers (I think!) and a couple of Brits! The Australians sort of kept wandering off so it was difficult to pin any of them down for a chat!
WHAT DO I REMEMBER ABOUT THE WARSAW PUB CRAWL?
Well, our group was really nice and friendly and our first stop was a local bar under the arches of a train station. You got two drinks on the house so I had a vodka & lemon cocktail. Not of the fashion week variety of course, but good enough to get the juices flowing. We were given vodka shots and a flashing armband. It was pretty early in the evening so I was able to chat to the Welsh girls who told me that they found Warsaw drinks expensive!
I couldn’t believe it. How so?!
I’ve been to Cardiff and Wales, and I don’t remember drinks being anywhere as cheap as Polish beers.
Apparently, beers in Cardiff were cheaper than the 5 or 6 PLN (€1.10 or €1.40) pints being bandied about. In Cardiff beers were under 5 PLN!
We went to a nicer bar in a basement. I quite liked it and you could get a discount on drinks with the armband. I stuck to buying shots and we got a shot on the house. In fact, in every bar we went to, we got free shots.
Then we went to a club. The music was fine, I danced a little, took part in some drinking games and had two (2) small beers.
Mixing is not a good idea!
At about 01:40, I made my way back to my hotel which was just 4 metro stops away and fell asleep with an empty cup of tea in my hand. At least, I hope it was empty!
A fun night out!
Tickets for Warsaw Pub Crawl are €14.00 or 60 PLN.
Approximate pub crawl time: As long as you like!
HOW TO MAKE PIEROGI WITH POLISH YOUR COOKING
It’s nice to know that I didn’t spend all my time drowning in vodka but also something culturally useful so Polish your Cooking bravely offered to teach me how to master Polish culinary skills in a fun and casual atmosphere.
Polish your Cooking is a Polish cookery school that caters and connects all manner of people ranging from individual tourists to corporate team-building workshops and private events.
After my night of debauchery, I managed to drag myself out of bed, have a hot shower, get myself a couple of tea cups, do small-talk over breakfast, and attempt some form of packing before getting myself to the cooking school venue.
I had previously planned to walk it but I didn’t have the heart or the energy level for it!
Polish your Cooking is based on the ground floor of a smart business building and my class had 5 British lads, 1 German lady, 1 Polish lady, and myself.
The class was fantastic!
Our chef and teacher was the owner of the cookery school itself – Chef Michał Piosik – a jolly 20-something man, an ex-banker and a person with a strong passion for food, Polish cuisine and excellent people skills! I found him to be extremely funny and very laid-back.
We started with a delightful spread of traditional starters such as Polish cold cuts, cheeses, sauces and a variety of interesting staples such as horse-radish bread. All well needed as the British lads with us, a group of ex-university friends on a stag weekend, had at least 3 of the young men, slightly worse for wear!
My chosen class was Pierogi Grandma Style so we learnt a little bit about the background of meat and bread in Poland, that vegetables originally came from Italy in the 16th century, vodka of course originated from Russia in the 11th/12th century and the dumplings, thick sauces and potatoes, originated from Austria and the Czech Republic. Pierogi is a dumpling popular in every Slavic country and stuffed with some sort of offal or vegetable and considered food for peasants.
After our buffet snack, we were put around a cooking table with stoves, pots, pans, and culinary equipment and then the cooking began. I was paired with David from Bristol. Quite easy to remember as in the British group 3 of the 5 lads were also called David!
Anyway, we spent some considerable time mixing our ingredients, kneading our dough and frying our beef, onions and an array of interesting spices.
We then made our dough and split them into dumplings stuffed with beef and pork or dumplings stuffed with cheese. Incredibly, I also got to learn how the dumplings are shaped in their patterns. It wasn’t easy but I managed it!
Of course, it was important to take a break with rounds of vodka. Michał took pains to ensure that we tasted them all, except for a nutty one! After all what’s a bit of work if you can’t have a tipple on the side LOL!
After an hour or so, we were able to settle down into a delicious meal of pierogi with a smattering of bacon pieces, scooped over with sour cream, and sprinkled with parsley.
There was dessert too.
Slices of apple strudel and cream cheese pie accompanied by strawberries sprinkled with castor sugar. Delish!
Not only that but after many hugs and shaking of hands, we also got a certificate and a flat wooden oar-like spoon.
What a marvellous day!
Tickets for Polish your Cooking in Warsaw are €48.00 or 199 PLN.
Approximate class time: Roughly 3.5 – 4 hours.
Last week, I promised to tell you about the milk bars so let’s get it on!
A MILK BAR
What the hell is a milk bar?
Is it some sort of strawberry shake?
Or worse, a real dingy whisky bar!
No, my good man. The milk bar stems historically from the 19th / 20th century when poor landowners attempted to establish dairies and devour cheap eats such as curds, buttermilk and dumplings in Warsaw.
After WWII, a milk bar was the only place in which the locals could find cheap nutritious food. The milk bar quickly became supported by the communists as a thing for the working classes and by 1948 was firmly established as an ideal place of gastronomic refuge for those who had lost their homes and kitchens.
I went to two (2) milk bars and I can tell you that “authentic” milk bars are fairly simply furnished with school-canteen-like wooden tables, plastic chairs and plastic flowers. The menu is also simple and plain with rustic back-to-the-basics items such as dumplings, pancakes, noodles and soup.
My first (1st) night in Warsaw was at the Patchwork Design Hostel as Autor Rooms only had availability for three (3) nights. And let me tell you, I know why I prefer to book a private room. This hostel was quite nice and quiet and the area was great being just on a side corner of Nowy Świat but even so, the walls were paper-thin as I could hear my neighbours’ talking, making telephone calls and “other things!”
All night long!
Oh, and one of the girls’ had vomited in the bathroom sink!
So as you can imagine, I didn’t bother to use the shower facilities and just wanted to check out as quickly as possible. The staff at the Patchwork Design Hostel were lovely and very helpful though. On the evening that I had arrived, I asked one of the young ladies if she could recommend somewhere local.
She looked me straight in the eye and then wrote an address on a piece of paper. I had my evening meal at a milk bar, and I didn’t even know it!
The milk bar that I went to by myself was on the bohemian mecca of Nowy Świat 39 and was called Bar Mleczny Familijny.
At first glance, it looked like nothing at all. In fact, if I hadn’t been given the address, I would probably have walked passed it!
It was my first evening so I opened the door and walked in. All eyes swiveled towards me but I strode on and carried on with the business of trying to decipher what the menu on the wall actually meant LOL! I had forgotten that everything would be in Polish and there were no pictures to help me.
I nevertheless, went to the cashier and was prepared to use my non-verbal acting skills when she pushed a plastic card towards me. It had a list of all possible meals in Polish and their English & French translations, but not necessarily of the things on the wall!
I however, went on to pick the Polish words that I recognised on the wall such as zupy & pierozki and attempted to find the equivalent on this plastic sheet. In the end I settled for beetroot soup with an egg, and breaded chicken with mashed potatoes and coleslaw.
I normally really like borscht but this must have been the worst beetroot soup that I have ever eaten as it was extremely salty. I liked the boiled egg though but after three (3) attempted ladylike sips, I gave up. The breaded chicken was much better and I completely cleared my plate.
Everyone watched me do so LOL!
I wasn’t going to give up so easily and went back a second (2nd) time. For lunch.
This time, the milk bar was packed with about forty (40) girl scouts and their scout leaders AND various other local customers, but I knew what to do and was better prepared.
I was also able to have a peek at the local customers and the kitchen itself.
The milk bar is frequented by Polish people from all walks of life and all ages. I saw someone who looked liked a professor ordering a meal to take-away, retired people, the school-aged kids and some university students eating a meal with their friends.
As for the kitchen.
There were huge metal containers of mashed potatoes, shelled boiled eggs and frying pans sizzling with hot oil. I observed one of the “dinner ladies” take my breaded fish, scoop it up from the frying pan with the oil dripping on the floor, and carry it from one side of the kitchen to the other. And then whip it on my plate.
I had mashed potatoes sprinkled with dill, breaded fish fillet with coleslaw and a custard pudding. Cost: 14.50 PLN or €3.40!
The food was tasty though!
No fancy staff. Apron on hips. Socks on her feet. Gossip in the air. Don’t waste my time.
If that scared you then let me tell you about the milk bar that I went to with Maja from Adventure Warsaw, which was rather more pleasant and nicer. The concept was similar but the space was larger and brighter. I didn’t see the kitchens but I’m assuming that they were probably cleaner!
We had buckwheat grains, beetroot sauce, bigos, pierogi and potato pancake.
This milk bar was called Bar Ząbkowski and the food was hugely better! I tried to find this milk bar again but I couldn’t remember the address at the time LOL!
Well worth it though.
Most meals in both milk bars start from 0.60 PLN or €0.14 to 12 PLN or €2.80. You really won’t starve and can afford to eat a large variety of dishes as I did!
Well, this post is long enough so that’s pretty much it!
See you next week!
In November, I’ll be going to Bristol & Bath and in December, I’ll be taking part in The Best of Berlin in 48 Hours campaign.
If you’re going to Bristol or Bath, let me know!
October is going to be showery!
Watch this space!
Do you like Polish food? Have you ever been on a pub crawl?
See you in Berlin.