Saturday, October 4, 2008

Eastern Bloc of Cheddar

October was to be the Cheddar-less portion of my 10-month Great Cheddar Adventure. Germany, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland have great cheeses, but they don't have Cheddar.

But I ended up having a dish with my cheese of choice in Warsaw on Friday, baked pierogi with Cheddar, mozzarella, tomatoes, and pumpkin seeds. As soon as I heard that there were pierogi with Cheddar somewhere on offer in Warsaw, I had to have them. The place serving up such untraditional Polish fare was a warm and cute little eatery called Pierrogeria, located near one of the gates of the restored barbican in the old city. My friend Dorota took me there. When she was finally done taking care of administrative work at Warsaw University, an hour later than she said she would be done, she gave me the option of a vegetarian restaurant or place for pierogi for lunch. While I appreciate vegetarian restaurants, especially in meat-loving countries like Poland, I seldom frequent them. They're rarely what I am after, and what I was after on my first full day in Warsaw was something Polish and something with Cheddar. Dorota was happy with my choice because she rarely leaves the university area and she welcomed a break from her routine.

I was totally charmed by Pierrogeria. It was perfect for a chilly, grey day. Sitting and waiting for Dortota outside in a courtyard at the university for a hour while reading about how many times Poland was partitioned, I got more chilled than I thought I was. The restaurant warmed me up when I didn't know I needed warming.

Even though Pierrogeria served Polish food, it wasn't an old-school, kitchy place. It was fresh and new, and its light wood details and inventive pierogi signaled something modern and young. A nod to tradition was a humorous one, a wooden carving of a figure with three Easter Island-looking heads. It was Pierogigowid, the Pierogi God.

I can't say, however, that I loved my pierogi z cheddarem, mozzerella, pestkamidyni, pomidorami. The Cheddar wasn't really Cheddar, of course; it was more like melted Cheddar goo. It was all too rich and creamy and the tomatoes didn't provide the balancing acid that they should have. Even though I've been enjoying seasonsal and typical pumpkin seeds during my recent days in Eastern Europe, there were just too many of them in the dish. It was kind of like having trail mix inside your pierogi. I made the concoction even richer by swiping bites of pierogi into a creamy horseradish sauce. There was another vegetarian Chedddar option on the menu, with broccoli. I might go back to try it, but boiled this time instead of baked. And I will definitely have the double mead again. It made everything better!

I am still trying to figure out why Pierrogeria's spins on traditional pierogi used Cheddar and not some other cheese. Mozzarella, also in my dish, makes sense because pizza is popular everywhere these days. But Cheddar? Perhaps it's to make dishes seem international and therefore current. Perhaps it's to appeal to foreigners; there were several tables of them at Pierrogeria that afternoon. Maybe it's the backward migration of food. I just learned (thanks to wikipedia) that in Canada potatoes with Cheddar is a popular filling in pierogi (there's so much to love about Canada!). Polish immigrants to Canada must have made pierogi with what was easily avaiable (viz, Cheddar) and then this dish made its way back to Poland. I should probably ask someone. In the meantime I'll try to get some more Cheddar before I say goodbye to it for another few weeks. Or maybe I'll just relish my Cheddar-free days and eat more fried circles of smoked goat cheese (oscypek Zakopane) with cranberry sauce, washed down with hot beer and fruit syrup. Hey, don't knock it 'til you try it!

1 comment:

Jessica said...

Wow! I'm a huge Cheddar fan too as it is always in my fridge, but the fried circles of goat cheese with cranberry sauce sounds like an EXCELLENT stand in when not in true cheddar country! Mmmmmm hot beer! Sounds toasty too!