The air is crisp and chill, puffer-coated pooches are roaming the streets of Greenpoint and it’s dark by 5pm. It’s exactly the time of year to hole-up in a cozy drinking den and spend the evening getting intimate with an extensive menu of local craft beers and delicious bar snacks.
“A staple of traditional Polish cuisine, Kaszanka (also called Kiszka) is a blood sausage made with a mixture of pig’s blood, buckwheat or barley, and pig offal – usually liver, lungs, skin, fat – flavored with pepper, onions, marjoram, and stuffed in pig intestine.
Coming from the word kasza, which is one of the main ingredients, Kaszanka can be eaten cold, but are traditionally (and taste better) grilled or fried. Eat it with a liberal side of onions, potato and sauerkrat.
While picking up special cat food for my obese tuxedo at Greenpoint Vet Hospital, I grabbed a coffee across the street at Cafe Pistachio (114 Nassau Ave), which contributor Jen H. raved about a few months ago.
It was late in the afternoon and the drip coffee looked like it had been sitting out all day so I ordered a short espresso, which was way too long and not something I would go back for. I did notice something I would return for, though.
For a while I’d been very curious about Borek after seeing the frozen variety at a European deli. (I’ve also seen it spelled Burek.) The Borek on display at Pistachio looked fresh and delicious and since we were starving it was a great take home appetizer before cooking dinner. The server said they make them in house, too.
There were a few varieties to chose from: cheese, potato, ground meat and spinach, and I went with Spinach. It was a flakey, buttery and moist phylo dough pastry stuffed with spinach and salty feta, served with dill sour cream on the side. It was really satisfying and makes for a really cheap snack or small lunch at only $4. That is cheap!
Can you recommend any other spots in Greenpoint for delicious Borek?
One of the many benefits of living in Greenpoint is the variety of delicious Polish vodkas and liqueurs available at most liquor stores. As everyone knows, vodka’s origins can be traced back to Poland (go ahead, look it up), and it’s nice to see that the strong tradition of soul-warming spirits continues here.
All this Greenpointers talk of hot toddies reminded me of one of my favorite ways to warm up during freezing Polish winters – krupnik na gorąco (KROOP-neek na go-RON-tso, or hot krupnik).
Krupnik is a traditional Polish drink that can be found in several formats: honey; lemon; and plain vodka. For this recipe, it is important to use the honey-hued old krupnik, which is clearly labeled “Polish Honey Liqueur” on the bottle.
I ran into Jen G on Saturday at the McCarren Park Farmer’s Market, when I was out Wigilia (Polish Christmas Eve) shopping with my brother and sister-in-law, who had stood in line for 45 minutes at Green Farms Supermarket (918 Manhattan Ave.) to buy sauerkraut fresh out of a barrel. I loved Jen’s post about Wigilia carp and she encouraged me share our own Wigilia.
Christmas season became a million times better when my sister-in-law, Magda (who grew up in Wrocław, Poland), came into my life. This was my third Wigilia and I was psyched. The fun (and work) began Saturday as we made and decorated gingerbread ornaments for the tree.
Sunday, Magda spent hours making barszcz (Christmas beet soup), kompot (a special digestive drink made from soaking dried fruit) and fillings for mushroom/sauerkraut and cheese/potato pierogi.
Monday afternoon was the final countdown to Wigilia that begins when the first star appears in the night sky. We made uzka “little ears” to go into the beet soup (like mini pierogi – the best!). We prepared halibut instead of carp, but I got to hear Magda’s childhood memories of housing a live carp in their bathtub for a few days before Christmas. We also served sauerkraut salad and celery root salad.
Before eating, we proclaimed good wishes as we fed each other pieces from the opłatek wafer. We also made sure to place an extra setting at the table for “the wanderer.”
We happily stuffed our faces, then followed the tradition of opening presents between dinner and dessert. The evening ended with three awesome sweets – pierniczki (gingerbread cookies), piernik (gingerbread layered with plum preserves and covered with chocolate) and makowiec (poppyseed roll) from my favorite Polish bakery in Greenpoint – Bakery Rzeszowska (on the corner of Manhattan Ave. and Java).
It was yet another delicious Wigilia. Please share your own Wigilia stories!
While walking around the neighborhood today I saw huge tanks filled with half-dying (I am a pessimist) giant silvery fish. The tanks were outfitted with an air pump, but the fish were bobbing around, with no room to swim and were barely breathing. The sign on the tank said either “Clean Carp” or “Live Carp,” and there was quite a fuss in order to acquire the fish.
Carp are actually related to goldfish and can be caught right in New York City, like in Kissena Lake in Queens. I assume these were locally caught but could not get a straight answer from where exactly.
Why carp? According to the interweb: “In Poland, Christmas Eve is a day first of fasting, then of feasting. The Wigilia feast begins at the appearance of the first star. There is no red meat served but fish, usually carp … Carp provides a main component of the Christmas Eve meal across Poland; carp fillet, carp in aspic etc.”
Here is a recipe for carp aspic in case you are curious.