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.
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.
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.
If there is a place in the hood where I have my food pulse tuned into, it’s the stretch of Manhattan Ave. between Greenpoint Ave. and Java St. Quite the small focus, I think of it as the La Taverna/McDonald’s line. Dead center of that line was the restaurant Happy End: an old school Polish spot that drew me in with a 70′s looking brown and orange sign and made me a customer with the curvy counter and the simple menu.
More than that, the owner Martin kept me coming back. Over the years we developed a friendship and discussed the restaurant in it’s old incarnation, at length. A few weeks ago he popped his head from the newly painted roll gates and said with a big smile, “doing some work, but it’s a secret.”
Last week that secret was let out of the bag with the re-opening of Martin’s place under the banner Brooklyn Point Cafe. Of course I was one of the first people to pop in to get the low down (It’s only 23 ft from my front door.)
It has been gutted and turned into a fresh new restaurant with a menu that is anything but Polish. Of course they kept the grilled Polish sausage on the menu to stay tied to their roots. Continue reading
This is my Dad, Rocco. Yes, he is giving you the finger over grilled spiral sausage and hot dogs. I learned not to be embarrassed after he came to every high school basketball game and was my own personal Sicilian cursing cheerleader. I love my Dad more than anything in the world! He gave me his stomach. (That’s a weird Sicilian phrase that doesn’t translate well, but means I am a good eater.) And it’s because of him that I am a photographer and an unapologetically inappropriate curser and middle finger giver.
For father’s day, what do I get for the man who says, “I got my dog, what else do I need?”
In this fine town, there are a lot of great gifts, but edible gifts are the best, and the first and easiest thing that comes to mind in Greenpoint is Kielbasa! Right down the road on Nassau is Steve’s Meat Market (104 Nassau Ave). If you’re on the “other side” check out Kizka Meat Market (915 Manhattan Ave). I hear they have a mean Babka, too. Continue reading