Dyngus Day delectables
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • April 10, 2012 @ 10:51am
Dyngus Day is obviously a celebration of Polish culture. Still, there’s the ever present danger that the holiday has become Americanized, slipping away from tradition and simply flipping pierogi and sizzling kielbasa—you know, treats that Buffalonians are more than familiar with.
Bounding from St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church’s social center to a make-shirt Polish cafe on Fillmore Ave. to the Potts Deli offerings inside the Central Terminal, I hunted down unfamiliar Polish cuisine, eager to sample something new. Here’s what I found:
St. Stanislaus, the oldest Polish parish in Buffalo and perhaps all of New York state:
St. Stan’s sold small bowls of “leniwe pierogi,” which featured spiral egg noodles buried in sauerkraut and mushrooms and cooked in an other-worldly amount of butter. Intended as a side dish, this “lazy pierogi” blended the bitter taste of the sauerkraut with a very rich butter flavor. A comfort food, for sure.
Upon arriving at St. Stan’s, each patron received a ticket for one free kielbasa with the purchase of a Pussy Willow Pass. So common that it’s morphed into a favored tailgating food, the boiled Polish mini-genre of sausage was pleasantly fatty. This obviously wasn’t the aim of the obscure food trip, but I struggle to turn down anything free.
Polish Cafe, 617 Fillmore Ave. Each year, Polish Legacy Project chairman Andy Golebiowski organizes a cafe across the street from the Adam Mickiewicz Library, selling homemade Polish entrees and desserts. Peering for a few I didn’t recognize, here’s what I learned:
Zurek (Polish Easter soup):
Speaking with Helena Golebiowska, the Poland-born mother of the cafe’s organizer, she emphasized that there were two versions of zurek, traditionally served with hard-boiled eggs during the “Resurrection breakfast” on Easter Sunday, and the version I ate was actually “barszcz bialy,” made from wheat flour rather than rye. The thin soup is first cooked with vegetables—namely carrots, leeks, celery—then mixed with the remaining liquid from boiling kielbasa. Vinegar and lemon is then added to taste, depending on preference. Incredibly sour by itself, the soup demanded a few slices of bread for dipping.
Mini-sandwiches intended as a complement to coffee, kanapki was probably my favorite Polish sample of Dyngus Day. The open-faced sandwiches are not complex at all—a base of rye or white bread, mayonnaise or butter spread as the next layer, a slice of yellow cheese, a slice of ham, a cucumber or a pickle and then a garnish of dill or chives. The thick pickle slice and dill lent (no pun intended) a flavor much different than our Americanized deli lunch choices. Well done, Poland.
Potts Deli catering at Buffalo Central Terminal: At the heart of the festivities, Potts Deli—a hidden treasure on Dingens St.—served a limited menu or kielbasa, pierogi, golombki and fried bologna sandwiches.
Psyched to try a golombki—pronounced “go-wum-kee” I was repeatedly told despite my fervent attempts to say the “L”—the wrapped cabbage leaf held seasoned ground beef and rice and was coated in a thin tomato sauce. Although a thicker tomato sauce and a solid sprinkling of pepper was necessary, the moist, almost soggy cabbage leaf was an appropriate contrast to the dry filling. My advice: add extra sauce for more of a zing.
Farmers’ cheese pierogi:
Determined to complete the Polish food adventure with something familiar, I settled on a pierogi, the culinary pride of Poland. The farmers’ cheese was crumbly and sweet, and the buttery dough had a nice crispy texture after frying. Apparently pierogi preparation is an arduous process, according to this 11-step video.