Las Balkanieras, what oyster cooks
I met my very first real "culinary friends" in Poland about 6 years ago, Ewa and Piotr Michalski from Poznań’s Toga restaurant. Of course I ate typical polish food in private homes and restaurants before that, but all the time I assumed, there must be something more original in taste and I found it on my first visit in Toga. Ewa and Piotr are not educated in gastronomy and the logistic in there kitchen might be a bit chaotic, but oh my god, they know how to cook! And they do it with such a passion. Collecting recipys that are probably several centuries old, sometimes presenting them in a new style by using modern kitchen-technics, their dishes can be described as ancient-modern-polish-polish-fusion. In the last years some outstanding dishes I had there were horse-tatar, Czernina (a polish duck-blood-soup), grilled bone marrow and beef-cheeks (long before everyone had it on their menu), just to name a few culinary delights that pop up in my memory.
With the years we became good friends, I started going there a few times per week after my own work, not always for dinner but talking mainly about food, exchanging ideas, cooking together, tasting things we found on markets or on travels. Piotr introduced me to Wojtek, who is running the Festival of good Taste, Jarek and Tamara, two regular foodie guests who seem to know everything about food from all over the world, Marek, who is running a farm and produces exciting goat's cheeses, Julijusz who is a food journalist, another Marek who is running the Slow Food convivium in the region and many more. And we started co-operating on different food-related projects. This sounds normal but at that time it was not. Many gastronomes in Poznan had these competitive thoughts that were poisoning the food scene at that time.
We organized a culinary trip to Poland for Berlin Slowfood Members, shared a stall at the Festival of Good Taste, traveled together to farms and producers in the region, doing the catering and running 3 bars for Transatlantyk Festival, introduced foreign journalists and groups to the exiting world of polish food, shooting a polish christmas dinner for Deutsche Welle TV and helped each other whenever we could. And it seems that everyone in the Polish Foodscene knows Ewa and Piotr, from a small producer up to the food celebreties of Poland. When ever I need advice where to find a product? - I asked them. Who will fix my broken coffee machine for an acceptable price? - I asked them. I needed to borrow a kitchen-tool that I could not find in a shop nearby? Ewa would disappear in the furthermost corner of her kitchen catacombes and came back with what I need. And always I got a satisfying helping answer.
I always describe Ewa and Piotr as my polish adoptive parents, because that is how I feel when I enter their place.
So I also always get invited for special events that are happening in Toga. Once a year they do a herring-dish competition for their friends, a few weeks ago there was a sturgeon degustation, tasting of Nalewka, and this week we had a very special pre-christmas dinner.
The polish traditional christmas dinner contains 12 dishes (according to 12 apostels) and even the most adventurous foodies stick to the typical dishes on christmas. We used to have Christmas dinners in Toga before but in general they where for good friends and family where Ewa cooked and we enjoyed only her food.
This time it was a little different. Only people from the gastronomy scene were invited, 22 people in total, and we all had to bring a dish! I am sure, everyone can imagine the great delicious variety, when 22 food obsessed guests bring their dishes on the table. And most of the dishes where suitable for christmas time, but with a little twist!
Marek has of course brought in some fantastic cheese-platters with a variety of his goat’s cheeses. In Poland it is not unusual that a cheeseplate is served as a starter and not after or as a dessert.
Usually there is no meat allowed on Christmas Dinners, but we still had 4 days for christmas to come, so we did not take this' rule “too seriousand got some fantastic goosebreast.
And of course you can not have a christmas dinner like this with wonderful marinated herring and a cream sauce.
A fantastic surprise for me have been these small marinated pears - sensational in taste and they could go with everything: sweet dishes as well as meat or just pure.
No Christmas Dinner without Pieroggi! We all agreed that the dough of these ones has been the best we had in years.
Piotr prepaired a supertender and juicy goat-leg which made some people even fighting about the last bits from the bone:
And I prepaired a gingerbread parfait with a tangerine caramel as dessert:
It was a very different "restaurant-visit", as all dishes were standing on the table, people walked around to get something on the other side of the table, or you were forwarding plates with food that was placed in front of you. It gave us the feeling of a dinner at home with the family. And in a way that is what we are - a culinary family in Poznan.
Thanks Ewa and Piotr for hosting this amazing evening, and thanks Juliusz for letting me use your pictures 😉
Many of you know that I live and work in Poznan. This year I took on the task of looking after the German press and bloggers at Poland's largest food festival. So if you want to have some extraordinary culinary experiences, write August 15th to 18th in your calendar!
Admittedly, when it comes to culinary highlights in Germany, the first thing that comes to mind is Polish cuisine. But the neighboring country has so much more to offer than pierogi and borscht!
A large number of young chefs, farmers and producers have made it their task to put Poland's culinary image in the right light. Many recipes and ways of producing food have a centuries-old tradition, often influenced by the occupations of the country, but nonetheless in their very own - Polish way. And this culinary art is continued and interpreted in a modern way.
The best way to immerse yourself in the “Polish Cuisine” adventure is at the “Festival of Good Taste”, which will take place this year from 15.-18. August takes place for the 7th time in Poznan. With over 40,000 visitors annually, it is the largest open-air food festival in Poland.
Poznan's historic old market square is the main venue for the festival. All market stalls and stages are located here in front of the imposing old town backdrop. More than 100 restaurants, producers and farmers offer their goods here for four days.
But the festival is much more than just a huge market. Culinary shows take place on the main stage, where the best chefs in the region present themselves. Some of you take part in the competitions that are held every year, others just share your recipes and know-how with the audience.
Every evening there are concerts on the main stage - jazz, world music, folk and pop - we are also subject to the criterion of “good taste” musically!
There are “Taste Labs” for visitors who want to expand their culinary knowledge. In 2-hour workshops there are presentations, training and tastings on topics such as Polish cider, smoked ham from the Zlotnicka pig (regional breed), or Wild Kitchen - cooking with regional wild plants and herbs.
Workshops for kids, culinary competitions, book signing sessions, a picnic on the waiting bank and cooking courses for adults round off the program.
Highlights of the 2013 program
Cooking competition for dishes from the Greater Poland region (Wielkopolska)
This year Poznan's chefs will compete against each other in the Wielkopolska-style steak tartare dish
Nalewka is a (mostly) fruit-flavored vodka that many Polish families make themselves. Last year over 100 private individuals submitted their Nalewka to the competition.
Focus: EU seal of approval for regional specialties
16 stands with producers who have received the EU seal of approval. Regional chefs cook with these products in an extra tent, tasting for everyone. The regional products with the seal of approval are also the main component of the kid workshops
Cooking shows by the winners of the national food blogger competition
In the last 12 months there was a cooking competition for food bloggers in Poland, in a preselection the winners of the region were evaluated, which then competed against each other in the final. The winners of the various categories show more of their skills on stage.
Bloggers Hidepark in the SPOT cultural center and restaurant
Food bloggers are provided with an experimental kitchen and regional products in the SPOT cultural center. There is an exchange of experiences between Polish and international food bloggers and cooking together.
The 4th annual waiters run
A race for the fastest waiters and waitresses (race in high heels) from the region. Speed and style will be judged!
I would be happy to meet some of you!
I'm thrilled! I'm on the train to Warsaw to pick up my new biometric passport at the Danish embassy. Actually no reason to be happy, traveling by train in Poland was usually an uncomfortable, tight and time-consuming affair for me. In compartments that are made for 6 people in Germany, there is space for 8 people. I once spent a five-hour drive at Christmas on the cold floor of a baggage cart because all compartments and aisles were already full. More comfortable but no less strange was a trip in a 1970s dining car from Wroclaw to Poznan. And since I'm not an outspoken Warsaw fan, there is actually no reason to be happy.
But today I got on the Interregio Express at 6:18 am and wasn't sure if this was the right train! Comfortable open-plan coaches, modern seats, the train with free choice of seats (10% occupied) and a socket for the laptop under each double seat! Perfect for my work, because although my box is still running well, the 4-year-old battery lasts a maximum of an hour. The coffee does not come from a giant thermos, but a steward goes around and takes orders, which are then freshly prepared in the on-board restaurant and brought to the seat!
I was in the toilet too. Perfectly clean, soft, multi-ply toilet paper. Everything on the bowl is blown away with compressed air every 15 seconds, so that germs do not even think about settling here. It does take a bit of getting used to when you sit on the pot, but it's very refreshing
The journey time to Warsaw is 4 hours instead of 3.5 hours in the Intercity. However, I am happy to accept that, because the ticket costs just 49 zloty (approx. 12.50 euros) and not 120 zloty (30 euros) as in the Intercity. And finally I got back to blogging undisturbed!
... took place from August 12th to 15th for the fifth time in the old market square in Poznan. Since I have been active for slow food in Poland several times in the past few months and made contacts with the Berlin Konvivium, the organizers of the festival (some of whom are the board of Slowfood Poznan) wanted me to be represented with my own stand this year.
Together with our friends from the TOGA restaurant, we rented a 6 sqm booth to promote our shops a little. We agreed to only offer one dish and wine at a time, so Piotr from Toga ordered 1,400 oysters of the best quality and size and I rented an oven to bake fresh tarte flambée. Neither the oysters were recognized by many people, and almost no one knew the Tarte Flambée.
While looking at the festival photos, TheEverlastingClub recently asked what the stupid cow costume was all about. Here again a lesson in the Polish mentality and behavior. The Poles are very proud, especially of their products and their work, but very cautious and overly polite when it comes to personally offering this to a potential customer. Indirectly via countless advertising posters, yes, but intrusive salespeople are not there in shops. If we had waited with our rather unknown products for the Polish market for someone to be interested in them, we would probably not have sold anything. So I threw myself into my garish cow costume in order to score at least a bit in terms of attention in addition to Piot's voluminous appearance and we screamed the market: “Oysters, fresh oysters, the best in Poland” in the canon with “Tarte Flambée, Medame et Monsieur “We called as loud as we could. And it worked. First the look at 2 different strange figures that are shouting, then they come closer because the curiosity is great and then we explained what we have to offer.
In addition to the classic tarte flambée, we had a version with wafer-thin tomato slices and wild rocket and a sweet version with apples, sugar and cinnamon for those who didn't like bacon.
With the patience of an angel, the loved one explained everything about tarte flambée to every customer as if she came from Alsace and developed into a sales genius who then sold most of the customers a glass of our delicious Chilean Chardonnais at the bundle price.
But there were also other delicious things to discover on the market. When it comes to good cheese, Poland is certainly not one of those countries abroad. However, this is a serious mistake. Because the 84 registered organic cheese farmers in the association produce a sensational cheese, which in one case actually even led Italian food journalists to say that this is the best cheese they have ever eaten! The cheese in question came from our friend Marek, about whom I reported on my cheese festival article.
What I didn't know before was a Polish version of the lardo, with a coat of chilli and paprika. Very hot, but an absolute food gasm on a slice of slightly sweet farmer's bread.
Piotr's oysters in particular became a bestseller. When ordering, he insisted on getting at least size "B Large". And the delivery from Holland met all expectations. The real food freaks came by on all 4 days to eat the noble seafood and I couldn't say no 2 times a day and enjoyed the oysters with an ice-cold glass of Sicilian sparkling wine.
However, I received the best compliment of the weekend from a French couple who came from Alsace. They were so sure that I also came from the region and spoke to me in French first. Then they attested to me that it was probably the best tarte flambée they had ever eaten and that I should make a business out of it!
All in all a wonderful festival that I can warmly recommend. For Berliners and Brandenburgers in particular, it is only a stone's throw away - with the Berlin-Warsaw Express you can arrive in the morning and return the same evening. The journey time is only about 2.5 hours. When I consider that foodies travel halfway around the world in search of new taste experiences, it would make much more sense to have a look "on your own doorstep" to see what there is to discover. With over 100 exhibitors, there is sure to be something great to discover!
More photos can be found here:
many already know it, but it's time to spread it on my blog. My first restaurant, which I opened 2 years ago in the basement of the new theater in Poznan, has been closed since August 1st. Not just during the summer break. You can find many reasons and guilty parties for this, but that doesn't change the fact that the location is not economically viable. And before you know it, you have a big minus on the account and the creditors are knocking on the door.
What remains, however, is a respectable success, a much-observed new path in the otherwise monotonous gastro scene in Poznan and a great opportunity! Because a year ago I met the manager of a large car showroom in my restaurant, a visionary guy my age and we hit it off right away. Immediately he was so enthusiastic about my food that he offered me to run a restaurant that is being built within the new showroom he is currently building. When it is completed, it will be the largest motor show in Poland. He wants a top restaurant for his customers, pays his 110 employees half of their lunch and does not want to have any rent from me for the time being. I am only supposed to cook there with my team and my ideas.
Everything sounded great, but I didn't hear from the young success manager for several months. Emails and calls also went unanswered. So I ticked it off under the category “dumbbeaters who open the door with nothing behind it”. I had really gotten to know dozens of them in the past two years.
Far from it - to my great surprise, he contacted me again and I got to know not only him, but his whole family. His father is the owner, the brother takes care of the day-to-day business and all the brothers-in-law, uncles and aunts are somehow employed in the company. And from then on they came to my restaurant almost every week, were enthusiastic about my kitchen and took me into their family.
The original plan was that the new building would open in February. But we did the math without the Polish bureaucracy. In fact, there is a very laudable new system in Polish offices that makes corruption entirely impossible. All applications for permits of whatever kind are assigned a number in the computer. The software prevents younger applications from being processed before older ones. This means: If I want to approve application number 10 (and want to print it out), all applications 1-9 must have been processed beforehand. Basically a good idea, it's only stupid when the building department is completely understaffed and the applications come in faster than they could ever be processed. And with a new building, there are always a few small changes that must also be submitted, otherwise the acceptance will not conform to the original plans. At the moment, it is not uncommon to wait more than a year for a permit.
In order to get the building removed, a trick also had to be used, since the electricity supplier no longer gives any dates when a new building will be connected. This even goes so far that companies have a complete technical infrastructure built, which then becomes the property of the electricity supplier when it is connected. So in order to get our approval, we diverted the electricity from the old main building to the new building, knowing that the output for both buildings would not be sufficient if, for example, both air conditioning systems had been put into operation at the same time. But without a building permit (which is only available with electricity) you do not need to submit an application to the health department, which also has 4 weeks to drop by after the application.
So we could only hope. And what felt like 1000 questions about when we should finally open with a shrug of the shoulders.
But suddenly something moves: In the last week the last sanitary installations were made, the bar got its substructure, I visited several coffee machine manufacturers together with the company boss and selected a sensational 3-group machine, a replica of a classic, purely mechanical machine from 1961 .
Several hundredweight of crockery, pots, pans, glasses and equipment are carted off and the dishwasher is running on high doors. In between, about 250 tarte flambée was brought to the people at the “Festival of Good Taste” (report will follow) and a few days ago the energy provider finally fumed to activate the connection. However, this is not as easy as one might imagine. An advertisement must be placed in the daily newspaper 2 weeks beforehand, as all neighboring companies and buildings are also without electricity for several hours. This becomes particularly complicated if something does not work or a component is missing - you cannot just continue the next morning, but first place an advertisement again and wait 2 weeks ... our fitter was missing some parts that could, despite previous inquiries however, it has to be obtained from a manufacturer in Poznan AND NOW WE HAVE ELECTRICITY !!!
But enough of the words. Here are some pictures. Of course there is no decoration yet, there are no pictures on the walls and there is still a lot to be done. But we still have 2 weeks until the first test cooking.
Everything you need to cook. Almost nothing to be desired.
Bain Marie, Fryer and Grill
and perhaps the best oven on the market: a convection oven that you can program yourself.
But the best part is the window in the kitchen with lots of sunlight. A BLESSING after working in the basement!
The bar is equipped with a dishwasher, a 3-door refrigerator and an ice cube machine. The coffee machine is still missing in the picture.
Perspective in the motor show ...
... and the reverse shot.
In the restaurant there are shelves that are illuminated with LEDs inside. The white boards are only supports during the "gluing" to the wall.
And this is what "The White Room" looks like at the moment.
And now I also had a call that the health department will come by next Tuesday for acceptance. Everything will be fine !
In the last 2 years I have tried various things that I had never eaten before and also didn't believe I would ever put them in my mouth, but maybe it is because I was offered various things in a new environment for the first time To try dishes. Or the changed attitude that told me to try everything at least once. But mainly I think that our sense of taste is in constant change and can develop. For example, on my 40th birthday, I tried oysters for the first time because the slimy appearance had somehow lost its horror. In the meantime, I even occasionally enjoy an oyster, I literally crave it (even if I still consider oysters to be completely overrated).
Basically I'm curious, especially when it comes to culinary things, but strangely enough, when it comes to offal and blood dishes, I've always resigned. Since I got to know the restaurateurs Ewa and Pior of the TOGA restaurant here in Poland, this imaginary aversion has also been broken.
It started when I was offered a typical Polish soup refined with duck blood, which is called Czernina and which TheEverlastingClub has already reported in its excellent article about toga. After many disappointments in taste in Polish restaurants, my curiosity was suddenly aroused: There was really exciting, delicious and unique Polish cuisine and Ewa knew how to prepare it - partly according to historical recipes. This was followed at irregular intervals by dishes such as sweetbreads, black pudding, horse tartare and, the day before yesterday, something I never thought I put in my mouth: Calf brain!
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