Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sausagefest at Café Polonia

As I write, The Boy is making dinner: dandelion greens, leeks, hedgehog mushrooms and red peppers over brown rice. Why such spartan fare on a Sunday night? Because we capped off the week's dining indulgence with a trip to Café Polonia for Huge's birthday. And now we're feeling ... well, a little meated out.

Don't get me wrong; the food was great. It just that the meal began with bread and lard.

Depending on your philosophy, it went either uphill or downhill from there. Oh, the lard was lovely, salty, with tiny studs of bacon. I had to hold back from absconding with the whole thing. But that was just the start.

Huge counseled soup all round, and as there were a dozen of us, we ended up with a good variety.

Sour pickle soup:

I'm not a pickle connoisseur, but I could see how those who are would appreciate this; it's light and creamy, with a tangy, pickly edge.

Wild mushroom soup:

I'm also not a mushroom lover, but this was almost enough to make me a convert: a deep, meaty, earthy flavor.

Beef tripe soup:

Rich and fantastically peppery, with slices of surprisingly tender tripe.

And there was also borsch, which I'd never tried before. But given my recent beet obsession, it seemed only right to have it in an authentic setting. It was everything I'd hoped: a deep-red broth that captured both the sweetness of the beets and the underlying meatiness of beef stock. At the bottom of the bowl were fat dumplings stuffed with mushrooms that, once again, tempted me toward conversion. (No pictures, sadly; my best attempts to capture the rich color failed miserably.)

The soup would probably have been enough, but there was more food to come, including blood sausage, which arrived in a wonderfully greasy pile, along with pickled beets, mustard and slices of raw red pepper:

The Boy also ordered a sampler platter of kielbasa, pierogi and stuffed cabbage:

And that's without mentioning Christine's dish of pyzy, meat-filled potato dumplings that were like a steamed version of Puerto Rican rellenos de papa. I expected heavy starch-bombs, but they were light and lovely.

I didn't get to try John's potato pancake, stuffed with cheese, ham and bacon and topped with a fried egg:

In retrospect, that's probably just as well.

Health food this is not; it's great winter nosh, rib-sticking and dense, but on a mild April night in a tiny, warm restaurant (our group alone half-filled the place), it quickly leads to the glazed expressions and reddened faces that signify food coma.

We made half-hearted attempts at dessert--chocolate-stuffed crepes and cheesecake--but everyone was really too full for more than a cursory forkful.

A fun, fun time, with lovely people. And now, a week of veggies, grains and green tea. Totally worth it, though.


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