Translation: Polish Dinner at Claire’s. Seems perhaps a bit random? Like where is the kimchi, sichuan peppercorns, or star anice?…not to mention rice! Yes. We made a dinner that had nothing to do with Asia. It was straight up Eastern European Block inspired. My friend Sam and I have been tossing around the idea of doing a dinner party, but had kinda lagged on a concept. We buckled down and decided to create a dinner from food from our neighboring neighborhood. We spent an afternoon wandering around Greenpoint, sampling sausages, salads and many, many mashed potatoes from a delightful restaurant that threatens to twist the tongue if an attempt at pronunciation is made: Lomzynianka. We were inspired, and our taste buds did the talking. They asserted their primal inclination and directed us to a dish of meat and beets. Borscht. You can’t not say ‘borscht’ without taking a cue from Borris and Natasha and pronouncing it like a Soviet gangster. It’s just too fun. Get gutteral. After a few dips of our spoons into the thick tomatoe-y and beet-y broth, we were convinced. A main dish winner was in the works in our minds. With an addition of short ribs, the idea of borscht became the food focal point and from there on out, the side dishes just naturally lined up.
We walked around Little Poland and found sausages: liverwurst, kielbasa and blood sausage. We bought sauerkraut, horseradish, fresh breads and loads of sour cream and mustard. We munched along our journey, sampling hearty stuffed cabbage (a steal at $1.50 each) and pom poms (a donut/muffin with a chewy and crunchy top, filled with raspberry/blackberry jam and sprinkled with confectioners sugar). We tossed around side dish thoughts while perusing deli isles scented with smoked trout, pickled herring and cured cucumbers. Greenpoint opened up new ideas and refreshed old tastes for me (when I was a babe, my father used to pop pickled fish into his and my mouth as if we were snacking on M&Ms ).
We posted flyers in my neighborhood and donned a cheesy name: Super Duper Supper. Because that was our aim. All three of us, me, Sam and Evyatar are keen on cooking for friends, but wanted an opportunity to cook for strangers too.
Twenty three people came to my house last Wednesday. I knew one person, Michal, an old cook friend. Everyone else was new. Imagine that! So excited. We laid out a spread of charcuterie, and surprisingly enough, the blood sausage was the hit of the meat selection. We set out rich butters to slather on the ryes, pumpernickel and sunflower wheat breads. We topped radishes with smoked trout salad and sliced our house cured char. People mingled and drank (as everyone followed instructions swimmingly well and BTOB–brought their own booze). We laid a spread of salads and sides on our sensibly fashioned dining room table (two tables angled together at a diagonal so as to accompany the majority of the party. A sweet little maneuvering on our part if I do say so myself). The dinner party was on its way.
After some wine drinking, food grazing and many an introduction, we asked everyone to sit. We plated banquet style and served out hot plates of braised short ribs, topped with horseradish sour cream, and a melange of fresh herbs atop a deep purple soup laden with carrots, potatoes, beets, turnips and onions. We plated ourselves a serving and sat back and watched as people polished off bowls and wiped plates clean. It’s a funny thought how satisfying it feels to feed people. I wish I could do it for free all the time! I get to practice cooking, and people eat up the creations. Alas, this is not possible to do every time, so the idea of these dinners is a perfect venue where both parties win (i think/hope).
We stuffed people to the brim with cheese babkas and Symphony bar studded brownies, and toasted the evening with a shot of Polish potato vodka: “Na zdrowie!” Cheers to an evening of fun, food and new friends.
So the next time we have a dinner party, please come by. There are good people to meet, lots of wines to be drunk, and too much food to eat. You’ll leave with smiles and full tummies. And what really is better in life than that?