Poland’s National Dish: Bigos aka “Hunter’s Stew”

Back in August, I wrote about my very long prodigal journey which included studying my ethnic Polish heritage. See here. In that post, I promised that I would share a couple of Polish recipes that I had mastered. I passed along the first one, Kluski i Kapusta (Noodles and Cabbage), in October. See here.

Now it’s time for my second recipe and it’s a grand one; Bigos aka “Hunter’s Stew.” Bigos is a staple of Polish kitchens during the Winter months and is considered Poland’s national dish. Every Polish cook and babcia has their own variation and here’s mine, which started with a recipe from “The New Polish Cuisine” by Chef Michael J. Baruch. I’ve tasted the Bigos of many Polish chefs but it doesn’t get any better than the recipe below. Get out your cutting board. This one takes some prep time, but it’s well worth it.

Bigos

Ingredients:

  • 4 strips bacon
  • 1 lb. smoked kielbasa, sliced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 lb. stew beef (or substitute cubed pork)
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large green cabbage, decored and sliced
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 lb. sliced mushrooms (Poles are very fussy about their mushrooms, but you can use common white mushrooms)
  • 16 oz. canned sauerkraut, drained (rinsing is optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 dash Tabasco sauce
  • 2 dashes Maggi liquid seasoning (if not available use Knorr Liquid Seasoning)
  • 5 cups (40 oz.) beef broth
  • 16 oz. canned diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup red cooking wine
  • 6 oz. beer
  1. Using a very large pot (e.g., 16-quart Dutch Oven) on medium heat, cook 4 strips of bacon until crispy. Remove bacon leaving grease. Chop bacon and set aside. Add kielbasa to pot, cook and turn for a few minutes until slightly browned on both sides. With slotted spoon remove kielbasa and set aside. Remove all grease except 2 tbsp. and set aside. Coat stew beef with flour. Add stew beef to pot, cook and turn for a few minutes until slightly browned on both sides. Remove beef and set aside.
  2. Add 2 tbsp. of reserved bacon/kielbasa grease back to bottom of pot. Add garlic and onion. Stir and cook a few minutes until onion is slightly tender. Do not brown. Add cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, and sauerkraut. Stir vegetables often for around 4 minutes until only slightly tender. Do not brown. Add salt, black pepper, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, paprika, cayenne pepper, caraway seeds, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and Maggi. Stir for 1 minute.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and reserved meats and stir until tomato paste is completely blended. Allow contents to come to a boil then cover and lower heat to low/warm. Simmer on low/warm with only a very slight boil for at least 6 hours. Many Polish cooks simmer their Bigos for a couple of days before serving.

Enjoy with sliced rye bread. Serves 8-10.

Smacznego! Ach! So good!

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…What? Say it ain’t so! My very last bottle of Papa Al’s Hot Sauce!

There’s a little bit of a back story to this tragic news.

Back in the early-1980s, we were living in our first house, which was located in the Greater Rochester suburb of Henrietta, New York. The town was notoriously known for its strip malls (and strip clubs) and very haphazard and underregulated zoning. On the corner of Calkins Road and West Henrietta Road was Al’s Meadows Motel, one of those flea-bitten establishments from a previous era that begged every passerby to wonder who would actually choose to spend a night there of their own accord? On the same property was the Al’s Meadows Lounge and Grill, an old-school bar and burger joint. The best thing you could say about the establishment was that it was “unpretentious.” Oh, yeah, and there was the chicken wing sauce!

A friend from work who lived close by and I were taking some night classes together back then, and several times on the way home we stopped at Al’s for chicken wings. The wings themself were nothing to write home about. They were actually on the small side and regularly overcooked, but the sauce was absolutely delicious with a noticeable tang of celery salt and unlike any wing sauce I had ever tasted (my mouth is watering as I type). The lounge/restaurant also sold the sauce in bottles and I became a regular customer. It was especially good on any kind of chicken and on Zweigles white hot dogs (see here). Our two boys grew up on the sauce and the youngest one, especially, took a shine to it.

The years went by and we eventually moved out of Henrietta. Maybe about twelve years ago, Al’s Meadows Motel and the adjoining lounge/restaurant were torn down and to make way for a gas station. However, Al’s sons owned the Southtown Beverages Drive-Thru business, which was a bit farther north on West Henrietta Road, and they carried on the Meadows Lounge and Grill legacy by bottling and selling Papa Al’s Hot Sauce. Year after year, I made the trek back to Henrietta to buy a couple of bottles of the hot sauce.

This past October, our youngest son came up from Texas for our family trip to the Big Apple and of course he took a solo drive to Southtown Beverages to buy a couple of bottles of Papa Al’s Hot Sauce to take back home with him. But when he returned to our house, he broke the bad news: Southtown had stopped making the sauce because of low demand. Argh! If I had known, I would have stocked up.

So here I am in the photo above with my very last bottle of Papa Al’s Hot Sauce. Ach! When it’s gone, I’m going to rinse out the bottle and display it on the mantle down in my man cave as another reminder that this world has its temporal pleasures, but it’s all passing away.

 

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The former Al’s Meadows Motel and Meadows Lounge and Grill were located at 4200 West Henrietta Road, Rochester, NY. The proprietor was Alphonse “Papa Al” Alaimo.

Polish Recipe #1: Kluski i Kapusta aka Noodles and Cabbage

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my decade-long excursion deep into my Polish heritage. See here. I promised then that I would share a couple of hearty Polish recipes that I’ve become proficient at once the weather got cooler, so seeing as we’re more than half-way through October, it’s time for the first one; Kluski i Kapusta (Noodles and Cabbage).

Noodles and cabbage is a Polish favorite. It’s probably the #1 national comfort dish of Poland. Not a big fan of steamed cabbage? Don’t worry, neither am I. But the cabbage is actually a great complement to the other ingredients in this recipe. This dish definitely has an Old World, European flavor. Every Polish cook has their own variation of Kluski i Kapusta and here’s my spin on it that I’ve tweaked over the years.

Kluski i Kapusta (Cabbage & Noodles)

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 8 strips of bacon
  • 1 lb. smoked kielbasa, sliced or cubed into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 head of green cabbage, cored and sliced into strips
  • 1 14 oz. can chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. fresh dill finely chopped
  • 3 dashes Frank’s Red Hot or Tabasco
  • 1 lb. kluski noodles (authentic kluski noodles can usually be found in the pasta section of most larger supermarkets, especially in the Northeast. Substitute any other type of noodles you prefer if not available.)

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Coat bottom of large pot with cooking spray. Place pot on burner and turn heat to medium-medium high. Add bacon and fry until crisp. Remove bacon. Add kielbasa to pot and brown in bacon grease for 2-3 minutes. Remove kielbasa. Leave 2 tbsp. of grease drippings in pot, discard the rest. Add garlic and onion to pot. Cook several minutes until onion is softened. Add cabbage, chicken broth, salt, pepper, caraway seeds, dill, hot sauce, and kielbasa. Crumble 4 strips of bacon and add. Stir. Cook 20 minutes stirring every couple of minutes.

Turn heat to low. Cover pot. Simmer for 3 hours until cabbage is completely wilted, stirring occasionally. Ah, the aroma!

In separate pot, boil kluski noodles according to package directions. Drain. Combine noodles with other ingredients. Transfer to large serving bowl and top with remaining 4 strips of bacon, crumbled.

Serves quite a few. 🙂

Smacznego! (Polish for “Bon appétit”) 🍴

“The Best Polish Restaurant in Buffalo”: A thoroughly delightful story!

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my “Polish phase,” when I immersed myself in my Polish heritage (see here). That recent writing trip down memory lane got me thinking about things Polish once again, so I checked out our local library’s online catalog and spotted the novel, “The Best Polish Restaurant in Buffalo” and put a hold on it. Even better, I subsequently discovered Amazon offers a Kindle version free to Prime members (see here).

The Best Polish Restaurant in Buffalo
By William Kowalski
Orchard Street Books, 2017, 216 pages

Plot

It’s 1908, and sixteen-year-old Aniela and her two sisters and mother are on a ship to “Ameryka” to escape their difficult existence in partitioned Western Poland, where the Prussian-German occupiers oppress the Polish inhabitants and the menfolk of the family mistreat their women. They arrive in New York City and make their way by train to Buffalo where there is, they have heard, a large Polish community. The women scrape to eek out an existence as cleaning women for Buffalo’s wealthy citizens, but they still earn more than they could ever dream of in their small farming village in Poland. Aniela eventually marries, has children, faces tragedy, and sets a course for her family by establishing a bakery in the city, which is eventually transformed into a popular restaurant serving Polish favorites.

Interspersed with the chapters describing Aniela’s struggle in the early-twentieth century, are chapters set in 2015, which focus on her forty-five-year-old great-grandson, Iggy, who manages the restaurant she started. The Poles moved out of the city to the suburbs long ago and the ethnic restaurant has seen a steady decline in customers to the point where it’s no longer feasible to remain open. Iggy wrestles with the inevitable. By closing the restaurant, he feels he’s betraying his great-grandmother, his family, and his Polish heritage. But he’s the only one who seems to care. The rest of the family eagerly anticipates any money they can make from the sale of the restaurant building while Buffalo’s Polish population generally stopped caring about their heritage decades ago.

Comments

Bravo! I don’t read fiction that often, but I was delighted by this novel. The author captured the hopes and fears of the late-19th, early-20th century immigrants from Poland. Buffalo’s  burgeoning Polish community on the city’s East Side allowed the immigrants to establish a stake in their new homeland with the strong support of their fellow Poles. It’s estimated that 380,000 Poles resided in the Greater Buffalo area by 1923. Kowalski interjects a lot of Polish words and names of Buffalo Polish landmarks to give this story a very authentic feel.

Iggy’s despairing story juxtaposes poignantly with Aniela’s optimism and determination. The old aspirations that motivated the Podbielski family for four generations had finally run dry.

During my “Polish phase,” I often made the one-hour trip to Buffalo to check out the old East Side Polish neighborhood. Most of the Poles began moving out to Cheektowaga and other suburbs after World War II. What’s left is a mammoth, sprawling area of urban decay with a declining number of Polish institutions (churches, social clubs, taverns) still hanging on by a thread. You wouldn’t want to walk this area during the day let alone at night. It’s actually an amazingly decrepit area to drive through. There’s street after street after street where every third or fourth home is boarded up. Buffalo’s economy flatlined when the steel industry and other heavy manufacturing moved out and has never rebounded.*

There are still a couple of Polish restaurants in the blue-collar suburb of Cheektowaga owned by the Kutas family (they once owned the legendary Warsaw Inn on Broadway), but the futures of those establishments are less-than-tenuous. A meal of kielbasa, pierogies, golabki, and kapusta just doesn’t appeal to 5th-generation Polish American millennials. See the two websites below:

https://www.polishvillaunion.com/

http://polishvilla.org/

I’ve eaten at both locations and the fresh (not smoked) kielbasa, the barometer of any Polish eatery, is only so-so. Feeling brave? Ask for a large bowl of Czernina aka duck blood soup. Yes, you read that correctly! In Poland, it’s served infrequently, but over here it became a novelty staple at Polish restaurants.

As much as I enjoyed this novel, I’m reminded that no one can find fulfillment in their ethnicity or by any other temporal pursuit or status. The only lasting fulfillment comes from salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The author refers several times to Aniela’s Catholic faith, which is a mixture of religious legalism, ritual, and Old World superstitions. Not much has changed in that respect for most Polish Americans.

* Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, was appalled by the economic miasma of Western New York when he visited Buffalo and Rochester as part of his 2016 campaign. In July 2017, President Trump stated that Upstate (including Western) New York was beyond any economic hope and that everyone should move out and go to where the jobs are. See here. Don’t worry, President Trump. Western New Yorkers have been moving out of this highly-taxed, economic disaster area at a significant rate for the last 30 years.

Just in time for summer – New England Clam Dip!

Yes, blogging friends, summer is here, and I’m thrilled to be able to once again pass along the recipe for that summertime culinary delight, delicious New England Clam Dip! Break out the wavy potato chips and enjoy!

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Thank you, Lord, for delicious food, all in moderation of course!

An accoutrement staple of backyard summer dining is potato chips and dip. One of my family’s favorite chip dips used to be a New England clam dip manufactured by a local cheese company named “Heluva Good” of all things. For some reason, Heluva Good stopped making its clam dip in the early aughts (2000s). Some said it was because of new FDA regulations.

My hankering for clam dip grew and grew until I finally started searching online for a clam dip recipe that was similar to Heluva Good’s. I found the one below several years ago. It’s a pretty close facsimile and very easy to make. Any time we serve it to guests they always rave about it. I could eat a whole bowl of clam dip with wavy chips in a single sitting all by myself, but my…

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Rochester, N.Y. may be just a shadow of its former self, but we still have the best hot dogs in the U.S.A.!

Some cities are known nation-wide for their distinctive food items; Buffalo has its chicken wings, Philadelphia has its cheese steak sandwich, Boston its baked beans, New Orleans its jambalaya, etc., etc.

Here in humble Rochester, New York, the former “World’s Imaging Center,” we’re noted for two culinary delights; the world famous Garbage Plate, which I previously posted about here, and Zweigle’s hot dogs.

Hot dogs? Yup, Rochester is known throughout the nation for having the very best hot dog; Zweigle’s pop-open, red and white hot dogs.

C. Wilhelm and Josephine Zweigle opened their Rochester butcher shop in 1880. The company they founded eventually cornered the local hot dog market. Although Zweigle’s also offers hots without natural casing (i.e., “skinless”), it’s pop-open variety are the best-selling. The company makes both red and white hots, with the cured reds having a more traditional, smoked flavor and the uncured whites having a milder flavor (they were originally inspired by German Weisswurst). The quintessential whites were first introduced by the company in 1925. See the Wiki article here.

Rochester may be the only city in the U.S. where a customer ordering a generic “hot dog” at a food stand will be asked with a tinge of annoyance whether they want a red or white, thanks to Zweigle’s. I preferred the traditional reds growing up, but the older I’ve gotten, the more I crave the milder whites. A Zweigle’s pop-open white with some chopped onion and Rochester meat hot sauce. Wow! My mouth is watering as I type.

But whether it’s a red or a white, a perfectly-spiced, Zweigle’s pop-open hot cooked on the grill is delicious beyond description. Keep your surf and turf, prime rib and lobster tail dinner and give me a grilled Zweigle’s dog every time.

We’re so spoiled up here in Rochester when it comes to hot dogs that we won’t even eat one unless it’s a Zweigle’s. Rochesterians who move out-of-state because of the sky-high taxes and lack of jobs are notorious for asking their relatives and friends to ship them a box of Zweigle’s. But you can order some for yourself to be shipped anywhere in the U.S. from Calabresella’s New York Style Deli (see here).

https://zweigles.com/

Three for Thursday: Chick-fil-A, Hybels, and revision of book list

Chick-fil-A in Rochester

For months, the media here in Rochester, N.Y. was buzzing about the opening of the area’s first Chick-fil-A restaurant and today is the big day! The fast-food franchise heightened the buzz by offering fifty-two Chick-fil-A dinners spread out over one year to the first 100 customers. People began lining up yesterday despite the light sprinkles and chilly, forty-degree temperatures. The restaurant benevolently opened their doors to the “queuers” during the day yesterday, but required that they stay outside all last night (photo above). When the restaurant finally opened its doors this morning at 6:30 a.m., the 100 weary folks received their digital card pre-loaded with one year’s worth (52) of meals. Chick-fil-A will be doing extremely brisk business until Rochesterians get a chance to satisfy their curiosity. A few thoughts:

  • Chick-fil-A, was founded by Southern Baptist, S. Truett Cathy, in Hapeville, Georgia in 1946 and has grown to over 2200 locations. The restaurants are very unusual in that they are closed on Sundays, reflecting the religious convictions of Cathy. The company became embroiled in controversy in 2011 and 2012 when corporate officers publicly supported opposition to proposed same-sex marriage legislation. In 2012, the company reversed its position and decided not to actively oppose same-sex marriage.
  • The fact that the opening of a fast food franchise was such a HUGE media sensation in our town speaks about the otherwise very dismal economic conditions here in Western New York, where a remarkably long list of businesses have either shut down or migrated to the South over the last thirty years.
  • It’s amazing that 100 adults would camp in line in the elements for over 24 hours for a chance at 52 chicken sandwiches. Jesus Christ offers the free gift of eternal life and fellowship with Almighty God, but most people – lost and blinded souls – could not care less.

Bill Hybels

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I heard on the news yesterday that Bill Hybels just resigned as influential pastor of the Chicago-area Willow Creek Community megachurch after allegations of sexual misconduct were brought forward by multiple women. Hybels, along with Rick Warren (and with input from marketing guru, Peter Drucker), pioneered the “seeker sensitive,” church-growth movement beginning way back in the 1980s. The idea was to attract unbelievers to church service by turning it into an entertainment experience. Doctrinal teaching was toned WAY down in favor of Christian rock music, light shows, and feel-good sermons. I’m all for keeping up with the times in some respects, otherwise we’d all be driving buggies to church like the Amish, but as we saw with Hybels and Warren, sometimes the push to be “culturally relevant” leads to becoming spiritually irrelevant and even spiritually dangerous. Spurred on by the #Me Too movement, many women across the nation are now coming forward with allegations of abuse. Prior to his resignation, Hybels claimed the allegations against him were “flat-out lies.”


Book titles linked to reviews

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At the suggestion of brother blogger, Slim Jim, I’ve revised my long list of books which compare Roman Catholicism with Scripture by hyperlinking book titles to the reviews that I’ve written over the past three years. If you go to the “Books” tab (see here), you’ll find that 97 of the 346 titles are in bold face. If you click on those 97 titles, you’ll be directed to my corresponding review. Thanks for the suggestion, Jimmy!

Lent is no match for Super Rodent!

Most of the topics I write about on this blog are serious matters involving spiritual life and death, but there are occasions when I come across something that can only be categorized as sadly comical. Case in point:

This year, the Catholic church’s Lenten season runs from Wednesday, February 14th to Thursday, March 29th and Catholics are strictly forbidden from eating meat on all six of the Fridays during that span under the threat of committing mortal sin, which they are told will doom them to hell. But getting down to the nuts and bolts of what actually constitutes “meat” can get a little tricky as I alluded to in the infamous Chicken in a Biskit post (see here.)

Well, now we have another very strange twist to this rule regarding abstention from meat during Lent.

A few days ago, I was listening to the 2/21/18 podcast of the “Called to Communion” Catholic talk radio show. Moderator, Tom Price, and host, David Anders, were discussing Lenten abstinence restrictions and Anders unflinchingly mentioned that Venezuelan Catholics are allowed to eat the meat of a capybara on Fridays. Capybara? What’s that? Well, it turns out that capybara (photo above) are the largest living rodent in the world, ranging anywhere from 80 to 150 pounds full grown and they like to hang out near or in water. They are a dietary staple of Central America and some say they taste like pork with a slightly fishy accent. As the tale goes, Padre Sojo, Venezuela’s most influential Catholic cleric at the time, traveled to Rome in 1794 and petitioned pope Leo XII to allow his countrymen to eat the meat of the capybara during Lent because, he argued, the animal spent so much time in the water that it was more like a fish than a warm-blooded mammal. Remember, fish are okay to eat on Fridays during Lent, but not the meat from mammals or birds. Sojo’s absurd argument evidently made an impression on the credulous pope because he granted his request and actually issued a Papal Bull decreeing that Venezuelans were free to eat capybara during Lent without incurring a mortal sin.

So Venezuelan Catholics can gorge themselves on capybara burgers on Lenten Fridays with an absolutely clear conscience, but if an American Catholic takes even one bite of a Big Mac, they are doomed to Hell forever!

But this sinner who was freed from the chains of Catholicism and is saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone has a hypothetical question for my Catholic friends. Let’s suppose an American Catholic travels down to Venezuela on business during Lent. He’s walking the streets of Caracas on a Friday at noon and smells the wonderful aroma of barbecue in the air. In a few minutes, he discovers the source of the olfactory bliss; a sidewalk food vendor who beckons him over to try some of his smokey barbecued capybara. The American, mouth watering, declines with noticeable regret, saying in broken Spanish that he is prohibited from eating meat on Friday during Lent. But the vendor reassures him that the pope himself declared it was okay to eat capybara in Venezuela during Lent and another native walking by confirms the information. The American then hungrily orders a double-plateful of barbecued capybara and eats his fill. The next day, the American begins his journey back to the U.S., but his plane crashes and all aboard perish. Which now brings us to our question: Did the American Catholic go to hell for eating capybara on a Lenten Friday because he was still under the jurisdiction of his American bishop or did Leo XII’s papal bull cover all the bases?

Catholic friend, if you ever get tired of spinning in Catholicism’s legalistic hamster (another rodent) wheel, turn to Jesus Christ. Repent of your sins and ask Jesus Christ to save you by faith in Him alone.

Is Catholicism a false religion? Are Catholics saved?
https://www.gotquestions.org/catholicism.html

Postscript: Some may object to my interjection of humor in this discussion, but folks, seriously, I couldn’t have come up with this “capybara dispensation” in my wildest dreams.

Enchilada Pie aka “Mexican Lasagna”

Need a steaming hot dinner idea for a cold winter evening…

Mexican restaurants are all over the place these days, but back when I was a young teen in the early 70s, there was only one Mexican restaurant in the entire county and that was Taco Kid on Penfield Road. I developed a yen for Mexican after frequenting the Kid a few times.

When our family was first starting out, every Friday night was home-made taco night. It was cheap and delicious. Eventually, I got a little adventurous and bought a Mexican cookbook. One of my favorite recipes was enchilada pie. I don’t cook a lot, but when I do, enchilada pie (aka Mexican lasagna) is one of my “go to” staples. It’s easy, relatively healthy, and delicious. Enjoy!

Enchilada Pie

  • One 3.8 oz. can sliced black olives, chopped
  • One 4 oz. can chopped green chiles
  • One 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • Three green onions, chopped, including green stems
  • Two 10 oz. cans of MILD red enchilada sauce
  • 12 corn (not flour) tortillas
  • One 16 oz. can fat free refried beans
  • One 8 oz. package shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine olives, chiles, tomatoes, and onions in a bowl. Set aside.

Pour enchilada sauce in a bowl. Set aside.

Wrap four tortillas at a time in a wet paper towel and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Take one tortilla, dip completely in enchilada sauce, and place flat in a baking bowl. Spread on thin layer of refried beans. Spread on a spoonful of vegetable mixture. Top with cheese shreds. Repeat for each tortilla, building layer upon layer.

Bake enchilada pie for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cut in wedges, top with a dollop of sour cream. Serve with shredded lettuce on the side.

Buen provecho!

For variation, try adding chopped fresh cilantro, shreds of cooked chicken, a small amount of pickled jalapeno peppers, or cooked corn to the recipe. Don’t be afraid to douse each tortilla liberally in the sauce, which is why I specified two cans of sauce rather than one. If you skimp on the sauce, the pie will end up on the dry side. Stick with the MILD sauce. I like spicy food but the MEDIUM sauce is too spicy even for me. The refried bean paste also helps keep the pie moist. If a can of kidney beans or pinto beans was substituted in place of the refried beans, the pie would be too dry.

Rochester, NY: Home of the world-famous “Garbage Plate”!

My town, Rochester N.Y., was once a bustling, high-tech manufacturing center; the home of Eastman Kodak, Xerox, Bausch & Lomb, Gleasons, and a couple of medium-sized GM plants. But as in many other Rust Belt cities, the manufacturing presence is pretty much history at this point. The largest employers are now the two hospital/health care systems and the Wegmans supermarket chain (company headquarters are located here), with a bunch of colleges, public school districts, and many low-paying service and retail companies bringing up the rear.

Rochester can’t boast about much these days, but it is home to the world famous “Garbage Plate” (see top photo). In fact, the city is currently in the midst of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the delectable dish.

What’s that? You ask what exactly is a Garbage Plate?!?! Are you kidding me?!?! Okay, okay. I apologize. Let me take a step back and explain this gourmet jewel to all of you unfortunate non-Rochesterians.

Well, way back in 1918, Greek immigrant, Alex Tahou (correctly pronounced tah-HOO although it’s generally pronounced as TAH-ho), opened his greasy spoon, Tahou’s Diner (later named, “Nick Tahou’s Hots,” in honor of his son), and at some point began serving a plate he called “hots and potats” consisting of two hot dogs over heaps of home fries and macaroni salad (or baked beans), all smothered with a grease-laden, ground beef-based hot sauce and topped with chopped raw onions and mustard and ketchup. Two hamburgers or cheeseburgers rather than hot dogs became another option later on. I had my first introduction to “hots and potats” in 1977 thanks to Duane “Big D” Hedman after we had worked a Saturday morning overtime shift at Kodak’s old Elmgrove Plant.

In the 1980s, college students kept coming into Nick’s and ordering “that dish with all the garbage on it,” so the plate was officially renamed “The Garbage Plate.”

Imitations sprang up all over town so the Tahous trademarked the “Garbage Plate” moniker in 1992, but most hot dog/hamburger/pizza joints in the area have their own alternate-named version of the plate.

Last night, the local Triple-A baseball franchise, the Rochester Red Wings, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Tahous and the Garbage Plate by renaming the team the “Plates” for one game and offering t-shirts and caps with the “Plates” logo. Yesterday morning, our eldest son sent me a last-minute email suggesting we should go the game. Argh! I knew the place was going to be packed, but any excuse for a father-son outing is a good thing. Traffic was torturously bumper-to-bumper as we neared Frontier Field stadium, but our son was driving so I was calmly relaxed. Once we finally made it inside, we immediately got in line at the team apparel store. We both ended up buying “Plates” caps, of course, to commemorate the historic event. We then went up to our seats and mostly shot the breeze rather than watch the minor league game. Stadium capacity is 13,500 and there weren’t many empty seats. By 8:30 pm, we had had enough and headed for the exit.

There’s not a lot going on in ROC city these days, but the locals take a lot of pride in Rochester’s contribution to international gourmet cuisine, the Garbage Plate! By the way, for those health-conscious readers, the plate comes in at around 1700 calories and 90 grams of fat; not exactly a meal my internist would recommend. But if I WERE to get a plate, my favorite combination is a white hot* and cheeseburger over mac salad and home fries, all smothered in meat hot sauce and topped with chopped raw onions, but please, ABSOLUTELY NO ketchup or mustard.

*”WHITE hot dogs?,” you ask? Ha! That’s a whole nother post, my non-Rochesterian friends!

Postscript: The 8/11/17 edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that the attendance for the “Plates” game was 13,281, the second-largest baseball crowd in Frontier Field’s 20 seasons.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Tahou_Hots

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Nick Tahou’s, the unpretentious home of the world famous, “Garbage Plate,” at 320 W. Main St, Rochester, NY., open 8:00 am – 8:00 pm, Mon.-Thurs. and 8:00 am – 12 midnight on Fri., closed on Sat. and Sun.

 

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A long line of salivating Rochesterians as they anxiously anticipate an authentic “Garbage Plate” from the Nick Tahou’s stand at Frontier Field on Plate Night, August 10th, 2017
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“Plates” regalia