Where’s the beef? In Buffalo it’s at Schwabl’s!

About seven weeks ago, I published a post about our road trip to Buffalo to eat at a restaurant featured on Guy Fieri’s cable TV show, “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”  That experience didn’t turn out anywhere near as well as expected (see here). As we disappointedly began our drive home to Rochester, we passed Schwabl’s on Center Road. Ah, Schwabl’s! THAT’S where we should have gone. We have eaten at Schwabl’s maybe ten times over the past fifteen years and its my wife’s FAVORITE restaurant, bar none.

After our disappointing experience, my wife was absolutely jonesing for some Schwabl’s, so a couple of Sundays ago she twisted my arm to make the 60-minute trek after church. It was a cold, rainy, and windy day in Western New York and a treacherous drive to Buffalo along the New York State Thruway, but we made it to Schwabl’s in one piece.

Schwabl’s doesn’t have an extensive menu. It’s known for its roast beef and when people visit Schwabl’s they generally go there for the “beef on weck;” sliced roast beef on a salted kümmelweck roll (photo below), a Buffalo favorite.

As we settled into our chairs and defrosted, my wife and I purveyed our menus. I usually order the beef on weck, but the salt and carbs didn’t appeal to me that day, so I ordered the roast beef plate; sliced roast beef (medium rare for me), and my sides were cole slaw and french fries topped with gravy. Not to be outdone, my wife (never a cheap date) ordered the fried shrimp and scallops plate AND ALSO a full plate of sliced roast beef!

The roast beef at Schwabl’s is indescribably good. It almost melts in your mouth. With my wife’s itch finally scratched, we contentedly drove back to Rochester. If you ever get to Buffalo, Schwabl’s is a MUST.

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Above: Most of Schwabl’s customers order the beef on weck

Thank you, Lord, for enjoyable food and for all of your many blessings! Temporal blessings pale in comparison to salvation in Jesus Christ and spiritual blessings.

Mac and tuna: Ah, culinary bliss!

The outside thermometer is starting to drop, so it’s time to start talking about piping hot “comfort foods.” Below is my recipe for one of my favorite cold-weather meals; macaroni and tuna fish. Allow me to set the stage:

I grew up in a Catholic family way back in the days when the church forbade eating meat on Fridays year-round under threat of mortal sin.* Occasionally on Fridays, my Dad would pick up some fried fish and fries at Karl’s Fish Market at 1314 Culver Road in Rochester, but that was an expensive proposition with six hungry kids at home. More often than not, our non-meat Friday dinner was “macaroni and tuna fish,” aka “mac and tuna.” My Mom was not one to put a lot of effort into her cooking; it was all pretty basic stuff. Whereas most people, like my wife’s mother, dolled up this humble dish by sprinkling bread crumbs on top, baking it in the oven, and calling it “tuna noodle casserole,” my Mom characteristically served it “no frills” straight out of the saucepan.

Boy, I loved me some macaroni and tuna fish when I was a kid! I even dreamed of someday opening my own restaurant and serving nothing but mac and tuna. I confidently presumed it would easily be the most popular restaurant in town!

I still enjoy a hot bowl of mac and tuna and have fine-tuned the recipe over the years. My wife is strangely not a fan, but I’ll occasionally make it for myself. Enjoy!

Tom’s Mac and Tuna

Ingredients

  • 10 oz. elbow macaroni (if you use the entire 16 oz box of macaroni, you’ll need to increase the following ingredients proportionately)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • One 10.5 oz. can Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • One 5 oz. can albacore tuna fish, drained
  • One 4 oz. can sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1/8 tsp. celery salt
  • a couple of generous shakes of black pepper

In 3QT saucepan, boil macaroni according to instructions. Drain and return to pan. Add milk, mushroom soup, tuna fish, mushrooms, celery salt, and pepper. Stir.

For variety, you can add peas, diced onion, or diced celery.

*In 1966, the Vatican allowed the bishops of each country to collectively decide whether to continue mandatory abstention of meat on non-Lenten Fridays. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opted to discontinue the practice and issued a statement to that effect on November 18, 1966. Curious minds want to know what happened to American Catholics who had defiantly eaten meat on non-Lenten Fridays and died prior to November 18, 1996? Did the U.S. bishops issue them a “Get Out of Hell Free” card?

Underwhelmed in Buffalo at restaurant featured on Triple-D

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was doing my usual evening channel surfing and came across “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” on the Food Network cable channel. Triple-D is one of the few shows that I’ll actually stop and watch. Gregarious host, Guy Fieri, does a great job.

So, in this particular episode, Guy took a trip to nearby Buffalo, New York and the Blackthorn Restaurant & Pub at 2134 Seneca Street. He focused on the restaurant’s specialties: beef-on-weck (sliced roast beef dunked in au jus on a salted kimmelweck roll, a Buffalo favorite), crab cakes, and beer and cheddar soup. If you watch the show, you know that Guy showers profuse superlatives on every single gastronomical creation he reviews, as if each and every one were the absolute greatest thing he’s ever tasted. The hyperbole was flowing during his visit to Blackthorn’s as well.

Well, there was only one thing for me to do. I announced to my wife that we would be driving to Buffalo the following day. If you know my wife, you know she never passes up a trip to a restaurant. That Sunday, after church, we made the 60-minute drive to Blackthorn’s in Buffalo. I was worried the traffic on the Thruway would be heavy because of football, but the Bills were playing the Giants at New Jersey that particular day.

So, we arrived at the restaurant in the South Buffalo, Irish “working-class” neighborhood around 1 p.m. and were seated at our table. Bills fans were whooping it up upstairs and on the outside patio as they watched the Bills and Giants battle on big screen TVs, but it was relatively quiet where we sat. I scanned the large menu and settled on the “Triple D Platter” (see photo above), which, according to the menu featured “the items selected for the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives…a mini beef-on-weck, mini crab cake, small cup of Irish beer-cheddar soup and tater tots” for $16. The multiple “mini”s scared me, so I bumped up the soup order from a small cup to a bowl. My wife ordered a prime rib sandwich, one of the day’s specials, that came with french fries and gravy and she also ordered a bowl of the soup.

The waitress brought out the soup first. I make a decent beer-cheddar soup myself, so I was looking forward to sampling what Guy had raved over. Ach! I would give it only a “C.” It was way too thick and the large amount of potato cubes were an obstacle. My wife was disgusted and only ate a few spoonfuls.

Next came the mini beef-on-weck and mini crab cake. “Mini” was a very accurate adjective. I was underwhelmed by the small amount of food on the “platter.” Adding insult to injury, the roast beef was overcooked. The crab cake was tasty, but was gone in a few bites. The same with the two jalapeno-cheddar tater tots. I gave the items on the “platter” a “B,” but the portion size a “D.” My wife ate only half of her smallish prime rib sandwich, saying it was also overcooked. After I was done with my micro-platter, I finished off my wife’s bowl of soup because I was still hungry.

After paying the bill, we hopped into our car and started the long trek back to Rochester. As we ambled down Seneca Street, which eventually turns into Center Road, we spotted Schwabl’s Restaurant up ahead. Ah, the regret! Folks, don’t listen to Guy Fieri when it comes to roast beef in Buffalo. If you want an excellent and ample medium-rare beef-on-weck sandwich in Buffalo, you have to go to Schwabl’s.

Postscript 1: While doing my research for this post, I was surprised to learn that the particular episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” that featured the Blackthorn Restaurant & Pub in South Buffalo had originally aired way back on 02/01/2010.

Postscript 2: No, this post does not mean I’m considering a new occupation as a restaurant critic. 🙂 But this experience reminds me that the things of this world, even when they receive a great deal of hype, ultimately disappoint. Yes, we praise God for delicious food, but many people make food their religion.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17

Postscript 3: If you’re trying to lose weight, I definitely recommend that you avoid watching “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”

A revolting meal – un pasto rivoltante

People are funny when it comes to food. Some people are extremely fussy about what they will eat, while others will try anything. Growing up, my five older sisters and I were expected to eat EVERYTHING on our plates. Refusing to eat something was NOT an option. When my Mom served something particularly odious, like steamed cabbage, I had to wash it down with several glasses of milk. Kids today are catered to. I know of several children who dictate to their parents what they will and will not eat (and in one case, even WHAT TIME they will eat).

Thanks to my parents’ insistent training, I will eat most anything now, although I can do without brussel sprouts or eggplant. However, I once had a VERY challenging food experience that I’ll always remember.

It was back in 2004 when my wife and I visited our youngest son who was stationed at Aviano, Italy at the time. We hadn’t seen our son since he enlisted in the Air Force in 2001 and it was our first trip to Europe, so we were excited. While in Italy, we all took a couple of side trips via train to Venice and to Rome. Both cities were amazing to see.

While we were in Rome, we stopped at a nice restaurant for lunch. The menu was entirely in Italian so the three of us felt a little helpless. However, I did spot an entrée on the menu to the effect of “something-linguine-something-calamaro-something.” Hmm, I certainly liked fried calamari. OK, I’ll have me some of that linguine and squid, I confidently told the secretly-amused waiter. As I remember it, my wife and son spotted pizza on the menu and settled for that. Cowards! Twenty-minutes later, the server brought out our plates. What?!?!? Sitting in front of me was a plate full of linguine covered in some kind of DISGUSTING-looking black sauce. It turned out the dish was linguine and squid served in a sauce made with the squid’s own jet-black ink (see photo for example). Yuch! Well, I ordered it, so I ate it. It actually didn’t taste all that bad, but the sight of it and the idea of eating squid ink just revolted me. It was a meal that I will always remember.

What was the most alarming thing you ever ate?

Well, all things work together for good and eating the linguine in black squid ink sauce helped me better appreciate “normal” food. Thank you, Lord, for taking care of us and providing for us!

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:31-33

Postscript I: Writing this post reminded me of another challenging dish, which I learned about and tried when I was researching my Polish heritage. We’ll visit that one another time.

Postscript II: You can blame this post and the queasy feeling in your stomach on brother Slim Jim at The Domain for Truth who somehow motivated me into revisiting this black memory.

Catkins and clams! What a combo!

If you have a yard to take care of then you know it’s a significant amount of work. Up here in the Northeast Rust Belt, it takes A LOT of work to get the yard back into shape after the ravages of Winter.

This past Saturday, I worked ALL DAY out on the yard. After mowing the front yard, I picked up where I left off previously doing the edging around the bushes and flower garden. I then hooked up a gutter-cleaning wand gizmo I had recently ordered from Amazon to my heavy-duty, high-powered Husqvarna leaf blower. Many of you can remember me whining about all the fallen oak tree leaves that I must clean up every November. Well, in June the gutters become clogged up with the “catkins” that fall from the oaks. Catkins? Catkins (photo left) are those brown, stringy tassels that hang from oaks (technically they’re “spent” male flowers whose purpose is to shed pollen that is carried by the wind to female flowers, which ideally then develop into acorns). When the gutters fill up with catkins (photo middle), as well as my neighbor’s maple tree “helicopter seeds” (i.e., samaras), the gutter downspouts become clogged when it rains and the rainwater subsequently seeps over the gutters down into our basement. Not a pleasant situation, believe me. It’s happened many times in the past. I normally climb up on the roof and blow out the gutters with a handheld blower, but going up on the roof is an increasingly risky proposition for an old guy like myself. My bright idea was to blow the debris out of the gutters while standing on the ground using the leaf blower and wand gizmo rather than climbing up on the roof.

Well, I was able to successfully patch together the wand gizmo to the leaf blower (using some duct tape of course), but it only did a so-so job. The catkins gather together in clumps like mini-tumbleweeds inside the gutters and often become lodged against the gutter brackets. Oh, well. It’s better than nothing. I think I’ll still have to get up on the roof periodically after all.

So, here comes the good part, friends! After finishing all of my outdoor chores, I was whipped and REALLY looking forward to a relaxing evening. My wife had a hankering for some shrimp, so I drove to the Lobster Trap seafood store, which is less than two miles from our house. While I was there, I also picked up a dozen wild-caught, littleneck clams.  🙂  🙂  🙂

There’s few edibles in this world as good as a dozen steamed clams. What? You’ve never prepared them yourself? It’s easy. Add about 1-inch of water to a 3-quart saucepan. Scrub the clams with a dish towel and rinse and add them to the pan. Turn heat to High. When water begins to boil, reduce heat to Medium-Low and cover. The clams should all open up after 5 minutes. Remove the clams from the water (photo right) and serve with melted butter accented with several dashes of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Delish! But wait! There’s still more to this delectable feast. Carefully strain the water and natural clam juices from the pan through a cloth or paper towel into a large ceramic cup. Add a small pat of butter and a dash of Red Hot and reheat in the microwave until the butter is melted. Voila! A delicious cup of clam broth!

That, my friends, was a great finish to a very busy day! Wally, I really wish you were up here to enjoy those clams and clams broth with me! Yes, we can thank the Lord for life’s simple pleasures!

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!

…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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