The Hungover Gourmet


They Call Me "The Polish Prince"

It's been a full season, a good three months since we strapped the last box of cookbooks to the top of the (Anal) Probe and brought our act east of the Blue Mountain Turnpike Rest Stop.

That amount of time has given us a chance to sit back and reflect, examine our lives, and figure what exactly we miss about Pittsburgh.

Hold on, I'm thinking...

Luckily, we did get out before football season started and everyone in the 'Burgh started prepping for the Steelers' reappearance in the Super Bowl. You'd think they were an unstoppable dynasty that'd actually won a ring sometime since 1976.

I also don't miss the rude people, a perpetually overweight mix of Ohio white trash and West Virginia hillbilly that somehow exploded into a genetic mutation known as "Pittsburgher." You know who I'm talkin' 'bout: those black & gold clad dudes with the classic 'Burgh haircut (buzz on top with long locks in the back), a gap between their few remaining teeth, and an Iron City pounder clenched in their sausagy hands.

Mmmm, sausage.

Now that's probably what I miss most about the 'Burgh...the food. Sure, Philadelphia has more high-brow, big-dollar, funky-sauces-with-funky-names eateries, but the 'Burgh is big on one thing when it comes to cooking: Comfort Food.

Ritter's Diner in PittsburghFor a city of about 1 million people, there's a shitload of diners, bars and down home eateries that serve the kind of stick-to-your-ribs grub this hombre lives for. In fact, the little neighborhood we called home was within walking distance of not one, not two, but three superb eateries of varying degrees and specialties.

Down the street a few blocks was Ritter's Diner, a 24-7 eastablishment with elderly waitresses that still called you "hon" and a Hot Meatloaf Platter that was to kill for. Let me put it this way -- I had to go back to the 'Burgh a few weeks ago on business, and the first place I stopped before hitting my hotel was Ritter's. Now that's an endorsement! Their Specialty: Fried Green Tomatoes.

Hang a left on Liberty Ave. out of Ritter's lot and you're headed into the heart of Bloomfield's eating district. There you'll find quaint little diners like Maryann's, as well as Italian eateries like D'Amico's and Del's. But, I can easily attribute 10 pounds of my ever-expanding girth to the fine folks at Tessaro's. There's only two words that come to mind when I think of the afternoons and evenings spent chowin' down there -- Hamburgers. And not just hamburgers mind you. If I wanted that I'd slurp down a 99¢ Whopper from The King. Nope, we're talkin' the biggest, best, most insanely fantastic burgers I've ever had the good fortune to chow down on. Flame-cooked to perfection not 30 feet from your table, the burgers come in a variety of styles that will drive me insane if I think about them any longer. Their Specialty: Food.

The Bloomfield Bridge Tavern in PittsburghLast, but not least, in this trifecta of gastronomical delights is The BBT. The BBT, yeah, yeah yeah! Mention those initials to any Pittsburgh resident and they'll know you mean The Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, or as it's commonly known, The Polish Party House. A former biker bar with a penchant for drug deals and fistfights, the BBT was purchased by Stan The Man Frankowski a few years back. He cleaned up the crowd, hung a few pix of the Pope, and started serving the best menu of Polish fare this side of my Aunt Mary's house! Golumpkis, Pierogies, Haluski, Kielbasa, Wedding Soup... My first visit was almost my last as I ordered a cheeseburger and fries, along with a Polish Platter as an "appetizer." Though the waitress questioned my judgement, I insisted I was "hungry" and almost lost my mind when the huge platter of Polish delicacies arrived well before my burger. Needless to say, the Tums were being pounded that night. Their Specialty: Polish food, but their pierogies are known far and wide.

Chow down on a few sample dishes from the Polish menu below...

Polish Menu

The Bloomfield Bridge Tavern LogoPickled Beet Soup
(Barszcz Kwaszony z Burakow)

6 large beets
1 slice sour rye bread
4 cups lukewarm water
salt & pepper to taste
dash of sugar

Scrape and dice the beets, cover with water and place bread on top. Cover loosely and let stand for 4 days in the warmest spot in the kitchen. Should mold appear, carefully skim it off. Discard bread and season soup to taste. Serve hot or cold with a topping of sour cream (optional). Serves 4.

Chicken Livers in Madeira
(Watrobki z Drobiu Duszone w Maderze)

1/2 lb. chicken livers
2 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup bullion
1/4 cup Madeira

Soak livers in milk for a few hours. Drain and cut large ones in half. Cook onion in butter until transparent, increase heat, and add livers. Brown quickly on both sides. Season, dredge with flour and when this browns reduce heat. Add bullion and wine and allow to boil up a couple times. Livers should not cook any longer than 6-8 minutes and should be faintly pink inside. Serves 2 to 3.

Stuffed Savory Cabbage
(Kapusta Wloska Faszerowana)

2 small heads savoy cabbage, quartered
salted boiling water
1 med. onion, minced
1 tbsp. butter
1 lb. ground meat
1 white roll, moistened in milk and mashed
salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg
2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups tomato sauce

Parboil cabbage for 5 minutes in salted water. Meanwhile, brown onion lightly in butter. Mix with meat, roll, seasoning, and eggs. Drain cabbage and when cool enough to handle spread the leaves with the stuffing. Roll up leaves and place seam side down. Arrange tightly in a casserole and add 1 cup tomato sauce to bottom of casserole, top cabbage with other cup. Place cabbage casserole in a 350° oven for 90 minutes. Serve with warm rolls and butter. Serves 6-8.

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