When I was eighteen years old I packed up my belongings and headed to Germany to live as an au pair. Though I was introduced to many new things that year, the idea of a national cuisine took me by storm and to this day has never let me go. Food speaks volumes and, for me, it worked wonders as a cultural navigator when I was abroad.
Once I returned to the states, I began to long for a national cuisine of my own. America has diversity, yes, but the lack of an American cuisine left me searching for cultural identification through food ever since my trip to Germany years ago. Nowadays, I tend to satisfy my desire for heritage in cuisine by enjoying that which is provided by the food of other countries, both here and abroad.
Philadelphia is home to pockets of various cultures’ culinary delights. Many of the eateries I frequent have both the comfort of eating in someone’s kitchen and the cost of cooking it myself.
Today, while visiting a friend in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, I decided to stop into a place I have driven by many times but never had a chance to try due to their strictly lunchtime hours (even on Saturdays they close at 6pm).
Syrenka Restaurant is situated in the heart of Port Richmond, a historically Polish neighborhood. As you walk through the front door you immediately notice the decor; it’s as though time has stood still since 1972. On the wall hangs many flower paintings and three photographs of Robin Williams taken during a visit to the restaurant, which appears to have occurred sometime in the 80′s.
A woman named Krystyna greets us from behind the buffet table and asks us if we would like to dine in or take our food to go. Half of our party decides to take a dozen pierogies to go ($6.00 for a dozen frozen pierogies). My friend Sochi and I decide to sit down and we each order one plate – I order cheese and potato pierogies, and Sochi orders potato pancakes with applesauce. I tell the woman behind the counter I am also interested in ordering a kielbasa and she urges me to come back another time, as that is “way too much food”. I appreciate her honesty. After ordering we sit down at a table with a plastic table-cloth and a fresh daisy in a vase.
As we sit at the table several other patrons walk in. Each grabbed a green tray on their way in and slid it down the metal rack in front of the buffet before taking their food and sitting at separate tables. We all ate in complete silence, only the sounds of forks hitting plates could be heard. Although the restaurant was itself slightly drab, it felt warm and homey, a nice refuge from the dreary day. Syrenka had a fairly extensive menu and Krystyna was very receptive to all of our questions. This restaurant is definitely worth a stop on your way through Port Richmond. Such a historic cultural establishment deserves more patrons.
Syrenka Restaurant- 3173 Richmond Street, Philadelphia, PA 19134
Thanksgiving reminds us to be thankful for things such as good health, family, friendship, food, and of course time off. But it also serves as a reminder that eating dinner together is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. Over the next year, light candles at your dinner table, throw a dinner party (or two), or try one of the new recipes you have been saving for a special occasion. You will be glad you did. We have the ability to relive Thanksgiving over and over throughout the year, minus the turkey of course (there is a limit when it comes to the big bird). Enjoy yourselves and your company this holiday season.
Megan's rosemary & pine nut cornbread
Mashed potatoes, green beans with lemon juice & dill, and the delicious gravy simmering
Sweet potatoes two ways
Hello Everyone. If you have time to fill out this survey – it would be very much appreciated! New things are in the works!
The Breakfast Sandwich Survey
Summer is breezing by. Before we know it the leaves will start to change and we will all be sipping hot cider and eating apple crisp. But for now, we are in the thick of it – the hot, humid, thankless summer. Even though the hot days never seem like they will end, they will. So while the weather is hot let’s make the best of it. How do we do it? Tapas.
The idea behind this dinner started with one dish in particular – seared padron peppers. The last time I tasted these deliciously sweet and sometimes spicy spanish peppers was several years ago in a restaurant in Santa Fe. It was during my friend and co-chef’s bachelorette party or, as it was appropriately coined, “spicy ladies night”. At one point this summer I started thinking about them again and, as it generally goes, I couldn’t get them out of my mind. After much research I found one purveyor of these fine peppers – La Tienda. My friend and I each ordered a pound and started to plan a tapas dinner menu.
In the end, there was too much sangria (a very simple and delicious sangria might I add) and as a result I did not adequately photograph everything we made. We prepared 7 courses – sadly, not every one was documented. That was the only dinner party foul – not bad I suppose.
Course 1 – Cheese/Bread and fried chick peas
Course 2 – Pimento olives wrapped in boquerones (white anchovy)
Course 3 – Mushroom croquettes with parsley puree (delicious although not pictured, I found the recipe here)
Course 4 – Grilled eggplant with saffron honey and manchego cheese
Course 5 - The peppers
Course 6 – Grilled octopus
Course 7 - Grilled peaches with homemade creme fraiche and balsamic glaze
Dinner tonight was one part new recipe (mint & feta potato salad), one part summer staple, and a frozen veggie burger.
Mint & feta potato salad
12 new potatoes
1/4 cup of feta cheese
a handful of mint (roughly chopped)
some good olive oil
preheat oven to 450
coat potatoes with 2 tsp of olive oil
roast potatoes for about 45 minutes or until browned
let potatoes cool for several minutes
toss with feta + mint
add salt & pepper to taste and dress lightly with olive oil
(thank you to Mandy & Susie for the delicious recipe)
There are many reasons why I craved the dinner we had tonight. One of these was the picnic I attended yesterday, where there were two different types of corn salad served – a raw salad, with sprouted quinoa, and a mexican corn salad with tomatoes, cilantro, and mexican cheese. Our dinner tonight could have also resulted from a conversation I had yesterday with the raw corn salad’s creator who, because of chronic headaches since a young age, has chosen a raw diet. Dinner tonight could also have been influenced by a chat I had with my co-workers today about a quest for the best tacos in Philadelphia. Clearly the weather, hot and humid, also played a role as I never feel like eating heavy on a hot day. It was all of this in addition to me wanting to eat a protein-rich, meatless, colorful dinner on this hot summer night. How can you not crave food when it looks like this?
As I entered Sue’s Produce on 18th Street, I decided that my meal tonight would yet again consist of corn on the cob. I walked around with $7. 75 in my pocket (Sue’s is cash only) and I picked out some corn, tomatoes, limes, cilantro… as I did this the meal started to build itself. I checked out, $6.00 total. It was then I decided with my extra $1.75 I would buy a small red cabbage with which to make a corn salad of sorts; however, this salad would contain some extra ingredients I had around the house: a can of black beans, red onion, and a very ripe avocado.
I peeled the red cabbage very carefully and made taco shells with the leaves. The meal really was influenced by several instances over the past few days, all of which contributed to my very healthy, light, flavorful dinner.
For my leftovers tomorrow, I chopped the remaining cabbage and tossed it with the salad along with the leftover avocado. It may even be better tomorrow because of all the ingredients spending the night in the lime marinade. I hope you too are enjoying the summer produce.