July 10, 2014: A Spoon Full of Vodka Helps Everything Go Down
Had a great time in Warsaw with Magda and her partner Paweł. We’d stayed at their place, a three bedroom mansion of a condo on the edge of Warsaw. Definitely not the norm, from what we’ve seen of European apartments. Most are on the small side, with rooms doubling as bedrooms thanks to futons and convertible couches.
Turns out that, after they bought their apartment, the one immediately above them went up for sale, so they bought that too. Then the neighbouring upstairs apartment went up for sale. So they bought that as well. Then they tore out a bunch of walls and renovated the whole thing, and thanks to the efforts of Magda (and Paweł, too), it’s a big, beautiful, open concept condo. (Quite the upgrade in accommodations from our one room palace in Krakow. Not that it doesn’t suit our needs, but it was nice to be able to stretch our legs once in a while without tripping over our suitcases).
But, back to Warsaw. Adam went to the Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego (the Warsaw Uprising Museum). Can’t tell you much, as I didn’t go (I stayed home with a touch of heat stroke or something), but I have read up on the uprising that it commemorates and would say that I’d gladly check it out next time we’re there. The Warsaw Uprising was the largest resistance force operation during WWII, and resulted in the Germans leveling the city. That’s right, totally destroyed. Flattened. That’s a hell of a thing to come back from, and worth a stop next time we’re back there.
Our hosts also took us on a walking tour of the city and some of it’s parks.
While the city may have been rebuilt after WWII, it’s hard to tell in some parts. The old town streets are as winding and narrow as any older city, and many of the buildings were rebuilt in their original style, with modern updates in the interiors.
Also, some of the statues in town had unique details.
Why yes, those are lion testicles.
My favourite part of our time here, though, was our last night. Paweł and Magda introduced us to their winter hobby, making flavoured vodka.
In Poland, it’s not uncommon for people to infuse vodka with fruits and what-not over the winter. We got to benefit from our hosts’ winter experiments. And between Magda and Paweł, they explained the importance of vodka drinking.
It’s only something done at home, with friends. You invite friends over (and only friends, because you can trust them not to wreck up the place when they get drunk, because they -- and you -- will), make some great food, and eat, chat, and get plastered.
So we started our night drinking a very civilized measure of wild strawberry vodka. They’d picked the forest strawberries the year before when they went hiking in the mountains (for some reason, I have the idea that it was in Zakopane, but I can’t remember). It was sweet and smooth and without a hint of the alcoholic burn I’m used to when drinking vodka. With a wonderful velvety texture. I would have gladly finished off the bottle then and there, but there were at least a dozen other infusion experiments to sample.
[Photo By Magdalena Apelt]
Next was taste of raspberry vodka. Again, very good. Smooth, sweet, no burn. It would have been incredible over ice cream or topping a fruit tart. Followed by a cinnamon and cherry mix for Christmas, and that’s just what it tasted like. The next one was made from something called “dogberries.” I’m a little confused as to what these berries actually are, but I suspect they’re the fruit of Mountain Ash trees. But I’m not entirely sure. We were three or four drinks in by this point, and things were starting to get a little fuzzy.
[Photo By Magdalena Apelt]
Then we tried their special two year blend of of a fruit they called “Pigwa.” Again, I think this might be quince, but I’m unsure. The drink, however, was infused at least twice, with fruit from the same tree, but produced in consecutive years. Then came samples of gooseberry vodka, bitter cherry vodka, multi-vitamin vodka (a mystery blend of fruit juices), mint vodka, wild cherry vodka, raspberry and honey vodka, and a few store bought flavoured vodkas to round out the mix. But the homemade versions beat store bought hands down. It was one of the best tasting nights of my life. I’d love to give you more detailed tasting notes on these homebrews, but after the fourth sample, our drinks started to get a little “adult sized” and I can’t really remember much beyond the fact that I was in some sort of liquor heaven. And we didn’t even get hangovers from it. And we’d each had at least 14 shots by the time we stumbled off to bed, happy and drunk.
[Photo By Magdalena Apelt] Paweł managed to outlast us a little, I think.
I hope that the next time we visit Magda and Pawel, they will have had a chance to experiment with the gift we’ve sent them. I’d love to see what they could do with a few cans of Canadian grade A maple syrup.