Saturday, October 12, 2013

Polish Institute and Fête de la Gastronomie in Paris. 20-21 September 2013

A couple of months ago the Polish Institute in Paris asked me to co-organize an event promoting Polish cuisine. In September, "La Fête de la Gastronomie" is an important culinary event organized in France which is supported by the French Ministry of the Arts and Crafts, of the Trade and of Tourism (Ministère de l'Artisanat, du Commerce et du Tourisme). Basically, La Fête de la Gastronomie" is designated to the promotion of the French cuisine, but this year national cuisines of other countries were welcomed to present their culinary heritages. We did not have much time; the decision to participate in the event was taken in June, right before the holiday season, while the whole thing was planned for the month of September. We really had very little time!

As I mentioned it many times in this blog, Polish cuisine experiences great times (although you do not notice that so often in most restaurants). After years of fall during the communism, we witness the birth of a new Polish culinary art. Talented and non conformist chefs bravely use ancient traditions of the regions, the richness of nature, the extraordinary history and the unique, traditional techniques of food preparation as well as food products from the best local producers. That is why the Polish Institute invited Aleksander Baron, a talented chef of the young generation, to be in charge of setting up a menu, choosing the products, which arrived straight from some of the best producers in Poland and preparing the meals in Paris.

On Friday, 20th September, some selected guests were invited to the beautiful palace of the Polish Embassy in Paris. The honorable patronage over lunch was performed by Mrs. Urszula Orłowska, the wife of the Polish Ambassador in Paris.

This Friday lunch started with a famous chilled soup (chłodnik) made with Polish Red cattle broth and Polish noble crayfish. Then Białowieża Woodland bison - tenderloin was served with milk cap mushrooms and wild carrots as well as with Jerusalem artichokes baked in phacelia honey and wild Polish thyme. Between the courses the chef served "amuse-bouches", such as for example Vistula trout, pickled river lamprey and smoked goose breast. Dessert was simple but unique, as the chef had elected honeydew honey honeycomb, Polish sour cream and farmers' tvarog from Smykań, all of them brought over from Poland of course. Unfortunately, the artisanal butter which was part of the shipment did not survive the transportation by plane. Thus, the chef was not able to serve what he had anticipated: ice cream from butter from Smykań, Vistula sour cherry in single distilled young potato vodka (Młody Ziemniak 2012). The lunch was accompanied by an assortment of the best, local Polish liqueurs (nalewki) and vodkas, all chosen by the chef.

To make a step into in the culinary future, one has to know the past. That is why the second event, which took place on Saturday evening in one small Parisian restaurant (specializing in Hungarian food) called Beashka, was dedicated to Polish influences in the 19th century French cuisine. The dinner was animated by the renowned food and culture historian professor Jaroslaw Dumanowski, while chef Baron adapted ancient recipes to our more modern culinary language. Our guests could taste revised versions of meals based on ancient recipes from old French cook books like, for example, Vincent La Chapelle "Le cuisinier moderne" (The Hague, 1742) and Urbain Dubois "La cuisine classique" (Paris, 1856). Hardly anybody knows that a couple of hundred years ago, Polish cookery had been appreciated and described by old masters of French cuisine, who had been using Polish inspirations in their cooking.

The dinner started with Polish noble crayfish cooked with dill weed and lemon butter roux. The guests then were served two risky dishes: beets and carps. An excellent Polish borscht was prepared with pickled beetroots and smoked goose breast (półgęsek). Boneless carp from the Land of 1,000 lakes (Mazury) was served with an old fashioned grey sauce with gingerbread (from the pastry shop of Franciszek Pokojski in Toruń) and a parsley mousse. For desert, the chef served a selection of four ancient Polish species of apples (antonówka, grochówka, szczecinka, boskop) which were simply baked. Of course, everything was accompanied by Polish liqueurs (nalewki) and vodka, chosen by the chef.
Here's is the link to the booklet we prepared for the event.

The whole event was recorded by the National Digital Library of Poland and digitalized.

Let's hope that the Polish Institute will repeat the project in the future.

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