About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, November 20, 2006
The Polish Festival
There is something slightly ironic about a Japanese tourist placing himself for a photo in front of a stage full of people in Polish national costume in Federation Square, Melbourne , Australia. Not that he seemed to notice, though he did get a cut price Polish experience as Federation Square hosted the Polish Festival.

Of course with my wife D being Polish, we were always going and arrived early on a glorious Spring day, warm sunshine and hardly a breath of wind. There were thirty or so stalls of Polish produce set out on different levels and a main stage where Polish dance and music was performed as well as a big screen that was detailing the Polish contribution to Victoria.

Some of the stalls had amazing things for sale such as the amber jewellery stall. This amazing gemstone is actually the fossilized resin of ancient conifers that existed mostly 30 to 50 million years ago and is found in Poland in the Baltic Sea. After its collection the resin is cut and polished to a reveal its warm amber colour and is then set into jewellery.

Another couple of stalls featured hand painted, glass, Christmas tree baubles of the most beautiful and striking designs. Several other stalls had merchandise for the homesick but the real action as far as I was concerned was happening on the lower level where all the food stalls were. It was here that I made acquaintance with a kielbasa the polish word for sausage in the form of a kranski in a roll. This one sausage made me feel as if I had never had a sausage before. It was made from pork and a little garlic then lightly smoked. In the Polish way it was gently simmered rather than fried which seemed to increase its natural sweetness. It was so good that I found out the name of the supplier, Barkly Smokehouse, rear 191 Barkly Street, Footscray. They aren't retail but if you ask for Nick, tell him I sent you. He told me that the kranskies come in packs of eight. You also need to ask him for the kranski from the Polish Festival as they do a couple of different types.

We didn't get to try the potato pancakes as a huge line had formed for them which was no surprise, they are very tasty but are a lot of work to grate finely, much better some else making them. A few cake shops were there so we had the obligatory paczki or doughnut as well as some lighter than air cheesecake. There was a separate, fenced off beer stall where I shared a glass of Zywiec, a great tasting beer.

Wandering around we were accosted by a reporter from Polish radio. My wife declined to speak instead pointing the reporter at me, so I did a short interview. I wanted to say how good the beer was using a earthy saying a mate of mine uses, involving angels and bodily fluids, but I couldn't clean it up in time! What I could have said was that it felt like an angel had kissed my lips, a far cry from what my mate says.

We ran into a friend of mine, not from Poland but from Romania. He was having a great time looking around with some Polish friends of his. It was that kind of a thing, Polish people are very friendly and inviting, there seemed to be people from all over in attendance. All in all we stayed for about two hours, which seemed just enough. We'll be back next year a bit early for one of those potato pancakes.

Edited to add: I've just found out the kranskies referred to are called Kitchen kranski and are $7.50 kg. The entrance to the factory is down a sidestreet and in a small carpark behind Barkly Street. It's a little seedy but that's the price you pay for a great sausage.
  posted at 8:51 am

At 10:52 am, Anonymous Tanna said...

I'd have been right there with you in the lower stalls. Sounds like a foodie's dream. I think I might have stood in line for the potato pancakes or made a deal to pay for the 3rd person standing in line if they ordered some for me. Would that be illegal?

At 2:43 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, it's not illegal if you don't get caught!

At 11:12 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

Ooh i do love a food festival :) and one cannot beat a tasty smoked sausage

I don't think it's ironic about the Japanese tourist though. Isn't that utterly predictable--both the camera clicking and Australia's multiculturalism? :)

At 8:57 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi helen, me too! I was so laughing at the tourist, yeah utterly predictable.

At 10:01 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Neil, I would have loved to have gone to the festival - is there a website or somewhere where I can check up on dates for these Polish events you always seem to find?

At 10:18 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi ange, I suppose it helps that D is Polish, we are kind of in the network. Sorry that I didn't post a heads up, I should've. The website for the festival is at www.polishfestival.com

At 10:50 pm, Blogger Jeanne said...

Kielbasa is one of the things I have been meaning to try for ages. A friend of mine's partner is Polish and she took us to a Polish restaurant in Hampstead last year (now sadly closed) where we had heavenly golumpki and the best borscht I had ever tasted. I really must try to find another Polish restaurant here in London - with the much-discussed influx of Poles, surely it can only be a matter of time before there are kielbasa carts on every corner? ;-)

At 10:46 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi jeanne, as you say, Polish food can be really great, borscht or barszcz is really tricky to get just right, but when it is right it is one of the kings of soup.

At 3:36 am, Blogger Scott at Real Epicurean said...

You know anything Polish is just my sort of thing. My blog is always full of Polish recipes due to my Polish wife : )

Great to hear about the festival.

At 1:32 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi scott, I have the exact same love of all things Polish as you. It's always fascinating to see other cultures at work.


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