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, October 15, 2007
Zapraszamy Do Zabawy!
Or, welcome to the party!

A doll in traditional Polish costume.

If you've been hiding under a rock or lost in the desert and don't know, this weekend is the celebration of two years of Weekend Herb Blogging run by the excellent Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. Because I think there will be plenty of party food, the drinks are on me. Or should I say, my beautiful Polish friend and me. Now you might be wondering how a bottle of spirits is relevant to WHB. Well, this particular bottle easily qualifies as an entrant.

If I turn the bottle sideways, like this, you can see a blade of grass inside.

You see this is no ordinary vodka, this is zubrowka, which translates to bison grass vodka and is very highly regarded in Poland. Bison are in fact native to Poland as they were in most of Europe before being wiped out over the centuries. The last herd was in the legendary Bialowieza forest, now a national park, and the last survivors of the once great herds were killed and eaten for meat just after the end of the First World War by starving villagers. However a scheme to revive them has seen the establishment of some new herds in several countries, from bison that were kept in zoos.

European bison or wisent as they're known in Poland are distantly related to American bison and are different in that they are forest dwellers, rather than roaming the open prairie. Their food of choice is bison grass, Hierochloe odorata, which is also used to flavour vodka and gives a mellow, herbaceous character along with a yellowish tinge. This grass contains coumarin, a compound that was banned in the USA, so the distillers came up with a way to retain the character of the grass but without this compound.

It is said that zubrowka makes men virile, but I think we can ignore that old chestnut and enjoy it just for itself. It can be drunk neat, icy cold, or, it can be mixed, apple juice is reputed to be good. It also make a wonderful martini, mixed with a splash of vermouth, which enhances the herb flavour without overwhelming it.

Here the vodka is served ice cold with a zakaski of marinated mushrooms. Zakaski is the Polish word for tapas or meze and this particular one goes extremely well with vodka. So we say Sto Lat (Happy Birthday) and raise our glasses for a traditional Polish toast - Na Zdrowie Kalyn!

A Kalyn's Kitchen fact: When I first started out entering WHB and reading Kalyn in general, I never spelled her name right, even in the link I gave her. I'm surprised to this day that the school teacher in her didn't give me a well deserved smack across the knuckles!
  posted at 8:31 am

At 10:21 am, Blogger Kalyn Denny said...

Oh I am laughing about that smack across the knuckles. I've had an entire lifetime of people not spelling my name right, and lots of the time not pronouncing it right either. (It's Kay Lynn, doesn't that sound properly American?)

Such a creative entry! Love it. Thanks for helping to make the two year celebration so much fun!

At 11:46 am, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I'm laughing right with her! Can't imagine knocking you across the knuckles!
This might be the most unusual entry I've seen. Pure Neil!

At 6:02 pm, Blogger Anh said...

Your entry is entertaining as always! ;) Very unusual, too!

BTW, I love that doll of yours. The Russian has similar looking ones, right? I remember my dad bringing one or two back to Vietnam when i was a kid...

At 6:58 pm, Blogger Katie Zeller said...

An herbaceous vodka with apple juice...Makes me want to go light a fire of autumn leaves and and have one...
Love the doll - and didn't know about the bison.
Do know about deserving knuckle smacks, though...

At 9:32 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi kalyn, I probably deserve another for not properly reading your guidlines for this, thanks for putting me with the potatoes, but I will say, the best vodkas are made with rye, but I don't know what zubrowka is made from.

Hi tanna, I thought it would be a bit of fun. Glad you liked it!

Hi anh, I think most European countries have similar dolls, they look great too. D rescued this one from the Salvos and fixed her up a bit.

Hi katiez, ouch!!! But with a few zubrowkas, perhaps I wouldn't feel a thing.

At 5:54 am, Blogger Gigi said...

It's just this kind of creative whimsy that makes you my favorite food blogger. I love your beautiful doll and her intriguing zubrowka! Kudos to D for her rescue. (Why was coumarin banned in the US? Don't we ever get to have any fun?)

Na Zdrowie!

At 5:13 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi gigi, coming from you, that's a real compliment, thanks. I believe coumarin thins the blood, surely it can't be that. Perhaps it was the virile aspect that upset some...


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