In a French Kitchen was released in Poland last week (by Wydawnictwo Literackie), and I was in Warsaw over the weekend to promote it. It was an incredible experience and here is why: I discovered a big group of journalists who are so professional, so prepared, so sincerely involved in their work, and so absolutely kind and respectful that it gave me renewed faith in the profession. Not only that, but it was great fun.
Who wouldn’t love standing on the set of Poland’s most popular morning tv show at Dzien Dobry TVN, watching pros as they worked, laughed, and interviewed famous people (yes, me, some medical researchers, and a very hot band named FEEL). Of all the things I learned, one was how to absolutely silently bake a chocolate cake on the set, which was then enjoyed by the hosts on air, and the rest of the crew afterwards. As I walked out of the television station, a group of “fans” approached for my autograph. Instant fame, Polish style.
The day proceeded with a photo shoot for Wysokie Obcasy, Poland’s best known weekend magazine, then on to interviews for more press, blogs, and radios. Interspersed with that was the most amazing lunch at Opasły tom PIW (the Fat Book State Publishing Institute – rough translation), a restaurant that offers updated yet traditional Polish cuisine. I tried ethereal pirogis stuffed with fresh cheese and nettles, an intriguing kohlrabi soup, and an unusual halva mousse dessert, reminiscent of Ottoman days.
The next day began with a tour of the farmers’ market in Warsaw, Hala Mirowskie, where smart little stands offered tiny white asparagus, fat, fresh kohlrabi, new potatoes, baby beets, bouquets of dill, piles of cauliflower and cabbage, and vats of home-brined pickles that filled the air with their dill and horseradish aroma. Tiny little glassed in cubicles offered sausages of all shapes, and hunks of air-cured hams and beef. While there, a shopper came up to me and said, in broken English, “Madame, I saw you on television yesterday.” It doesn’t take long to become recognized in Poland!
The day ended at Salto restaurant where I enjoyed a snaky octopus tentacle served with two coconut oil and squid ink “pebbles” filled with a savory sun-dried tomato and herb paste that literally exploded in the mouth. It sounds odd but was sublime, thanks to chef Martin Gimenez Castro, Warsaw’s finest. His delicate salad topped with tender, rosy pigeon was no less luscious.
The following day was another whirlwind of press, from newspaper to radio passing by television and blogs. The site for several interviews was Restaurant Polska Rozana where mile-high meringue cakes and nut and fruit-filled pastries sat in a bower of garden roses and peonies, beckoning with a siren call. I had time only for a bowl of chilled beet and yogurt soup garnished with paper-thin slices of radish. It was sublime, and next time I’ll do what I know is right and begin with dessert!
Then it was nearly, but not quite, time to head to the airport. As I sat and sipped a frothy Zwiec (Poland’s most popular brew), basking in the heat and the company of my marvelous interpretor, Margaret Koczkodaj, and my wonderful publicist Agnieszka Minkiewicz, I reflected. Even a quick and busy visit gives time to appreciate a monumentally courageous city, much of it rebuilt in exact replica of its pre-World War II style, with a heart close to fine food and its sources, and the company of friends who were, just days before, strangers.