Welcome to the Ask the Ambassador, in which Eater meets with different diplomats to discuss their eating and drinking preferences and where they can get a taste of home while they serve their mission in New York City.
Ambassador Witold Sobków of Poland was appointed as Permanent Representative by the UN in 2010. He sits on several committees and has played a key role in the strategy and planning of Poland's foreign policy. Early in his career, he spent years lecturing at Warsaw University and more recently he enjoyed a stint as the Polish Ambassador to Ireland. Here Ambassador Sobków shines a light on where to find Polish food in the city, and some of his favorite restaurants he enjoys while serving his mission in New York City.
Have you been able to find traditional and good Polish food in New York City? Where? Yes. There are several restaurants, not very expensive, mainly in Greenpoint, but also in Maspeth or Ridgewood. One is CinaMoon, at 664 Manhattan Avenue. The food is good - I would recommend going there to lunch, not to a romantic dinner. These are not luxury places.
What are some of your favorite dishes of Polish cuisine? At the Polish restaurants in the city? You can choose from a variety of appetizers, like beef tartar, mushrooms, or herrings served in oil, sour cream with apples or spirit vinegar. Good soups - Barszcz, which is a beetroot soup with croquets or dumplings. Also of course traditional and familiar Polish dishes: potato pancakes served with sour cream or sugar, Pierogi - Polish dumplings with mashed potatoes and cheese or cabbage and mushrooms or meat or even blueberries, strawberries, or apples, pork cutlets, Polish sausages, Kopytka which is a bit like Italian gnocchi, duck with apples or sweet beetroots or fish - like trout. Our traditional cakes are apple tarts, cheesecakes or yeast-based cakes/buns.
Is it comparable to what you can get at home? Yes, although you cannot find some good quality ingredients here. Our food in Poland is mostly organic. Our flour is slightly different, as well as white (cottage) cheese. We can get here a lot of ingredients from either Polish or Jewish shops in New York.
What do you like to eat around the UN and your embassy? Our favorite place is the Amish Market. Excellent cakes, very tasty sandwiches, a fantastic choice of food in general.
What do you crave that New York City just doesn't have? We miss our bread. We can find some small bakeries here that sell something similar like Orwasher's, for example. We miss organic tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, pears, apples, etc. - you can get them here, but their taste and smell is not as good as we remember from in Poland.
What New York City restaurant do you miss when you go back home? I do not miss any restaurants, but I miss some dishes: tasty pizzas from various pizzerias (like Fratelli), fantastic burgers, excellent steaks.
What's your favorite comfort food to eat in New York? Definitely burgers. Perhaps not very healthy, but difficult not to be tempted.
Do you cook Polish food? Yes, we do. We buy beetroots and cook Barszcz, we make dumplings, or potato pancakes.
Tell me a bit more about the cuisine of Poland, what are some of the national dishes, and ingredients regularly used? Our cuisine is a mixture of influences from neighboring countries - Germany, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Russia. We love Italian food, too. It is not very spicy. I would say it is "substantial" - there are a lot of sauces we like with meat; we use sour cream, butter, sauerkraut etc. - a bit on the heavy side, but delicious.
What's your favorite expense account restaurant? I like going to different restaurants: Persephone, David Burke's restaurants, Daniel Boulud's restaurants, Le Bernardin, Del Posto, or Morimoto.
What's your favorite cheap eat in New York? I like Johnny Rockets or Good Burger.
Are there any American specialties you've grown to love? I adore New York style cheesecake or pancakes with maple syrup.
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