Chez Ginsu is currently located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and contrary to what that moniker might lead you to envision, large swaths of this place are dirty and decidedly industrial.
Though certain sectors of the 'Point are hip these days, my end of the hood remains cheap and old-school (in good part because we sit squarely in the middle of the largest land-based oil spill in U.S. history. But hey... cheap rent).
My closest thoroughfare, Nassau Avenue, features a charming Luncheonette, a couple of pizza joints, several examples of the ubiquitous Chinese takeout counter and a fleet of Polish eateries.
Polish food has never been one of the world's most beloved cuisines. Ask anyone — even those who are fairly well-versed in food — to name all the Polish dishes they know. The most you'll likely get from them is pierogies, kielbasa and maybe Zywiec, Greenpoint's Pilsner of choice (though most are unlikely to pronounce it correctly... the company's begun advertising the stuff as "Z-Beer" for the tongue-tied American market).
So although I'm a big fan of local food sourcing, eating locally (as in, eating in the neighborhood) hasn't exactly topped my priority list.
Recently, I wondered if maybe that position was wrong-minded. I decided to give some serious examination to local foodstuffs. Making a stop at Nassau Ave's Busy Bee Food Exchange, I purchased meat pierogi (pierogi z miezem) and beet-horseradish condiment (cwikla). The Bee deli case also featured a few creamy salads and pints of "bigos," which is supposed to be a hunter's stew made of beef stock and sauerkraut.
Pirogi, for the uninitiated, are Eastern European dumplings... tasty little dumplings filled with a variety of substances.
When I lived in Minnesota, we frequently went out for Friday lunches at the Ukrainian Catholic Church gymnasium in North-East Minneapolis. There, little old men served endless cups of coffee and took orders while little old ladies tirelessly produced phyrohi (potato, kraut-pork or plum... your choice). It was great. Cheap, tasty comfort food made by little old ladies. You really can't beat that.
Those memories flowed back to me as I prepared my pierogi. Pierogi can be served boiled or pan-fried, like potstickers. When I tested The Bee's meat pierogi, I pan-fried 'em and was very pleased with the results. Served alongside the bright-magenta cwikla with a cucumber & sour cream salad? Good eats at a good price.
Of course Stella, my Polish landlady, instantly knew I'd been sullying her building with store-bought pierogi. Polish landladies have special radar for betrayals of that ilk.
The very next day Stella knocked on my door bearing a look of supreme confidence and a plate covered in three types of freshly boiled pierogi she'd just made: cabbage-bacon, potato and sweet cheese. I intended to eat just a few and share the rest with my roomie. But they were good. Really good. I ate them all.
As it turns out, local eating is good, but really, really local eating... now that's superb.