All You Can Eat Pierogi night at Beaver Choice, a Scandinavian, Polish, and Canadian kitchen in Mesa, Arizona
Beaver Choice restaurant in Mesa, Arizona tags itself as a Scandinavian, Polish, and Canadian kitchen. Some people may find that combination of ethnic cuisine odd. Having been born and bred in the Canadian prairie province of Manitoba, it makes perfect sense to me. Immigrants from several countries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have shaped the Manitoba of today. Scandinavian and Polish people were among those immigrants and many of their traditional foods have become part of Manitoba cuisine.
Restaurant owners, Hanna and Marek Gabrielsson, came to Arizona from Poland and Sweden via Canada. The menu includes many Swedish dishes, including herring, Swedish meatballs, elk stew, gravalax, and Swedish hash, and many Polish dishes, including cabbage rolls, schnitzel, Polish hunter stew, and sausage. But I wasn’t here to try any of those. I was here for Thursday night All You Can Eat Pierogi.
Pierogi are dumplings of unleavened dough stuffed with any of a variety of fillings: potato and cheese, cheese, meat, sauerkraut, or fruit. They are first boiled and then usually fried with butter and onion, sometimes bacon as well. They are typically served with sour cream. In Manitoba, people are fussy about their pierogi and have favourite recipes for the dough. Potato and cheddar is the most common and traditional filling. Blueberry pierogi are a popular treat these days. I’ve also had a spinach and feta cheese pierogi that was very good. My mother made cottage cheese pierogi, which she served boiled. I ate them with a sprinkling of cinnamon, something I picked up from my father. She also made an apple filling. If I remember correctly (memory can be tricky at times), those were a favourite with my sister.
The evening I was there, the pierogi buffet included four types of pierogi: potato and cheese, three cheese, meat (ground beef), and sauerkraut. Each type was available steamed or fried. They were prepared and brought out in small batches so they would not sit too long in the warming trays and get soggy.
Soup and coleslaw was included with the Eat All You Can pierogi. The soup was a tasty home-made tomato with pasta. The coleslaw was among the best I’ve ever had. I’d never tasted meat pierogi before and wasn’t particularly fond of those, but others at my table liked them. I didn’t count how many pierogi I ate. That is probably a good thing. I’d be embarrassed to tell you. One of the items on the dessert menu was cheesecake pierogi. I’ve never had that, but my entire group was too full to order dessert.
Hanna was active in the restaurant, visiting from table to table. She told us she uses flour from Canada and Sweden. U.S. flour makes the pierogi too tough. I don’t know anything about Swedish flour, but I know Canadian flour has a higher gluten content than U.S. flour.
There are only a couple of Canadian dishes on the menu: poutine and a lamb loin spiced with Montreal steak spice. The selection of Polish and Scandinavian dishes is extensive and merits another visit to the restaurant.
When we found out Hanna was selling frozen pierogi, we wanted to buy some to take home. They weren’t scheduled to be officially packaged until later in the week, but Hanna packed some from the freezer (they are flash frozen) into a Ziploc bag for us. Most of the frozen pierogi I’ve bought in the past have been pre-boiled. These haven’t. I will need to follow Hanna’s instructions closely.
Beaver Choice is located at 745 W. Baseline Road in Mesa, Arizona. As it says on the restaurant’s web site, “It’s not a party until the pierogies come out.”