Dec 072014
 

pierogi

Eat All You Can Pierogi night at beaver choice, Mesa’s Scandinavian, Polish, and Canadian kitchen

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 include 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 Eat All You Can 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. 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 spinach and feta cheese pierogi I tried a few weeks ago were very good.

Note: Pierogi are also spelled perogi, pierogy,perogy, pierógi, pyrohy, pirogi, pyrogie or pyrogy. My usual spelling is perogy, but for this post I decided to use the same spelling as the restaurant.

pierogi

 

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.

tomato soup

 

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.


pierogi plate


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.”

beaver choice restaurant


  36 Responses to “Pierogi in the Desert”

  1. Interesting restaurant. Polish – Swedish considering that there’s a huge difference between what we eat in the two countries. When I was in Lithuania the government toök me to dinner at a typical Lithuanian restaurant that served, among other things, something similar to the pierogi you mention. Found them very difficult to eat because they were dripping in fat and the fillings extremely heavy. Honestly I’m convinced that the piefogi served in North America has been Americanized and are less fat and heavy. The Swedish dishes mentioned are traditional but as far as I’m concerned the only one I am fond of and hence eat is Gravlax. Even here the cuisine has been developed and very much internationalized. The kind of heavy food the common man used to eat in Northern Europe is no longer popular since we don’t need that kind of food anymore.

    • Pierogi are certainly not diet food, but they aren’t always served dripping with fat either, and I’m not sure that is because they’ve been Americanized or Canadianized. I think there are variations in how they are served from country to country (they are part of the food heritage of several eastern European countries) and maybe even areas within a country. You make a good point about food changing over time. Sometimes traditional dishes are more popular with the descendants of immigrants than in the countries they came from.

  2. Nice that a restaurant serve variety of food for people from different parts. When I saw perogi, dumplings came in my mind. But It is nice to know about perogi with a lot of combinations and different spellings. Rest seems fine but I was wondering about cheesecake pierogi. I will try to check if I can find here in Riyadh somewhere. Will love to try this.
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. One thing I so miss where we live is these kind of restaurants – the ethnic foods. I gotta tell you I love pierogi and my husband would totally love an all you can eat. About once a year I will make his favorite Pittsburg dish of kielbasa with sauerkraut and of course, yes, pierogi. Next time we’re out that way, we get to Arizona at least one a year, if it’s close enough and we have enough time, this restaurant would be a real treat.

    • Pierogi is certainly not a common dish to find in the Phoenix area, so we were surprised and pleased to discover this restaurant. In my home city of Winnipeg, you can find them in several restaurants. I know a woman who goes out for lunch with a friend on a regular basis to try pierogies at different restaurants.

  4. That is a very interesting combination! The very first time I tasted a peirogi was when I moved to Milwaukee WI, which was a city that the Polish flocked to. Man o man…love ’em! But I have only ever had the homemade by friends!

  5. An all you can eat pierogi meal sounds like a great experience! I have always been a huge dumpling fan and expanded to pierogi’s a few years ago after a friend from Poland made her handmade treats, she added cinnamon as well and it was bliss. Thank you for this dreamy recommendation I shall add this to my places to visit!

  6. I agree the Polish, Swedish, Canadian menu to most people probably sounds a little bizarre.. Like they couldn’t quite make up their mind what they wanted to serve. :). The perogi did look delicious but very heavy though. I wouldn’t think you could eat too many of those in one sitting!

    • Susan, you’d be surprised how many some people can eat in one sitting! But you are right, they are heavy. As to the combination of cuisine in the restaurant, the woman who owns it comes from Poland. She spent several years living and working in Sweden. I think her husband is Swedish. They then moved to Canada for a few years before winding up in Arizona.

  7. I usually avoid restaurants that advertise varied cuisines – jack of all trades kind of thing, I usually think. This one, however, makes sense. I’ll try it sometime when I make the drive south. I live in Prescott. Thanks for telling about it.

  8. I’ve never had pierogi – no matter how it’s spelled – but I have to admit it looks good. I’ll also admit I agree with Beth and I usually avoid restaurants that mix their cuisines, but again, I’m usually up for trying something different so thanks for sharing!

  9. If you were to ask me to guess where a restaurant like this might be, I would have guessed all night before I said Arizona. Cusisines that are produced by seemingly unlikely ethnic combinations are always really interesting. In my part of the world one of those which is common is Cuban Chinese.

    • The combination of cuisines is unusual, but I agree the setting is what makes it particularly unusual. I wouldn’t have expected to find this in Arizona. Cuban Chinese also sounds unusual.

  10. Isn’t it interesting what you find when you’re open to new things. I love perogies and would totally stop in at a restaurant like beaver choice. I have never tried to make them though. Your comment about flour being different in Canada from the States was also “I didn’t know that”. Finally I would love to stop in at one of the Cuban Chinese restaurants Ken mentioned. Maybe you could on your way back and write a post about it.

    • I haven’t tried to make them either, although I do have my mother’s recipes. The difference in flour is most noticeable in breads and pastries. If you make any kind of bread in the U.S., you need to get special bread flour. In Canada, you can use all-purpose for almost everything. The recipes that came with my bread machine maker list two set of ingredients – one for Canada and one for the U.S. Proportions of flour are different in the U.S. (a little more if I remember correctly).

  11. What a great place. I know I love places that I run into too and did not even know they were there. This place seems great, and I will visit when I am near that area.

  12. Love those pierogis but have not had them in quite some time. There used to be a restaurant in Chicago called the Bumble Bee that served up great Polish food and it would always be packed even though it was definitely a hole in the wall kind of place. The combination of food is unusual but then again we are a melting pot kind of society so why not. Your story did remind me of eating great food in unexpected places. Like the best cajun and crawfish I have ever tasted in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Tim (Flat Tires and Slow Boats)

  13. Bring on the pierogies! Actually bring on anything when it comes to my neck of the woods in the winter. I need to go somewhere to get a good restaurant fix. What I miss most about the South is all the Cajun food.

  14. Interesting dish and very new to me but sounds and looks very tasty. Eat all you can hey? It looks filling so I wonder how much you really can eat.

  15. Looks Yummy!
    A new dish to me x

  16. This type of food certainly seems really bizarre to me as I’ve never encountered food of this nature before. 🙁 Yet Pierogies seem to be popular and I’m really tempted to try them!

  17. I absolutely love perogies! My mom makes them, homemade, and they’re the best! The store-bought ones don’t compare… the exceptioin is Cheemo perogies. They’re pretty good.

    I don’t like sauerkraut ones, though. I also like Dim Sum dumplings.

    Okay, now I’m getting hungry. LOL

    • Home made are the best. Sometimes you can find a church group that makes and sells them – those are usually pretty good now. I’ve recently had another brand (other than Cheemo) I thought was pretty good, but I can’t remember the name now.

  18. I’ve never heard of pierogi before. I would try it though.

    • When you’ve grown up with a food, it can be surprising to learn there are others who have never heard of the dish, much less tasted it. If you get a chance you should try it. As has been pointed out in some of the other comments, home made is the best, so if you do try it someday I hope you can taste either home made or a reasonable commercial alternative.

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