Paczki Crawl 2020

It’s paczki (pronounced poonch-key) season here in Cleveland. What used to be a one-day tradition has grown to weeks of sweet treats and polka parties in Cleveland, culminating on Fat Tuesday, the day of feasting before the Christian fast known as Lent (February 25 this year). Paczki are Polish doughnuts filled with jelly or some other kind of sweet filling, traditionally served prior to Lent and are a mainstay in most Catholic cultures. The Germans call them Berliner. The jelly doughnuts happened because people would clear their kitchens of milk and butter in preparation for Lent and would make doughnuts. The paczki dough recipe is similar to German, Jewish, and Italian filled doughnuts, but traditional paczki contain a splash of Polish vodka called Spiritus in addition to the flour, eggs, milk, sugar, yeast, and sometimes butter that make up the dough. We hit two Polish and two Italian bakeries on our crawl.

Samosky’s paczki

I am not a huge fan of crowds. I do not do well standing in long lines and being crushed by people, so I avoid Fat Tuesday, which is the day most bakeries are having their celebrations and selling out of their paczki. I have been buying paczkis here and there in the run-up, so I had a solid plan for the paczki crawl. We did a spontaneous one last year after a particularly bad pancake breakfast, hitting a bunch of bakeries. This year my friend wanted to do it again and met me at the Donauschwaben German-American Club, where I teach on Saturdays until noon. I had wanted to drive to Kiedrowski’s in Amherst, but she requested we start at Becker’s in Fairview Park. The goal of the afternoon was to just see where it took us and enjoy being out and about.

The actual first stop was McDonald’s to get a large iced coffee. It hit the spot and was quite fortifying for the day. And they are currently selling any sized iced coffee for $1.50. Bonus.

Becker’s only sell paczki on Fat Tuesday. We ended up buying a couple of their doughnuts anyway, a glazed and a Boston cream for me. My friend bought a couple Russian tea cakes and a glazed doughnut. We didn’t eat them there. We ended up just stopping and buying doughnuts along the way. I really enjoyed the glazed doughnut when I did eat it. It was very light and melted in my mouth. I spent $6 and change here.

Chuppa’s paczki

The next stop was Samosky’s, which some people on All Things Food in Cleveland recommended. Not to be confused with Samosky’s Pizza in Valley City, it’s located in Parma on Pearl Road. I had stopped there last week, but they only had one or two paczki left in the afternoon when I got there. This time we had a bit of a selection. The paczki from Samosky’s are a much lighter dough that was more like cake than doughnut. They are split halfway through, filled with filling and lightly dusted with powdered sugar. I chose two toasted coconut Bavarian cream, a choco cream and a raspberry. I also bought two giant kolachke (one apricot and one cheese) – seriously these guys are almost as big as a spoon) and a loaf of bread. I spent $19.25 here.

Chuppa’s was next on our list. I had been thinking about the banana paczki from last year, and they didn’t have them out when I stopped last week. You could order them, but they weren’t being sold in the store at that point. I figured they would be available on a Saturday, and I was right. I learned the banana paczki was last year’s special paczki. This year’s is a mix of blueberry and raspberry and Cool Whip – and had already sold out for the day. They get the dough from a bakery in Middleburg Heights and fill them at the market. Or should I say overfill. They also split them halfway through, and the filling bulges out of them. I bought a cream cheese (because it looked amazing), blueberry, strawberry and something called Poppy Butter. I better not have to take a drug test in the next week or so (poppy can be a false positive), but it was an interesting filling. We tried the filling itself in the car. I can’t report on how much I spent here because I also went grocery shopping and bought some soups, produce and other finds. The paczki were $2.49 a piece here.

Next stop was Rudy’s. My friend wasn’t too thrilled because she’s not a fan (she finds them too greasy) but went along with it. I’m glad we went just to see the organized chaos of it all. It was pretty busy, but they hadn’t run out of anything. They have order sheets scattered everywhere in the foyer. You place your order on the sheets. One thing that irritated me was the advertised “2019 Paczkis” on their website – until I realized they were also doing it in the store. And had the same special flavor – Sweet Moses’ Hot Chocolate – as last year. I left with five sweet and four savory – hot chocolate, two custards, a chocolate butter cream, and a “Hough Bakery” (kind of like a lemon icebox cake) and the chicken paprikash, Little Italy (Italian sausage with peppers and onions), potato and cheese, and kielbasa and sauerkraut. The savory ones are slightly more than the sweet one. I spent $20.90 here. The paprikash one upset my stomach that night, but I enjoyed the custard paczki. I can see why my friend feels they are too greasy. I would agree with her on that point. I took an antacid that night and had a good night’s sleep.

The “last” stop (because at this point my back seat was filled with our purchases) was my favorite, Michael Angelo’s. My friend was not familiar with the bakery, and I was anxious to show her. The line was almost out the door and got even longer once we got closer to the register. My friend had lamented that she needed coffee, and Michael Angelo’s has a great selection. She bought a breakfast blend, and they were able to grind it for her, which made her happy. I purchased three paczki – a custard, a peanut butter and an apricot. I’ve not seen the peanut butter there before, so I am curious how it is. I love Michael Angelo’s paczki – the dough is soft and I love sinking my teeth into the dough that is stuffed with delicious filling. My friend had ordered a paczki and had to wait while they made her a fresh one, as the woman in front of me in line bought the last ones in the case. It wasn’t a problem for them.

We took the opportunity to pop into Molisano’s Italian Foods next door to Michael Angelo’s. We planned to have lunch at Nam Wah, but the sandwiches were certainly tempting. I’m going to have to come back and check it out. They sell Boar’s Head lunch meats and have some nice prepared salads in the case. I bought a couple noodle varieties I had never seen before, which I will be using in upcoming Bread and Soup Experiments.

As we meandered our way home we drove past a sign for a church selling pierogi. We both wondered aloud if we should stop and then laughed at ourselves because we had plenty to keep us for the week. It was fun to just be spontaneous. We finished our day with lunch at Nam Wah, where I introduced her to what I say is the best pho and bahn mi in town. She agrees wholeheartedly with me. We popped down to Mama Mary’s at the gas station on Columbia and Sprague so that she could try the gas station hummus. Her observation is that they leave the skins on the chickpeas so it isn’t as creamy as Ferris, which she prefers. But the seasoning was on point. Fair enough.

All in all a fun day. On the list for next year – Stan’s and Kiedrowsky’s. One that won’t be on my list again is Seven Roses. I’ve tried it two years in a row, and I am not a fan. This time I bought some at the Polish-American Cultural Center’s Fat Thursday celebration. They had run out of the custard by the time I got there, so I got one of each remaining flavor-prune, blueberry, raspberry and lemon. All but the lemon dried my mouth out. And they barely contained any filling. At $2.50 a piece. I’ll stick to the buffet in the restaurant.

Contact info:

Becker’s Donuts, Bakery and Cakes
22088 Lorain Road
Fairview Park, Ohio 44126
(440) 734-9856
(and a location in North Royalton)

Samosky’s Home Bakery
6379 Pearl Road
Cleveland, OH 44130
(440) 845-3377

Chuppa’s Market
5640 Pearl Road
Parma, OH 44129
(440) 885-5000

Rudy’s Strudel and Bakery
5580 Ridge Road
Parma, OH 44129
(440) 886-4430

Michael Angelo’s Bakery
8035 Broadview Road
Broadview Heights, OH 44147
(440) 526-0499

Nam Wah Chinese & Vietnamese Cuisine
392 W Bagley Road
Berea, OH 44017
(440) 243-8181

Seven Roses Polish Delicatessan
6301 Fleet Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44105
(216) 641-5789

b.a. Sweetie Candy Company

It may not be a restaurant, but it hits all the right notes when it comes to food and nostalgia. Cleveland’s candy superstore sells more than 4,500+ classic & contemporary items and has a soda and ice cream shop. b.a. Sweetie is the largest candy store in the country. The store itself is over 20,000 square foot stacked to the ceilings with over 400,000 pounds of candy. It also has a huge selection of novelty pop/sodas and sells Charles Chip potato chips in bags as well as the metal cans we used in Girl Scouts to make “sit-upons” forty years ago. The entrance is tucked around to the right side of the building. You walk in and are greeted with whimsical candy statues.

They have an entire aisle of soda cans and bottles, ranging from gross flavors like dirt, Buffalo wing, and Ranch dressing to Jolly Rancher soda and Squirt to fine soda like Italian cream soda, chocolate soda and gourmet root beers. I am partial to the Caruso sodas. You can mix and match or buy a case, a four-pack or single bottles. There is a cooler at the end with some chilled bottles for immediate gratification.

You can spend hours just roving the aisles, looking at all the various candies. They do a pretty good job grouping like things together. The Pez dispensers are displayed on a huge wall, the electronic lollipops are grouped together, as is the bulk candies in bags as well as bins so you can buy as little or as much as you like. All the Pop Rock flavors you can think of! Boxes of Hershey brand chocolate bars are against the far wall. Lindt, Godiva, Dove, Hershey, Ritter Sport, Milka – they are all represented. There is a huge display of Haribo gummie candies and another area just lined with bulk Jelly Bellies. It is an OCD candy lover’s dream.

Once you know where everything is, it is easy to pop in and just grab what you need. I hit it after Easter to get some Easter bunnies at 50% off as well as some bulk Frooties and fruit discs. I also grabbed a soda to quench my thirst on the drive home.

In addition to being an awesome candy store it also features Sweeties Soda Shop, where you can get ice cream and soda treats with just about every candy and soda flavor they sell. The soda shop features over 200 soda flavors, 36 ice cream flavors and lots of different toppings. Some of the toppings include Sweeties Signature Hot Fudge, Sweeties Signature Chocolate Syrup, Butterscotch, Peanut Butter, crushed pineapple, sugar-free chocolate syrup, caramel, marshmallow, Spanish peanuts, chopped nuts, Rainbow Sprinkles, Heath® Pieces, Butterfinger® Pieces, Reese’s Pieces®, crushed Oreo®, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups®, M&M’s® and Nerds®. They have a self-serve station with vanilla, chocolate or twist custard, vanilla yogurt or a flavor of the week. Lots of varieties of treats are available – including cones, sundaes, parfaits, “Syclones,” milkshakes, malts, soda pop floats, or signature sundaes. Some premium sundaes are made with Ghiradelli® chocolate. They even have the “spaghetti” ice cream that is so popular in Germany – vanilla ice cream, strawberry marinara sauce and shredded white chocolate cheese, but they also added chocolate meatballs to it. The kid’s menu has a couple other fun ice cream treats like an ice cream hot dog or a clown sundae. One even comes as a NASA treat with a parachute man toy.

I made a parfait when I stopped there with mini Reese’s pieces and butterscotch sauce. It was almost too sweet, and I couldn’t finish it. But I bet kids, who (let’s face it) have a huge sugar taste bud, would love every bite. No visit is complete without a quick stop at the soda shop.

If you want to work off the calories from your ice cream and candy treats, they also have a putt-putt golf course.

So stop into b.a. Sweetie candy shop, where you too can be a kid in a candy store and relive your childhood.

Contact info:

b.a. Sweetie Candy Shop / Soda Shoppe / Golfland Park
6770 Brookpark Road
Cleveland, OH 44129
(216) 739-2244

Cleveland Jam and Old Brooklyn Cheese Company

IMG_20170801_135244Cleveland just keeps getting better and better. Old Brooklyn has two of those reasons with two very cool artisan food shops. I learned about Cleveland Jam on New Day Cleveland and had heard about Old Brooklyn Cheese Company since the day they opened and Bite Buff wrote about it. I combined both of them one day in early March when I needed cheese for a grilled cheese party I was attending and decided to buy Cleveland Jam’s Elliot Ness Fig Apple Jam to bring as well. I’ve been back several times since.

Since it is a start-up, Cleveland Jam is only open in the evenings (Tuesday to Friday) after 5 PM and Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM, but you can also order it online and find it in some local stores (click here for their store locator). Imagine my surprise to find out that the conservatory and retail shop were literally across the street from my grandparents’ home on West Schaaf Road. If I had moved into the house instead of selling it after my uncle passed away a few years ago I would have been aware of them a lot sooner. I’ve always loved that property, with its cool greenhouses and copper roof on the home. Those greenhouses are now housing grape vines, and the property features a retail shop, where owner Jim Conti sells products made with local beer and wine. Conti hopes to eventually turn the greenhouse into a winery. A graduate of viticulture and enology studies at Kent State University, Conti carried on his family’s tradition of winemaking and was looking for a way to reuse the leftover sediment. He came up with the idea of making jams and jellies. He stocks jellies made with white zinfandel, merlot, cabernet, shiraz and chardonnay. That then spun off to using the sediment from Great Lakes Brewing Co. beers to make his Eliot Ness Fig and Apple Jam and Burning River Pepper Jam and from Catawba Island Brewing Company. All of their products are available to sample in the retail store, and they also sell products from Cleveland Popcorn, Bearded Buch, Cleveland Tea Revival, and Randy’s Pickles there.

I have four jars of Cleveland Jam in my refrigerator. His Rock and Roll Merlot is a favorite, but the Bangin Blueberry IPA is my absolute favorite. I use them a lot on toast with or without cream cheese, but you can also cook with them. Their website has quite a few recipes for chicken and meat. I paired the fig and apple jam with brie and candied walnuts from Old Brooklyn Cheese Company at the grilled cheese party I went to that weekend, and everyone loved the combination.

When they heard why I wanted the jam they told me I had to go to the Old Brooklyn Cheese Company. I was pleased to tell them that was my next stop. I hopped in my car and headed down W. Schaaf, took a right on Pearl Road and found parking right in front of the storefront (there is also a parking lot in back). It is located on Pearl just before the bridge. Owner Michael Januska has opened a great little artisan cheese store selling his own cheeses as well as lots of very well-known brands like Cowgirl Creamery and Kokoborrego and area favorites Lake Erie Creamery and Yellow House Cheese. I also bought a pound of raclette since I was having some friends over for raclette that weekend. Januska funded much of his production kitchen for Old Brooklyn Cheese Co. through contributions on Kickstarter, which surpassed its goal. In addition to selling aged cheeses, Januska is making his own products like the Chupacabra in a state-of-the-art production kitchen and aging others on site in one of three cheese caves. Januska has partnered with Hartzler Family Dairy in Wooster to supply its grass-fed, non-GMO, raw milk produced within 50 miles from where it will be transformed into cheese. The staff, which includes Januska’s fiance Angie, really know their stuff here and gladly serve samples so you can taste before you buy. One of their employees, Morgan, makes the most delectable spreads like one with goat cheese and apples or feta and olive. I brought the feta and olive spread to the grilled cheese party, but also bought a tub for my own consumption. They also sell local products like Old City Soda, Hartzler milk, Randy’s Pickles, Cleveland Jam, Montana Girl Mustard, candied walnuts, baguettes from Blackbird Bakery, and handcarved cheese boards shaped like Ohio (to just name a few) as well as Losada Olives (which I have loved since Counter Culture last year), infused oils and vinegars, and other artisan brands.

I started following them on Instagram and when they announced their raclette grill had arrived to make sandwiches I was the first customer to order one. The grill melts the cheese, which is then scraped onto a baguette and served with prosciutto, Randy’s Pickles and my choice of Montana Girl Mustard or a Old Brooklyn Cheese Company mustard. I choose the OBCC mustard. I picked out an Old City soda and waited for my sandwich to be ready. It was very good, if a little salty. I definitely think it is a treat that most people don’t know about, despite it being extremely popular in Switzerland and other European countries.

Contact info:

Cleveland Jam Conservatory
1300 W Schaaf Road
Cleveland, OH 44109
(440) 390-1170

Old Brooklyn Cheese Company
4138 Pearl Road
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 860-4000

Saucisson

Since I wrote about The Red Chimney in my last post I decided to stay in Slavic Village for the next one as well. Started in 2013, Saucisson’s mission is to provide unique and hard to find products. From hand cured meats to specially spiced sausages, Saucisson supports local farms that are humane and hormone free. The lady butchers at Saucisson, Melissa Khoury and Penny Barend, made a name for themselves selling at the local farmers markets, hustling at pop-ups, and providing their bold rillets and charcuterie for restaurants around town. After working out of the kitchen at the Katz Club Diner, they recently opened a storefront on Fleet Avenue just off I-77. Full disclosure: I was a Kickstarter backer (“Babs backer”) to help them fund the storefront, and I am really pleased with what they have done. I stopped in on the day they opened on March 16 and have been back several times since. They were serving nachos that day (see photo right). I have been buying their sausages, mortadella and currywursts since before the place opened, but I love seeing their thick and nicely marbled pork chops and strip steaks as well as all the other meats they are butchering there. They made a Canadian bacon that was absolutely perfect a little while ago, and they are known for their tasso ham and beef jerky. The freezers and coolers are stocked with their frozen soups made with their products, rendered lard, ground meat, and soup bones as well as other products from other local vendors like LeCracker, Cleveland Kraut, and Montana Girl Mustard.

They are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11-7 (and processing and prepping in their huge, clean kitchen in back on the other days) and serve a tasty lunch special as well. They also advertise their pop-ups at local restaurants and cafes like brunches at Rising Star or most recently their Memorial Day picnic at Terrestrial Brewing Company. You can follow them on Instagram to find out what they are serving each week and where they will be holding their next pop-up.

When I stopped in for lunch a few weeks ago I enjoyed their BBQ chicken sandwich with pickled pepper and red onion slaw and their homemade smokey sausage navy bean soup. The chicken was moist and delicious, the kraut was not at all overpowering, and the soup had just a hint of smoky spice to it that I loved. They have a few tables where you can sit and enjoy your meal. The place is light and bright, with floor-to-ceiling windows. The neighborhood is excited they are there, and they are talking with some urban farms in the area to sell their products. So be sure to check them out and support them!

Contact info:

Saucisson
5324 Fleet Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44105
(216) 303-9067