Krem Miskevich, 31, likes to describe her dream bar. It’s the vision of a vibrant and expressive queer chef who loves good food, loud music and big audiences.
In theory, this bar is an unpretentious, inclusive place for people to let off steam. Patrons do not order individual drinks; They opt for decanters of vodka and bottles of wine for their table with friends. High-energy, largely unnoticed music blares from the speakers, and when Krem is involved, you can expect a seasonal and clever take on modern Polish food.
“My whole game is drinking food,” says Krem, “food that supports drinking. … In Poland we make a shot of ice-cold vodka and a piece of herring, or a pickle, or beef tartare, or potato with farmhouse cheese, or sausage. Just easy. It’s the best.” And it’s one of the inspirations for Good Pierogi, Krems’ monthly pop-up, coming to Culver City on February 26.
Krem, a native of Warsaw, graduated from culinary school in Los Angeles before working as a chef in Copenhagen; Barcelona, Spain; and Warsaw. Her first job as a chef was in a restaurant attached to a nightclub in Warsaw. “During my breaks, I drank vodka and danced at the club,” Krem recalls, “then I would come back to the kitchen to cook.”
In Barcelona they fell in love with Spanish traditions around food and drink, especially cava bars where you order a small plate of food (e.g. morcilla sausage or marinated white anchovies) with every drink – places where Drinking and eating are not separate acts.
Good Pierogi’s menu changes with each pop-up. One night the star of the show is a traditional Warsaw tartare made with tuna instead of beef; the next is beet soup with kefir, radishes and lobster. Vinegar, spices, good dairy products, excellent dough and a skilful use of potatoes play a prominent role in Krem’s kitchen. Another menu features a Polish “loaded potato” with farmer’s cheese, radishes, herbs, and “razzle-dazzle.”
Krem rarely, if ever, repeats pierogi fillings that are inspired and seasonal. In October came the dumplings stuffed with kabocha squash, the sweet, buttery Japanese vegetable that glows through krems deliciously thin batter. In summer, Krem Pierogi is served with smoked bluefish, cottage cheese, leeks and celery. At the end of January, the Pierogi went vegan, a reflection of their desire to eat less meat, a meditation on January as a time when everyone is trying to be a little more health conscious.
You might think of a pierogi as something simple — stuffed with potatoes — especially if your experience was limited to your local grocery store’s freezer section. Krem describes walking through a pavilion at 3 a.m. and marveling at the equality. “Every time I see pierogi, [it says] potato [on the box]. And for me, yes, there is a filling with potatoes [in Poland]. But every single taste [in the store] has potatoes in it. Cheese and potatoes, spinach and potatoes, meat and potatoes.”
In Poland, on the other hand, pierogi can be filled with stewed duck, stewed veal, lentils, buckwheat, farmer’s cheese and sugar, cabbage or sauerkraut. “I’ll never stretch my filling with potatoes,” says Krem. “I want people to have four to six pierogi at a time. And I think I do. I think it’s possible to eat my pierogi without feeling stuffed.”
Krems cuisine is not just Polish; it’s also a reflection of her personality and her time in Los Angeles. They prefer to source ingredients locally rather than import products from Poland. The food is paired with “natural” wine. Sexy, fun music (Krem’s Picks) blows through the night. “I want to have fun with it, and I want people to have fun with me,” says Krem. “I really believe in energy transfer through food.”
On a January night, Krems pop-up was at Gravlax, a Scandinavian bar in Culver City. The menu included half a boiled egg with pickled mushrooms and mayonnaise on a snow-white plate next to a shot glass full of shochu — and elegantly straightforward kosher dill pickle soup. The vegetable broth — made with onions, carrots, celeriac, and fennel tips — was served in a bowl with diced kosher pickles, beef bacon, and a crunchy slice of Myrna potato.
Behind the bar, Krem made pierogi dough – a mixture of local finely ground flour, grapeseed oil, water and salt. Once the dough was formed, it was fed through a large pasta machine. The flattened leaves were then draped over a Pierogi press, after which Krem scooped a filling of buckwheat, dried apples and tomatoes into each cavity of the dough before pressing them shut with the machine. After Krem had curled the pierogi a little more, they were immediately plunged into a pot of gently boiling water, where they were gently nudged with a long steel spider as they cooked. The entire process, from dough to plate, took just a few minutes. Krem fanned out the pierogi on a plate and topped them with pickled mustard seeds, caramelized fennel, and onions for a flavorful, complex, and meatless serving.
Later, in the Gravlax, Krem – in a bright red apron – brought a shot of shochu to the bar, and everyone raised their glasses in return. The place was full. The music was loud. Krems Bar was realized for one night. I knew then that I would be doing it again next month – wherever Krem and Good Pierogi might be.
Good Pierogi will be on February 26 from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the platform in Culver City at 8850 Washington Blvd. @good_pierogi
https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2022-02-17/at-the-good-pierogi-its-all-about-food-that-supports-drinking Good Pierogi is all about ‘Foods That Support Drinking’