narratives of food, drink, & life

Tag: drink

Drinking Chocolate in Poland, or How to Survive a Thousand Winters

Krakow is a place that knows cold. In January, the mean temperature is 27 °F, and often the temperature dips far below that, especially in the evenings. The icy winters do little to cheapen the magic of this old city, however. All that is required to fight back the biting wind is a warm drink.
A subtle, yet important, distinction is made among some between hot chocolate and drinking chocolate; the difference being that drinking chocolate is made with melted chocolate, rather than powdered chocolate, or some kind of watered-down concentrate. We’ve discussed warming beverages before, but this one takes the cake.
At Nowa Prowincja near the old-town square in Krakow they serve a rich, buttery, hot chocolate that more closely resembles chocolate pudding than it does the thinned out excuse for hot chocolate in your average coffee shop.


The chocolate is continuously slow-churned, giving it a richness that is surprisingly smooth, and makes the cold winter nights just slightly more bearable.


Eau De Vie: Spirit Of The People


(photo by @valerian_)

There is a poetry to distilling spirits. I learned this first hand when I spoke with Lance Winters of St. George Distillery for Hearth Magazine a couple of months ago. Distilling a particular fragrance of fruit down to its essence is no small feat, and the process of distillation is in itself a kind of editing–if you cut too much your result is harsh. If you don’t cut enough, there is no definition.

Eau de Vie,  or a fruit-distilled spirit, is fascinating because of how variable, personal, each regional form of can be. Each one says something about the person who made it, and as much about the person who drinks it.


I am astounded by how pervasive homemade brandies are in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. In Montenegro and elsewhere they call it Raki, in Albania Rakija, in Hungary  Pálinkaand everywhere you go the methods and fruits are slightly different. One woman told me that her 85 year old grandmother insists that her continued good health stems from daily Pálinka shots. A coffee store owner (pictured above) in Belgrade pulled out a homemade bottle of Peach Rakija with our coffee orders one morning and poured us two glasses, insisting that it would settle our stomachs. I was getting a haircut in Buda and the hairdresser described with a gleam in his eye the Apple  Pálinka he distills in the wintertime for himself, and for his health.

I thought many times back to my conversation with Lance as I tried the varieties of Eau de Vie in the Balkans and surrounding countries. Some were viscous and sickly sweet, and others (one honey rakija in particular that I’ll never forget) shared more in common with Gasoline than fruit. But each said something distinct about the person, and the place from which they came.


(photo by @valerian_)

Towards the end of our stay in Hungary I was fortunate enough to be invited to a screening of a documentary about an Hungarian immigrant who had moved to Colombia. In the absence of pears or peaches he and his wife distilled their own  Pálinka out of mangos. So for them, Pálinka said as much about where they came from, as it did about where they were now.

How many can say that about their drink of choice?