Thursday, 6 November 2014


A few years ago I stumbled upon a magazine article about Hotel Copernicus in Kraków. Just two things from the article have stuck in my mind: the hotel's Medieval origins and a wonderful view of the Wawel Castle stretching from the roof terrace. The hotel is often visited by celebrities staying in Kraków (including my favourite actor, Benedict Cumberbatch) but because I'm definitely not a celebrity, the only thing I could do was to stroll along quaint Kanonicza street and wonder what's hidden behind this impressive Gothic facade.

However to my great surprise and delight, a few weeks ago I received an email inviting me for “snacks” and a press conference with a famous Austrian chef Simon Taxacher, which was going to take place in the Hotel Copernicus itself. As you can guess, I couldn't miss such an opportunity. :)

The meeting took place on the 17 October 2014 as part of the prestigious Gourmet Relais & Châteaux Festival, whose highlight was a seven-course dinner prepared by Simon Taxacher, an acclaimed chef (awarded numerous prizes, including 2 Michelin stars) and the owner of an Alpine hotel and restaurant Rosengarten in Tyrol, Austria.

Here are a few interesting facts that caught my attention during the conversation around a solid, wooden table in the hotel restaurant.
  • Simon Taxacher combines regional products from Tyrol with ingredients from other countries so that his cuisine is both local and varied
  • he pays a lot of attention to not only the look and structure of his dishes, but also the tableware on which they're served
  • because he usually works up to 16 hours a day in his restaurant, at home he prepares only simple, quick dishes
  • he values team-work and thinks highly of his co-workers
  • even though he's pleased with the awards and praises, he always cooks to please his clients, not critics   

The “snacks” mentioned in the invitation email were actually three of the seven dishes from the menu prepared for the festival dinner. The food was not only delicious but also beautifully served. Some dishes looked like little pieces of art. Sommelier Andreas Katona matched the food with Austrian wines. And this is what we had a chance to eat:

Beetroots (old variety), sea-buckthorn, cottage cheese

According to Mr Taxacher, the beetroots are grown in a traditional way in Tyrol. They were served with mountain cottage cheese, sea-buckthorn and beetroot juice meringue. All the ingredients created a perfect blend of flavours but I especially liked the delicious, creamy cottage cheese made by the chef and his team from Alpine cow milk. The beetroots were served with 2012 Grüner Veltliner wine with a spicy, black pepper flavour.

Veal cheek, date malt, Jerusalem artichoke

Apparently beef cheek meat is a relatively rare restaurant dish as it's often used for veterinary inspections. That's why the chef has to cooperate with a vet who won't destroy the meat structure during the check-up. I can't say anything about the veal cheek as I don't eat meat but Ada from blog Pora coś zjeść praised its taste and tenderness. In the meantime, I happily nibbled at the date sauce and all the titbits served with the meat, especially Jerusalem artichoke – a traditional but now forgotten vegetable which is slowly coming back into culinary fashion. Even though I'm not a great fan of red wine, I fell in love with 2009 pinot noir from a small Austrian vineyard. It was definitely one of the best wines I've ever tried.

Garden - plums, nitro-chocolate, gin and tonic

For dessert, we had nitro-chocolate, in other words chocolate foamed with liquid nitrogen and tasting like something between chocolate mousse and ice cream. It was served with a delicious plum sauce, gin and tonic mousse and fresh clovers. The pink dessert wine Rosenmuskateller had a pleasant rose flavour but was a tad too sweet for my liking.

The whole meeting passed off in a pleasant atmosphere. I left the hotel with new culinary experiences, new acquaintances and a box filled with delicious things from Tyrol (including my favourite elderberry syrup). Finally, I discovered what's hidden behind the Gothic facade of the Hotel Copernicus and I must admit reality exceeded my (already high) expectations.

PS. I would like to thank the owners and staff of Hotel Copernicus for their invitation, professional organization of the meeting and a warm welcome. Special thanks to Simon Taxacher and his whole team for preparing all the delicious dishes and for sharing with us his culinary expertise. It was a great pleasure to meet you all. :)

Address: Hotel Copernicus, Kanonicza 16, Kraków (Old Town)

Address: Hotel Restauracja Spa Rosengarten
Aschauerstrasse 46, 6365 Kirchberg, Tyrol, Austria

Gourmet Relais & Châteaux Festival:

Friday, 17 October 2014


This weekend my American friend came to visit me in Kraków and I was faced with a culinary puzzle. Where can I find a restaurant serving dishes which are gluten-free (Kathryn is gluten-intolerant), vegetarian (we both don't eat meat) and, most importantly, tasty? I found the solution to this riddle on the Internet (e.g. here and here) and below you can read an account of our culinary adventures.


Almost every foreigner visiting Poland wants to try our famous pierogi (Polish dumplings) but where can I find pierogi which are gluten-free? Apparently, in a restaurant near the Wawel Castle called Pod Baranem, which has probably the widest array of gluten-free dishes in Kraków. Our pierogi ruskie (Russian-style dumplings with cottage cheese and potato filling, PLN 24) and pierogi with cabbage and mushrooms (PLN 25) were delicious – covered in melted butter with fried onion and full of yummy filling. The effect was spoiled by dough which was slightly too thick but Kathryn explained that it could have been the fault of the gluten-free flour. All in all, we left the restaurant full and happy.

Address: Pod Baranem, św. Gertrudy 21, Kraków (Old Town)


The following day, we had breakfast in Shake & Bake cafe close to the Bagatela Theatre, which serves gluten-free pastries and shakes. Savoury muffins (with cheese and olives) were very nice but unfortunately they were sprinkled with huge salt crystals turning the muffins into a salt mine. Luckily, brownie with peanut butter was very nice and almost salt-free. In the cafe, we were accompanied by two pink dwarfs and a cute pink deer. :)

Address: Shake & Bake, ul. Dunajewskiego 2, Kraków (Old Town)


We had a hard time choosing our food in a vegetarian restaurant Cafe Młynek because all gluten-free dishes and desserts seemed really nice. Finally, we followed advice from a friendly waitress and ordered crunchy potato pancakes and spicy pasta with vegetables and hot pepper. The servings were so big that we didn't have any space for dessert. But after lunch we stayed in the restaurant's beer garden to sip coffee with cardamom and hot ginger lemonade and admire the view of the quaint Wolnica Square.

Address: Cafe Młynek, Plac Wolnica 7, Kraków (Kazimierz)


Fortunately, most of the drinks are naturally gluten-free so we could safely venture into my favourite cafes: Mleczarnia in Kazimierz (you can read more about it here) and Forum Przestrzenie near the Vistula River (it serves really nice coffee and home-made lemonade). We spent the evening in Domówka Cafe, sipping cider and playing a funny board game about shopping in the communist era called “Kolejka” (which means “queue” in Polish). On the whole, I think Kathryn's stay in Kraków was a great success, both from the social and culinary point of view. :)


Here are a few other gluten-free restaurants and cake shops which were also on our list but we didn't have enough time to visit them.

WieloPole3 (read more here) – restaurant with unusual vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes Wielopole 3 (Old Town)
La Manzana – gluten-free Mexican restaurant, Miodowa 11 (Kazimierz)
Red – gluten-free cake shop, Smoluchowskiego 7 (Bronowice)
NovaKrova – gluten-free began burgers, Plac Wolnica 12 (Kazimierz)

PS. All photos in this post courtesy of Kathryn.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


“Is it even edible?” asked my friend, looking sceptically at our saffron ice cream. “Not only edible, but also very nice,” I replied. “Though it would be even better combined with another, more distinctive flavour.”

We were sitting on my favourite stone bench in Plac Szczepański in Kraków, contemplating the summer dusk falling over the city. The splash of multicolour streams of water from the magic fountain mingled with a lively hubbub of voices from the nearby beer gardens. My best friend EB was sitting next to me, eating pensively her Persian saffron and Persian rose ice cream.

A few days earlier I'd discovered the source of all these Persian delicacies: an inconspicuous-looking ice parlour called Tiffany. We were served by the friendly owner, who imports some of the ice cream ingredients, including saffron, roses, pistachios and cardamom, from his native Iran. The ice cream is prepared only from fresh, natural products and it actually shows - while eating the refreshing mango-flavoured ice cream (which, fortunately, had nothing in common with the disgusting artificial flavouring found e.g. in yoghurt), I could even feel the texture of a fresh mango.

One scoop costs PLN 3 or 4 (depending on the flavour) but it's really huge. Friendly staff, delicious, natural ice cream and unusual flavours are a great reason to visit the ice cream parlour again and again. The only minus is the name, which doesn't really try to evoke the spirit of the Middle East, and the shoddy interior design. Luckily, you can always follow our suit and sit outside on the nearby bench, from where you can admire Plac Szczepański with its quaint art-nouveau buildings and the magic fountain.

Here you can read more about my favourite ice cream parlours in Kraków.

Address: 7 Plac Szczepański, Cracow (Old Town)
Website: link

Sunday, 21 September 2014


I've never been a great fan of meat but a few months ago I stopped eating it altogether. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants in Kraków serve a rather limited set of vegetarian options - only pancakes, pierogi (dumplings) and salads. That's why when I feel like eating something unusual, I go to a vegetarian restaurant WieloPole 3.

It's situated in 3 Wielopole Street, near the Main Post Office in Kraków. Because the restaurant is in the basement and has dark walls, it is always quite dim. The interior décor is ascetic: simple wooden tables and chairs, scanty decorations and a kind of baking paper in place of a tablecloth or table mats.

Fortunately, the quality of food compensates for any décor shortcomings. The menu is very short and changes seasonally, which is a big plus. It's dominated by fresh vegetables and various groats, including bulgur, which is very popular not only in its native Turkey but also, apparently, in Scandinavia.

I also liked buckwheat balls with horseradish and apricot sauce (PLN 10) but my favourite dish is potato pancakes – served with poached egg or fried mushrooms (around PLN 10). They have crunchy crust and big chunks of potatoes – exactly how I like them.

The restaurant's flagship drink is a mix of barley grass juice, apple juice and lavender syrup (PLN 4.50). The drink is nutritious and refreshing but if you don't like the taste of lavender, you should try home-made lemonade with elderflower syrup. For dessert, you can eat a small but quite tasty chocolate cake (PLN 7.50)

WieloPole 3 is a great place for an inexpensive, original lunch or dinner. I highly recommend it especially to vegetarians, vegans, people on a gluten-free diet, and everyone who wants to try healthy, wholesome food that doesn't taste like cardboard.  

Pros: tasty, unusual vegetarian dishes, affordable prices, friendly staff
Cons: gloomy interior, baking paper instead of tablecloths

Address: Wielopole 3, Kraków (Old Town)

PS. A new tab with a list of autumn food festivals in Kraków is available at the top of the page. :)

Sunday, 6 July 2014


Aleksander Gierymski, , In the Arbour, 1882, fragment
Eating on the grass is not only a pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon, but also a graceful subjects of numerous art works. Thanks to the invention of paints in tubes, painting in the open air became much, much easier in the 19th century and artists could show their friends what they ate during their picnic even before Instagram.

Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-1881
The picnic paintings were especially popular in France, where Manet created his famous The Luncheon on the Grass (Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe) and Renoir painted Luncheon of the Boating Party (Le déjeuner des canotiers). Similarly, some Polish 19th-century painters created picnic paintings and the two most interesting examples include In the Arbour (W altanie) by Aleksander Gierymski and The May Sun (Słońce majowe) by Józef Mehoffer.

Aleksander Gierymski, , In the Arbour, 1882
Let's look at this idyllic scene in the garden. Two elegant but slightly bored ladies in wigs and exquisite dresses are sipping tea and listening to the conversation of the men drinking wine. The wine-skin lying on the ground suggests that this stiff party is slowly warming up. This picture, titled In the Arbour, was painted in 1882 by Aleksander Gierymski – an artist working in Warsaw, Cracow and Rome. The sitters are dressed up in the clothes from the rococo era – an 18th-century artistic movement famous for its bucolic genre scenes filled with charming shepherds and shepherdesses, cheerful putti and pale, pastel colours.

Jean-Antoine Watteau, Les Champs Elysées, 1717-1718
Gierymski's painting alludes to the artistic and literary tradition of hortus deliciarum - the garden of earthly delights. However – unlike the playful, carefree rococo scenes – In the Arbour has an air of melancholy. Even though the arbour is bathed in warm golden sunlight and the picnickers are drinking appetizing beverages, their eyes are sad, pensive, as if some deeper sense of unease lurked under the mask of the idyllic carefreeness. 

Józef Mehoffer, The May Sun, 1911
Similar melancholy pervades The May Sun (1911) by Józef Mehoffer, a renowned Polish painter and decorative artist, who was one of the leading exponents of the Young Poland movement. In 1897, Mehoffer wrote in his diary: “I've got a number of ideas of light, very sunny, colourful paintings. […] The general idea is: the idea od life – delight – pleasure – amusement – light – sun and warmth.” The most famous example of these sunny paintings is Strange garden with a mysterious dragonfly hovering above an the artist's wife and son standing in the orchard.

Józef Mehoffer, The Strange Garden, 1903
However, The May Sun seems to be equally enigmatic. It depicts a porch with a set table and the artist's wife standing next to the gate impatiently awaiting someone. The scene was painted in the artist's summer house in Janówka near Kraków, where Mehoffer spent a lot of carefree holidays with his family. The table is filled with two china cups, a green sugarbowl and a shiny samovar as if the artist was about to have tea with his beloved wife Jadwiga Janakowska. However, her folded arms and turned face suggest that there is some mystery in this Arcadian garden. Hot air filled with the scent of lilac on the porch seems to quiver with Jadwiga's hidden uneaseness.
Józef Mehoffer, The May Sun, 1911 fragment
Both canvases are wonderful examples of Polish painting at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Perhaps because of the current historical situation in Poland, the artists of this period seemed unable to shake off the sense of sadness and anxiety, which pervades even these seemingly idyllic paintings. Interestingly, unlike their French fellow artists, neither Gierymski, nor Mehoffer painted any food on their picnic tables. Tea, wine and melancholy – this is all they could offer the people inhabiting their picnic scenes. 

Aleksander Gierymski, In the Arbour (1882), oil on canvas, The National Museum in Warsaw
Józef Mehoffer, The May Sun (1911), oil on canvas, The National Museum in Warsaw

Józef Mehoffer, The May Sun, 1911 fragment

The article has been printed (in Polish) in Magazyn Apety: link.

Józef Mehoffer, The Strange Garden, 1903, fragment

Sunday, 29 June 2014


Do you also have an impression that there are more and more films in which food plays the leading role? Here's a short list of the most recent culinary films. I haven't seen any of them yet but they all seem to be an interesting view on the artistic side of food. :)

The Lunchbox – a subtle love story set in Mumbai. The role of the love's messanger is played by the curry lunchbox prepared lovingly by the main female character. Trailer

Delicious - a film about a romance between a young passionate cook (Nico Rogner) and a woman suffering from an eating disorder (Louise Brealey – better known as Molly from BBC 'Sherlock'). Trailer

Chef – a commedy about a visionary chef (Jon Favreau) who quits his job in a restaurant and opens his own food truck with Cuban sandwiches. The film is studded with American stars, including Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sofía Vergara and Dustin Hoffman. Trailer

Two Greedy Italians – a BBC programme about two famous chefs and food experts, Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo, who travel around Italy talking with relish about the real Italian cuisine. Trailer

The Trip to Italy – a similar idea to “Two Greedy Italians” but, unlike the BBC programme, it is a feature commedy starring two famous British actors, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Trailer

And what other films about food can you recommend? :)

PS. Before you go to the cinema, check out this hillarious trailer of Electric Cinema, one of the oldest working cinemas in London, and see how many British actors/celebrities you can recognize. :)  Trailer

Saturday, 21 June 2014


Here we go with the second part of the story about my Roman adventures. Part 1 is available here.

No visit to Italy can be complete without real Italian gelati. That's why my friend and I went to Giolitti, an ice cream parlour near the Pantheon, which is recommended by most of the guidebooks. It was a very touristy place but the taste of the ice cream was worth the wait in a long, chaotic queue consisting of tourists from around the world. The vendors majestically served big scoops of gelati, trying to pay as little attention to the frenetic crowds as possible. My chocolate and pistachio ice cream were absolutely brilliant! The only disappointment was the champagne flavour ice cream – it did taste of champagne but, to be honest, it was barely edible.

Among the more interesting things I ate in Rome was mozzarella di bufala – cheese made from buffallo milk. Not bull's milk – as my friend jokingly suggested. ;) I also tried a mysterious fruit called nespola (loquat), which tasted like a cross between an apricot and pear. I wonder if it's available somewhere in Poland?

On our way back home, we stopped in a Tuscan town to make supplies of genuine Italian food. I bought loads of pasta, pesto, olive oil and cantucci – delicious almond biscuits from Tuscany. Because cantucci are really dry, you need to soak them in coffee, tea, or preferably in Tuscan fortified wine called vin santo. Below you can see a photo of cantucci and vin santo taken by my friend Jasmine during her trip to Pisa. It was delicious! :) 

Rome enraptured me with its art, cuisine and friendly atmosphere. I especially loved the quiet neighbourhood of Trastevere, where carefree kids were playing football in front of an ancient church, Italian mammas were hanging out the washing, and the life was going by very lazily.

Even though a lot of the monuments in Rome are impressively huge and lavish, I didn't feel any pompousness that can be found, for example, in Paris. In the narrow, winding streets, happy dogs walk with their elegant owners, cats live in the ancient ruins and the Forum Romanum smells of freshly mown grass. The city is full of greenery, fountains and crystal-clear water reportedly transported through aqueducts from the mountains.

But not everything in Rome was so perfect. Apart from the crowds teeming around the most popular sites, my visit was constantly interrupted by street pedlars who tried to sell either sunglasses or umbrellas (depending on the weather, which was very changeable). After a while I was afraid that when I open the fridge in my hotel, a pedlar will jump out of it screaming “Ombrello!” and shoving an umbrella into my face. :P

Finally, I discovered that in Italy not all that looks delicious is real. For example, the yummy cupcakes you can see in the photo below are... bath bombs. Fortunately, their soapy smell warned before I had a chance to take a bite. ;)

Giolitti (ice cream parlour), Via Uffici del Vicario 40, Rome, Italy, www

PS. If you'd like to read more stories about my travel, you can check the tab “My culinary trips” at the top of the page. :)