Review: Rediscovering Vodka in the Heart of Polish Brooklyn at MOFAD May 25, 2017

Cover image: Canapés by Karolina Gumpert © Henri-Philippe Gares for WhereNYC

It had been a while since I last enjoyed a voddy, but a welcome-shot of Wyborowa Polish vodka turned the misty evening into a happy-cozy-jolly Brooklyn escapade. Carved out of an old garage, sits the Museum of Food and Drink on the edge of McCarren Park. For a first-time visitor, MOFAD was a lovely, warm surprise. Currently exhibiting Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant, I entered through a giant partition of Chinese take-away boxes.

Chinese take-away partition © Henri-Philippe Gares for WhereNYC

Looking around, we discovered a diverse group. All ages and an eclectic mix of the smart-dressed and casual mingling together while enjoying delicious canapés by Karolina Gumpert in collaboration with restaurants Le Fond and Karczma. Surprise, surprise!

On a display table, I discovered among other unexpected edible merchandise, some jars of Chapulines. These Mexican grasshoppers looked strangely enticing, straight from one of MOFAD’s previously daring showcases of traditional Mezcal and edible insects, which blended culture, history, science and food and drink.  Studying the table and enjoying my vodka, I knew I would learn a lot this evening!

Elizabeth Kaszarski-Skrabonja © Henri-Philippe Gares for WhereNYC

Guest speaker Elizabeth Kaszarski-Skrabonja shared a beautiful story about how her father almost became Mr. Polish Vodka for the US in the late 1930s. It was a romantic yet tragic tale of Poland, vodka, love and business between New York City and Poland, tragically interrupted by Hitler’s invasion in 1939. Fortunately, the drama led to Ms. Kaszarski-Skrabonja’s parents’ marriage – A very inspiring story that (helped by the vodka) took us back to a bygone world of nostalgia and new beginnings.

Center – Joel Lee Kulp, co-creator of the cocktail introduced during the event © Henri-Philippe Gares for WhereNYC

But wait! The point of the evening was also to introduce a new cocktail! A marriage of spirits from Poland and from right here including an unusual mix of vodka, gin and cider. It tastes a whole lot better than my crude description. This delight was put together by Joel Lee Kulp, the bright and friendly bar genius from The Richardson, a spirits-focused bar just around the corner. Of course the new cocktail had to have a hero’s name. The Kosciuszko Bridge.

Elizabeth Koszarski (second from left) © Henri-Philippe Gares for WhereNYC

The drink connects spirits from different continents. A beautiful way to honor Tadeusz Kościuszko the 19th century Polish hero that provided a name for the soon-to-be-destroyed bridge. May his name and spirit live forever in New Yorkers’ hearts!

And as an extra bonus, we sipped other less known Polish vodka brands. While they were all enjoyable and tasty, the popular Wyborowa was still the showstopper.

Azuz ensemble in action © Henri-Philippe Gares for WhereNYC

Keeping with the loungey vodka cocktails and mingling, Azuz Ensemble’s music was pleasant without being intrusive, which added to whole experience during the cocktail and canapé reception.

Don’t miss Discovering Taiwanese Tea talk and tasting on June 8 at MOFAD.

With special thanks to Henri-Philippe Gares for co-writing this article.

Manami Gares