Plenty of Paczki

Clevelanders have been trying to temper their excitement for the last week or so, counting down to one of the most fabulous days of the entire year.

This Tuesday, February 17, is Paczki Day!

DSC_0728It’s true that most people refer to this particular day as Fat Tuesday, the day before the official start of Lent. Fat Tuesday, also known as Shrove Tuesday to Catholics, is traditionally the last chance to indulge in vices before a period of reflection and repentance. Fat Tuesday is typically associated with heavy drinking and acts of debauchery. But here in Cleveland, we’ve got other priorities!

Polish grandmas will tell you that pazcki originated because households needed to use up their lard, sugar and eggs before Lenten fasting began. These rich, pillowy pastries contained custard, fruit preserves or other fillings like poppyseed and cheese and were sprinkled with powdered sugar or salt.

DSC_0721Speaking of Polish grandmas, there’s no better way to be schooled on the principles of paczki than by the real deal. A visit to the heart of Parma’s Polish Village isn’t complete without meeting Eugenia “Mama” Polatijko who, with daughter Lidia Trempe, runs Rudy’s Strudel in the heart of Parma, 5580 Ridge Road. Mama’s warmth and Lidia’s effusive smile have kept customers faithful to this family-run institution for more than 60 years. We concur, it might also be the pastries, kolachki, strudels, cakes, pierogies, cabbage and soups that bring generations of people back again and again.

Bakers have been hard at work for the last week as the demand for paczki ramps up ahead of the annual celebration. Lidia calls this coming week “our Super Bowl” and she estimates they will make close to 60,000! Rudy’s serves up 26 sweet or fruit varieties including custard, apple, raspberry, prune and pina colada. Mama is in charge of making the homemade rose petal jelly now, just like Lidia’s “babcia” (grandma) did before her, which is Lidia’s favorite. Unique to Rudy’s, there are five savory “sandwich” style paczki that feature the traditional dough with heartier fillings, with names like The Murray Hill (Italian sausage, peppers and onion), and The West Parker (corned beef and cabbage).

“I truly believe that it’s VERY important that Paczki are not confused with a doughnut.  We call that the “D” word!” Lidia explains that paczki really are different; so much more rich and hearty on every level. True paczki contain triple the eggs, butter and filling than what you will find at most places.  “If they’re executed properly ,as they are at Rudy’s, you will notice that Pazki are DEFINITELY not a doughnut.”

DSC_0715Get a good night’s sleep on Monday night, and head to Rudy’s Strudel bright and early starting at 6 a.m. on Fat Tuesday for the annual Paczki Day Party for live polka music, the Sterles Country House food truck, pierogies and plenty of paczki.

As if things couldn’t get any better, Rudy’s collaborated with two other Cleveland businesses destined to bring paczki appreciation to a new level on Tuesday, Feb. 17!

For the first time, Rudy’s is making a pivo (beer) paczki, with flavor enhanced by the addition of Portside Distillery’s 216 beer in the dough and the brewery’s Rusalka Vanilla Stout in the butter cream filling. The pivo paczki are currently available at Rudy’s and will also be sold at Portside Distillery, 983 Front Avenue, Cleveland.

unnamed-1The Mitchell’s Ice Cream location on West 25th in Ohio City will offer Rudy’s famous pazcki with a side of ice cream starting at 11 :00 a.m. on Tuesday until they run out.  Enjoy your ice cream paczki safely in a cup with a spoon, or be adventurous and try to eat it like an ice cream sandwich. (We’re recommending short sleeves and plenty of napkins on standby.)

— Lisa Sands