Thursday, October 20, 2011

Open Door Cafe - Menno, South Dakota

After Mike’s 50th High School Class Reunion in Watertown, we headed for home – October 2.   We left California on August 14, with a long list of people to visit and interests to pursue.  After 50 days on the road, we needed a vacation from vacation.

The last stop of our trip was Vermillion, SD, where my High School friend, Ann, lives.  I couldn’t leave South Dakota without visiting her.  Ann told me about an article in the September Issue of South Dakota Magazine.  The article, written by Katie Hunhoff, is about the Open Door Café in Menno, SD.

 “I want to drive you to  Menno.  It is only 61 miles from here.  We could have lunch,”  Ann said.

Menno, population 780, was settled by Germans from Russia.  The café, open seven days a week, is on Main Street.  It is run by Rita and Jerome Hoff who have been serving German specialties since 1986.  Rita makes her dishes from scratch and uses produce from local gardens.  

Tuesday’s menu always includes one or more German dishes.  Fleish Kuchle is the favorite.  Thursdays she bakes Kuchen, and on Sunday they serve a big buffet for the church goers. Weekdays, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the Open Door Café serves food to the Senior Citizens of the town.

Even though it was Monday when we visited the café, Rita fried us some Fleish Kuchle so we could taste it.  She offered  her recipe.

Rita’s Fleish Kuchle

Ingredients:  1 stick margarine, 1 cup warm milk, 1 egg, ½ teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon cream of tartar, and 4 cups flour.

Melt margarine and cool.  Add milk, baking powder, salt and eggs.  Mix.  Add flour.
Filling: 4 pounds hamburger, salt, pepper, chopped onion. 
Mix meat mixture.  Roll out dough to thickness of pie dough.  Cut into 4” x 4” squares.  Put one heaping tablespoon hamburger filling in center.  Fold in half.  Seal edges   Fry in 350 degrees oil for 7 minutes.

Ann and I ate lunch and visited with Rita and Jerome.  Their families came from the Black Sea region of Russia.  We discussed the similarities and differences of the foods from the Volga area and the Black Sea. 

If you are ever in the southeastern part of South Dakota, stop at the café.  Rita and Jerome are terrific people and cook good German Russian foods.

And, “thanks again, Ann.  I would never have discovered this treasure without you!"

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gwen's Schmeckfest

September 15, my husband and I traveled in our 5th wheel trailer from North Dakota to Minnesota.  We made a stop in White Bear Lake to visit Gwen Cowherd and her husband, Phil.  Over the past two years, Gwen  and I have become email pen pals.  We share an interest in writing, cooking, and we both like to grow a garden.  Gwen and I have a love and respect for our culture and it is important to both of us to pass our heritage down to our children and grandchildren.  While Gwen and I were visiting, she said, “We are both one hundred percent German Russian, you know.”  

The day before we were scheduled to arrive at her house, Gwen told me on the phone that she had prepared some German Russian foods for us to eat.  When I walked into her kitchen, I was astounded!  She had homemade foods for us, all right!.  She had prepared a traditional “Schmeckfest”.

The foods she prepared included:  Knoepfla Suppe, Halupsie, Baked Rice, Cream Cucumbers, Rhubarb Kuchen, Prune Kuchen, and the most delicious Apple Pie. 

She fixed sausage she had ordered from Napoleon, North Dakota.  We ate these delightful dishes together to celebrate our heritage.

After a delightful visit, we could not leave without “food to go”.  This is a German Russian tradition.  When you visit someone’s house, you end up well fed and you must take food with you.  Gwen packed up kuchen, soup, homemade watermelon pickles,  red beet pickles, and  homemade salsa.  Oh, yes.  And a grocery bag full of spiral bound cookbooks  because we both have a passion for them.

Meeting Gwen was definitely one of the high lights of my trip.  After reading Gwen's story in the Winter 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia,  I felt  connected to her.  Her story, "The Girls of '66", won second Place in the 2009 AHSGR Storytelling Contest.