Cat Tatiano reminds me, with soggy fur and a sudden liking to my lap, that it’s cold and rainy out there. As if I needed a reminder. My bones—the Russian-Polish-Ukrainian parts—know what they need: It’s dumpling time.In Juneau, I would naturally wend my way (or roll, depending on blood-alcohol) downhill to Pel’Meni, in the Merchants Wharf building. You got two choices: meat (tastier) or potato (less scary) dumplings. They come in styrofoam, with vinegar, curry powder, cilantro and sour cream. Ideal for the drunken, and the only chow available in the wee hours. And the one restaurant Juneau boasts that the Lower 48 doesn’t (excepting Bellingham, Wash., which is honorary Alaska).
So I thought.
A Juneau friend has just inquired about a Madison-area Pel’Meni. Alas, I report. It was on student-infested State Street. It was owned by the same person as the Juneau location (last I checked, that was David and Jeannine Bonk), and apparently it inspired similar loyalty. It closed in scandal, reopened, and I think closed again. Last year the tubes were still clogged with wistful remembrances: Yelp laments, a Facebook page: “Bring Pelmeni Back to Madison.” A recipe (starting with frozen dumplings). But now it seems the only place for pel’meni is Arbat (3000 Cahill, Madison), which, judging from the menu’s vodka and caviar, sounds like more of a well-rounded dining experience, as opposed to a one-dish Siberian Hangover Helper.
Hell, I’ve got potatoes. I’ll make my own damn dumplings. Fillings? Internet experts suggest everything from brains to blueberries, neither of which I have in my fridge. I do of course have mushrooms.