Of the major ethnic dumplings, we usually think of pierogi as less than ravioli, gyoza, and dim sum. All too often, even in Polish-operated establishments, we are disappointed by doughy bland ones. But we love dumplings, so we keep trying in the knowledge that when pierogi are done right, they are as good as any other sort.
That’s why we we are enamored of Big Ski’s — the name of which is a conflation of Bend’s favorite winter pastime and the last three letters of typical Polish last names.
It’s a truck, actually a pair of trucks, one of which is located at a brewery: too good to be true! Tacos, sausages and burgers are all tasty beer fare, but pierogi are a smarter old-country brew companion. Empty stomachs are so well fortified by dough, potatoes, and butter.
We sidle up to the truck and are offered a sampler that includes one of each of the daily selection. The roster rotates depending on the season and the chef’s whims. So far, there have been many whims. The Big Ski’s Truck has been through dozens of pierogi variations in its experiments. It’s gone high-end with king crab and foie gras stuffed dumplings as well as low-end with a fluffernutter version.
The day we visit, the menu is perfect for matching with beers from the hosting Good Life Brewery. Traditional styles are represented by such fillings as potatoes and farmer cheese or sauerkraut and mushrooms. There are spicy options, too — a curious addition to a normally chili-free cuisine. One called Hell’s O.G. adds serrano and habanero chilies to the traditional potato and cheese mix.
Comfort food choices are very satisfying. BCB tastes like it’s inspiration — a bacon cheeseburger! Bob Father’s marinara with its mozzarella and pepperoni filling reminds us of that last doughy bite before you reach a pizza’s crust.
Clever fillings may be intriguing, they aren’t enough to make great pierogi. What we really like about the dumplings at Big Ski’s is their craftsmanship. All of them, classic and creative, are plump with filling and folded evenly by hand. They are fried in butter on cast iron skillets, developing a brown, slightly nutty-flavored coat. It’s a flavor that you don’t often experience in restaurants, but might recognize from home cooked meals.
Fried onions and sour cream are offered on the side, but neither is necessary. These pierogis don’t need additions. Besides, who puts sour cream on pepperoni pizza?