On Fat Tuesday, Chicagoans of all walks of life embrace Polish traditions, devouring paczkis, the ever-so-popular hole-less doughnuts that provide joy and a reliable sugar rush. Given Chicago’s reputation to push the culinary envelope, it’s not surprising that chefs are being creative with unique spins on the item. So this year, Chicagoans can get acquainted with the Truffle Paczki, a collaborative effort from the South Side.
This decadent treat was begot in Bridgeport. For that last three years, Marz Community Brewing has been inviting neighborhood bakeries from across the city to participate in Paczki Fest, where Marz would peddle special beers, and patrons would hang out and pickup paczkis. The pandemic has Marz postponing the event this year.
That doesn’t mean Marz will dial it down for 2021, as they’ll still release its annual Paczki Stout, a 7 percent ABV lactose milk stout with cocoa nibs. The beer captures the holiday flavors in liquid form. Marz has also tapped the talents of Kelly Ijichi and Randi Howry, the duo who make up Mom’s. They cook up katsu sandos, ramen, and more for Marz’s brewpub. Marz also brought in a ringer: Rodrick Markus of Rare Tea Cellar. Markus supplies unique gourmet ingredients like honeys, truffles, and oils to restaurants and home cooks. He enjoys a ridiculous project, bestowing the ingredients for two decadent $500 doughnuts with edible gold and caviar that were sold at ComplexCon two years ago.
With that lineup, Ijichi and Howry went to work. They have experience with doughnuts, having fried up desserts for their old food stall inside Politan Row in West Loop. The end product is Truffle Paczki topped with shaved winter truffle and edible gold leaves. It’s filled with a vanilla custard augmented by Acacia honey and truffle bits.
“It’s such a Chicago thing to do,” says Howry.
Ijichi adds: “It’s a truffle bomb; it’s assertive. That’s kind of the point of doing something like that.”
A paczki can weigh in at more than 400 calories, which is one of the reasons bakeries don’t offer them on their menus year-round. But, as Ijichi says, paczkis are something to look forward to, and in the middle of a pandemic that means even more.
Paczki Fest was a community builder, bringing together vendors like Mom’s and Bridgeport Bakery, under Marz’s roof. Howry and Ijichi were quick to credit the Bridgeport and Weber’s bakeries, two institutions that helped make Paczki Day a Chicago tradition. The ridiculousness of a Truffle Paczki could not exist if not for the efforts of neighborhood bakeries across Chicago.
2021 won’t see long lines of customers waiting for paczkis: “We absolutely miss the customer interaction,” Howry says.
But it’s not that radical of a change. In recent years, more bakeries were relying on online preorders. Customers enjoy reserving the treats to ensure Fat Tuesdays aren’t disappointing. No one wants to miss out on the holiday tradition which a pandemic won’t even stop.
Truffle paczki ($40 with a four pack of beer) — along with vanilla custard and raspberry varieties — are available for order via Tock through Sunday, February 14. Pickup is noon to 6 p.m. on Fat Tuesday, February 16 at Marz, 3630 S. Iron Street.