Buttons and Berocks
Contributed by Diana Bell, Betty Weibert, Bernice Madden, Eileine
Schneider, Janet Jackson, Don and Nina Kisling, and Steve Kisling,
California District Council Report, number 20, Fall, 2001,
Our quest to understand where German-Russian foods are offered
to the California public led us in 3 directions: Russian originals,
cheese buttons and the berock.
Russian bakeries and delis typically serve the original versions
of some of our foods. You're likely to see packets of vareniki in
the frozen food cases, filled with cheese, mushroom or cherry. Alas,
they're tiny morsels, and not as tasty our robust Warenige, Kaese
Knoepfle or Kaese Nudel, but they are delicious when boiled and
drizzled with a little melted butter. You'll usually see the piroshki
- this is probably the ur-berock - either in the deep-fried or baked
version. Baked piroshkis are closer to our berock, though they are
often made of flaky dough and filled with chicken or even mushrooms.
While neither of these is a German Russian food, a stop at a Russian
deli may at least help satisfy your longing for "cheese buttons"
Kaese Knoepfle are available in Lodi, where you can enjoy our full-sized
cheese buttons at a traditional caf. Gary Webb bought LaVerne's
Coffee Shop from LaVerne Walth, when she retired after operating
her downtown eatery for 25 years. Webb has dropped the Knoephla
Soup and the Fleischkuechle from the menu, but still serves cabbage
rolls for lunch on Mondays and cheese buttons on Thursdays. Webb's
Coffee Shop, 116 N. School Street, Lodi, CA (209) 369-3533. Open
6-2 M-F, 6-12 Saturday The Four Corners Restaurant in Tracy specializes
in well-prepared meats. We spoke with Arvilla Reich, who is Black
Sea/Dakota German, and whose son Gary owns the restaurant, who said
that they serve cheese buttons every day. The restaurant is at 7505
West Linne Road, Tracy, CA (209) 836-4035. Open 7-8:30 M-Th, 7-9
We should probably pin our culinary hopes on the berock, considering
that it already is widely recognized. Several German Russian organizations
in Fresno have made berocks as fund-raising activities for many
years. Locals place their orders, volunteers work together to assemble
and bake them, then the customers drop in and pick them up, often
several dozen at a time. Berocks freeze and re-heat very well. Though
the organizations all rely on the same basic recipe, and many volunteers
work with more than one group, local partisans champion one or another
as the best berock in town! There are good commercial berocks in
Fresno, too. Ken Jaccard owns the Berrock Shop. Ken bought the business
12 years ago, and while he is not German Russian, he told us in
March that his is the only business in Fresno that specializes in
berocks. Similar to what Runza Restaurants has done in Nebraska,
he has stretched the concept of what a berock can be, and he sells
"Breakfast" and "Mexican" varieties. Another
specialty is his "mini-berock", a smaller version that
is popular for catering and party platters. Jim says that customers
from Volga German families typically order the traditional shredded
roast beef berock, though the ground beef version is his best seller.
Several bakeries and corner markets in Fresno sell berocks, too.
Ken thinks that the community's greatest exposure to berocks is
at the Fresno County Fair, where every year a vendor sells thousands
of them to eager buyers. The Berrock Shop, 2016 W. Bullard at West,
(559) 439-0402. Open 9-8 M-F, 10-8 Saturday.
The berock may just be the perfect food for California: quick to
prepare - just heat it up, easy to eat on the go, hot and savory
on the inside, crunchy on the outside.
The berock business in the Central Valley may be heating up. A
business called "American Flavors" in Fresno has been
advertising "Hawaiian berocks" on KMJ radio. We didn't
have time to learn about this business before we printed the newsletter,
but with KMJ upping its signal to 50,000 watts, our beloved berock
could soon be pitched to potential customers from San Fernando to
Red Bluff, from the Sierras to the Coast - to several million Californians!
Readers are urged to keep the "CDC Report" informed about
other California sources for our ethnic foods! Our address: California
District Council AHSGR, 3233 N. West Street, Fresno, CA 93705-3402.
Reprinted with permission of the California District Council