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" or berocks!
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 F-S.
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 Report.