The Best Ciganska at the Christmas Market
By Allan Stevo
Bratislava, December 20, 2010, (BratislavaGuide.com) - Below are the ten finalists we chose for the 2010 Christmas Market Ciganska Pecienka taste testing. On one night, the judges sampled 10 ciganska pecienkas from each of the 10 finalists. The stand owners were not notified that the competition was taking place. Every one of these finalists makes a delicious ciganska - a solid piece of pork meat served on the Slovak roll called ¨zemla.¨ Typically, we found that most of the finalists also offered free condiments, unlimited hot peppers and sweet peppers and large helpings of caramelized grilled onions. Every one of these are good ciganskas, but when we asked our judges to get critical, they agreed not to hold back.
These three are located in Frantiskanske Square:
They make a good ciganska, but have a terrible system. The owners seem to miss the long lines of the previous regime. At U Srncika, you wait in line not once, but twice. You wait
in line to order and then you wait in an even longer line to pay. The cooks are happy people ready to take your order as quickly as possible and to do so with a smile. The cashier is
the opposite. Good ciganska, not worth the hassle. Luckily, the judges didn´t have to wait in line for this ciganska, so we knew they would give it a fair shot. Our judges found both the bun and meat to be too dry.
They are a hidden commodity in the corner of Frantiskanske Square. Their stand looks nice, but it feels like you are bothering them when you step to the window and try to order. Their stand just looks so enclosed, unlike some of the other welcoming, wide-open stands. They have started selling wine for 50% off, perhaps in hopes of attracting new customers to their stand. One of our taste testers praised this sandwich as ¨a higher standard.¨ They placed two pickled peppers on this sandwich without being asked for them. This was a pleasant surprise.
McGog is everywhere. They are at every vinobranie, every outdoor festival. You name it, they seem to be there. There can be no ciganska taste testing without this Slovak standard - McGog. McGog however caught a bad break. They served us a sandwich that left the judges debating ¨Is this pork?¨ for about five or six minutes.
The next four stands are located on the Main Square (Hlavne Square).
The Big Stand on the Main Square
A catering company runs this stand (or rather three stands). They do something unique with their ciganska - they add a spoonful of fresh cabbage to every sandwich. It nicely counters the rich and greasy taste that is typical of a ciganska pecienka. Our taste testers were split about this concept. It might have been too revolutionary for some of them.
All I can say about the owner of Bukat is that I imagine him to be a kind rich man. He probably spends most of his time away from home traveling the world, investing in exotic properties in Tahiti and the Maldives. Then, once a year, he says to himself ¨I love people, but I especially love the people of Bratislava, I will open a stand at the Christmas market and give everyone the most glorious ciganska pecienka at the
market for |2.70|, just to make everyone happier.¨ I realize how ridiculous this invention of my imagination sounds, but it is the image in my head of the kind man who operates the grill at Bukat in his characteristic goggles as he grills his meat and his customers stretch in a line 30 or 40 people long on a Saturday night. At Bukat sandwiches are grilled, not fried. ¨Very salty!!¨ commented one judge. ¨Too much MSG¨ commented another judge. ¨The best of the night, I want another¨commented a third judge. ¨Three pieces of meat!¨ commented a fourth judge. Some people love it some people think it´s too salty others think it´s the greatest ciganska out there. What do you think?
U Csaba has been around for a few years and offers a pleasant ciganska. Our taste testers were especially pleased with their onions, but were disappointed that it did not have enough meat ¨bad bun to meat ratio¨ commented one of our taste testers. ¨Where´s the meat?" commented another taste tester.
Made the decision this year to go with a double stand. They make a tasty ciganska on a good bun. ¨Not bad,¨ ¨Average, good bun,¨ ¨standard,¨ commented three of our taste testers.
The first stand on the left on Hviezdoslavovo Square
These guys in this unnamed stand sell lokse, strudla, wine and ciganska. They don´t seem to have much else, but seem to have customers coming through all day long. They stuff their lokse so much that eating one or two are plenty. These guys are kind and accommodating, which is the first step in making a customer the kind of ciganska he wants to have. They will give you all the hot peppers and pickled peppers you could possibly want. Their motto: ¨Ask and you shall receive.¨ Our taste testers were disappointed with the size of meat, however ¨a ciganska should have a piece of meat in every bite¨ said one taste tester. There was ¨too much gristle¨ said another. ¨Not good with pickles¨ said a third. The judges´ advice - take the sandwich without pickles.
Another nameless stand further down on the left
This man and woman team make the most visually attractive, spicy ciganska pecienka at the Christmas market, about that there is no doubt. They taste pretty good as well, which is why they made the list of finalists. For a photogenic ciganska however, in Bratislava there is no competition for this stand. ¨Not very flavorful meat¨ commented one taste tester. ¨Boring¨ said another taste tester.
U Troch Sobov - The Three Reindeer
They use meat from Bratislava´s favorite butcher - Orban, and don´t believe in fast food. During down time, they like to have few ciganska on the grill so that their meat doesn´t dry out and they can make the sandwich exactly to your specifications. It takes a while longer to get your sandwich there, but that´s time that you can spent getting to know the stand owners and hearing about the successes and failures of their day. They are generous with the condiments as well. ¨Meat too thin, bun too soft, it disappeared,¨ said one judge.
Click through to see which of the finalists were chosen by our judges as the top three ciganska pecienkas of 2010.
Click here to return to the Christmas Market Guide.