There was a sighting at Pub and Kitchen on Lombard Street - pierogi stuffed with confitted cabbage, fennel, and potato. They disappeared over the summer, but chef John Adams says they're due for a comeback.
One possible tweak? A roasted red pepper and beef-cheek stuffing, which would owe a debt to the exquisitely tender beef-cheek pierogi with wild mushroom and horseradish cream that Cleveland's Iron Chef, Michael Symon, made famous at his Lola. (Then again, they might stay vegetarian, employing another home-kitchen secret, this one from sous chef Rob Marzinsky's mom: shredding boiled cabbage right into the pierogi's mashed potato filling.)
So goes the upward - or maybe it's sideways - mobility of this humblest of comforting Eastern European peasant staples; the miracle of sour cream-infused dough and potato, christened with fried onion, and sanctified in a pool of butter.
It used to be rare to find retail pierogi outside the taprooms and freezer cases of Port Richmond, much less one stuffed with anything but potato and cheese, salty sauerkraut, or, on occasion, mushroom, dried plum, or ground pork.
That's still the canon there where stacks of the Polish American News at Syrenka, the weary steam-table eatery on Richmond Street, were stuffed last week with dates for polka dances and parades saluting, all through October, Polish American Heritage Month.
Syrenka offers big, chewy-doughy pierogi of the classic sort (50 cents extra for a cup of fried onion), as does Krakus Supermarket, across the littered street. A lighter, more flavorful panfried rendition, still hewing to the traditional fillings, comes out of the mom-powered kitchen at the New Wave Cafe, a bar a few blocks west of Syrenka down on Allegheny Avenue.
So it's nice, given the prepared pierogi's cloistered existence, to glimpse it out and about on occasion.
At Silk City, Fifth and Spring Garden, recently, chef Jay Henson was serving big, lightly fried half-moons of potato pierogi (with duck fat adding elasticity to the dough) under slices of savory, fall-apart beef brisket; on the side, crisp-fried, braised cabbage. I missed the night he subbed in slabs of Spam, which I can't say I regret.
But the pierogi's highest polish (if not Polish) this season is at Adsum, the "refined neighborhood bistro" that the former fine-dining chef - he ran Lacroix on Rittenhouse Square - Matt Levin has opened at Fifth and Bainbridge at the edge of Queen Village.
He isn't straying far from classic ingredients because, for now, pierogi are the singular vegetarian entree ($16 for four pierogi) on his mostly meat-and-fish-centric menu.
But as is his trademark, Levin pays painstaking attention to each component - for the filling, boiling Yukon potatoes and garlic in milk, and milling them through an ultrafine sieve; for the dough, lowering the butter and water content, but upping the amount of sour cream for maximum tenderness; for the onions, cooking Spanish onions with thyme until they take on a dark, "burned" aspect; and in place of the crowning dollop of sour cream - and the piece de resistance - smoking buttermilk over hickory, cooling it, then pouring it in a nitrous whipped-cream canister so it can be applied as a lush, but impossibly airy garnish; a balletic leap in the down-home polka hall.
Why pierogi, I ask him? Well, he says, Adsum is an homage to his own after-work cravings, not the rarefied fare he served on Rittenhouse Square. So there's beautifully fried chicken, and riffs on mac and cheese, and the like.
"But I have to say," says Matt Levin, "to tell the truth, my pierogi many times when I got home at 1:30 a.m. have been frozen Mrs. T's. I love eating them. They're just great food to eat and drink with."
Not to mention to dress up, now and then, and take out for a ride on the town.
Contact columnist Rick Nichols at 215-854-2715 or email@example.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/ricknichols.