Polish foods in the Berkshires: Taste of the homeland
Maria's European Delights has found a niche in downtown Pittsfield.
Since the deli relocated from Great Barrington to North Street a year ago Saturday, owners Kris and Maria Sekowski of Lee have cultivated a clientele both familiar with Polish foods and those willing to try meats, cheeses, canned goods and other market items synonymous with their homeland.
From behind the counter, the natives of Poland also serve a loyal lunch crowd preparing their signature Polish ham on rye or hot kielbasa on a bun.
"When they try our sandwiches, they become their favorite on the menu," said Maria.
The deli's menu also includes German, Hungarian, Russian and other European delicacies, the majority brought in from New York City and all for the sampling.
"Before we sell anything, we let people try the food so they know what they are buying," said Kris. "We like to offer something no one else has in Berkshire County."
Maria's is among the Berkshire markets, eateries, butcher shops and civic groups keeping Polish culinary treats and traditions flourishing in a multi-ethnic county.
While communities such as Adams and the village of Housatonic have a rich Polish heritage, foods and recipes brought from Poland can be found throughout the area.
Bob's Country Kitchen in Lanesborough has been offering Polish dinners since Bob Oparowski opened the full service restaurant in 1976. The late Peter McGuire purchased the eatery in 2000, now run by his wife and three grown children following his death last June.
The McGuires wisely kept serving the popular Polish dishes and recently added a daily special, the Polish Platter, so regulars and new customers could sample the golumpkies, kapusta and kielbasa, with a side of rye bread.
"When my dad bought Bob's, it was a matter of, ‘If it isn't broke, don't fix it,'" said McGuire's daughter, Michelle McGuire. "The menu hasn't changed in over 30 years and we will continue to keep it that way."
In Savoy, Mountain Top Country Meats has developed a following, in part, due to offering Polish salami, kabanosy (dried sausage made of pork) and six kinds of kielbasa. Owner Mike Dolle opened the custom butcher shop and smokehouse 18 months ago across from the town hall on Route 116.
"Between [this past] Thanksgiving and Christmas, I sold 1,000 pounds of kielbasa -- and that's one person doing it," he said. "My favorite is the horseradish and cheese kielbasa, [but] the traditional kielbasa is the most popular of all the flavors."
The one-man operation carves up and processes meat products from livestock raised on regional farms; custom-made or to his liking -- either is a healthy choice, according to Dolle.
"My intention is to produce good, wholesome and all natural products for my community," said Dolle. "The simpler they are, the better they are for you."
Polish delicacies are also a seasonal favorite in early spring and turn up regularly at ethnic fairs, fundraisers and other community events throughout the year.
Already on some supermarket store shelves are Paczki (PUNCH-key), a doughnut-like deep-fried pastry consumed before the dietary restrictions of Lent for the Catholic faith. According to Polish tradition, Paczki are made from especially rich dough, containing eggs, fats, sugar and sometimes milk. They have fruit or cream fillings and can be glazed, or covered with granulated or powdered sugar.
For fans of homemade pierogi, the Polish dumplings stuffed with cheese, cabbage and/or potato are a popular fundraiser item for the Adam's-based Polish Women's Alliance.
The civic group starts taking orders in the fall and distributes the pierogies before Thanksgiving, so families can serve them during the holiday season, according to Vicki Moulen. Last year, Moulen and several other group members made 362 dozen, up from 290 when the fundraiser began in 2011.
"We have a lot of people familiar with the product and others who never tried them and come back for more," she said.
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