At the end of this, Im asking for leads to Polish cuisine in the Bay Area.
If you like dried mushrooms, look into mushrooms imported from Poland. I finally found a source in SF.
The store owner opened the bin for a sniff and I almost fainted from pleasure. I think I may invent a new diet where I buy an ounce of dried Polish mushrooms and just take a whiff when Im hungry. Just the complex, earthy fragrance is filling and satisfying. At 60 - 150 dollars a pound, they should be. Think truffles. All you need is a bit for flavoring. You can use them anywhere youd use a dried Porcini or other variety. Youll find the dish has a new, intense and wonderful flavor.
Wild mushrooms are a big deal in Polish cuisine. Most cookbooks will have a separate chapter about them - both the fresh and dried varieties.
Seakor Polish Delicatessen , 5957 Geary Blvd (at 24th) carries the lovely mushrooms. Some are in a bin while others hang on a string from the ceiling. Seakor makes 4 kinds of kielbasa, an array of sausages which also hang from the ceiling. They also carry various wursts, cold cuts and Polish cheese. At Easter they have the traditional lamb-shaped butter.
On weekends they make a killer Polish cheesecake .wonderfully buttery and moist. Polish cheesecake is flat as brownies and usually extremely dry. This is the best Ive found anywhere, even in Chicago.
Heres what a reader said about them on city search:
Walking into this deli was like walking into my Polish grandmother's kitchen! The smells! Ahhh! Wonderful homemade kielbasa, stuffed cabbage, fabulous sweet blackcurrant juice from Poland, pickles - I could go on and on. And you can purchase CDs of Polish music for a little atmosphere, too! I love this place. I just wish it was closer to where I live. I can't believe nobody has reviewed it before.
Theres a real Polish cliental. You can try a few Polish words out (hello - gin DUB ray. Thank you - gin KU ya).
A few caveats. If you order a sandwich, order it on rye. They have the WORST French rolls in the city stale and like cardboard. The rye is not great, but it is edible. Im not fond of the ham. Also, the Polish (Im 100% third generation), are not exactly famous for their warm personalities. They can be a little stiff and condescending (think Martha Stewart). The owner is not a talker unless you speak fluent Polish, so you are mostly on your own. It may be that hes not extremely fluent in English however. Not sure. Cant get him to chat. Unfortunately Ive forgotten much of my Polish.
Not that Seakor is as good as the best of Chicago. But I would rate it a high medium against the Polish shops there. Its no Kurowychy (NYC), but for SF its the best Ive found in a long time.
For years the best I could do in SF was Hillshire Farms kielbasa. It seems that in the last decade there has been a number of Polish immigrants, especially in San Jose.
So, given the new arrivals, is anyone in the know about any Polish restaurants / stores anywhere from San Jose to San Francisco? Im dying for a good pierogi. A recent thread about the Pierogi Palace in Cleveland with 15 different varieties makes me want to hop the next airplane.
Im not looking for Russian. Its very good, but thats like telling someone whos looking for Thai food about Chinese restaurants. Not the same.
Heres what I tried.
Old Krakow. Mediocre and over-priced. Terrible kielbasa.
Quality Market on Irving and 15th. (OK, its Russian, but they import a couple of different kielbasa from the NY area).
The Polish restaurant on the Main street in Redwood city (just barely ok but inexpensive).
Tower market carried a horrible kielbasa that was hot like hot Italian sausage. I like hot Italian sausage, but thats not the taste Im looking for in kielbasa.
Hope to get some leads, even if its a babushka selling babka from her kitchen.