Neighborhood Kitchens

Neighborhood kitchens visits the Polish Triangle and Cafe Polonia

By Margarita Martinez

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I remember looking forward to Easter morning as a child, because there would be eggs and kielbasa to enjoy before church. I always thought that kielbasa was a certain type of sausage and that all kielbasa tasted the same. I also was only familiar with the kind that came in plastic packaging sold in most grocery stores. If this sounds familiar, please head to the Polish Triangle in Boston to the Baltic Market and ask for their recommended kielbasa. Your mind will be blown. My personal surprise occurred several years ago when I entered a shop with a sign labeled “Kielbasa” in the Polish neighborhood of Greenpoint in Brooklyn, NY, and asked for kielbasa at the counter. The butcher gestured all around him and said, “Lady, this is all kielbasa.” I meekly asked for whatever he recommended and walked out. At home I sliced off a piece and ate it. Oh. My. Goodness. I had never had kielbasa that flavorful. There is a wide selection of kielbasa at the Baltic Market. I recommend buying some, slicing it up uncooked, and dipping it in Polish-style mustard or horseradish. You will not be disappointed.

Golabki, a traditional Polish dish, Cafe Polonia.  I have a soft spot for Polish food and search it out wherever I live. Lard spread with fried bacon bits on a slice of Polish rye bread is an excellent way to start a meal. I then like to move on to a soup. Either a Polish dill pickle soup, as we make on the show, or a borscht. Next, I order the Polish sampler plate, if available, so that I may try as many Polish delicacies as possible. At Cafe Polonia, the satisfying Polish plate comes with a bit of kielbasa, a small serving of bigos which is a hunter's stew with cabbage and beef, stuffed cabbage called golabki, and a selection of pierogis sauteed with onions. All of these hearty flavors represent comfort food at its finest. The atmosphere at Cafe Polonia is very inviting and comforting as well. Chef-owner Tedeusz Barcikowski, or Teddy, built all of the beautiful wood tables, chairs, and banquettes, which have lovely individual cushions in different fabrics to encourage you to stay a while. There is always Polish music playing from the speakers and lots of Polish beers to choose from. Diners are transported to another place at Cafe Polonia.
 

Transported is an apt word for the feeling of Cafe Polonia, the Baltic Market, and the Our Lady of Czestochowa Church on Dorchester Avenue in South Boston. The Baltic Market, also owned by Teddy and his wife Joanna, is filled with a wide array of specialty Polish items. There are many types of kielbasas, hams, cheeses, pierogi, blintzes, pickles, mustards, breads, pastries, and imported chocolates. The people working at the shop all speak Polish, along with English and other languages (I heard Russian exchanged with one patron), and are extremely helpful in offering suggestions to those less familiar with the cuisine. I felt like I was in an old-world European market.

The Polish Triangle has changed over the years. There is not as great of a full-time Polish presence in the neighborhood. However, the Polish Triangle remains a neighborhood where Polish culture is actively preserved for the region. Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest times at the market and restaurant for Teddy and Joanna. The increase in activity can be attributed to people attending mass at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, which still offers several masses in the Polish language. After attending mass, Polish immigrants and those of Polish descent stock up on Polish specialty items or enjoy a post-church restaurant meal.

Margarita learning Polish folk dance with the Krakowaik Polish Dancers of BostonWhen I visited Our Lady of Czestochowa Church's recreation room, I had the opportunity to witness the Krakowiak Polish Dancers of Boston rehearse for an upcoming performance in Cambridge. This dance organization has been around for 45 years. Many of the members started learning these traditional Polish dances as children. I learned first-hand that different regions of Poland have unique folk dances and costumes. The welcoming Krakowiak Polish Dancers of Boston eagerly dressed me in a costume and invited me to partner in a folk dance. It was such a treat to meet members who had relocated to Massachusetts from Poland just a few years ago along and members that had grown up in the neighborhood and attended the now closed Saint Mary's Elementary School, which was attached to the church. It was wonderful to experience a taste of Polish cuisine and culture and see that it continues to thrive in the Polish Triangle.
 

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About Neighborhood Kitchens

Building on a 35-year history of producing Latino and multicultural programming, WGBH’s award winning La Plaza team has a new offering — Neighborhood Kitchens, a series about the exploration of culture through food. Every week the show offers a unique window into immigrant communities in New England.

Saturdays at 4pm on WGBH 2
Fridays at 7:30pm on WGBH 44


About the Author
Margarita Martinez Margarita Martinez
Margarita Martinez grew up in the Bronx, NY and Ossining, NY with a Puerto Rican father and a Franco-American mother. She now calls New England home. Margarita has always had an insatiable appetite for travel and food. She made her first empanada as a teenager visiting Argentina, satisfied her sweet tooth with poffertjes and stroopwafels while studying in Holland, engorged herself on Thai street food for a month in Bangkok, and continues to search for authentic international cuisines in the Northeast. Margarita loves to discover new ingredients, flavors, and cooking approaches that she can bring to her own home kitchen.

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In each episode, host Margarita Martínez visits a different ethnic restaurant and learns three delicious recipes from the chef. She also explores the restaurant’s neighborhood, discovering hidden gems along the way. Join her as she learns about new ingredients, new cultures, and new neighborhoods. ¡Hasta pronto!

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Margarita's Neighborhood Visits

»Boston: Bristol Lounge
»Boston's South End: Orinoco, Teranga and Oishii
»Boston's Back Bay: Casa Romero
»Boston's North End: Taranta
»Roxbury: Merengue
»Boston's Beacon Hill: Scampo
»All Around Boston: Mei Mei Street Kitchens
»Cambridge: Muqueca, Oleana, and Sandrine's
»
Somerville: Dosa Temple
»Lawrence: Cafe Azteca
»Lowell: Simply Khmer

»Fresh from the Fish Market
»Jamaica Plain: Tres Gatos
»Dorchester: Pho Le and Cafe Polonia
»Medford: Bistro 5
»Portland, ME: Emilitsa
»Newport, RI: Tallulah on Thames
»Pawtucket, RI: Rasoi

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