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Authentic Polish cuisine served up at MERAby Julie Druker
Photo: Michael and Marilyn Barnett and Tomek and Alexandra Karpinski served up authentic Polish cuisine at MERA's final Around the World on a Dinner Plate Dinner Plate series in McDonald's Corners
The final installation of MERA's "Around the World on a Dinner Plate" series took place on March 23 where close to 50 diners enjoyed an authentic multi-course Polish meal prepared by a very passionate Polish chef.
McDonalds Corners resident and Poland native Tomek Karpinski who came to Canada in 1982 and who grew up in the city of Wroclaw in southwestern Poland, prepared the meal, which was based on authentic recipes he had learned in his mother's kitchen. “In Poland at home when I was a kid, the best place to be was in the kitchen and it was there watching my mother cook that I learned how to duplicate her recipes,” Tomek said in between courses at MERA.
Friday night’s meal began with Tomek serving up fruit-filled pirogi, delicate Polish dumplings topped with sugar that put to shame those rubbery frozen imposters that in no way resemble the real Mccoys that Tomey prepared. This course was followed by a delicate and tasty clear tomato soup served with a spoonful of rice and fresh dill and which included an undisclosed secret ingredient that Tomek politely refused to divulge.
The next course was pork “bigos”, typically known as Hunter’s Stew, the national dish of both Poland and the Ukraine, which follows no single strict recipe but which typically contains sauerkraut and various cuts of meat and sausage. This hearty stew often sits on the back burner of the stove in the winter months in many Polish kitchens and meat leftovers are constantly added to it, intensifying its flavor. Witamin C-rich cabbage is one of Bigos's main ingredients and Tomek said Bigos likely accounts for the fact that scurvy has never reared its ugly head in Poland.
For the main course, Tomek served up zrazy zawijane, a beef dish consisting of a thin slice of braised beef stuffed with pickle, bacon and onion served in a rich gravy. This was accompanied by a heaping helping of kasha (buckwheat groats) and a side of pureed beets. Assisting Tomek throughout the evening were his wife Alexandra, and Marilyn and Michael Barnett. All four were dressed in colorful traditional Polish attire and brought a festive feel to the evening. Diners were grouped at gold clothed tables each decorated with a festive tea light candle which together with the rich aromas of the meal helped to transform the school house into a one time cozy Polish eatery. It was Tomek’s first time cooking for such a large crowd and judging from the enthusiastic, lip-smacking response of the diners, it likely might not be the last. For dessert the diners enjoyed a wide array of traditional Polish sweets prepared and donated by MERA members, which included poppy seed cake and strudel, Polish jam Kolache cookies and chocolate wafers. The dining series at MERA, which began in January, included five other Friday night foodie forays into international cuisine: a Scottish meal courtesy of Pat Furlong, A Touch of Spain with Ankaret Dean and Tom Shoebridge, Food from Canada's far north with Judy Watts and an East India night presented by Kat Elliott. Judging by the turn out for each of the events one would hope this will not be the last time local foodies will have a chance to tickle their taste buds at MERA. For more information visit www.meraschoolhouse.org.