While cruising North Park’s Festival of Arts last weekend, I was surprised and happy to stumble upon a vendor serving authentic Polish food. To my knowledge, no dedicated Polish restaurants currently operate in San Diego; the closest thing we have is the Pierogi Truck food truck, and this food stand: Taste of Poland Catering. When you see a chance to eat Polish food in this town, you take it.
Like the truck, Taste of Poland makes a selling point of pierogis, with a tall flag sign advertising the tender Polish dumplings, stuffed with beef, puréed potatoes and cheese, or mushrooms and sauerkraut. Those looked and sounded good, but the booth locked in my business thanks to the sight and smell of kielbasa sausage sizzling on the grill. I could have gotten a combo putting that sausage on a bun next to four pierogi, sauerkraut, and a pickle for 11 dollars, and I would have continued about my festival day, scoping artworks and watching bands perform, with fond recollections of my Polish lunch.
However, instead I opted for the 18-dollar combo, which included all of the above, plus stuffed cabbage. So instead I went about the rest of my day, scoping artworks and watching bands perform while happily recalling how my Polish lunch became the highlight of my week.
Made from a family recipe, the dish tightly wraps a mix of ground beef, rice, sautéed onions, and spices inside a cabbage leaf. It’s cooked in chicken broth then smothered in tomato sauce thickened with a touch of sour cream. Outstanding is the only word I can find to describe the savory creation, though the Polish name for it is gołąbki. After my second bite I looked around for someone, anyone else eating this stuffed cabbage nearby, hoping to catch their eye to share acknowledgement and wonder. How does this taste so good? our eyes would say, too busy smiling and chewing to say it out loud.
Alas, I was sitting in the shaded seating area of a festival, and everyone around me was eating food from different vendors. Their loss. I savored my pierogi and wolfed down my sausage, beautifully charred and dressed with grilled onions and mustard. If you’re not that hungry, you can skip the sausage and get a combo of stuffed cabbage with four pierogi for $12, but I would do the whole 18 dollar combo over again any day of the week.
If that were possible. Taste of Poland has been at it for several years, but when I managed to track down owner and chef Alicja Miechowski, she told me she had no interest in the work and investment required to open a full-time restaurant. She keeps regular gigs at the Saturday farmers market in Vista, and the Sunset Market held Thursday nights in Oceanside, but beyond that, she prefers catering. And despite having virtually no internet presence or advertised contact info for services (yet), people encountering her food at those markets has proven enough to keep those catering gigs coming. And I’m certain: they all request the stuffed cabbage.