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Photo: B.A. Nilsson

A Taste of Poland

259 Canada St., Lake George, 668-4386. Serving daily, noon-9. AE, D, MC, V.

 

Cuisine: Polish

Entrée price range: $11 (blintzes or potato pancakes) to $20 (beer-dipped steak)

Ambiance: Lake George casual

Warsaw Packed

 

Jan Kosz was a medical doctor in his native Poland. His interest in food service arose from an interest in the nutritional and healing potential of food, and this he parlayed, eight years ago in Lake George, into a restaurant.

The establishment has moved a few blocks down Canada Street, Lake George’s main drag, to the busy center of the village. At the height of summer, it’s phenomenally busy, so this relocation has been a good thing for the restaurant, as it has to fight against the not-too-adventurous culinary conditioning of so many of the tourists.

A Taste of Poland actually offers more than its modest name suggests. It’s a full-blown visit to an old-fashioned Polish kitchen where the kielbasa has the dark and spicy flavors of homemade, and the golombki bursts at the seams.

In other words, it’s an anomaly. On the street, we dodged families dressed in matching outfits of T-shirts, baggy shorts and sandals; inside the restaurant, we sat next to a fellow wearing a suit and tie. This is not to say that A Taste of Poland is a fancy place. It’s very casual and accommodating, but our neighbor was a classier brand of traveler who happened also to be a friend of Dr. Kosz.

Lake George becomes an international service mecca during the summer. I’ve heard a variety of dialects from the many youthful servers imported for the summer; at A Taste of Poland (as is now common throughout the Adirondacks), the dialect is decidedly Eastern European.

We were welcomed by a porch-stationed greeter. The day was pleasant enough to invite dining out on the deck, but we choose to go inside.

Like your grandmother’s dining room, the main eating area invites you to sit at a big old table; and, like in my grandmother’s dining room, you’re stuck with paper napkins.

The menu offers an accessible selection, heavy on sausage and breading. For a starter, I ordered koreczki, which loosely translates as “finger foods.” The $4.90 appetizer includes a skewered sampling of excellent kielbasa with sweet pepper slices alongside wedges of a strong-flavored, delicious Polish cheese, served on greens with a side of mustard.

Other starters include herring with or without cream sauce, and potato pancakes with smoked salmon ($5.90 each).

Nobody wanted tripe soup (flaki, $5), but it was only because we ordered so much else that we didn’t try the borscht ($4). Chicken noodle soup ($5), vegetable soup ($4) and cold fruit soup ($4) also are available.

Unusual salad offerings include stewed cabbage, sauerkraut salad, gherkins, and a beetroot array ($3 each). You may know “miseria” as an Italian plaint: It was supposed to be the cry of Queen Bona Sforza, the Italian princess who married 16th-century Polish King Sigismund and grew homesick every time she tasted a salad of cucumber slices tossed in dill-flavored sour cream. Mizeria ($3) is a Polish treat reminiscent of tzat ziki, and it’s a nice dinner accompaniment on a warm day.

We needed to try pierogies, and we needed to sample potato pancakes. We desired golombki and wanted to try bigos, a stew often regarded as the national dish of Poland, and a traditional New Year’s treat.

All of this is available on the Taste of Poland Plate (for two), a $38 solution to the challenge of sampling so much.

The preparation of bigos varies from household to household. Here it’s made by stewing cabbage with kielbasa and mushrooms with a little red wine and a flavoring of apple. It’s filling and delicious, available as a separate entrée for $12.

Potato pancakes, an $11 entrée, are as you’d expect, but in a good way. Smooth and rich, they’re served with sides of applesauce and sour cream.

The platter pierogies are cheese-filled and suggestive of ravioli but with a different texture in the shell. Order them as a stand-alone entrée and you can get them filled with sauerkraut and mushrooms ($13) or with Polish farmer cheese and mashed potato ($14).

I enjoy all the stuffing that’s going on here. Golombki, of course, is stuffed cabbage ($15); there’s a roast pork loin stuffed with prunes and apricots ($17). But what really caught my eye was the Warsaw cutlet ($17), a breaded pork cutlet stuffed with sauerkraut and mushrooms, which was served with a side of homemade mashed potatoes. It’s as much about heft as it is about flavor, a rugged peasant dish with a pleasing taste.

And a filling one. A cup of coffee was about all I could manage as a post-prandial choice, before it was back to the bustle of Canada Street.

Service was friendly and efficient. There’s a large, boat-shaped bar if you just want to nurse a Polish beer, and a lunch menu is offered for early-in-the-day dining. A Taste of Poland also offers dining and overnights at a former dude ranch in Thurman, near Johnsburg. Check the Web site at taste-of-poland.com for more information.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Two significant cigar dinners take place this month. Habana Premium Cigar Shop has combined with John and Bobby Mallozzi to present a black-tie event at the Italian American Community Center, 257 Washington Ave. Extension, Albany, at 6 PM on Sept. 23. The menu includes yellow pumpkin ravioli, cinnamon scented duck breast in a bing cherry reduction, double-bone lamb chop with whipped Yukon potato, espresso bread pudding and much, much more. Each guest gets an assortment of four premium cigars. Price is $100 per person; black tie is optional. Call 690-2222 for more info and reservations. . . . Saratoga Rose Inn and Restaurant (4136 Rockwell St. Hadley) presents Dinner and Cigars Under the Stars at 7 PM on Sept. 18, featuring three world-renowned Davidoff Cigars courtesy of Cup O’ Joes and a seated buffet dinner under a tent in a Victorian garden. The buffet includes boneless breast of chicken with wild mushrooms in madeira sauce, smoked cajun loin of pork with bourbon and molasses sauce, orzo with caramelized onions and fresh sage, along with Saratoga Rose Inn house wines and beer. It’s $100 per person, including tax and tip, and requires a reservation. Call 1-800-942-5025 or 518-696-2861.



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