This Sunday, the first day of spring, I felt inspired to walk to the Wooster Square farmer’s market to celebrate the new season. I had visions of verdant bundles of asparagus, overflowing baskets of strawberries and hipsters in jean cut-off shorts trying to play harmonicas and banjos. So I Google-mapped Wooster Square, put on my bulky down jacket and headed out.
Forty minutes later, I was lost in the New Haven hood. I walked around frantically and conspicuously for a good twenty minutes until I came across a beacon of hope: Wozniak’s, a Polish deli and grocery store at 835th Grand Avenue. I was intrigued, hungry and seeking shelter, so I ventured inside. The shelves were filled with Polish sweets, breads, soups, sauces, pickles and periodicals; the refrigerators, with dumplings, cheese, horseradish and unidentifiable meats; and the walls, with pictures of the Pope and other Catholic paraphernalia.
Everything looked so excitingly foreign — so foreign that I didn’t even really know what I was buying, since everything was labeled in Polish. This proved to be problematic when I headed home to sample my bounty.
First I attempted to prepare zupa borowikowa, a packaged soup mix. The instructions seemed simple enough…for a Pole. Step one: Zawartosc torbki wsyp do kubka. Step two: zalec 200 wrzacej. They lost me at zawartosc. Fortunately, instant soup is pretty easy to make. It came out a little bland — it was more like a broth than a meal in itself. Curious, I Google-translated the description on the packaging. It turns out they recommend “adding your own family flavors” to the soup, which I hadn’t done.
The Wozniak’s pickle offerings are stellar: they were crisp and bursting with flavor. Even the brine was scrumptious — I caught my suitemate slurping the garlicky, vinegary, dilly liquid by the spoonful. I didn’t even judge her. It’s that good.
The baked goods are less inspiring. They’re not baked on premises, so they run a bit dry. Their brioche-like plum loaf, however, regains some life if you pop it in the oven for a few moments, and the sweet, tangy plum filling becomes gooey and warm. I recommend slathering a slice with butter, or some of the butter-cheese they offer, which is delicious. I respect the Poles for coming up with a product that is literally just made of butter and cheese.
But if you’re going to make the trek all the way out to Wozniak’s, do it for the dumplings; they’re heavenly. You can find them in the refrigerated section, in a variety of flavors, including mushroom, potato, cheese, kraut and blueberry. They make a perfect late night snack — actually anytime snack — and an extremely generous package costs only $4.00. After boiling and pan-frying, the little dumplings are both chewy and crispy, and taste great with some of Wozniak’s house-made beet horseradish. The horseradish, which comes in a sassy pink color, could also make a great garnish for any piece of meat or fish.
Here’s how to prepare the dumplings. Think of them as a blank canvas and season them however you’d like. Even add your own family flavors.
1 pack pre-made mushroom dumplings
2 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of olive oil
salt and paper
Bring a quart of salted water to a boil. Add the dumplings and boil for one minute.
Drain the dumplings. Heat butter and oil in a non-stick skillet.
Add dumplings, cook until golden on both sides.
Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with sour cream or parsley, if desired.