Modern Twists on Old World-Style Catering, in London
Apart from iconic dishes, generally perceived as heritage, national or “Polish,” we can also find many delicacies characteristic of particular regions of Poland. Polish cookery is hearty, using lots of eggs and cream, sharing simi-lar-ities with other European traditions. It is rich in meat, especially pork, chicken and beef, and winter vegetables (potatoes are a mainstay, beets in borsch and cabbage in the dish bigos, and lots of spice. The cuisine owes its flavour profile to dill, caraway, paprika, poppy seed, marjoram and pepper. In recent years, innovative chefs have begun to experiment with, and promote, the use of Polish ingredients in modern regional variations.
Unique Food Attitudes
Barbara Czyz (pronounced Cush) has operated Unique Food Attitudes as a catering business for 17 years. Her chic storefront bistro in the Old East Village has been an instant success due to its modern European sensibility, changing chalkboard menu offerings, fabulous food, and warm and attentive vibe.
Last year, she moved her operations from industrial south London to a vacant building at 607 Dundas Street, near Lyle Street. Czyz purchased the property for a reasonable price, hired a contractor to complete renovations and had enough space to embark on her long-standing dream — a stylish bistro serving both traditional and contemporary Polish cuisine.
The bistro, with its black slate counters, chrome accents, comfortable seating and sidewalk tables with umbrellas, continues to draw clients from all over the city.
House specialties include Goulash and potato pancakes, Krokiety (crepes) and red borsch made from beets, bigos (sauerkraut-mushroom-meat stew), slow-cooked cabbage rolls and tender peirogi with a variety of sweet and savoury fillings. One day our charming and hospitable server Beata recommended the Szavlotka (delicious apple cake) and we have been converts to Czyz’s baking since. Along the way, Czyz has built a reputation for wedding and holiday cakes, including her handmade Krokettas and Schlegye that remind her European clientele of their homelands.
Czyz and her husband, Jaroslaw (Jarek), immigrated to London from Poland via Greece in 1989. After Czyz graduated from Fanshawe College’s Culinary Management course in 1996, she and two classmates formed a catering company. One partner left after six months and the other after two years, leaving Czyz as the sole proprietor. Unique Food Attitudes moved into a different stratosphere when Czyz signed exclusive catering contracts with Delta Emco and Trojan Technologies, where she would also operate their employee cafeterias.
A staunch member of the Polish community, Czyz continues to support many community events and ceremonies. She can often be found in the restaurant late into the evening and on weekends, cooking, baking, chopping, serving and greeting her clients. Her son Matt, who is a jack-of-all-trades, and daughter Patrycja, when home from university, are often on hand in the restaurant.
Unique Food Attitudes
697 Dundas Street, London
Monday to Wednesday 9am–6 pm
Thursday to Saturday 9am–8pm
The kitschy charm of this boutique operation at Western Fair Farmers and Artisans’ Market would give it credence, even if its raison d’être weren’t suggested in its name. This is healthy catering and gourmet-to-go from the Polish-French culinary tradition. Originally known to market-goers as “The Cabbage Roll Lady,” Mary Ann Wrona grew up eating from the family garden. Wrona’s Belgian mother had a vast repertoire of braised and steamed vegetables. It has been said that Belgium serves food of French quality in German quantities. Wrona personifies this claim selling many of her specialties by the pound. Wrona is known for preparing high end vegetarian specialities and modern European cuisine in her tiny café at the Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market. Signature dishes include peppers stuffed with a variety of fillings, traditional and vegetarian cabbage rolls, silky crepes, pottage and a variation of surprising slaws and seasonal salads. Wrona’s signature queen-sized potato stuffed perogies, made with a thicker than usual, dairy-free dough that gives it more of a “chew” and fries to a golden brown.
Wrona’s signature Pig and Whistle (whose implication remains somewhat speculative) is her take on a “larger than life” spring roll with lean ground pork, sauerkraut-cabbage combo, chili and garlic. All her meats are local butcher products. A proponent of farm-to-table cuisine, in season, Wrona handpicks many of her own vegetables from the Quaker farms that surround her Elgin County home. In season, Wrona refers, rightly, to Elgin County as the Tuscany of Ontario. Watch for Wrona’s Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake.
Western Fair Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market
Owner Anna Turkiewicz is a well-known caterer and for the last fifteen years, owner of Kleiber’s , an old-school deli that has been a Covent Garden Market mainstay since it opened in 1940. Turkiewicz has built an excellent reputation for friendly, personal service and for carrying a large selection of high- quality European delicatessen and gourmet products. Well- known to the downtown lunch crowd, for whom Turkiewicz prepares her signature soups, cabbage rolls, schnitzels and sausages for take-away, she is also a caterer. Who can say no her classic chicken and beef dishes served daily with salad and mashed potatoes? This is the kind of home cooking Turkiewicz enjoyed growing up, and later as a cook and dietician in Czestochowa, Poland, where she met her husband, Andrzej, also a professional cook. Kleiber’s corner stall is where you can locate hard to find chestnut purée, quince jam, mustard, holiday confectionery and imported chocolate. There are often line-ups that attest to the popularity of Kleiber’s selection. Turkiewicz is also the cook at London’s Polish-Canadian Club and the German-Canadian Club where she runs Anna’s Catering.
Covent Garden Market
Monday to Friday 8am–7pm