This particular tour featured the best city & country cooking . For the first four nights we explored agritourism at its finest, in the gorgeous mountain area of Zakopane -Poland’s leading mountain resort. The always-popular town is filled with tourists, busily eating, shopping and then eating some more, along the action-packed main street, Krupowki.
We stayed a few blocks away from all the commotion, at the 4 star, Villa Marilor, a restored palace sprawled over a park-like setting. The crystal chandeliers, hot breakfasts served in the ornate dining room, an in- house spa/pool and large, old-fashioned bedrooms-many overlooking the park, made for a happy stay.
Over the next few days we enjoyed some lazy river rafting, explored the unique Zakopane wooden churches and homes, sampled our way through the markets (we became experts after tasting about 20 different versions of the local oscypek, a salty, smoked sheep’s milk cheese that partners perfectly with beer.
The highlight of our stay was our cooking classes with the local village ladies, who could have been poster children for the Slow Food Movement. It was an incredible experience, eating food that was just minutes away from being freshly plucked, slaughtered, smoked, and harvested. Through Sarna’s interpreting we found out that these women had grown most of the vegetables, churned the butter, canned the pickles, beets and jams, rendered the (totally indispensible) pork fat, baked the breads and pastries and even brewed a delectable rose-hip wine.
It was a bit difficult getting the recipes down since they are definitely a “pinch of this and a handful of that” type cooks. But we could figure most of it out as they prepared a variety of traditional Polish recipes (pierogie, potato pancakes, meat cutlets, dumplings, soups, the most addictive wafer cookies, etc.) stopping only for a quick giggle as they looked at my misshapen attempts.
After preparing our 12 course meal, they left the room for some quick-change artistry and reappeared in traditional costumes and graciously entertained us by singing Polish folk songs. (Some of them were in a professional choral group.)
All too soon it was time to leave for the two hour drive to the bustling city of Krakow, centered around Europe’s largest medieval market square. Before we reached town, we stopped on the outskirts for a final professional cooking class at the state-of-the-art, Culinary Institute of Cracow, where we cooked alongside English-speaking chefs who, when not teaching, are busy cooking in some of Poland’s finest restaurants. We left with a packet of recipes, also in English, which I am preparing right this moment.
For more information on this tour and other Poland Culinary Vacations please go to the website.