London Variety – European Delicatessen, another one of our fine market vendors, is featured as this week’s feature vendor of the week. In speaking with owners Roman and Aleksandra Okonski, I immediately heard a warm, welcoming voice on the other end of the phone…a warm voice also hinted with a strong Polish accent, which suggests the strong Polish roots these two have. And yet, they have chosen to share their love of popular Polish foods within the community of Thunder Bay, far from where these recipes originate from.
Always a dream of Roman’s, they decided to open up a small store named London Variety – European Delicatessen in 2007, where they undertook the task of providing locals with various Polish eats. Five years ago, they and their tasty recipes joined us at the Thunder Bay Country Market, where their Polish treats have since become both popular and familiar among market shoppers.
The mission Roman and Aleksandra have based London Variety upon is this: “To provide our costumers with a combination of quality, authentic, hard-to-find grocery items from Europe.” In their storefront, you’ll find everything from authentic Polish meats & cheeses, packed foods and bakery items to pastries, chocolates and much more, all which are available at a fair price. A familiar Eastern European staple, their home-made pierogies and cabbage rolls have become very popular, however, they encourage their customers to explore the rest of what they have to offer. Using only the finest, authentic ingredients, they offer many fresh-from-scratch dishes, most of which are still made using old fashioned, tried and true methods from passed down recipes of Poland. Try their Bigos, a Polish hunter’s stew, which has become a traditional dish in the country of Poland. Ingredients include a mix of sauerkraut and cabbage along with diced sausages, bacon and ham… a hearty meal to be sure! Another dish, their white beans in tomato sauce, offers great taste and is unique in itself. Their fresh-made crepes, served up with a variety of fillings such as spinach and garlic, potato and bacon, or fried cabbage, mean that crepes are no longer JUST a breakfast meal! Or, for something a little more familiar, try their soup of the week. Featured soups include everything from red borscht, white borscht with sausage, barley, dill pickle, and pea soup.
While all dishes have become very poplar among their regular customers, there are a few that stand out. Sauerkraut, available at the store itself, is a form of fermented cabbage and has become a big hit due to its many health benefits. Because of its fermentation process, sauerkraut is very high in probiotics similar to those in kefir, yogurt and other dairy products, and aids to a healthy immune, cognitive and digestive system. For those of us who tend to lean towards our sweet side, London Variety has become a hot spot for freshly-baked goods and desserts, including creamy, rich cheesecakes, sweet cinnamon twists and melt-in-your-mouth poppy rolls. London Variety also offers fresh, homemade bread, made with whole wheat flour, oat bran, sunflower seeds and flax, all of which score high on the scale of nutritional value. And for those of us prone to certain allergies, well, London Variety has something for you too! Try their Apple Millet cake, which is egg, sugar and flour free.
The above is only a small taste of what they offer! As you can probably tell, many hours of hard work go into serving up these tried and true dishes and goodies! There is no reason not to stop in at the store itself, located at 320 Balsam Street, and take in the sweet aromas of fresh Polish delights. You won’t leave empty-handed! London Variety – European Delicatessen’s treats can also be found on a weekly basis at the Thunder Bay Country Market. You’ll find them eagerly waiting to help you with whatever you’re looking for!