As well as the charms of the countryside, Poland is well-known for its tasty and original cuisine. Gourmets will find numerous restaurants, bars and inns serving Polish and Old Polish dishes, in addition to regional specialities. The abundance of eating-places means that their proprietors are always trying to outdo each other in creative decoration. It's possible to eat dinner in a restaurant styled like a mediaeval knights' dining hall, a wooden country inn, a Greek temple, a rocky cave, or a carriage on the Orient Express. And there's no shortage of good restaurants serving French, Italian, Jewish, or Russian cuisine, not to mention Chinese, Arabic or Mexican eateries. Most of all, however, you should try typically Polish dishes.
The Polish cuisine is extremely varied. For hors-d'oeuvre, there is usually a plate of Polish cold meats, some smoked. The best known is probably kiełbasa, which comes in many kinds and styles. Every region has its own speciality: dried krakowska and also myśliwska, smoked using juniper wood, are considered the best. Ham is another Polish speciality.
One regional delicacy is the oscypek, the best-known Polish cheese, produced in the mountains from ewe's milk. In restaurants serving Polish cuisine, bread and dripping or Baltic herring in cream are also often served as starters. Wonderful bread is another Polish forte, and dark wholemeal bread is one of the fundamental elements of health food, ever more popular around the world.
The oldest Polish dish, and one which cannot be found anywhere else in the world, is the sour żur, a fermented soup made from rye flour and dried bread, served with kiełbasa and a boiled egg. There is also barszcz, fermented beetroot soup served with uszka (little pasta shells stuffed with meat or mushrooms), which is healthy as well as tasty. Another dish worthy of recommendation is the Polish variety of tomato soup with noodles or rice.
The main dishes - poultry, fish, meat or game - are usually served with boiled or roast potatoes, buckwheat, or maybe the characteristically Polish pasta - kluski, and also raw, cooked or marinated vegetables. Regional cuisines offer dishes like placki (potato pancakes, fried from grated potatoes with added sweet or spicy sauces), and pierogi with a filling of cheese, meat, cabbage, mushrooms, or fruit. For dessert, you simply have to try some Polish cake - piernik (dark gingerbread), kruche (crumbly shortbread), makowiec (poppyseed cake) or sernik (cheesecake with dried fruit and nuts).
After a hearty meal, as an aid to digestion, you could always try a little alcohol. Beer drinkers will not be disappointed - Polish beer, like German or Czech, has a good name and many of the breweries have been in business for centuries. Of the stronger drinks, the fruit and herbal liqueurs are worthy of mention. There are numerous varieties, and each has different advantages - from the curative and warming to the exclusively taste-oriented. On their own or as part of a dessert, we use sweet cremes of egg yolk, vanilla or chocolate, liqueurs and mead. And of course there's Polish vodka, which comes in many varieties. Of the high-quality vodkas, the most original is Żubrówka. In every bottle, you'll find a blade of grass from the Białowieża Forest. Goldwasser, from Gdańsk, on the other hand, is enriched with flecks of 22-carat gold.