First, I have to share with you something I personally enjoy. The old tradition of walking into a shop is to greet the owner with a "Dzien dobre" may not be practiced by all anymore as time has gone from the days when all shops were the lower level of a business owner's house, but I still love it and teach the tradition to my kids. I think it's just nice to acknowledge the persons working to give me a pleasant shopping experience when I enter their establishment.
I also have an obsession with bread. Some people could never give up steaks, chocolate, alcohol, or other foods, my passion is good bread. The kind of bread that molds or becomes stale just a few short days after being purchased because it is free of preservatives. The kind of bread that smells like it was baked that day, and the crust still crunches oh-so-right when I squeeze it. Mmmmm, bread...
I lost my train of thought there, sorry about that. But then, bread does that to me. My husband knows to buy at least two loaves for me. I have to love that man. Especially since he hates bread.
Some, but not all, of the items which are different at the Polish store than elsewhere are the mustards, farmers cheese, Polish Dill Pickles (which the Polish store variety has no food coloring or preservatives, tastes better, and is the same price or cheaper than what the major grocery store carries, go figure), teas, jellies, Ketchup, and donuts. Well, to be clear, actually they are Paczki (pronounced "Pohn-ch-kee" and meaning a Polish style Donut).
Other items which cannot be bought elsewhere are real actual Kielbasa (pronounced Kee-ehw-bahsah and meaning Sausage, which could literally mean any one of about 250 different types), Polish Movies, CD's, magazines, premade Polish foods, etc.
I also can buy packets of Kisiel, Budyn, premade Nalesniki, Steak Tartar, and a myriad of other delicious pre-made Polish foods.
On today's trip, I purchased the following:
Polish Dill Pickles
"Wiejskie" (Old Country Style Polish Dill) Pickles
Black Currant Jam
Pierniki z Czekoladzie (a Polish gingerbread cookie covered with chocolate)
Granulated Bran with Plums (Never had this one, so decided to give it a try)
Ketchup "Ladodny" (This is not the Ketchup you buy at the typical American store)
Juniper berries (For making Hunter's Spice Mix)
A pound of Ham (vague, I know, I called it out to my husband as I walked protectively with the Baby so that she wouldn't hit her head or break something so who knows what kind he got)
A pound of Mazowiecki Cheese
A plastic container of Kluski (for a quick dish for kids when I need a break this weekend)
Honey Mustard (Forgot to grab French Mustard & another, oops)
6 Parowki (little Veal Wieners which are way more awesome & healthy than hot dogs & my kids love)
A tub of Farmer's Cheese
A Szarlotka (Polish Apple Pie/Cake, how could I resist?)
And 3 Polish Magazines so that I could get ideas and also practice my Polish...
Altogether, the trip cost us less than $70, so I would say it was definitely worth it! I hope you feel inspired to visit your local ethnic store and give something amazing a try...