Way far west on Belmont Avenue in Chicago
Let's keep that one a concept. Oh Chicago, Chicago mi amor, I love you so. I love your melting pot-ish ways. I would rap rhapsodic if I could. Someone should. Look, we turn around in the parking lot of a Popeye's Chicken to head back east and oh wonders of wonders. I jump out to take my shot. It's a well documented fact worth repeating for outsiders: Chicago has the largest population of Poles in the U.S. Yet you can't find a decent pierogi near downtown. And the Busy Bee in Wicker Park is long gone.
Last summer, I was on my way to see a Polish psychic (very well regarded by émigrés with mystical leanings) when I passed a hardware store with handsome glass jars in the windows. I needed jars for an impending jam session and so, after my appointment (where I only understood two thirds of what was said, but it was enough), I stopped in. Dom Itp carries hardware and household goods imported from Poland. I found a medium-sized jar with a glass lid and twirly wire clasp. This time I went back to check out the variety, and maybe pick up a lamb cake pan or some cookie molds in the shape of walnuts. When it comes to putting beautiful looking food in beautiful jars, Eastern Europeans do it best. To see for yourself, wander the isles of the expanded Caputos on Harlem Avenue, or some of the smaller Polish/Ukrainian shops along Chicago Avenue and you'll see gorgeous comestibles—cherry jellies in squat glass amphoras or slivers of beets, parsnips and carrots packed in vinegar and pressed against the walls of the jar—a mesmerizing mosaic of root vegetables.
It is almost time to strain the plums out of the vodka. I've found my jars and not all at the hardware store at the far west side, although I did purchase two nice half-gallon jugs with straw bottoms. I ended up at at the Crate & Barrel Outlet store and found exactly what I needed.