Hungarian Delights

“It’s a mystery why Hungarian food at its finest is not more popular in the West …’The Hungarians are born eaters, born waiters, born restauranteurs,’ wrote RW Apple, the late, great New York Times food critic …” Conde Nast Traveller, May 2012.

I agree with this statement wholeheartedly, and I think John and Phil, both of whom joined me in Budapest for the weekend would say the same. The prospect of having dinner table companions inspired some serious research into the Budapest restaurant world, and I highly recommend the following places — in fact, I’d say there are all must-dos if you have the chance to visit this beautiful city. You can read a review of each of them on Taste Hungary’s blog.

Friday, May 18, Dinner: Pesti Disznó (Hungarian tapas)

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Wild garlic cottage cheese spread and homemade pork appetizers

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Duck stew with sweet potatoes and udon noodles

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Basil chicken with turnip cabbage and old cheese risotto (we had a prefix and the other two had the chicken but I swapped it for some goat cheese dumplings, however they photographed terribly so I haven’t included photos)

Saturday, May 19, Lunch: Kádár Étkezde (traditional Hungarian lunch spot with a Jewish twist) (disclaimer: this food was impossible to photograph; it was truly delicious but not beautiful to observe)

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Matzoh ball soup

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Sólet (cholent) with goose leg

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Boiled beef with mashed potatoes and apple sauce (I realize this looks disgusting, but it was definitely not; however, Phil didn’t like the apple sauce)

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Stuffed pepper (with beef) and a slightly sweet tomato sauce (this was the favorite)

Saturday, May 19, Dinner: Borkonyha (modern Hungarian cuisine and one of the best meals of the year)

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Pistachio crusted ricotta dumpling

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Foie gras; John ate this, not me

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Lamb chop with onion cake (frittata), buckwheat, and eggplant

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Bitter chocolate cake with caramel ice cream and garnished with a mini macaron

Sunday, May 20, Lunch: Fülemüle (traditional Hungarian and Jewish dishes)

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Smoked brisket with chips, cholet, etc.

Needless to say, I haven’t been hungry in Hungary. The boys have left and tonight I am staying in, skipping dinner, and fearing the calories I will consume during the food tour I am taking tomorrow. After that, I’m going on a diet.

Dutch Masterpieces Part Twee

Again relying on Cushla’s ace recommendations, I sampled a couple more local specialties on my second and final day in Amsterdam. For lunch, I had a goat cheese (Dutch goat cheese is very good), honey, thyme, and pine nut sandwich on brown bread at one of Amsterdam’s best broodje (sandwich) shops — Singel 404. I highly recommend this if you visit.

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Later, I met Cushla for an afternoon snack at Winkel (at the Noordermarkt), home of the most famous apple pie in Amsterdam. Not to be missed.

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And finally, one last masterpiece to display before I wind up here:

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Art or accident?

The Dutch Masterpieces

I knew I had finally reached the Continent when I started my day with this breakfast:

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Amsterdam is a beautiful city and this is my first visit, but surprisingly, I hadn’t really thought about the cuisine in advance of my arrival, nor did I have much knowledge of the local delicacies. Fortunately, I have a friend who lives here (a certified Melbourne foodie and coffee expert to boot) who gave me a solid list of things to do, that certainly does not neglect food or coffee. As of now, these are a few Dutch specialties I have discovered and may or may not yet have tried (I have only been here for 24 hours): pancakes, apple pie, pancakes, brown bread, herring, oude kaas (a type of cheese).

Although I was still a bit full from breakfast, I wanted to try a Dutch pancake. To do this, I visited Pancakes! in the 9 Streets neighborhood. I ordered a pancake with speck (ham) and kaas (cheese) and then topped it off with some stroop (syrup) — a combo that had been recommended by my friend. This was one seriously heavy pancake. Even I couldn’t finish it all. It was good, but a little on the salty side.

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I was also still full from lunch when I ventured out for dinner (this has become somewhat of a theme). A mini herring burger did the trick anyhow.

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Back to Black

After a lengthy hiatus that included a pit stop in the U.S. followed by a couple weeks stationary in London, I am hitting the road, this time traveling throughout continental Europe. More to come…

Eel and Eggs

For a non-Japanese speaking Westerner, dining out in Japan is an interesting experience. Many restaurants do not have English menus, and when they do, the English can be very unclear. It is common to have plastic models of food on display, but if you don’t know what something is in the first place, the helpfulness of the models can be underwhelming. I’ve taken to just guessing and / or pointing.

The other night, I chose a restaurant that looked like it might be user friendly — there were a ton of plastic models in the window. When I went inside, I realized I was wrong. The staff spoke no English and the English menu was limited. I chose something I was familiar with, which was accompanied by a few things that were unfamiliar (in Japan, meals out are often a set of dishes rather than a choice of dishes a la carte (though that happens too)). Eel donburi was something I knew I had to try while in Japan. It came with Japanese pickles (check), steamed egg soup (no idea, but it did have some prawn and maybe a mussel?), and “soup” (I guessed miso, but anything was up for grabs…in the end it had strange edible floating but pieces in it).

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