Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hungarian Detour: Two Frantic Food-Filled Days in Glorious Budapest


 Stealing a peaceful moment in bustling Budapest:
Where Vienna is order, Budapest is frenzy. If the Viennese tend to be slightly undemonstrative and reserved, in Budapest emotions seem to bubble to the surface, where they spill over. While German (at least to this Western eye and ear) seems logical and somewhat decipherable, Hungarian Magyar is nearly impenetrable. It's closest linguistic relative is, after all, Finnish.

All this is to say that in my too-brief two-day stay, I fell completely in love with this strange, hectic,  and beautiful city.
The culture shock started immediately. As soon as Poppa Trix and I disembarked from the train (just a three hour ride from Vienna, yet worlds away!) we were besieged by cab drivers, repeating "Taxi taxi taxi" in heavily accented English. Luckily I had memorized a few simple phrases on the train. "Nem köszönöm," I replied politely. No thank you.  But, as the "taxi taxi" onslaught grew more heated, this turned into "Nem! nem! nem! nemnemnemnem" until we found our way out of the station.  Nothing was going to delay us in our mission to walk to Central Market Hall, the largest indoor market in Budapest:

There were all manner of foods and spices inside this cavernous space. Radishes, truffles, spices, eggs, cabbages:

And of course lots and lots of paprika:
But Poppa Trix and I were here to eat the lángos:
Lángos are deep fried discs of dough, topped with whatever your heart desires. Our hearts desired two, one with sour cream, cheese, and red onion and the other with pungent garlic. In a big "oops" moment, we later found out that the dough may or may not have been fried in lard ... let's just say that ignorance is bliss, because these babies were seriously good:
Good thing we did so much walking to burn off those calories! Besides, we needed to work up an appetite for dinner.  But first, after we dropped our things off at the hotel, we set out to enjoy some coffee and a sweet at Cafe Gerbeaud, a traditional (albeit touristy) Budapest coffeehouse:
No matter what you wear here, you're probably going to feel a tad underdressed:
We had a scrumptious (and much-needed) large espresso with cream:
And we shared a slice of the house specialty, the Gerbeaud torte, a layered sponge cake with fig paste and chocolate:
I loved that this cake wasn't too sweet, and that it was so small. This left plenty of room for dinner!

Now, everyone warned us that we'd never find meatless dishes in the land of beefy goulash and fleshy pörkölt (stew). Hmm, wherever did this notion come from, I wonder?
 Rooster testicle stew notwithstanding,  we ended up doing just fine. In fact, later that night we enjoyed a very flavorful - and completely vegetarian - meal at Borbíróság, a cozy local restaurant with a fantastic list of all Hungarian wines:
 Poppa Trix had the mushroom soup with a dumpling, while I went for the cheese plate featuring all local cheeses:
For our mains, Poppa had fried cheese over veggies (yeah, it seems that cheese is deemed an acceptable protein substitute) while I had the vegetable ratatouille. It had a very nicely layered and subtle flavor, but I suspect that unfortunately, unless you eat meat, you aren't going to get the kind of fiery hot dish I craved.
Well and truly full, we wandered back to our hotel, already planning our lunch for the next day. We had read good things about a restaurant that serves Azerbaijani and Russian vegetarian and pescetarian-friendly food, and we were intrigued. Our only hesitation was due to the rather unfortunate name of the place:
In case you can't make it out, the sign reads: "Marquis de Salade." I'm glad we overcame our trepidation, because it turned out to be the last time we would eat vegetables in any significant amounts  for a very long time indeed. I started with the kükü, layered spinach, sorrel, celery, mint, basil, and salmon:
Poppa had the herring torta, a Russian dish of herring in, as the menu described it "a coat of carrot, potato, egg, beet, and mayo." He loved it - but it was way too rich for me to take more than a bite or two:
Our mains were veggies, both stuffed (jalancs) and grilled (grillezet zöldségek):
These were fine, but the apps were really the stand out dishes.  We paired our food with one deciliter of wine - the waiter took great pains to try to explain to us in labored English that one glass = one deciliter only. No more, no less. In fact, from where I sat I could see him carefully and slooowly  measuring out this precise amount. If only I had known how to say "Make mine a double" in Magyar.

After all this food, we next headed for  St Stephen's Basilica, where we viewed the alleged holy shriveled right forearm of St. Stephen himself, (you can see it for free but it costs 200 forints to get them to turn the light on!), climbed the steps of the (very high) tower,  and in general worked off some torta. The view from the top of the tower was breathtaking:
While walking around the city, we also made an important discovery. A Budapest outpost of my beloved Duran sandwiches
This is one (really the only) chain I'd love to see go global.

Our barking dogs demanded that we sit and have one last drink and snack before getting on the train and heading back to Vienna. We sat at the picturesque Gerlöczy Cafe, sipping wine and munching on the house made ciabatta with walnuts and ciabatta with green herbs:
Sadly, it was now time to head for the train station. But I believe there's always time to do a little shopping, and I manged to pick up some Hungarian Tokaj wine, tubes of garlic and hot pepper, and bags of pasta on the way:
Now at this point you would think we would be full and tired and just sleep on the train like normal people. But Poppa Trix had to go and find out that a Hungarian woman (Alexandra, I later learned) was seriously cooking it up in the dining car. He had been craving a palacinka (crepe) for days, so off to the dining car we marched, where we somehow made room for nutella and jelly crepes:
You are not going to find anything like this on Amtrak! Alexandra also took the time to teach us some Magyar, which we sadly wouldn't be needing any longer. She was awesome. Thanks, Alexandra!
 We hated to leave Budapest, and wished we could have had more time there ... but there was so much still to do in Vienna.  So, a fond viszlát to Hungary ...  until next time.





30 comments:

  1. Sounds like you guys had an amazing time! Who wouldn't with all of that great food. How fabulous is all of that paprika?! I'm so intrigued about the Duran sandwiches- Can't wait for your recipes!

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  2. Haven't been to Budapest in many years--it looks as beautiful as ever. Happy eating!

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  3. So many great things... who would have thought that there would be vegetarian greatness in such a meat famous city.... really beautiful travelog Trix. I have to admit, the langos and the spice store captured my heart... mmmm recipes???

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  4. I've never been to Budapest! It looks like you had a grand time... eating! ;-))

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  5. What a fantabulous romp through all that food!!! I was in Budapest in 1991 and also went to Gerbeaud as a total splurge since I was a poor backpacker and am glad to see it's not changed at all... What a great post!

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  6. what fun ... love to read and savor every word of your trip - do enjoy your last days in Vienna and do tell us all about it...

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  7. Looks like such a fun trip. I love all the photos!

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  8. wow,I am not sure at all about the foods, I may not have done so well with all those onions, but the desserts look heavenly. The pictures are truly amazing, what you bought I have no clue what it said lol. What a culture shock,going somewhere I cant understand what I am eating, drinking geesh, glad to read this, if I ever have the chance to go there I would have to take a serious course of foods and their language. The only truffle I ever ate was by Lindt, ignorance is bliss huh? You both look like newly weds..and the nutela thingy they made is my fav, I knew what you were talking about lol!!!! oh my I feel really stupied now! I can truly say you have certainly educated me about a foreign country I had no clue about, and wish I could have you as my travel guide, you didn't leave anything out, terrific visual,pictures and story, glad you back missed you lots!

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  9. you guys rock would love to travel with you one day going to turkey last week of May are u game!!!!!

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  10. So amazing! Totally jealous now. The piece of Gerbeaud torte looks so yummy.

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  11. Awwww, such a sweet photo of you and Poppa! (Hugs) I'm so happy to read about your wonderful time in Budapest! Nem nem nem! You are killing me with all that food pics! Oh, I loved all the vegetarian food you had. So many varieties. I wish there were more such places in Singapore!

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  12. I haven't been to Budapest but I have loved all the Hungarians I have met! Artistic and moody and emotional and so interesting!
    It is going to be fun seeing all the things you do with your little treasures once you get home!

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  13. Now I know what you've done in Budapest :) - I am glad you found some good vegetarian food and the pictures are beautiful!

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  14. This looks like such a fun trip. Lucky Trix! We've had a number of friends who lived and worked in Budapest and they've all raved about it. I can see why.

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  15. Gorgeous post, food and photos and the place is awesome. I'm sure you are inspired to cook something in the kitchen. Thanks for the wonderful post Trix and your writing is always flawless.

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  16. Oh how wonderful! I would love to go to Budapest. I thoroughly enjoyed your photos :-)

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  17. I can only imagine how amazing this trip must be! Great photos!

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  18. I need to make a pilgrimage to the Central Market Hall. My last and only trip to Budapest was less than 24 hours... a crime really. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

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  19. You're bad! I was going to get some work done and then I saw these gorgeous photos and had to stop. Thanks for sharing such a delicious and beautiful trip.

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  20. Budapest is one of my destinations for someday. The market looks fascinating and the food, oh how delightful it must have been to have eaten those langos.

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  21. Everytime I see that imagine at the top of your posts I just love it. I think I will come join you and eat all the incredible food you are enjoying!!

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  22. Marquis de Salade? Ahahaha! Brilliant.

    Those fried treats look very good, and what you don't know can't hurt you, right?

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  23. Never been to Budapest so thank you for the tour! I can't believe you passed up the rooster stew!!

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  24. Sounds like a fantastic time in Budapest! And so much delicious amazing food! Wonderful!

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  25. Okay, I have to pick myself up off the floor from laughing so hard at the "rooster testicle" stew--are you serious!? I would have died! I love the photo of you and the hubby--so darling! So love your travelcapades, too! So wish I had more of a desire to see the rest of the world (too many miles racked up in godawful business trips). I am forever tainted by this. But LOVED these posts from afar--had no idea the paprika plant looked like that!

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  26. It looks like a fun trip! I'm glad I discovered your blog. I will be back to read more.

    Have a wonderful evening!

    Nisrine

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  27. This looks like a fabulous trip. Lovely pics of Budapest

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  28. jealous, jealous!!! so very jealous, especially of the chocolate cake! Love the pic of the two of you together (Poppa Trix's one)

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