Would you believe Budapest?
I was there for two weeks in March for work, and it sort of threw a wrench into my blogging. Well, a bunch of stuff threw a wrench into my blogging, but whatever — I’m back.
And I want to share some food pics with you, obvs. (Click on any pic to see it bigger.)
Pretty much all of the Hungarian food I ate was on-set catering. Most days we had our choice of a meat, a sauce, and a variety of starches. I believe this was turkey, mushroom sauce, Israeli couscous (which they called… something else), and rice, which was prepared in a way that I loved… probably with a lot of butter.
Hungarians are big on cherries. A lot of desserts had a cherry in the middle.
These cookies (below) at catering were amazing. I never figured out what the secret ingredient was… maybe almonds? I also never caught their name. Horseshoes? (Hungarian is a really tough language, so even if I knew the name I might not be able to pronounce it.)
You can see on the left, a plate of cookies with apricot filling. Hungarians also love their apricot filling, apparently. I’m a fan.
The cookies reminded me of Jewish deli offerings… buttery. Dangerous. I had to do a cookie detox when I got home.
A few more of the amazing cookies/wafers, and citron (lemon) Fanta, which doesn’t seem to be avail in the US. It was basically sparkling lemonade. Loved it.
McDonald’s in Hungary had curly fries, Greek wraps, mozzarella sticks, and donuts (“fanks”), and I wish I could remember the Rick Steves formula a tourist told me for converting Forint to dollars. I think it’s move the decimal over and divide by two? That would make the 530 Ft fries about $2.50? That still seems steep, but closer than 530.
Also, ketchup was 100 Ft per pack, but a pack was big square. Probably about a tablespoon? Two?
My bosses didn’t know about my ketchup obsession, and gladly bought me 400 Ft worth just to challenge me. (Child’s play.)
We also went to a really fancy McDonald’s…
Okay, back to Hungarian food. This was my breakfast of choice. It’s called a… “keef-lee.” Kiefly? It’s sort of pretzel-y. I dipped it in cherry sauce… trying to enjoy the fruits of Hungary.
We also ate pizza. It was just pizza, but hey. Closer to Italy than usual!
We bought macarons at a place called Sugar, to thank the crew for the first week of work.
That day, we finally had chicken paprikash at catering. I was very excited. I wanted to talk in that voice Billy Crystal uses when he talks about paprikash in When Harry Met Sally. (Paprika is really big in Hungary, so I had a few other paprika stews during my stay.)
It was really good, guys. Get yourself some paprikash. (And that rice was really good, too. Oh, catering… you did rice right.)
Of course, the cherry macaron had a cherry in the middle… (I don’t know if you can see it.)
Remember when Kennedy said he was a Berliner and he accidentally said he was a jelly donut? And various other fanks…. fanks a lot.
Ah, THAT’S how you spell it… kifli.
One souvenir hit was Rozsavolgyi Chocolates. When I got them home, I had to use my Google translator to try to remember which flavors I’d picked. They have mushroom chocolates, cherry (of course), spicy paprika (double of course), cardamom… really unique flavors and textures. I still have some in my fridge, which I may have to go eat now… even though somehow I let them expire before I could finish them all.
One day we bought a bunch of cakes (torts) for the crew, including this apple poppyseed cake… did I mention that they were also big on poppyseed in Budapest? I don’t know if it’s an Eastern Europe/Jew connection, but I was really feeling the flavors of Budapest.
Another typical Hungarian breakfast… challah with Nutella. They were serving challah on Passover, which was kind of hilarious to me.
And let me take a moment to talk about the fresh-squeezed orange juice… I loved it. (But boxed orange juice was more like Tang.)
The yogurt was always warm and soupy… I tossed it out. Sorry. 😦
Another Hungarian specialty… some late-night goulash and “pancakes,” which were crepes rolled with Nutella. Goulash is a soup with paprika in it… of course.
On a morning off I walked to the Grand Market…
My bosses’ Hungarian asst, Patricia, recommended that I go downstairs to the fish area. I was like, that sounds like it will smell AWFUL. But I went downstairs, and discovered that it was also the sauerkraut/pickled peppers area. And they like to give their pickled goods adorable faces.
Picked goods are very Hungarian, but something about all these smiling pickled goods felt very American/Martha’s Vineyard. Maybe the color choices…
My friend Allison (who lives on the Swiss-Italian border) told me that I had to try out a Hungarian specialty called Unicum. I bought a tiny bottle, brought it all the way back to Los Angeles as a gag gift for Sam, and it’s sitting on the table RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, but I still haven’t been brave enough to try it.
One specialty that every Hungarian is gaga over is kürtöskalács, or chimney cakes. There’s really no American equivalent, that I’ve seen. A piece of dough is twirled around a cylinder, dipped in sugar, and heated over a fire. Add a topping, and voila! They’re crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and totally addictive.
So I’ve been having withdrawals.
We hired our own kurtos-makers to come to set on the last night. It was a nice treat to have in the middle of the muddy, muddy woods. (Also snowy.)
I loved that when you ate them, they pulled off in a swirl. FYI: A whole one was WAY too much for one person.
On our way to the airport, I was telling my boss about the Unicum. Our driver (Pal, sounds like Paul), who didn’t speak a lot of English, excitedly began listing a whole bunch of things that ended with -cum, summing it all up with “Hungaaaari-CUM!” In the airport, I found a Hungaricum display. I think that translates as… traditional drinks of Hungary?
But still. Hehe.
Maybe I will elaborate further in the future, but at least now I’ve shared a good chunk of my Hungarian food experience with you. Not pictured: Thermal spas, furry Muppet pigs, the temple, the opera house… you gotta go there!
And after a VERY long hiatus… I gotta go to the gym!