Monday, April 4, 2011

Eats and Treats: Budapest

Budapest was my favorite city. Maybe I have some Hungarian roots I don't know about!?!?! I loved the people, the food, the views, the bridges, the majestic buildings, the parks, everything.

Kara and I arrived in the morning. We were tired from our night train experience, so we slept for a bit at the cozy Home Plus Hostel. The owner is an older Hungarian man named Andrew. He is precious - he took such good care of us and everyone else who stayed there. After our power nap we headed out for some lunch at a restaurant that Andrew told us about called Muvesz Etterem es Kavehaz. I ordered a caprese style salad which was to die for - mostly because the fresh mozzarella balls were wrapped in bacon. HELLO! I also ordered goulash. We tried goulash in Poland (a soup/stew made with beef and veggies), but I had to try it again because it's considered the national dish in Hungary. I'm glad I did. I actually liked this goulash better. It had loads of paprika which made me happy. I can't get enough paprika and neither can the Hungarians (another reason I wonder about secret Hungarian roots). They are one of the top producers of paprika and it's used in many of their dishes. 

We spent the rest of the day walking all over Budapest. We ended our night with a boat tour on the Danube. We needed to do one last thing before turning in. Dessert! We went to a cafe near our hostel called Europa Kavehaz Cafe. I ordered the Dobos Torte, a famous Hungarian layered sponge cake with chocolate butter cream and topped with caramel. The flavor was VERY good. It was a little dry (an issue with sponge cakes I hear) but I ate every last bite. :)

The next morning we were up and at 'em. We had breakfast at Cafe Jubilee. They had all sorts of antique looking signs, photos and posters. One of which said "It's Chocolate. It's Food. It's Cadbury's." Being a lover of Cadbury chocolate, I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. I also found a Coca-Cola sign. I had to take a shot of that since I live near Atlanta. We ordered some coffee, bread and the traditional breakfast. It was delicious. The beans, not a normal breakfast food in my world, were especially tasty.

Fueled and energized, we headed out to the Castle District to see the castle (no surprise there!), the cathedral and the shops. What a view! We took our time seeing everything because it was so breathtaking.


As we were sauntering through the castle area we both smelled something very heavenly. It was a combination of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and elephant ears and cinnamon rolls get the picture. We HAD to follow that smell. It led us to a tiny street vendor selling Kürtőskalács (aka chimney cakes, stove cakes, Hungarian wedding cakes, etc.). This swirly whirly piece of heaven is Hungary's oldest pastry. It's quite possibly the best pastry I have put in my mouth. They are so unique. The dough is covered in sugar and wrapped around a cylinder shaped spit and cooked over an open fire, which makes the outside all caramelized and the inside all soft and fluffy. Then they put cinnamon or sugar or chocolate or whatever topping you want on the outside. We even had a beautiful sunset to watch as we savored every bite.

My new obsession with chimney cakes got me thinking.....can I find these in states? The answer is YES. So far I have found that street vendors in NYC sell them and a chimney cake bakery exists in Chicago. I could be visiting NYC and Chicago soon!

Back to Budapest. After our divine chimney cake experience, we needed some real dinner. We passed a street vendor along the way selling all sorts of fun sweets. Kara bought what looked and tasted like a cake ball. We aren't sure though, the woman she bought it from didn't speak English.

We ate dinner at an Italian place called Cucina. I ordered the Tre Gusti pizza which had tomato, mozzarella, chicken, spicy sausage, panchetta and rosemary. It was superb. I pretty much devoured it.

The next day we went to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths. It truly was a one of a kind experience! There are natural hot springs throughout Budapest, so you can choose from a variety of thermal baths. After a few hours of soaking in the warmth, we headed out to have our last lunch in Budapest. We found the Ezaz Cafe. I ordered chicken paprikash with house-made buttered gnocchi. My dear pal Maney told me I had to try chicken paprikash. I had been searching all over, so I was elated to finally find it at the last minute! This was by far my favorite dish in Budapest. Maybe even the whole trip. The chicken was falling off the bone, the sauce was full of flavor (and paprika!) and the sour cream was a nice touch. The house-made buttered gnocchi was awesome. I've only had packaged gnocchi, so it's no surprise I was taken by it. I was sad to leave Budapest...but we had to catch the train to our next destination...Slovenia!

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