By Bonnie Carroll−
Even for travelers who know their way around food and wine in a foreign country it can be difficult to find exactly what you are looking for, but it is nearly impossible to discover the secrets of Budapest food and wine without speaking Hungarian. Ideally, finding a knowledgeable guide is the perfect solution to getting a handle on the history of the food, wine and changing styles, and we were all lucky to find ourselves on this informative and fun food & wine walk with one of Budapest’s’ best guides.
Central Market Hall
Virag Lastoczki, a certified wine expert, who provided a full myriad of tastes and sips throughout the Budapest City Center amazed and delighted everyone on the tour (six people were included to walk with Virag from 10:00 am. until 12:00 noon) with her humor, excellent English and varied selection of sites to sample products.
Virage was getting acquainted with the other tour members when I approached her in the Central Market, which is where our adventure began. The Central Market Hall
is the most amazing place on the planet for foodies. The Great Market Hall or Central Market Hall “Nagycsarnok” is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. I found the architecture and atmosphere of this historic building enchanting. It is located at the end of the famous pedestrian shopping street Vaci utca and on the Pest side of the Liberty bridge at Fovam Square. The building was designed and built by Samu Pecz around 1897, and is closed on Sun. http://budapestmarkethall.com/great-market-hall-budapest
All the members on the tour shared introductions and we began our tour at the Panorama Bar to sample some local aperitifs, one was a Pear Palenka
(similar to grappa combined with fruit flavors) and the other Unicum
, a digestive guaranteed to cure everything that’s wrong with you. I’ve never been crazy about grappa, and the cure all digestive was a bit medicinal tasting, but we all gave it a good college try, and said Egészségére (cheers in Hungarian) to our stroll through Budapest.
Langos, Hungarian Pizza
Next we wandered down a few booths to share what looked like a pizza called Langos, made with thick pastry dough that was covered with cream style cheese and topped with grated cheese. I found it a bit bland, but realized Virag ordered ours plain to appeal to the entire group. She explained this pastry can be covered with delicious peppers, green vegetables, onions, meat and fresh paprika to spice things up if desired. They are relatively inexpensive depending on the toppings and are very filling.
Marika’s Pickled Vegetables
On the first floor of the market we sampled a variety of delicious Hungarian sausages with an assortment of pickled vegetables. Some sausages were mild and some very spicy, but the baby corn, cauliflower, peppers, and tiny water melons, especially the tiny water melons, were a fantastic pairing with these sausages. According to Virag it was a law that when vegetables became fully ripe they had to be turned over to the state, but many people picked the water melon and other vegetables early and began pickling them to insure they would have food. Pickled vegetable stands are very popular at the Central Market, but Virag selected Marika’s stand, which was so colorful and great to photograph. We also took some time looking at the amazing meat and sausage market stalls, where one butcher with a keen sense of humor put sun glasses on a lamb head to make us laugh.
Belvarosi Disznotoros Stand Up Dining
A short five minute walk took us to Belvarosi Diszotoros
, a deli-style stand up venue that offered authentic home-cooked Hungarian soup, salad, sausage, goulash with bread and more. This neighborhood restaurant was packed with locals, but it was standing room only because there were no chairs! From business groups, to families to college students it was packed with hungry lunch goers.
Belvárosi Disznótoros (Downtown Pig Feast) is a traditional Hungarian butcher shop/restaurant serving Hungarian staples including fried sausage, black pudding, pork knuckle, goose leg, stuffed cabbage and more. You can pick from pickles, coleslaw, fresh white bread and fried potatoes to accompany your hearty meal. It was absolutely delicious food. Visit: www.belvarosidisznotoros.hu
Rozsavolgyi Little Chocolate Piggies
It seemed natural we would then have some chocolate as a sweet ending, and we walked to Rozsavolgyi Chocolates
down the street for a sample of their home-made chocolates. Many of us enjoyed little chocolate pigs, or combinations of things like chili or papaya/carmel morsels. I love chocolate and this was the real deal. It is also a shop that is doing new and trendy presentations. Visit: www.rozsavolgyi.com
Our visit to the Auguszt Pastry Shop
, which has been proving pastries in Budapest for four generations, was so relaxing. Their garden provided a quiet retreat where we enjoyed cake samples that were all outstanding. Each one was unique with it’s own special filling and cream. This is definitely the place for real cake aficionados. Visit: http://www.auguszt1870.hu
Virag Lastoczki & Ferenc Juhasz at The Tasting Table
The final and most amazing destination was The Tasting Table
, an inviting tasting cellar with walls filled with local wines. We entered down some stairs to find a beautifully set wine tasting table with flowers. Ferenc Juhasz, the sommelier and manager greeted and welcomed us to sit down and enjoy the Blue Danube Wine Company, Carpathiau Wine & Old World Wine varietals selected for our tasting. Virag had selected wines for tasting in white, red and rose. A huge tray of wonderful cheese, fruits, nuts and bread was in the center of the table to enjoy with each wine, and an explanatory map of the wine regions of Hungary was our place-mat, which aided us in following the presentation. We were all foodies, we all loved this part of the Food & Wine tour, and hated to see it end. For additional information I hope you will visit: www.tastehungary.com
For anyone who wants to save wasted time wandering around, and wishes to learn quickly about food and wine in Budapest I highly recommend this fun, delicious city walking tour, and Virag Lastoczki is a brilliant girl with a solid knowledge of Budapest food, wine and history. She can be contacted for this tour through (www.viator.com
). Wishing you Jó étvágyat
(Bon appetit in Hungarian)!
Bonnie Carroll has been a food/travel/lifestyle writer since 1983. She is the founder & publisher of Bonnie Carroll’s Life Bites News, does travel and food reporting on KZSB1290 radio, and contributes to a variety of national and international travel/lifestyle publications. Her first children’s book C.C. Charles was published in 2002 and she is currently working on a second book. Contact her at [email protected].