With the world in a state of pandemic travel suspension, it brings tears to my eyes to watch our episode visiting Hungary. We filmed it in 2019 and it reminds me of the joy of exploration and passion for sharing culinary experiences. Hope you enjoy it, too!
Budapest is one of Europe’s most spectacular cities. Two sides of the city include the fairytale castle of Buda and the awe-inspiring Parliament building of Pest. With natural spas, urban ruin pubs, and culinary delights from paprika to goulash, it’s a city full of surprises.
It was my first visit to Budapest when we filmed this episode. We were aboard the AmaWaterways AmaSonata river cruise ship and there’s nothing like sailing into the city along the Danube. What a sight to behold. Budapest is exotic yet accessible, historically rich and vibrantly exciting all at the same time. We only skimmed the surface of things to discover, but I hope it gives you a taste for visiting this fantastic destination.
As soon as we landed, we began filming. No rest for the jet-lagged weary. With only five dayson the ground to shoot everything, it was a breakneck pace. We had done months of pre-production work to set up our visits, but we also left a window of time each day to let magic happen. We stumbled across the New York Palace Hotel and Café and talked our way into filming there. On the drive to Tokaj, we spied storks nesting on telephone poles and jumped out of our van to send up the drone and film their magnificence. I could go back 100 more days and it still wouldn’t be enough time to experience the wonder of this place.
In Budapest, I toured the Jewish quarter with Zoltán Nagy of Rockhopper Tours, who was recommended to me by my neighbor. She’s of Hungarian descent and found him on a trip she took a few years ago to Budapest. What a character. He appears in another upcoming show so stay tuned.
We got an inside look – and taste of – the Great Hall Market with Budapest native, Gábor Bánfalvi. He and his wife, Carolyn, own the terrific Taste Hungary shop in the city offering exceptional wines and curated tasting experiences. (They also sell Hungarian wines in the United States, so check the link below.)
I made it a point to visit Sándor Zwack at the Zwack Unicum Museum because I’ve long been a fan of their unique digestif named Unicum. Charming and knowledgeable, Sándor regaled us for an hour just with the history of his family (NOTE: we will have the whole interview in a podcast soon). Then, I hung out with wine-industry insider, David Humeyer, at Szimpla Kert ruin bar to get a taste of local nightlife.
We ate and ate and drank and drank reveling in the culinary delights of Budapest. From goulash to lángos and lecsó to flódni, it was a calorie-laden and palate-pleasing adventure. Except for the horse sausage (it was a texture thing), I loved it all. In terms of sipping in Budapest, in addition to Unicum, which is my digestif of choice for its bittersweet notes to settle any stomach, I went for the traditional fruit brandy, pálinka, as it was strong enough to wash away any memory of that horse sausage.
Then it was off to the Hungarian countryside for a three-hour van ride to sip along the centuries- old path of the Jewish wine trade in search of liquid treasure, Tokaj wine. The articulate and gracious, Zoltán Kovács, of Royal Tokaji, spent so much time with us sharing his passion for the intricacies of one of the world’s best wines, Essencia. (BTW: he also explained that Tokaj, the region, is spelled without the final “i” and when referring to the wines from Tokaj, it is spelled Tokaji.) I highly recommend seeking out Tokaj’s sweet and dry Furmint-based wines.
I hope you enjoy this virtual visit to Hungary. You will leave hungry and thirsty.
Köszönöm (thank you) and Egészségére (cheers)!
Great Market Hall Budapest
New York Palace Hotel and Café
Jewish Quarter- Dohány Street Synagogue
Royal Tokaji Wine Company
Mád Synagogue Tokaj
Hungarian Dishes to Know
Furmint Wine Information
Top Ruin Bars Budapest
Find Zwack Unicum
Find Royal Tokaji wines