On a visit to Hungary two years ago, I struggled to find vegetarian food of any quality, much less good quality, but on my most recent visit I discovered that the country once known for uninteresting meat and potatoes dishes is fast becoming a food mecca.
I began my review of the top new Hungarian restaurants at the Michelin star Borkonyha Restaurant, which the owners describe as “a blend between a French-style bistro and a contemporary family restaurant offering the best of Hungarian cuisine.” Tucked into a small storefront near Deak Ferenc Square in central Budapest, this restaurant does big things, as I discovered during a three-hour culinary romp that included an appetizer, soup, main course, and a dessert.
My meal began with a braised scallop on a bed of mango, over which cold Vichyssoise was poured. This was followed by an inspired appetizer of Sea Bream on a bed of risotto and beet root; topped with mussels, shaved truffle slices, pearl onion segments, and edible flowers; finished with a rich butter sauce. To my surprise, a second starter appeared: medallions of tuna resting on a bed of soured strawberries. Read More
Honey cakes. Even the name sounded delicious! I first encountered these traditional Hungarian treats during a visit to Hortobagy National Park in far Eastern Hungary. They lined a table in the tiny museum displaying local arts and crafts, enticing me with their adorable shapes: hearts, maidens in traditional dresses, chickens, pigs, horses, curved knives with intricately carved handles, and giant spheres trimmed in satin ribbon. They looked so delicious I couldn’t resist.
I peeled away the clear cellophane of the heart I’d purchased and bit down. The dough had been baked to a rock. I tried again and managed to break off a corner, then chewed, and chewed, and chewed some more. It wasn’t the delicacy I had imagined. After a couple of bites, I gave up.
Fast forward a couple of years and I was again visiting Debrecen, one of my favorite Hungarian towns. My friend, Nora Erdei, who works at the Debrecen Tourist Bureau, asked if I would be interested in visiting the workshop of the family who makes all the honey cakes for Hungary. I jumped at the chance; I HAD to know why these tooth-breakers were so popular.