Thursday, June 20, 2013

The food in Budapest... gorgeous, amazing, unexpected!

Posted By: Leah
My absolute favorite thing about Budapest... was... wait for it... the food.

Shocking, right? I don't know about your city, but my town doesn't have a Hungarian restaurant. Actually the name of the country ... "Hungary"... doesn't really make you think of delicious food.
But everything I ate in Budapest was sooo good and beautifully presented at every meal!

Those Europeans have style for sure!

My very first meal in Budapest was lunch. I arrived around noon, cabbed it to my hotel, and then went out exploring (get caught up on my fancy 5 star hotel post from yesterday here).

The one thing I knew about the food about Budapest before I arrived was that they do a lot of meats and sausages. I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't prepare meat at home, and eat a mostly non-meat diet.

So as I walked around the streets close to my hotel, I fully expected to see lines of butcher shops with linked sausages and upside down pigs in the windows. Not at all true! Ok, for the record, yes... the first deli I found did have rows of sausages and peppers, but I kept on walking and so glad I did!

I saw a kitty in the window drinking milk from a straw and had to go in! The name is Cserpes Tejivo and it is the absolutely most adorable milk bar ever! Yes... a milk bar! I didn't know this was a real thing but it is! I ordered cocoa milk with cream and a sandwich . No one working there spoke english (however the website is in english... tricky!) and they didn't even accept euro's. It was hungarian forents only for the currency and I handed them a 1,000 forent bill and got back 5 coins (later I learned my lunch was only around $2 USD!!!) 

And no, I honestly have no clue what was on the sandwich. It was the meat, and lettuce. Some kind of flavored sour cream, and shredded beats! With milk! Sounds really weird, but it was delicious... not to mention I was STARVING. 

Inside the milk bar were some chairs, and there was outside seating too, but everyone there seemed to be with their cute, Euro-Hipster friends and so I opted to take my meal to go and sat on a bench by myself. It was okay, I just watched kids play in a fountain and the overly friendly pigeons hoping I'd drop a crumb for them. 

Actually... let me back up a bit. I had not had a real meal since.. yikes.. days before. I had a 2pm flight from my city so I left work the day before around noon. I got into DC the day before around 3pm, then had a 5pm overnight flight to Brussels. I was served dinner on the DC to Brussels flight, then a bunch of hours later, they turned on all the lights and gave us breakfast (I snapped a quick shot below... my flight plan, arriving into Europe and some fruit and o.j.)
Needless to say, I was super hungry for the milk bar mystery sandwich for sure. 

After I returned to the hotel after having my Budapest lunch, I checked my email and my European co-workers were at the hotel and we met up... like for the first time ever! We chatted for a while and then we all got ready for dinner!!!

I mentioned this is yesterday's post, but the Danube river was flooding all over Europe and had flooded in Budapest as well. One co-worker insisted we all eat down by the river anyway and I'm so glad we did! We found the most amazing outdoor restaurant called Kapatia etterem. Live gypsy musicians serenaded us and we ordered almost everything on the menu. It was so much fun! 
Pictured is some of the appetizers we ordered, notice the meats, however, there were tons of good vegetables and the light green peppers are actually paprika! I always thought it was some red tasteless spice that went on deviled eggs, but you guys... paprika's the True story!
Imagine a pepper less hot than a banana pepper, but more flavorful than say a red or green pepper. 

Anyhow after that we walked back, through a lovely street festival and we all wanted to stop for gelato... it is serious business there! But we were just too full. 

I was hoping to get a good night's rest... everybody always says to prevent jet lag just stay up the whole first day you're in Europe or take a max. 1 hr nap, go to sleep at a normal time and you will wake up adjusted. Um false. I couldn't go to sleep, then I woke up on my own at 6am. It was good, because I had to pack up and switch to the hotel where I would be holding my conference. BUT the 'European plan' breakfast was included at my hotel for 25 euros a night ($33.18 USD) and you KNOW I was getting in on that... It was at ES Bisztro & Terrace at the Kempinski Hotel. 
For the record, I don't really like breakfast. At all. I don't really like eggs or breakfast meats or cereal or whatever else people eat for breakfast.  Well here's the thing, I don't like American breakfast. But I LOVE European breakfast... OMG!!! YOU GUYS>>> It was AMAZING! 

So breakfast in Budapest was this buffet, which sounds lame... but hear me out. It had a HUGE selection of fruits, pastries, yogurts, breads, cold meats, cheeses, and a hot selection of potatoes, tomatoes, and everything that breakfast should be!!!

I became hooked, I'm talking obsessed with the paprika chili paste (bottom of above photo). I put that stuff on potatoes, on bread and cheese and it is straight heaven!!!  (yes, I found it in a market before I left and brough home 5 jars in my suitcase. true story). 

The other thing they are super big on in Hungary is honey. Who knew!? So in addition to the zillions of amazing, delicious fresh breads and pastries, they had crazy large selections of honey. EVEN A REAL HONEY COMB!  I was geeking out!

And admittedly, I had set up a breakfast meeting because that's how I roll. Fortunately the dude I was eating with also recognized the awesomeness of this breakfast and didn't hate on me for my 5 trips to the buffet and obsessive picture taking hahah. I would fly all the way back to Hungary just to eat breakfast again at ES Bisztro. I know my photos/description don't do it justice. It was so beyond amazing. 

AND.... I actually ended up (after a few more meetings and a pile of work for the conference) not having lunch and it was around 2pm. That same dude from breakfast (also an event planner like me, but more big time) had the room service people bring us lunch so we had a working lunch. I ordered another sandwich because I was obsessed with the good bread (and meat!!) and he ordered... wait for it... pate! (you know, goose liver). I was like eew gross sick. But he let me try some on toast with this fig jelly and it was actually pretty amazing! I mean yes it tasted like straight up fat off a goose's liver. But it's sorta like sushi... I mean it seems so wrong to eat.. but tastes so good. And now I'm officially a pate fan.

So the conference officially kicked off that day and we had a welcome reception with Hungarian dancers and a whole pile of food. The servers and banquet staff at the Le Meridien Budapest were just amazing. Actually, the restaurant inside the hotel where the event was held was called Le Bourbon. It was an amazing French restauraunt, so all of the items were 'French Inspired.' However, I've been to Paris (I know, you all officially hate me now, just keep reading), and I think the Hungarian food was much better because it was a lot more flavorful, spicy, savory, sweet, and just had more intense flavors overall. 

The head guy (who looked like Bates from Downton Abbey and  sorry I didn't take a picture), was just a doll and prepared me a little 'to go' plate for after the event. As the planner, I mean I can eat and mingle a teeny bit, but I'm there to work, which means not so much food. Normally I am okay with this... but in Hungary... I needed this food set up to my room! So Bates (that's not his name at all) sent me up the above lovely plate with 2 pate (either side, the round things) on toast with fig, then I forgot the rest except for the amazing white paprika pepper. They look green like this in the summer (or now) when they're in season. They can be sweet and hot. IDK why we think of paprika as a red tiny spice. I mean some varieties are red. But the kind you eat raw is green. 

Ok, sorry for the pepper history, but it is important to me everyone knows this stuff so when they wind up in Budapest they know what to order. 

So the Le Meridien, my hotel where the conference is also had a European Plan breakfast, and it was very good, however not as over the top at the Kempinski... so they had a menu as well... BUT! I was able to get a real european style waffle. If you've followed my past few travel posts, I had a mickey waffle at disney and a libery bell waffle in Philly. So clearly when I had to choose a city for my layover I chose Brussels for a Belgium waffle (true yet embarassing story). WELLLL the Brussels airport is very fancy, imagine a Dean & Deluca designed airport with luxury cars and fancy boutiques thrown in. That said, they had a Godiva but no waffles.
SO clearly first chance I had, I got the above waffle at my hotel on one of the mornings. I put a bunch of types of jelly in the middle and syrup too... because I could. 

Ok, so by then my conference was in full swing, so I ate the conference food but was too busy to take pictures of every little thing. I did manage to get the above shots of one of our afternoon sessions. It was a 'future' theme, however they had it sort of gypsy, terot card, insense and real candles burning in the room type of thing. Super unique and against every fire code I've ever known :) 

This is me at the Gundel, it looks like a wedding reception, right? OMG it was absolutely spectacular. It has won all these awards including the best restaurant in all of Hungary and a top restaurant in the entire world (what!? amazing). Apparently all these celebrities, presidents, and even the Pope have eaten there. It was fancy, but not in a you only get 1/8 a shrimp and a sprig of a leaf sort of way. We had a great dinner and a wonderful time. I never had goose before, or maybe I've had duck, but this was my favorite... it was like a think almost luncheon meat size slice. And it was pink like turkey, but so sweet, yet savory. And I don't even like salmon but it had this vanilla crusted something fancy... and the dessert... omg I have totally not talked about the Hungarian desserts! Their chocolate is crazy rich, but not overly sweet. Fabulous you guys, big time delicious. How am I so lucky? I don't even know.  Once in a lifetime opportunity for sure.

Ok so enough about my work stuff. Fast fwd. to the end of the conference and everybody left. I had a super early morning flight and had to get dinner on my own. I strolled down a couple streets near my hotel (found the paprika chili sauce, score) and was like "OK Leah, you don't know anyone in this city let alone country, I think you will be okay to eat dinner by yourself anywhere you want."

So that's what I did! I found a really cute Italian cafe called Cucina and had myself a little last night in Budapest party for one. I ordered myself salad, bread, beer, pasta with tiger prawns (big shrimp), dessert. AND Because Budapest is adorable, the waiter brought me a super soft fleece blanket as the sun set and it got cooler. I mean how fantastic is that? 

As I walked back to my hotel after dinner, I saw Cyrano, another spot I had actually gone to earlier that afternoon with my new UK work friend before she left, and snapped a quick photo. Notice the blue fleece and white fleece blankets all over?  It was like 60 deg. out, I mean not freezing, but what a nice touch! I later heard they do this in the UK as well. So so so so thoughtful you Europeans are!

Ok last meal in Europe (aside from my illegal Kinder eggs I will not mention, nor if I was or was not able to successfully bring them into the US, as they are, as I mentioned illegal). 

SO last meal was at Ritazza. And it wasn't really a meal, it was a quick breakfast only because I needed somewhere to hang out in the Budapest airport, because I arrived so early, they weren't even checking bags yet. I know, crazy american getting there 2 hrs early for an international flight. 

ANYWAY Ritazza was the one place I made a (small) mistake. So after instagramming the above photo, I of course clicked on the 'location' to see other photos taken there... UM life fail. ALL I've ever wanted is to have someone make a fancy coffee swirl for me. I don't ask for much, but I seriously don't even know where to go to get this. Apparently I was RIGHT THERE and ordered a stupid macchiato instead of a 'flat white' whatever that is, or I could have gotten THIS:
or this
or even teenage lion style JESUS!
(sorry in advance for those instagram photos I have 'borrowed' above. 
Everyone just know this is from Cafe Ritazza)

So if anyone knows where they have baristas of awesome in the US just tell me already so I can make a special trip. thanks! 

Sooo this was back in the US in my kitchen (obviously, HK explosion)
and BF and I got a bunch of fancy cheeses, bread and I got to eat my paprika chili paste.
OMGGG delicious.

Tomorrow's post... my Budapest Shopping Spree!
yup, a fashion post!

**UPDATE: So I said there were no Hungarian restaurants in my town, which is correct. However, I did find this website that has links to European Markets in the area... so if I run out of my paprika chili I will be okay :)*


  1. Ahahaha the jesus is the best! I am so jealous, you look like you had an amazing time!

  2. love all the pictures and looks so amazing!

  3. all looks so good! I nearly died while looking.. I mean.. Now I'm hungry!
    and that coffee art! what a challenge it is! well done who did it! :)
    great photos! great post! Thanks for sharing. Me definitely visiting Budapest one day :) !


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