Tuesday, November 13, 2007

If you ever go to Budapest

Some people might think Budapest is so foreign they might not want to go. Whatever you might have thought, it's not so. Budapest is a beautiful, small city, situated on both sides of the Danube. The Buda side is the hilly side, where the castle is located (lit up spectacularly at night), and most of the tourist shopping areas, the cathedral and some lovely restaurants. The Pest (pronounced pesh to you non-Hungarians. so it's Booda-pesh) side is the flat side, where much of the business and industry is located. More commercial. It's also where Gundel is located.

Years ago, probably 10, DH and I enjoyed a dinner at Gundel. We were with a small group and the dinner had been pre-arranged. It was spectacular. We even bought some of the Gundel-labeled red wine and brought it home (as we did this time too). Hungarians make some fine wine. Inexpensive. And almost none of it is exported. You've probably heard of the label Tokaji (pronounced toe-kai), a line of sweeter wines, from 1 to 5 in sweetness. They're lovely wines and hard to find here in the U.S. We enjoyed #5 with our dessert the other night. It was really lovely. My DH doesn't drink much late harvest or sweet wines, so I didn't buy any, although I really wanted to. But, I'd be drinking it all, so decided not to.

So earlier last week I asked one of the ship's crew to make a reservation for us at Gundel for Saturday night, our last night there. No problem. We took a taxi - and had the nicest driver - he even came to pick us up at 9:30 at the conclusion of our dinner, AND he picked us up the next morning and drove us to the airport. A very nice man - an Hungarian. With a son in dental school.

Gundel requires men to wear coats (ties not required). It's a very formal place, but not stuffy, really. I was charmed, even more so this time. Last time we were served in a private room upstairs. I liked eating in the main dining room. The ambiance was not to be missed. Lucy and I just ate it up. From the bottled water to the multiple forks and knives lined up on each side of the plates.

We'd been warned the dinner would be expensive. One guide told us to expect to pay about 80,000 Hungarian florins (approx. $300) apiece. Fortunately, it was nowhere close to that. The 6 course meal, including wine for 5 of the courses, was 82,000 florins. So, about $75 per person. To our minds, it was a bargain, considering the fabulous food we had, and the lovely wines they served along with. Hungary, although in the EU, won't convert to the euro until 2012. But most places we went accepted euros with no difficulty. They even took American dollars too.

So, here's what we had:

The Traditional and new
Gundel Creation Dinner:

Torte of foie Gras with Cranberry
Kir Royale

Smoked Ham of Z selic Roe-Deer
with Porcini Mushroom Mousse
Belatonbolglari Chardonnay 2006, Legli Otto

Tarragon scented Venison Ragout Soup
with Sour Apple and Chestnut

Slice of River Catfish served with
Pumpkin Seed Strudel and Red Pepper Sauce
Egri Pinot Noir 2002, Gundel Winery

Rack of Mangalic Pork served with
Spinach-Serviettenknodel and colorful onions
Egri Bikaver Gold Selection Barrique 2000, Gundel Winery

The Classic Crepe a la Gundel
Tokaji Aszu 5 butts 2000, Gundel Winery

The foie gras torte. Amazing.

Sinfully delicious soup, with venison, apple and chestnut. Slurp.

The charming table, chock-a-block full of dishes, wine glasses, utensils, little bowls, butter dishes, salt and paprika (no pepper, just paprika), dinner plates and bread plates

The fried catfish in the foreground, with the very different and delicious pumpkin seed strudel at the back.

The amazingly tender pork chops with onions and a spinach strudel.

And, last but not least, this scrumptious crepe filled with a ground and chunky walnut, raisin, rum filling, topped with a dreamy chocolate sauce and powdered sugar. A stunner to look at and to devour.

Here we are, l-r: me, my DH, Lucy and Wayne.

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