About Taste Hungary
We believe Hungary and Central Europe are undiscovered culinary gems—a culinary paradise which is slowly being (re)discovered. Hungarian food and winemaking have deep traditions, and a complex (and complicated) history. Decades of Communism caused many of these unique food traditions and industries to suffer terribly. But these days Budapest is a hot restaurant city (it even has four Michelin-starred); local food artisans and growers around the country are reviving old traditions; and Hungarian wines are increasingly available around the world. Our ultimate goal is to show guests that there is plenty of good food and wine here. We want to break down the language and cultural barriers that could make people feel uncomfortable. We want our guests to go home feeling like they discovered things they didn’t even know existed, and that it was well worth their while to dig deeply into new flavors, a new country, and meeting new people.
Taste Hungary has grown consistently every year, and we are proud to have introduced thousands of guests to Hungarian food and wine over the past decade. Taste Hungary is consistently ranked #1 on Trip Advisor. In 2014 we won a prestigious Drinks Business Award for “Best Contribution to Wine and Spirits Tourism” (and we were shortlisted again in 2015). In 2017 won the “Best Wine Tour Operator” award from VinCE.
About The Tasting Table
We opened The Tasting Table opened in late 2014, after much dusty renovations and planning. We had long dreamed about having their own space in the heart of Budapest, where they could offer memorable wine tasting experiences, delicious hand-picked wines, an extensive selection of old and rare Tokaji aszús, and opportunities for guests to learn about Hungarian wine culture. So on a winter day when we happened to find a small cellar space—which was in horrible condition (and had no plumbing)—we had a crazy visualization of transforming this cellar into a cozy wine tasting space so we could expand Taste Hungary’s wine tasting options.
Located in the cozy vaulted cellar of a 19th-century palace, The Tasting Table is a hybrid wine shop / tasting room / event space / education center / online shop. We focus on Central European grape varietals and specialties and have 200+ unique wines, many of which are not widely available elsewhere. We buy our wine mainly straight from the winemakers, from good people who make good wine, who we know and trust. Every wine we offer has a reason to be here—whether it is simply an outstanding wine, comes from a special terroir, or tells an important story about Hungarian winemaking. Our goal is to introduce these special wines, and our wine is always paired with lots of insight into Hungarian winemaking.
The Palace Quarter is a neighborhood which has been praised as one of Budapest’s hippest up-and-coming neighborhoods in publications such as Vogue, The New York Times, and Condé Nast Traveler—where aristocratic families of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had their residences here. Between 1867 and World War I there were nearly three dozen palaces and mansions built in this small area (including our building). The Tasting Table is located in one of these: in the cellar of the Keglevich Palace, built in 1871 for Count Stefan Keglevich, a member of parliament. Keglevich was a Croatian count who created a vodka brand in 1884, the Keglevich Classic, which was distilled from pure grain and remains popular today. Perhaps he stored his vodka and other experimental drinks in our little cellar? We like to think so.
Taste Hungary was founded in 2008 by Carolyn and Gábor Bánfalvi. Travel has been a part of their lives together from the time they met working on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. They share a special passion (and an appetite) for the food and wine of Central Europe, as well as the people, places, and stories that make this region so fascinating. After spending years researching and writing Carolyn’s culinary guidebooks to Hungary, Carolyn and Gábor founded Taste Hungary with the intention of sharing their passion for Hungarian food and wine with like-minded travelers who are seeking to experience the region’s authentic flavors and experiences.
Our Culinary Guidebooks
Carolyn is the author of two culinary guidebooks devoted to Hungarian food, wine, and restaurants. They are the ultimate companions for travelers seeking to experience Budapest (and Hungary) the best way: by tasting its food and exploring its eating and drinking scenes.
The Food and Wine Lover’s Guide to Hungary: With Budapest Restaurants and Trips to the Wine Country
Food Wine Budapest (also available to buy at The Tasting Table)
“The indispensable guide [to Budapest]”
—Condé Nast Traveler (US edition)
“It is, quite simply, the best guide available today to the culinary renaissance of the city and region in the post-communist era. Bánfalvi profiles some of the best restaurants and wine bars in Budapest, but also includes cafés, pastry shops, specialty food shops and markets, as well as the traditions behind their offerings. Helpfully, she includes extensive translations for the names of wines, foods and cooking methods as well. This is the first book in a new series called Terroir Guides, which promises to explore cities or regions, focusing on the way local influences are reflected in food and wine. The Budapest guide sets a high standard for those that follow.”
—The Globe and Mail
—Condé Nast Traveller (UK edition)
For an armchair exploration of Hungarian food, check out some of Carolyn Bánfalvi’s articles.
Your Guide to Hungarian Food – Explore Parts Unknown
Unicum: A Drink with a Past – Gastronomica (pdf)
Rhapsody in Red – Saveur
Soup of Ages – Saveur (pdf)
Of the many valuable partnerships which we have embarked on over the past decade, we are especially proud of our ongoing partnership with Zingerman’s. Since 2011 when a Zingerman’s management group traveled to Budapest to explore Hungarian cuisine, we’ve been helping them organize their Hungarian travels and research—and we have learned so much from them in the process. We are thrilled that the result is so many delicious Hungarian specialties now featured on their menus in Ann Arbor (and available through mail order in the US). Since 2013 we have been working with Zingerman’s Food Tours organizing one to two culinary vacations annually (to Hungary and Istria). Read more about Zingerman’s relationship with Hungary.
We draw on our experience, research, and deep personal connections in the region to create delicious, memorable, and authentic food and wine experiences. At the heart of these experiences is learning about the region’s cuisine and wine via its flavors, history, culture, and context in the larger world.
- We focus on what we do well. There are plenty of others who you can expertly tour the major sights with. But if you want to know how Hungarians eat and drink, what they eat and drink, and why they eat and drink those things, then let us show you the way.
- We are not just another tour company. We come from a food background, and the quality and authenticity of food and wine informs all of our tours. If others offer you a bowl of goulash and a glass of wine and call it a food tour, we put that bowl of goulash in perspective by explaining how it is made, where the recipe originated from, and how today’s chefs are creatively tweaking those recipes.
- We believe in small groups. Our small group walking tours are capped at eight guests (and are always happy to do any of our tours with a minimum of two guests), and our wine tours are capped at six guests. That means no guides screaming through megaphones or carrying umbrellas. We can get to know you, and you can get to know us.
- But we will happily organize special tours or tastings for larger groups. On that note, if you have something in mind for your trip but do not see it listed on our site, just drop us a line. We are always willing to custom create special tours and experiences.
- We’ve done our research…and we continue to do so. We’ve written books and articles, and contributed to films and TV shows about the region’s foods. We’ve also eaten, drank, and slept (in hotels, that is) our way around the region in order to get the inside knowledge needed to show the best that this region has to offer.
- Our guides are all food-focused. They are multilingual winemakers, food writers, and bloggers (among many other things), who continue to educate themselves in various aspects of food and wine.
- We believe in service. We strive to give good service, and we appreciate getting the best service possible for our guests.
- We have high standards. Many of our clients are professional chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, food/wine retailers, and food/wine journalists. We need to seek out the best and most authentic foods, people, and places for them. But, be assured that we do the same for all of our guests.
- Authenticity is our mantra. And authenticity can mean many things, from a lángos eaten on the street to foie gras at a contemporary restaurant.
- We want you to love the region’s food and wine as much as we do. So we will do everything that we can to make sure that happens. It is supremely important to us that your tour with us is more than just a tour, but an experience that you will remember.
- We believe in discovery (and re-discovery). The foods and wines of Central Europe were once a celebrated and widely known part of the larger culture of food and wine in Europe—until those countries were cut off from the rest of the world during Communism. Now there are many things to re-introduce to the world…but many of them still need to be re-discovered! We love it when our guests discover something fabulous which they didn’t even know existed.
- History and cuisine cannot be understood without looking at the region as a whole. This is an ethnically mixed region with many languages, recipes, and traditions. But if you look at the big picture, you’ll find just as many similarities as differences. We focus on both. Recipes and grape varietals never respect political borders, and if you don’t look at the other side of the border you’ll miss half of the story.