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CarolynBánfalvi

A co-founder of Taste Hungary, Carolyn is a journalist specializing in food, wine, and travel. She is the author of Food Wine Budapest (Little Bookroom) and The Food and Wine Lover’s Guide to Hungary (Park Kiado).
Lentil Stew (Lencse Főzelék)
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 20 January, 2017 in Danube Wine Cruises

The New Year is a time rich in superstitions, wherever you are in the world, and many of those superstitions involve food. In Hungary, you’d be doing yourself a disservice for the rest of the year if you didn’t eat plenty of lentils to ring in the new year. And to increase your chances for luck and success in the coming year, you should also eat roasted pork and kocsonya (pork aspic) with your lentils. Since pigs symbolize progress, the pork will bring you luck. As in many other cultures, lentils and legumes—which are round and disk-shaped, resembling coins—will bring you wealth. Whatever you do, just don’t eat chicken (which will scratch away your luck) or fish (which will swim away with your luck). Though I’m not superstitious, I do love the comfort of food traditions (however silly they may sound). So I always look forward to the ritual of eating lentils on New Year’s day (why risk it!). Since the year is still young, and eating lentils shouldn’t be confined to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, I share this recipe for lentil főzelék. This is the way my mother-in-law prepares lentil főzelék, which she usually embellishes with roasted meat or sausage. Főzelék is a classic Hungarian vegetable preparation (usually served as a main course) in which sour cream and roux (rántás) are added to thicken cooked vegetables. It can be made of practically any type of vegetable, and it’s a frequently used cooking technique in Hungarian kitchens. Whether you are superstitious or not, this dish is perfect to eat throughout the winter.

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Seven Hungarian Food and Wine Resolutions for 2017
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 04 January, 2017 in Danube Wine Cruises

As you might have suspected, at Taste Hungary we’re not big fans of New Year’s resolutions that focus on what we will not eat. We prefer to turn it around and focus on what we will do, rather than what we won’t do. So in 2017 I resolve to do more—more things which will expand my palate, bring joy, teach me something, and help me dig deeper into my favorite topics—Hungarian food, Hungarian wine, and travel.

I spend a lot of time thinking about Hungarian food and wine, talking about it, cooking it, eating and eating it, and writing about it. There is still so much to learn, and so much to appreciate (I’m only reminded how amazing it is that foie gras and Tokaji aszú are pretty much standard fare at any Budapest restaurant when I leave Hungary). So I’ve made some resolutions that will help me (and you!) to further appreciate and discover the rich cuisine and wine of Hungary.

If you are unfamiliar to Hungarian cuisine, I give you one more resolution to start with—make this the year that you dive in and get to know it! Start with George Láng’s Cuisine of Hungary (which is out of print, but many used copies are available), which will also introduce you to Hungary’s fascinating culinary history. Culinaria Hungary, which is full of beautiful photographs as well as recipes, is also a great place to get inspired. You’ll thank yourself at the end of the year after you master dishes like paprikás csirke, lecsó, töltött paprika (stuffed peppers), gulyás, and szilvás gombóc (plum dumplings)!

Here is what I resolve to do more of in 2017. Will you join?

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2016—My Year in Wine Memories
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 25 December, 2016 in Danube Wine Cruises

Looking back on 2016, it’s was impossible to name favorites among the wines that I’ve tasted. I did lots of wine travel in 2016  (some related to Taste Hungary, and some was not), and had the opportunity to taste plenty of good wines from Hungary at The Tasting Table. It was the context surrounding the wines that made wine memorable for me this year. Here are my top four wine experiences of the year (including the addresses of those places that are located in Hungary). I hope 2017 will bring you some special wine travel experiences.

Read: 2016—Our Year in Wine Memories

Read: 2016—Our Year in Food Memories

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2016—Our Year in Wine Memories
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 22 December, 2016 in Danube Wine Cruises

As we were recounting our best food memories of 2016, naturally many of them involved wine. At The Tasting Table and through our tours (and tour research) we taste a lot of wine, regularly meet winemakers, and visit the beautiful places where these wines come from. We are in love with the astonishing range of wine in Hungary, and take whatever chance we get to delve deeper into it, taste something new, and visit a new cellar. We asked some of our tour guides to recount their year in wine and share the best things they’ve drunk in 2016. While we all travel frequently outside of Hungary (often to other wine regions of the world), this year it so happened that all of our best wine memories took place in Hungary, with the exception of one from Austria from our Vienna-based wine guide (we’ve shared the addresses here so you can try them for yourselves). With nearly two dozen wine regions in this small country, and so many top-quality wines to discover, it is no wonder that we are so enamored with our own wine. We also were not surprised that there was one particular bottle of wine (which several of us tasted together) that was named as the highlight of the year by several of us. We hope that you have also experienced some great wine and wine travel in 2016.

Here are some of the best wine experiences that Taste Hungary guides have had in 2016. We’re already looking forward to what will come in 2017!

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2016—Our Year in Food Memories
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 20 December, 2016 in Danube Wine Cruises

We’ve eaten (and drunk) a lot this year. Hey, it’s part of the job. And we love that. Of course, not everything we’ve eaten has been good (such as a disastrous attempt at kürtőskalács in Seoul, sampled by one of our tour guides). But luckily plenty of it has been very good. We’ve asked some of our tour guides (who eat and drink for a living) to recount their year in food and share the best things they’ve eaten in 2016. Some of these eating experiences happened at restaurants in Hungary (we’ve shared the addresses here so you can try them for yourselves). Others happened during our travels around the world, which is when we are all most open to allowing ourselves to encounter new experiences and flavors. Others—like a feast Júlia ate in her hospital room, which was lovingly prepared by her father—were so personal that they left an indelible impression, which goes deeper than the actual food that was eaten. That’s the real magic of food. We hope that you also experienced some of that in 2016.

Here are some of the best things that Taste Hungary guides have eaten in 2016. We’re already looking forward to what will come in 2017!

Read about our best wine memories of 2016 here.

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Christmas in Hungary
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 12 December, 2016 in

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The sure way to tell Christmas is approaching in Hungary is when the cukrászdas begin stockpiling beiglis. The beigli—made of yeast-raised dough, which is stretched thin, filled with either poppyseed or ground walnut filling, and rolled into cylinder shapes—is the essence of Hungarian Christmas. Grandmothers bake dozens of them every year, and if you are lucky you’ll receive several as gifts from loved ones, relatives, friends, or colleagues. Luckily the glistening cakes hold well for weeks (which comes in handy when you receive more than you can possibly eat). In Hungary, beigli is the essence of Christmas, a taste memory which is anticipated all year long.

Around the time when bakers start selling beigli nearly as fast as it comes out of the oven, many of Budapest’s squares are filling up with Christmas markets. The Christmas Market at Vörösmarty tér is no longer the only one to visit. Budapest’s Christmas markets have been growing every year (in size, number, and variety), and have become part of the winter-time experience in the city. Add vendors selling hot roasted chestnuts and the scent of mulled wine wafting through the street, and it makes this season one of the best times of the year to visit (if you can handle the cold).

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Hungarian Wine: A Must-Read New Book By Robert Smyth
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 07 October, 2015 in

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“Now is the ideal time to tune into Hungarian wine,” writes Robert Smyth in Hungarian Wine: A Tasting Trip to the New Old World (Blue Guides, 2015). Those who are newly tuned into Hungarian wine are lucky to have this book as a guide, while those who have been following Hungarian wine for awhile will surely agree that a book like this has been missing from the English-language offerings on Hungarian wine. In fact, the book will be just as useful to newcomers to Hungarian wine—who do not yet know their kadarka from their kékfrankos, or their cserszegi from their cirfandli—as it will be to those who have been following the delicious improvements in the Hungarian wine industry for some time.

The book is organized by region, with maps, nicely-written introductions to each region, and profiles of recommended producers in each region. Each regional section concludes with a shorter list of producers to watch for, and then a brief list of food and accommodation suggestions. In his winery profiles Smyth includes winemaking details that will appease the wine geeks among us, but his writing is easy to read and will not be a turn-off to the Hungarian wine beginner. Read More

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A Q&A with Photographer Brian H Neely on His Wine Filled Year
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 02 April, 2015 in

Working in the Hungarian vineyards
Thanks to our common love of wine, we have gotten to know Brian H Neely, an American photographer, well over the past few years that he has been living in Budapest. For much of this time he has been working on a project called A Wine Filled Year. The seed of his project was born, naturally, over a glass of wine … or perhaps actually, over many glasses of wine! A Wine Filled Year has now been completed, and the result is a gorgeous book of photographs documenting several Hungarian wineries and vineyards over the course of a year. You can check out Brian’s blog for more information about the project, or you can order the book directly here. To meet Brian (and pick up a signed copy of the book!) come to his launch party on April 9th.

We spoke to Brian about his project, photography, and his favorite Hungarian wines.  Read More

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Food & Wine Event Guide: April
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 30 March, 2015 in

Our month-by-month guide to the best food and wine events in Budapest

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The Etyeki Picnic

Talk and Wine Tasting with Winemaker Tamás Dusóckzy from Tokaj
Thursday April 2 (7pm)

Dusóckzy is a fascinating man who grew up in Mád, Tokaj, but left the country as a teenager, became a physicist, and lived in Switzerland and the US. After retiring in the early 1990s, Dusóckzy moved back to Hungary with the intention of bringing the family’s old wine estate in Tokaj back to life. He partnered with Mihály Habsburg to start a five-hectare vineyard, and he is a founding member of the Confrerie de Tokaj, the association of Tokaj wine knights. His latest initiative is building a memorial at the synagogue in Mád to honor the Jewish winemakers and merchants who were killed in the Holocaust, and making them posthumous members of the Confrerie de Tokaj. Dusóckzy is not only a winemaker and a witness to Hungary’s tragic 20th-century history, but he is a fascinating storyteller. During the discussion he will share five of his traditional-style Tokaji wines with us, as he shares his memories. The evening will include a tasting of five wines from Dusóckzy’s winery and generous platters of Hungarian-style Tapas.

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Q&A with Gabó Bartha, One of Our Kitchen Heroes
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 11 March, 2015 in

http://www.winelover.co/events/event/winelover-week-in-hungary-and-austria-september-2014/

The first time we met Gabó Bartha and Ákos Szokolai from the Budaházy Winery in Mád it was over a fabulous meal that she had prepared for us in Mád, paired with Ákos’ wines, naturally. Before meeting in person we had been corresponding by email about shared interests in food, cooking, and Tokaj for a few months. Since then we have been lucky enough to enjoy their thoughtful approach to cooking (enhanced by their lovely wines) many times, and the winery is always a favorite stop for our wine-touring guests.

It was fitting that Gabó was one of the very first people to help us break in the new kitchen at The Tasting Table in September when we hosted a #winelover BYOB dinner there, and now she is back with Ákos. Together they are busy shopping at the market, unpacking their stash of ingredients that they carted from Mád, and preparing for the dinner that they are hosting tomorrow at The Tasting Table.

We took this chance to ask Gabó a few questions about her distinctive cooking style, which has incorporated many influences starting from her childhood in Transylvania, up until the past nearly four years that she has spend living in the tiny village of Mád, in the Tokaj wine region. Read More

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Discovering Tokaj’s Sweet Secrets: At Home in Erdőbénye
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 04 March, 2015 in

Vineyard view from Mád

Winemakers in Tokaj, the famed wine region in northeastern Hungary, are singularly obsessed with a fungus. No ordinary fungus, it is botrytis (or “noble rot”) which they are mad about. It is the ingredient which magically transforms their precious ripe grapes into the shriveled, small, raisin-like berries which make Tokaji aszú one of the world’s greatest sweet wines. The wine is the pride of Hungary, yet unfathomably, it is still practically a secret among the majority of the world’s wine drinkers. Winemakers in Tokaj rely on botrytis, which only occurs when weather conditions are perfect, to concentrate sugars and flavors in the shrivelly grapes. This results in rich, golden-colored wine that can taste of orange marmalade, hazelnut, bread, dill, citrus, apricot, honey, or a host of other flavors. These dried grapes are the backbone of Tokaji aszú and are not only hand-harvested, but are selected one by one.

It’s an exceedingly special wine, with a long-lingering finish and the potential to age for decades, even centuries.

Tokaji aszú berries

Tokaji aszú is a complex, traditional wine, which has been admired by royalty and popes, and is even praised in the Hungarian national anthem. As an expat who has been living in Budapest—200 kilometers fromTokaj in the southern foothills of the Carpathian Mountains—for around a dozen years, I slowly, but seriously, became so smitten with it that my husband, Gábor, and I fantasized about having a little piece of this dreamy place for ourselves. Read More

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A Butcher Dishes on Hungarian Meat: Q&A with David Wilkinson
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 06 February, 2015 in

When we first met David Wilkinson a few years ago he was handing out samples of his sausage, which we could not resist going back for until we tried them all. Since then, we have become regular customers of his, and our freezer is  always well-stocked with a good supply of his sausages. David has been living in Budapest for more than ten years, and being a butcher by trade, that means he has had plenty of time to think about (and experiment with) Hungarian meat: how it is different, what works best with it, how to shop for it, and how to handle it. If there’s anyone who can share the best answers to these questions, it is him. We are happy to be teaming-up with David in March when he will be teaching his first-ever “Meat School” at The Tasting Table. The “School” will consist of four hands-on sessions with different themes. The classes will cover butchery and cooking techniques that you can use for the rest of your life, as well as Hungary-specific information which will enhance your shopping (and cooking) experiences here. Many Budapest expats are already familiar with David’s fabulous line of sausage, but he has so much knowledge and skills to share, and we are so excited to be working with him on these classes!

David Wilkinson's Meat School

In advance of the classes, we asked David a few questions about meat, art, and cooking. Read More

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