Farkas Zoltán is a serious fan and lover all good things Hungarian, which is why he is standing behind the counter at Balaton Izlelő (Taste of Balaton), a specialty foods store and bistro stocking a dizzying variety of gourmet treats produced around Hungary’s iconic lake region. Neatly prepared on the counter to the delight of eager customers, the sampling Farkas offers is as colorful as it is mouth-watering: elderflower and quince syrups, basil and pesto-infused cheeses, and chocolate and cinnamon covered pumpkin seeds were being offered on a recent day.
“This is what I like to call the Hungarian ying and yang” says Farkas, before dipping the sampling spoon in the arugula- pumpkinseed paste and handing it to one excited guest. Anecdotes and a deep knowledge of ingredients and producers pepper the conversation as the sprightly salesmen continues the taste test. “The arugula is a documented female aphrodisiac while the pumpkinseed paste is a gentleman’s best friend as it’s really beneficial for prostate health.”
Along one wall, neatly packed blonde wood shelves are packed with specialty food items as familiar as szörp—thick fruity syrups used to sweeten water—and jam that incorporate some unusual flavor combinations (think pear with chocolate, plums with lavender, carrots with orange, or pumpkins with vanilla and orange), or as entrancingly unique as arugula-pumpkinseed paste, apple and beer mustard, and caramel cream with lemons and lavender.
Discerning shoppers can also choose from dozens of different artisan beers, fruity ciders, vinegars, spices and oils ranging from organic cooking oils made from walnuts, sesame seeds, and grape seeds to essential oils for massages.
“Lots of people walk in wondering what the place is, and now they’ve become regulars,” says Farkas. “They go out of their way to stop in because there are a lot of things they find here that they can’t find anywhere else.”
The inventory reflects the refined palate of owner Annamária Kulcsár, a passionate gourmet with a special love of the Balaton region, who made a childhood dream come true by opening this high-end delicatessen in the summer of 2014.
“The goal is to display and represent the small-scale producers and family businesses working in and around the Balaton region that don’t necessarily have the means or opportunity to get large scale representation in supermarkets,” explains Kulcsár. For many people Lake Balaton (which Hungarians like to call “The Hungarian Sea”) is synonymous with cheap beer, lángos, and fried food by the lakeside. Balaton Izlelő proves that there is much more to discover.
Királyi Pál utca 10,
+36 1 951 5160