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Furmint Forever
Posted by Gábor Bánfalvi on 31 January, 2017 in Drink ,Events ,Explore ,

February in Hungary is long, grey, cold, wet, and gloomy. But for the past eight years at least we’ve had furmint to look forward to in February! Furmint Február (“Furmint February”) is a series of events, including a grand tasting in Budapest, dedicated to promoting this grape varietal which is so important in Hungary. This year the festivities are going international, with the debut of International Furmint Day on February 1st. If it was up to me, I’d make furmint the most widely planted white grape in Hungary. It’s already the signature grape in Tokaj and Somló (along with juhfark and olaszrizling in Somló). Sporadically (but increasingly) you can find some great furmints in Northern Balaton and Eger. I’m hoping to see much more of that all over the country because this grape—if done right—could be Hungary’s flagship wine. There’s no other grape that can make such complex sweet wines, consistently delicious easy-drinking dry wines, and full-bodied single vineyard terroir-driven wines.

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Lentil Stew (Lencse Főzelék)
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 20 January, 2017 in Cook ,

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 Cook ,Drink ,Eat ,Explore ,

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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The Most Rewarding Moments of 2016: Taste Hungary and The Tasting Table Budapest
Posted by Gábor Bánfalvi on 01 January, 2017 in Drink ,Eat ,Explore ,People ,

2016 was such an amazing year for Taste Hungary and The Tasting Table that it was not easy to narrow them down for this post! Many things happened that opened the doors for other things to happen. Now it’s the end of the year (and I am enjoying a glass of Samuel Tinon’s dry szamorodni). I’ll put my plans aside for a few days and will start fresh and motivated for the beginning of 2017. There is so much more we can do that it feels like we’re just getting started …

Building The Taste Hungary Team

We are fortunate that Taste Hungary has been growing nicely and that we have an increasing number of customers every year. To make our offerings more colorful and attractive to a wider range of guests, we frequently develop new tours and offer more services … and we have so many new ideas (and not enough time to follow up on them!). Now that we have around 4,000 guests booking tours with us annually, our team is more important than ever. We’ve put a lot of effort into building a circle of very smart, highly-qualified people who love food and wine (and also beer) as much as we do. We’ve ended up with a team of colorful people, who all bring very different skills and interests into the mix. We all come from different areas of life, and we are all experts at some aspect of food/drink to connect us to Taste Hungary. Since I don’t meet every guest in person, the values that I believe in and share with the team are my way to communicate with guests even without meeting them. These values are the foundation of our team, and they shape us and ensure our commitment to high standards (which results in great service at the end of the day). The importance of our team goes beyond business. Our team is a happy (and growing) community made of people who make this world a better place to live.

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2016—My Year in Wine Memories
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 25 December, 2016 in Drink ,Explore ,People ,

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 Drink ,Explore ,

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 Eat ,Explore ,People ,

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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Aranygaluska Recipe (Or, Surviving the Hungarian Winter By Baking)
Posted by Gabriella Andronyi on 15 December, 2016 in Cook ,

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Hungary is famous for its decadent Austrian-style pastries served in glamorous coffeehouses that make us feel as if time stopped somewhere at the turn of the last century. Travelers are often amazed by these elegant cakes in Hungary. Who can resist beauties like the seven-layer Dobos torta with its glistening caramelized top or the Esterházy torta with its rich walnut flavors? And then there is the annual National Cake of the Year to anticipate! Visiting a Hungarian patisserie can be a battle of wills as there’s such a selection of sugar-coated temptations that making a choice is difficult.

“Are there fairies in the Hungarian kitchens using secret recipes,” people ask after realizing how complicated these cakes are to prepare (and how delicious they taste). In fact, in Hungary our home cooks are like fairies in the kitchen. But they are not usually preparing fancy cakes like Dobos and Esterházy. Rather, they have a repertoire of simple and amazing recipes, and not all of them are secrets. Most Hungarian families have their own handwritten, well-worn cookbook inherited from mothers or grandmothers. It contains a long list of sweet pastries, cakes, dumplings, strudels, and pancakes, from the most simple ones to the very difficult-to-prepare ones, all are impossible to resist.

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

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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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The Eater’s (and Drinker’s) Guide to Hungaricums (Part 1)
Posted by Anna J. Kutor on 09 December, 2016 in 100 Essentials ,Drink ,Eat ,

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You’ve seen shop signs and restaurants touting Hungaricums all around Budapest … but what exactly is a Hungaricum (and can you eat one)? Hungary is proud of the many inventions which its citizens have given to the world (in case you haven’t heard, Hungarian are the brains behind inventions including the Rubik’s Cube, the ballpoint pen, vitamin C, and the hydrogen bomb). They are proud (and fiercely protective) of their natural treasures, outstanding achievements, and matchless flavors and culinary products. In order to shield and preserve these uniquely Hungarian products on a local and international scale, many are protected under the term Hungaricum. The Hungaricum Act was established in 2012 and includes quintessential local products such as Herend porcelain, Matyo folk art, Hungarian grey cattle, and the Hungarian cimbalom. Check out the complete list of Hungaricums (pdf file).

We are not the only ones who think that some of the Hungary’s best assets are edible (or drinkable)—out of the 60 Hungarian treasures which have been declared as Hungaricums, 25 are foods, drinks, ingredients, or dishes. The culinary component of the Hungaricum collection shows off the best of what Hungary has to offer—craftsmanship, distinctive flavors, and a time-honored heritage. Below, we highlight the edible (and drinkable) Hungaricums which display the pure essence of Hungary.

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