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The 1956 Tokaj Aszú: A Wine With A Long Finish
Posted by Gábor Bánfalvi on 14 November, 2016 in 100 Essentials ,Drink ,Explore ,Shop ,

1956_Tokaj_Aszu

The 1956 vintage was a good one in Tokaj. But 1956 didn’t go down in the history books because of the great quality of botrytis in Tokaj that year, rather because of the revolution that began 60 years ago on October 23rd. On a warm fall day, a revolution against Soviet rule in Hungary broke out. The streets in Budapest, and other cities, filled with people who were fed up with the Rákosi regime. The oversized statue of Stalin (which sat next to Budapest’s City Park) was pulled down by the protesters on the first day. Shots were fired at the National Radio building on Bródy Sándor street, just next to The Tasting Table. After a few glorious and violent days, the revolution ended up turning into a war of freedom against the Soviet empire. Russian tanks, barricades, freedom fighters, and Russian soldiers filled the streets of Budapest. In some neighborhoods, battles raged from building to building. It was a war we could not win. The wounds from the siege of Budapest in World War Two had still not healed, and now there were more bullet holes in facades across the city. The war was lost in a few weeks, and Hungary remained part of the Communist block for the next three and a half decades. Hundreds of thousands left the country, prisons were filled with the revolutionaries, and a new communist leader called Kádár was named.

During that fall, despite the Russian tanks and soldiers, grapes still had to be picked and wine still had to be made. As the revolution raged, aszú berries were being harvested and wine was fermenting in the caves of Tokaj. In the fall of 1956, due to the long fall, there were lots of aszú berries and a good amount of wine was made. After it was bottled a few years later, most of it was soon drunk by Russian officials coming to check on Kádár or by good comrades from the Hungarian Communist party. But not all of the 1956 batch was imbibed. Somehow a few hundred bottles survived in a remote corner of the state cellar until the fall of the communist regime in 1989. Perhaps when the communist leaders visited the state-owned cellar for a tasting, the winemakers were afraid of serving the ‘56 vintage and served a ‘55 or ‘57 instead. Even the number 56 was a taboo for almost four decades. I remember a scene I once saw in a movie when the number 56 was even skipped when the presenter announced the winning lottery numbers of the week. After Communism was finished, the remaining bottles of ’56 aszú, along with other vintages, were sold to private investors.

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Budapest’s Kórház Utcai Market
Posted by Anna J. Kutor on 03 February, 2015 in 100 Essentials ,Explore ,Shop ,

Kórház utcai Market Budapest

Budapest has so many off-the-beaten-track tourist activities, but a simple visit to a neighborhood market may be one of the most entertaining and enriching of them all. One of the small chores and rituals of everyday Hungarian life, shopping for seasonal produce affords the opportunity to exchange a few smiles and meet some endearing characters while buying your sweet paprika.

Kórház utcai Market Budapest

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Hungarian Paprika—The Essential Red Spice
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 21 January, 2015 in 100 Essentials ,Cook ,Shop ,

Hungarian paprika

If there is one ingredient that Hungary is undeniably associated with, it is, of course, paprika. Though peppers were not introduced to Hungary until the 16th century, the spice symbolizes Hungarian cuisine and is an essential component of some of the best-known Hungarian dishes, including gulyás, pörkölt (stew), chicken paprikás, and halászlé (fisherman’s soup). Paprika gives these dishes their brilliant orange color, and the intense peppery flavor and aroma so characteristic of Hungarian cuisine. “There is something about paprika itself that makes it synonymous with ‘Hungarian.’ ‘Fiery,’ ‘spicy,’ ‘temperamental’—all these adjectives suggest both paprika and the national character,” writes George Lang in The Cuisine of Hungary. “Paprika is to the Hungarian cuisine as wit is to its conversation—not just a superficial garnish, but an integral element, a very special and unique flavor instantly recognizable.” 

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Budapest’s Nagy Vásárcsarnok (Central Market Hall)
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 17 January, 2015 in 100 Essentials ,Explore ,Shop ,

Words by Carolyn Bánfalvi. Photos by Anna J. Kutor.

Budapest's Nagy Vásárcsarnok (Central Market Hall)

One of my favorite things about living in Budapest, even after being here for many years now, is the neighborhood food markets. Beyond the main market halls found in most districts, there are more and more groups starting farmer’s markets, and shopping at weekly farmer’s markets like the one at Szimpla Kert is how I wish I could spend every lazy Sunday morning. But even though the Central Market is Budapest’s largest market and one of the city’s top tourist attractions, every time I head across the Danube from my apartment in Buda to shop there, I am still thrilled by the experience and delighted by the bountiful selection spread out over the market’s three levels.

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Objects of My Confection: Budapest’s Modern Sweet Spots
Posted by Anna J. Kutor on 08 January, 2015 in 100 Essentials ,Eat ,Explore ,Shop ,

Modern Sweet Spots_-3Breaking the sugary mold with adventurous flavors and modern design, a fresh cast of Hungarian confectioners is paving the way for a high-style take on the classic pastry shop. These patisseries will satisfy your craving for the sweets on any end of the spectrum.

Sugar Design Confectionery Budapest

Creative Confections
For Budapesters with intense cravings for unusual sweet treats: Sugar Design Confectionery (Paulay Ede utca 48, Budapest 1061, +36 1 321 6672) is your salvation. Tucked away on a side street in central Pest, steps away from the tourist hoards on Andrássy utca and Liszt Ferenc tér, the gleaming interior of this dessert outlet draws a gasp at entrance. The audible surprise comes from the sensory overload of the kaleidoscopic collection of cakes and candies set against a radiant white backdrop. It’s a Willy Wonkaesque wonderland, only better because it is real.

Sugar Design Confectionery Budapest

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Balaton Izlelő Highlights Balaton’s Best Products
Posted by Anna J. Kutor on 03 January, 2014 in 100 Essentials ,Shop ,

Balaton Izlelő

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.”

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