Guten Tag and Jó napot my fellow nommers and happy June! Summer is already here but don’t let your swim suit ready figure get in the way of checking out these delicious noms I have for you in this post.
After not having seen my mother in person since November 2017 (can you believe that) she booked a week long trip to see my new home in Budapest, my new husband and to have plenty of new experiences – food being one of them. Apart from the sights, museums, baths and countless monuments, it was important for me to show her how well I live, or rather how well I eat here in beautiful Budapest.
Here is our reunion at a glimpse:
Four Season’s Gresham Palace
A month before my mom arrived she had been researching things she wanted to do, see and eat in Budapest – one of them being afternoon tea at the famous Four Season’s Hotel. *side note I saw Shaggy entering the 4seas just a few months prior before his live concert with Sting…no big deal* So being the good daughter I am, I obliged and made a reservation at the Gresham Palace within the hotel.
You all know me, I’m not the fussy type when it comes to food but this ish was FANCY.
But hey, every once in a while it’s important to treat yourself and what better occasion than when reunited with family! Because I grew up in Boston, the only tea I was exposed to was either Lipton or Arizona. I came to discover however that my Scottish grandmother always had on a pot of black tea while my mother was growing up which is likely the reason why she wanted to share this kind of experience with her own daughter.
The Gresham Palace has a set menu for their afternoon tea spread – a piping hot pot of tea of your own choosing (they have a wonderful selection of fine herbal, black and fruit teas), fresh scones and a three tiered tray of savory and sweet bites. My mom went with the golden standard of Earl Gray and I chose to spice things up with Masala Chai – both perfectly steeped and served in beautiful porcelain, accompanied by brown and white sugar cubes and a small pot of cold milk. Even on a mildly warm day it was heavenly.
Moving on to the spectacularly presented bites:
The four buttery plain and raisin scones neatly tucked into a basket could easily be eaten on their own but you’d be seriously missing out on what makes afternoon tea afternoon tea – lighter than air clotted cream, tangy lemon curd and sweet strawberry jam. There is no better match made in heaven.
Now about that three tiered wonder…
Do I need to go into detail with these outstanding morsels or do the photos speak for themselves?! In the case you’re truly curious, the bottom tier consisted of three savory tidbits – salmon, caper and caviar triangle, cucumber jelly and egg salad rectangles with shaved black truffle and then my favorite being the chicken pate cups with a flaky herbed crust and impeccably placed pumpkin seeds.
The second sweet tier consisted of two classic mini desserts – a sweet yet savory thyme infused financier topped with lemon Chantilly and blackberry, and the other a spongy rose cake with sweet jam and edible silver flake for added glam.
And finally the third and top tier were three Hungarian inspired sweets – a pistachio and sour cherry macaroon (with adorable edible daisy and white chocolate leaf), white chocolate mousse on a buttery biscuit (with white chocolate flour detail), and a decadent chocolate raspberry tart that made you feel as rich as it tasted.
At the end of our delightful afternoon tea session we were, as lady can be, stuffed! It may not look like a lot but these small bites somehow add up, which isn’t a bad thing and neither is the price for such a lovely experience. My mother had commented that an afternoon tea like that in Boston would cost you an arm and a leg!
Therefore, if you’re looking to do something out of the ordinary in Budapest (and don’t feel like being squeezed in at some of the other high end tea rooms in the city *cough cough Cafe New York*) then make a reservation for tea at the Gresham Palace, you’ll leave feeling like a million bucks.
I spent countless evenings looking for the perfect Hungarian restaurant, pulling my hair out to find something not only truly authentic but vegetarian friendly. I must apologize for not relaying this sooner but I am currently a sort of “flexitarian”- eating meat on very rare occasion, an easy feat in Budapest as there are countless Vegan/Vegetarian friendly eateries (though a challenge at Hungarian restaurants because of their traditionally meat centered dishes) but I had come to the realization that other than Kürtőskalács I hadn’t actually eaten Hungarian food in the entire half a year I’ve spent here – that was until I discovered Retek.
Retek (radish in Hungarian) is a microscopic spot in the heart of Budapest, run by four woman who are passionate about their nation’s cuisine, enough that they decided to open their seven table restaurant and serve up traditional dishes made 100 percent with love. Making a reservation is mandatory as their is limited space so make sure you do this ahead of time!
I managed to book a table for three on Saturday night and I literally squealed with luck and excitement for what was to come. The decor is what you might expect in a cozy Hungarian kitchen, checkered table clothes, red crockery and even a piano player nestled in the corner serenading the diners throughout this special culinary experience.The menu is limited and for good reason – these are the things that are long loved in the region and the things you will then fall in love with.
If you’re a lover of meat, cheese and all things savory, try the sampling platter which comes with goose liver pate – a Hungarian favorite.
If you aren’t sure what to try then the Retek three course option is the way to go – consisting of a ginormous bowl of meaty Hungarian Goulash paired with chunks of fresh bread, a choice of either stuffed cabbage rolls or crispy duck leg for the main, and to top it all of a sharing sized portion of the famous Hungarian dessert, somlói . My mother was overwhelmed with the amount of food but it was a great way to try a lot a bit of everything.
If you’re flexitarian like me, Retek’s Mushroom paprikás is the quintessential meatless version of the country classic. FINOM. FINOM FINOM.
If you’re at all familiar with German spätzle then you’ll understand why this dish is a staple in most households. Perfectly imperfectly shaped egg pasta that is chewy in all the right ways. Coat these babies with slow cooked mushrooms soaked in delicious brown gravy made from said shrooms and of course Hungarian ground red pepper, add a dollop of tejföl (or sour cream) and a sprinkle of fresh herbs and I could eat this dish every day for every season. I almost licked the traditional red pot…almost.
As if we couldn’t eat any more, our lovely waitress returns to our table with the aforementioned belle of Hungarians desserts, somlói galuska. Think of it like a deconstructed trifle. So far it’s one of my favorites because it takes on many delicious forms however the ingredients remain constant – airy vanilla sponge “dumplings” drizzled with chocolate sauce and completed with whipped cream and crunchy walnuts. Retek’s version was perfection on a plate. The perfect way to end a perfect evening.
Is Retek the best place to eat traditional Hungarian food in Budapest. Yes. Is that saying a lot considering I’ve only been to a few other places? Maybe but I will stand behind my tremendously amazing Retek experience and plan on bringing anyone who comes to visit there! That goes without saying, you should too!
Thank you Retek!
Wien (in German, Vienna in English) is the stunningly beautiful capital of Austria and a comfortable three hour bus ride from Budapest. As you all know Germany had become my home off and for years thus the chance to explore it’s neighboring cousin all the while brushing off my rusty German skills (and eating all the cultural comforts) was a no brainer.
Overflowing with rich history, artistic masterpieces and a thousand and one palaces and museums, Vienna is the quintessential culture capital of Europe in my opinion.
With only two days to pack in as much Austrian culture as we could, it was important to prioritize our visit. To me that meant: Schönbrunn, Belvedere (Gustav Klimt’s Kiss as pictured above), Stephansdom and of course…Sacher Torte.
Ah, the world renowned Sacher Torte. Invented by Austrian-Jewish confectioner Franz Sacher in 1832, the Sacher Torte was once a historical status symbol of Austrian royalty as it was originally created for Prince Wenzel von Metternich. Today it is enjoyed by the masses at the famous Hotel Sacher Cafe and it’s attached twin Sacher Eck (literally meaning corner) located just across the road from the State Opera House.
At first glance Sacher Torte might appear to be your average chocolate cake but there is a secrete hidden amidst it’s dense fudgey layers – sweet apricot jam. Unlike American made cakes that are frosting focused, European desserts are notoriously simple which is why jams are often used as delicious fillers. Coated with a thin layer of dark fondant, stamped with the Sacher seal and presented alongside a burst of whipped cream, Sacher Torte is a timeless Austrian treasure that will continue to delight the world for years to come.
Second to the Sacher Torte, Sacher’s apple strudel is a must. Soft chunks of cinnamon apples and raisins are wrapped in tender dough then sprinkled with powdered sugar. What’s not to like? If you’re feeling indulgent, I do recommend ordering it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Nommm.
Don’t forget to sip on a classic Apfelschorle – house made apple juice mixed with mineral water. It’s a German / Austrian classic and is extremely refreshing, especially after the decadent treats consumed at the cafe. If you aren’t able to get a reservation at the Hotel’s cafe, Sacher Eck is the less formal option but nevertheless you will experience phenomenal Austrian hospitality and the same quality of cakes.
After Sacher Torte, visiting Castle Schönbrunn was my main reason for traveling to Vienna. In regards to nature, there is nothing I love more in this world than expansive manicured gardens. I’ve been to multiple palaces throughout Europe (Versailles included) but nothing compares to the splendor of Schönbrunn. You could spend a entire lifetime exploring every nook of this beautiful space and yet still be consistently amazed. And did I mention it’s open to the public for FREE?!
Landtmann’s Park Cafe
After the tour of the Palace Residence we took a leisurely stroll throughout the maze-like gardens. If the sun was shining as it was the day of our visit, its important to take multiple breaks and because the area is so large (encompassing an entire zoo) there are multiple cafes to visit along the way.
We chose to take refreshment at Landtmann’s Park Cafe which can be found at the second entrance to the Schönbrunn Zoo. An open-air terrace concept, it’s perfect take a load off and grab a drink or lunch. If you’re concerned about the cafe’s proximity to the zoo, don’t! I promise, not a single whiff of the nearby rhinos or buffalo can be detected.
My mom ordered an Eiscafe which if you’ve visited European countries enough usually means coffee with ice cream and whipped cream. It’s basically a self made milkshake with all the much needed caffeine. Landtmann includes a packet of Manners – Austrian made neapolitan wafers that are yet another culinary symbol of this fabulous country. Despite its overall dessert like appearance, she claimed it was the best iced coffee she’s ever had!
One of my side mission’s was for my mom to have a taste of Wiener schnitzel. Even if I no longer partake in the ancient art of frying up a golden piece of meat didn’t mean she had to miss out!
It didn’t take us very long to stumble across a bright looking restaurant on one of the many side streets within the Innere Standt (inner city). Gasthaus Pöschl is a casual Viennese eatery with classics and more importantly draught beer. It felt incredible to sit down and order a few giant beers after a long day under the sun at Schönbrunn.
As you can see, the sheer size of Gasthaus Pöschl‘s schnitzel is impressive. Adorned with a slice of lemon and served alongside a portion of kartoffelsalat (potato salad) and a basket of bread, it’s safe to say my mom walked away extremely satisfied.
Apart from the schnitzel, I ordered a salad consisting of seasonal finds including white asparagus and strawberries – a wonderfully refreshing combination – tossed together with greens and light balsamic dressing, oh and a huge round of gooey burrata cheese! God it was good.
If you happen to find yourself looking for a hearty meal or maybe even a light bite then Gasthaus Pöschl is a great choice. *Note – they are cash only so make sure you take out some bills ahead of time!*
After this visit with my mom I realized how important our reunions are. Belgrade, London, Rome and now Budapest and Vienna – my mom is always up for an adventure! Having recently celebrated her 60th birthday, I hope that I am half as open-minded, caring and funny as she is when I reach that age.
I can’t wait to see where we end up exploring and nomming next!
With that said, I’m preparing for my next personal adventure – three weeks at a language camp at Lake Balaton! Not sure what to expect in regards to noms but I’ll be sure to report back!