At some point, this blog was called Galways Hungry in honor of my home base for the semester, Galway. For this particular post, we can pretend the site is called Galways Hungary because Budapest was one of my favorite cities to eat in. Our journey began with auspicious beginnings: Empty stomachs on a six hour train ride from Prague to Budapest. But once the meal car was discovered, the ride took a turn. There ain’t no party like a meal car party because a meal car party involves neck pillows and chicken coated in mystery sauce. Before truly delving into our meals, I must commend Budapest’s snack game. We’re talking tzatziki flavored puffs and mini bruschetta chips – my first restaurant recommendation is your local convenience store. So grab your favorite snack and read on for the Budabest of Budapest!
What I ate: Israeli olives, spicy sweet potato wedges with green pesto tahini, creamy hummus plate with mushrooms, Israeli salad with tomato, cucumber & parsley.
What I drank: Ludányi Excellent Rosé & Tropical Champagne.
I ended this dinner with an allergic reaction and it was still one of the best meals I’ve enjoyed abroad. There have been emails drafted about the rosé with the subject line “the amazing wine” and body text that read “Ludányi Excellent Rosé. We must find it.” Mazel Tov, the restaurant and also what I will say to you if you have the opportunity to indulge in this inexpensive but wonderful wine, describes the glass as the “best company on a night out with friends. Crispy and fruity with raspberry and fresh cherries.” The other drink we had gave me an allergic reaction which ended with me turning the color of a raspberry with swollen cheeks the size of many fresh cherries.
People have mixed emotions about olives. Personally, I cannot stomach black olives due to an unfortunate incident centuries ago where I watched my dear friend Zra vomit black olive pizza. This is a rather inconspicuous beginning to a food loving friendship. But I digress. Green olives are awesome – Zra, please don’t eat any green olive pizza anytime soon. Luckily, Sofie agrees that olives are to be loved and not loathed. Mazel Tov brings a strong hummus game, with a swirl of smooth tahini in the middle and topped with garlicky mushrooms. But tahini MVP of the meal is the green pesto tahini dipping sauce for the sweet potato fries. Can we appreciate that this dinner had enough tahini contenders for there to be a tahini MVP? I am used to indulgent aiolis so the pesto tahini was a much welcomed, crisp alternative in a beautiful pistachio green color.
I began my rendering of Mazel Tov with some click bait anecdote about having an allergic reaction. I was fine and it was totally not the fault of the restaurant – I just did not read the drink menu closely. The most traumatizing moment of it all was when I realized I had been flirting with the very cute waiter while I looked like Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
What I ate: Eggs Royal with spinach – an English muffin topped with smoked salmon, spinach, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce.
Whoever propagated the myth that you have to wait an hour after eating before you swim is fake news. We chowed down on this brunch within thirty minutes of our Szechenyi Spa Bath experience. I was more nauseated by overthinking the whole communal-bath-as-a-tourist-attraction concept than anything related to the meshing of food and activity. My favorite part of the egg dish is the decadent blanket of hollandaise that almost looks like a chunk of thick, melting cheese. Was it the best rendition of eggs benedict and smoked salmon I’ve ever had? No, but I was suitably impressed to find that despite its pronounced presence, the sauce did not overtake the salmon’s smoldering flavor.
What I ate: Lemon basil & raspberry sorbet.
You know the old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” My version is more along the lines of “ice cream may destroy my stomach lining but sorbet will never hurt me.” Which is a dramatic way of celebrating the lactose free wonder that is sorbet. Whoever invented gelato roses is a capitalist because honestly it is a genius money making scheme for basic, study abroad students with Instagrams specifically designed to excessively document the food they eat. Self drag? More like self promotion. Go follow @whatdaniellaeats on Instagram. Not only did the genius behind Gelarto Rosa make a photogenic product, but the chilled dessert itself is also delicious. I spent all summer nursing a basil plant on my porch – much to the mocking of my friends and roommates. The move was inspired by my mother who grows gorgeous, towering herbs in our window, including a basil plant that looks like a baby emerald weeping willow. While my basil plant did not find the same level of success, I still have a special place in my heart when it comes to the aromatic plant. Anyone who says basil has no place in dessert is wrong and has never watched Chopped where even marrow bones have been made final course worthy. I highly recommend appreciating this refreshing coned creation at golden hour, under the shadow of a looming basilica with one of your closest friends.
What I ate: Scrambled eggs, caprese salad with balsamic drizzle, ham & banana bread.
London Coffee Society is a tiny restaurant with the kind of menu that leaves you wishing you could sample everything. My breakfast was delightfully colorful and filled with all my favorite guilty pleasures: Prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella and fresh squeezed orange juice. I ate every last bite even after spilling water on my bread brushed with olive oil in pursuit of the perfect photograph. One summer, I spent two weeks in Costa Rica with some family. I began each morning with a breakfast of beans, rice and eggs. The combination is fulfilling and I will forever associate it with the lush and richly green landscape of Costa Rica. Ever since that summer, I’ve been hooked on any departure from the traditional American breakfast. I’ll take prosciutto over bacon any day and I’ve definitely never seen caprese with a balsamic drizzle on any IHOP menu*. If its nestled up to the fluffiest scrambled eggs, I will call it breakfast.
*This is not an insult to IHOP. My parents gave me an IHOP gift card when I graduated high school. The International House of Pancake Restaurant is one of my favorite dining locations. The service is always exceptional, the portions are commendable, the Breakfast Scrambler is delicious and their Twitter is hilarious.
What I ate: Chicken, prawn & sausage jambalaya.
Most of the time, I arrive a day late when meeting friends in a city. However, this was the first time I stayed a day later and savored a city on my own. After saying goodbye to Sofie, I was left to explore Budapest solo: A dangerous prospect if you are familiar with my propensity for getting lost only to end up on a highway. Luckily, our hostel was situated in the hip Jewish quarter, filled with recommended restaurants. One of them was Soul Food, a restaurant that describes itself as bringing “America’s famous Southern flavors” to Budapest. Digging into my generously portioned bowl of warm jambalaya, I sat at the table by the window and people watched as the sun began to set. For me, portions are a big deal – pun intended – so the fact that I could barely finish the meal was a win in my book. This dish packed a fusion of spices that were powerful without overwhelming my heat-sensitive palate, with bonus flavor locked into the bits of crunchy sausage.
What I ate: Kolbice with sajtszósz, carton of strawberries, potato & cheese puffs.
The morning before I embarked back to my Galway home, I slowly strolled – and got lost – on my way to Central Market Hall. The massive market houses souvenirs and traditional food upstairs and meat, fruit and baked goods downstairs. It was on the top floor where I discovered kolbice with sajtszósz. The handheld meal begins with a cone of dough, sprinkled with seasoning, not unlike an everything bagel. The inner curve of the cone is then slathered with a layer of tangy mustard and stuffed with tiny variations of hot dogs and sausages. The pièce de résistance in this particular rendition is the slow layering of sajtszósz or cheese sauce over the cone’s fillings. I have mixed emotions about this dish. On one hand, the artificial taste of the sajtszósz overtook some bites, leaving the sausage feeling a little rubbery. One the other hand, it was kind of like a mega cheesy pig in a blanket and that is something I can endorse.
During my time abroad, I have grown fond of traveling with others. When you’re joined by a companion, you often find yourself exploring and enjoying sites you might not have selected on your own. Relationships are strengthened when you share a bizarre adventure in a new city or a funny travel story with a friend. But I also have always been one to enjoy the company of my own thoughts. I’ve eaten a lot of great food, but there was something beautiful about the simplicity of sitting alone on a bench, gorging on cheesy potato puffs and a carton of strawberries. With ruby strawberry juice sticky on my fingers, I was overwhelmed by the last moments of my time in a strange and unfamiliar place. That afternoon I would take my second to last flight in Europe. The next time I leave Galway, it will be to travel home.