This might be my favorite meal of the trip thus far. EVERYTHING IS AMAZING. I can't even articulate I am so overwhelmed by deliciousness and joy.
Ok ok I will try. As far as I can tell, Hungarian food is all about paprika. And dill. And sour cream. And delicious meat. And, when dining along the shores of Lake Balaton, the fish is pretty great too.
This meal was a tour de force. Twelve Americans (we'll count the Dutchman as an honorary American in this context) entered an out of the way living room-style dining room in Szigliget. We immediately made friends with the owner (seriously, he put our resident Hungarian-American Chris on the phone with his distant relative living in Connecticut, earning us a couple rounds of smoky sausage/tomato/bread appetizers and an excellent set of menu recommendations).
The waitress, communicating with Chris in Hungarian, tried to disaggregate her recommendations by gender (i.e. lighter portions for the ladies), but he quickly dispelled her not-unreasonable notions with a "oh you don't know our ladies. These ladies can eat."
I did a fishy splity-split of catfish with mashed potatoes, cauliflower with pumpkin seeds, and dill sauce as the first dish, and a local fish with pumpkin potato pancake and that same dill sauce.
We're all about sharing, so I tasted a few other meals. It's a tough call between cabbage with sausage skillet and the Hungarian beans, pork, and pickle. Both were SO GOOD. (And so huge.) Pictured above is the duck breast with prunes and pumpkin, which its eaters claim is the best thing they've ever had. Bold statement.
Being the eating champions we are, we polished off all the food, and then moved on to dessert! We ordered five for the table: two crepes, poppyseed cake, doughnut-type fritters filled with apricot jam, and chestnut pudding. The poppyseed cake was dense and seedy and flavorful. I'm pretty sure it was just ground poppyseeds, eggs, sugar, and maybe some brandy. Yummmm.
But the best part was the chestnut pudding. Tragically I was too distracted by eating to snap a picture, but believe me when I say, it's worth a trip to Hungary just to try this!
So that was a meal for the record books.
But my food epic doesn't end there!
First, let me draw your attention to meat crepes covered in creamy paprika sauce, eaten at a lunchtime stop on our way to the vineyard.
Second, on the grassy lake beach we snacked on langos -- discs of fried bread covered in sour cream, garlic, and cheese -- and insanely amazing pork sausages dipped in Dijon mustard. (The run I went on later that afternoon suffered the consequences...hello sausage breath.)
Third and finally, one of my favorite evenings of the trip. Our firemasters concocted a giant pot of stew over the open flames: potatoes, onion, chicken, paprika roux, and I don't even know what else.
Part of its charm was the way it was cooked and the accompanying sunset/night sky, but really this dish would have been good anywhere.