Just as soon as I’d snapped the photos of the lángos we ate for lunch on our first full day in Budapest, Nick noted that my camera was flashing a low battery warning. D’oh! I took no more pictures for the rest of the day, and I left my camera in the hotel the next day.* But the day after that, we woke up to see Budapest covered in a light dusting of snow, with a few tiny flakes fluttering through the air. We had already planned to warm ourselves up in the sauna before heading out, and the weather only confirmed our decision. Once we were warmed through, showered, and bundled up, we set out to explore Budapest’s answer to Père Lachaise: Kerepesi Temetó. (That o is supposed to have two accents, but I can’t figure out how to make my keyboard type that.)
The cemetery was especially silent and still with the snow falling gently on the graves. I was surprised at how far apart the plots were spaced, and at the sheer size of some of the monuments. The biggest ones belonged to people who had streets or metro stops named after them, but beyond that, the names were unfamiliar. I was also taken with how organic this cemetery felt. Many of the graves had live plants incorporated into their design, and the trees, though bare, were plentiful. I can only imagine this place in the summer – I’m sure there are flowers blooming everywhere.
We wandered through the cemetery for about an hour, enough time to chill us down to the bone. A big, leisurely lunch was in order. Borssó Bistro sounded like the right place for such a lunch. Listed as “Hungarian with a hint of French influence” by our French guidebook, and as “French” by the restaurant guide I picked up at the Tourist information desk at the airport, we took a look at the menu and decided the former description was probably more accurate.
We sat down in the cozy, warm restaurant and noted the décor – it was interesting to see the Hungarian interpretation of a French bistro, complete with tiled bar (where’s the zinc?), chalkboard menus (they got that one right), and faux-parquet floor. I thought I might have had enough foie gras for one weekend, so I started with the paprika cream soup.
The bright color and mildly spicy flavor were immensely cheerful, and the roulade of roasted eggplant strips around a center of fresh goat cheese made this soup a substantial appetizer, perfect for warming a cold, hungry traveler like myself.
Speaking of substantial appetizers, Nick got what is probably the best preparation of foie gras I have ever seen:
Yeah, that’s a dobostorta made of goose liver. The darker stripes are flavored with black truffle, and the top is a gorgeous, crackly triangle of caramel. Nick was also delighted with the chunks of real brioche that accompanied it. He generously gave me a bite, and the flavors worked together beautifully.
Next, I had ordered the “best of goose” with quinoa. It sounded reasonably healthy, and I thought that “best” might have been a mistranslation of “breast.” How wrong I was.
So much for limiting my foie gras intake. It was, indeed, the best parts of the goose: shredded confit of the leg, and a nice-sized slab of seared liver. These delicacies were supported by a tower of quinoa, steamed snow peas, and a sauce made from winter squash. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.
Nick had chosen the beef stew, and was surprised to see this ultra-modern presentation. “How do you braise meat so tender like this, but still get it to hold the cube shape?” he asked, and I didn’t have a compelling answer for him. It may not have looked like stew, but it certainly tasted like it. The beef was falling apart, and the thick sauce was rich and paprika-laced. The biscuits, baked dumplings of a sort, were just the right accompaniment.
We opted not to have dessert, because we were hoping to stop by Sexardicum for some wine tasting before catching our plane later that afternoon. We did so, and came home with two bottle of Hungarian red. We also had time to stop at a little pastry shop to grab some snacks for the airplane. (I mean, for us, on the airplane.) I kind of regret not trying the poppy seed ice cream they had there, but with the snow still falling outside, an ice cream cone was the last thing I needed to be juggling in the metro on the way to the airport.
*That was the day we took the bus WAY out of town to the place Nick and I kept referring to as “Goldeneye Park.” It is actually called Memento Park, and is the home of many statues left over from the latter days of the communist regime in Hungary. We took many goofy pictures (with Nick’s camera) of ourselves posing with the statues. It was loads of fun.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.