Archive for January, 2009

Walk in Madrid

One of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to so far


Eating Budapest #1

Budapest is one of my favorite cities to eat in. The flavors are esoteric and even the most luxurious items are affordable.

The flavors of Budapest include poppy seeds, sour cherries, goose, many styles of pork, and of course….paprika. Hungarian cuisine is probably the spiciest cuisine native to Europe. I learned this the hard way during my first taste of Hungarian cuisine at Pozsonyi kisvendéglő on Pozsonyi utca, where they served us Erős Pista, a bright red paprika “jam,” alongside bread. I was liberal in my application of the spread and soon found tears of spiciness dripping down my face. Luckily the soup of ordered, Jokai,
was full of sour cream alongside delicious smoked pork and beans. For an affordable home-cooked meal, Pozsonyi was great and while it has an English menu, most people who eat there are locals.

If you are in Budapest, you must track down Mangalica. I’ve had the much more famous super-pork, Iberico, from Spain, but Mangalica wins hands down. It’s fattier, juicier, and the Hungarian preparations are just amazing. I found this spicy sausage at a Palinka festival and it was bursting with spicy paprika. I’ve also had some amazing Austrian mangalica speck, which was smoked with herbs. I first heard about the Hungarian super-pig from an American blog written by a farmer who has imported them. Mangalica is starting to become very trendy for foodies in America – just last week it was mentioned in the NYT.

Must-try dessert items include the local poppy seed paste, chestnut puree, and sour cherries. For the uninitiated, European sour cherries are like normal cherries, except with five hundred times more flavor. I have occasionally seen them in American, but in Hungary they are very popular. Fresh they are quite sour, but when in desserts the sugar brings out their strong aroma and well-rounded flavor.

Chestnut puree with rum often accompanies sour cherries. I admittedly don’t often like chestnuts, but they work really well with rum, tasting a little like a rich sweet marzipan.

Poppy seeds are popular throughout Europe, but the ground paste in the cake above is particularly Hungarian. It’s an unusual flavor and texture- nutty, sweet, and maybe a little chalky.

One of the best things I ate in Budapest was grilled goose liver at Cafe Kor with sour cherries and homemade potato croquettes. The goose liver, a Hungarian specialty, was incredibly smooth and flavorful.

Also don’t forget to try Tokaji, the honey-sweet Hungarian dessert wine. By the palace in Buda there is an excellent tasting room where you can sample Tokaji and other Hungarian wines, which are one of the country’s best-kept secrets.


Lately I’ve been missing those days of long sunlight

This is outside my housing complex in the community gardens. This sunflower-bordered plot belonged to my roommate, who has since moved away. He grew quite a lot of potatoes, which tasted wonderful mashed alongside meatballs and lingonberries.

Mostly eating in Madrid #1

Last weekend I visited my friend Nancy in Madrid, where she teaches English. Since I had Nancy as a tour guide, I didn’t have to do much research, but I knew a little about some things I definitely wanted to check out: art, tapas, and Jamon Iberico. Our first stop was Casa Valiño, a little tapas place in Nancy’s neighborhood.

It felt like a neighborhood place where locals dine. We had some standard tapas like chorizo in wine, manchego cheese, and anchovies. I confess I had never had an anchovy before, but they tasted wonderful on crisp toast with lemon.

Later we had some wonderful Spanish wine at La Teteria de la Abuela, a small hipster-ish cafe that served vegetarian sandwiches and numerous teas.

A quick trip to Riga

I’ve been behind on posting my photos to my Flickr for a long time now. I finally added the Riga set.

and well…that was in November. Typical to my travels, I didn’t know anything about Riga before I went. All I knew is that it was an “exotic” sounding destination that could be reached by ferry from Stockholm. I went with some friend from school and we shared two windowless cabins. The journey started out pretty well…in fact, we won some wine in a ring toss game hosted by the crew and we were merrily consuming massive amounts of chocolate that we had bought at the duty free when our ferry came across an unpleasant strong. Let’s just say that I spent the rest of the night regretting that chocolate as the waves tossed our boat and the contents of my stomach up and down. One of my other friends suffered the same fate, but those who had been a little more judicious in chocolate consumption attempted to dance and karaoke away the nausea.

We only had one day in Riga, which we spent entirely wandering around the old town. None of us knew anything about what to see, but we stumbled upon some interesting things. One of them because we heard ominous organ music, which turned out to be coming from a very old church with obvious Eastern influences. The buildings in Riga’s old town were beautiful and it seemed many of the crumbling fascades were being restored. Across the water we saw some relics of the Soviet past in the form of square brutalist buildings.

We tried some traditional Latvian food, which was quite similar to the other cuisines I’ve tried on the Baltic: meat and potatoes. However, this meat and potato combination at Alus Sēta was quite flavorful because it was garnished with ample amounts of lemon, mushroom cream, and dill.

The local bread was also very good and there were many bakeries and nter local varieties of bread compared to Stockholm. But in the end we just spent a day there, so wasn’t able to sample all of what Riga had to offer. We spent more time on the cruise, which could best be described as kitschy with its outdated 70s-style decor, Swedish country kids with mullets, and rowdy drunken Latvians singing Karoke. The cruise food had some Baltic treats like caviar and quail eggs, but overall it was bland and tasted stale. However, singing Lynn Anderson’s old country hit “Rose Garden” and finding that all the old Latvians singing along, more than made up for the bad food.esting

Swedish sticky cake

Swedish sticky cake

Kladdkaka, Swedish “sticky cake,” is a wonderful and rich Chocolate Swedish dessert that is particularly welcome on cold winter nights. It is made with simple ingredients, but requires some finesse to master. My first attempts ended up like hockey pucks, but after discussing this matter with Swedish veterinary students/Fika masters I can now make it reasonably well. You want to cook the stiff batter until it’s sticky, but not gloopy, but cook it too long and you’re in American brownie territory. You must monitor it carefully, shaking the pan periodically until the cake no longer “jiggles.” It’s best cooked in a spring form pan, because otherwise removing it destroys the structure. The perfect kladdkaka has a firm exterior that gives way upon first bite to warm melted chocolate.

Swedish Veterinary Academy Fika Kladdkaka
2 eggs
1.5 dl flour
3 dl sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
1 dl melted salted butter, cooled a little
4 tablespoons cacao
50-100 g crushed milk chocolate

Blend all the ingredients, cook roughly 10 mins at 200 C, monitoring carefully

Trevlig Resa

= have a nice trip in Swedish.