Travel isn’t just about taking in the sights and taking lots of pictures, though we sure do a lot of both. We also want to experience the local culture, and a large part of experiencing a new culture is experiencing their cuisine. Sure, you can pop into a local restaurant and order a drink or meal traditional to the region, and if you’re feeling confident, maybe you’ll strike up a conversation with a local. Or you can do what we did during our visit to Budapest, Hungary, and set up a ‘dine with locals’ experience. BonAppetour provides ‘home restaurant’ experiences all over the world by connecting you with locals who have a passion for cooking, culture, and meeting new people. Peter, our host in Budapest, is a wine enthusiast who loves to cook. He had quite the extensive and traditional menu planned for us. It was a family affair with everyone pitching in to create a portion of the delicious multi-course meal. Peter, along with his parents, George & Ann, and his girlfriend, Sofie, created a welcoming atmosphere and provided us with a memorable evening of drinking, eating, and conversing about culture and travel. Of course, the view from their 5th floor terrace overlooking the River Danube added to the wonderful ambiance.
Pálinka is a type of fruit brandy. Orchard fruits such as plums, apricots, apples, pears, and cherries are distilled to create a flavorful, yet potent spirit. Consider it a Hungarian-version of moonshine! Our hosts provided us with two varieties of home-made pálinka. We started the evening with a traditional plum flavored pálinka and later sampled their rose-hips variety. Packed with flavor and high in alcohol content, it’s best to sip this dynamic spirit.
We began our dining experience with a few starters. George, Peter’s father, made 2 varieties of duck liver pâté, which was served alongside fresh bread from the local market.
Not having much experience with pâtés, we were curious to try this local delicacy. We each cautiously spread a thin layer of pâté on a piece of bread and took a slightly hesitant first bite. Our hesitation quickly faded as we discovered the flavor of the spread was nothing to be nervous about. After a few more samples, we had to force ourselves to stop, as we knew there were many more dishes yet to come.
Next up on the menu was a peach cream soup served with chunks of goat cheese and flavored with mint and chili pepper flakes. What an interesting and intriguing combination of flavors! Peter had come across this recipe online and wanted to give it a try… we’re so glad he did because it was yet another mouth-watering dish! The most interesting part of this soup was that it was served chilled, which was much appreciated on this warm summer’s eve in Budapest.
Ann, Peter’s mother, contributed her famous home-made cucumber salad to the evening’s menu. According to Peter, hers is the best in all of Budapest! It looked and tasted much like what we would call a pickle in the States. Refreshing and delicious! Again, we didn’t want to eat too much, as we hadn’t even gotten to the main course yet!
Already starting to get slightly full from the abundance of starters, it was time for the main dish – Chicken Paprika served over Noodles.
The noodles (nokedli) are more like a dumpling and paprika is pretty much the symbolic spice of the country’s cuisine, so we were delighted to sample a truly authentic Hungarian entree.
We could not get enough of the sauce on our plates! The flavor was delectable and not too (spicy) hot.
As mentioned, Peter is quite the wine enthusiast and is even part-way through the certification process to become a globally-recognized wine expert. 3 different wines were served throughout the course of our meal; each one paired excellently with the different portions of the dining experience. During the appetizers, we sipped on Indian Summer, a red wine from the Eger region of Hungary. And accompanying our main entree, we enjoyed a refreshing white Furmint wine from the Somlo region.
Between bites of delicious food and sips of the outstanding wine Peter selected for the evening, the sun slowly set over the Danube as we exchanged travel stories, learned about their family history, tapped into Peter’s wine knowledge, and acquired information about what to see and do for our remaining days in Budapest.
And just when we thought it wasn’t possible to place another morsel of food into our bulging bellies, it was time for dessert! And, in our book, there’s always room for dessert! Our eyes widened and our mouths watered as Peter came out of the kitchen with Somlói galuska (Somló sponge cake). This traditional Hungarian dessert consists of sponge dumplings with chocolate sauce, rum and whipped cream. I’d be completely lying if I didn’t confess that we ate every last delectable bite! And to accompany our delightful dessert was a sweet wine, Tokaji Aszu, known as “the wine of kings and the king of wines”.
Needless to say, we were absolutely stuffed and enjoyed every savory bite of the incredible spread prepared by Peter and his family. This experience went way beyond anything just the two of us would’ve encountered in a local restaurant. To say it was a successful introductory ‘dine with locals’ experience would be an understatement and it’s a cultural opportunity that we simply cannot recommend enough. We dined like a Hungarian king and queen, sampled new dishes we may have never tried otherwise, learned a lot about wine pairing, enjoyed 4-hours of conversation, and made new friends.
So, next time you’re planning a visit to new place, consider booking your own ‘dine with locals’ experience with BonAppetour and create similar cherished memories!
We’d like to thank BonAppetour for sponsoring our very first ‘Dine with Locals’ meal in exchange for a review of our experience. Sponsored or not, this is an experience we wholeheartedly recommend if you’re looking for a cultural experience in a new town!