The absolutely wonderful thing about a great, big trip is that so much happens. So much to talk about. And write about.
On the other hand, the absolutely daunting thing about a big trip is that so much did happen! And there’s so much to talk about and write about . . . that I don’t quite know where to start.
I decided not to try to attack this in chronological order. I’m afraid I’d find myself writing scintillating prose like,”then we did this, and then we did that. On Tuesday we arrived in BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.”
Yawn. Click. Wait a minute . . . don’t click yet! This might get better.
So instead I’m going to write about the best apple strudel I ever ate in my life. I ate this killer strudel in one of the most magical cities I’ve ever visited – Budapest, Hungary. It’s not enough that this place is so beautiful, it takes your breath away. Here. Look at this:
Budapest kind of reminds me of Food Network chef Bobby Flay: a really great looking guy who can also COOK. Talk about a double whammy. And I don’t know why I called this post “easy as apple pie.” I do like a clever title, but the story doesn’t quite come together in any way that makes sense. I don’t think making an apple pie is easy, and I know making strudel wouldn’t be easy, either. I think a man must have made up that saying. Not Bobby Flay, however. Bobby would know that pastry is difficult, bless his little grilling heart.
Anyway, you can bet this strudel was made from scratch. No Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry in this baby. No Thank You! brand apple pie filling here. Here’s what the dessert looked like:
This strudel is the definition of buttery, flaky pastry goodness wrapped around warm morsels of sweet, fragrant apple filling. Oh, and there’s a precious little scoop of real vanilla ice cream. We’re talking full fat ice cream, the likes of which I haven’t eaten since Hector was a pup. Now, I think the low-fat, cold-churned stuff is pretty good, but mamma mia. There is definitely a difference. A forkful of strudel and ice cream was like a little party in your mouth. And as if that weren’t enough, there were these decadent drizzles of warm vanilla custard sauce and raspberry puree to drag the fork through to tip the scales from fabulous to perfection. Holy cow! I’m thinking any cow responsible for the ingredients in that ice cream and custard would be one proud, bodacious bovine.
If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Budapest, look for the restaurant doing the strudel happy dance on the Buda side of the river, just up a block or so from St. Matthieu Cathedral. On this sunny side street you’ll pass a couple gift shops and a gelato store, and then plop yourself down at one of the tables under the green awning. This is Hadik Etterem Restaurant. The staff is friendly and the strudel was so amazing, we came back for more. The goulash soup was good, too. I might have this address totally screwed up since the Hungarian language is way beyond my abilities, but I think it’s on Szenthdromsdg utca 9-11. Or maybe that’s the owner’s grandmother’s birthday. Ask at the Hilton next to the cathedral and I bet they’ll know where to send you.
When all is said and done, I can guarantee that it’s worth every calorie and probably every Hungarian peso (what was that currency again?) I paid for it. I think this was a country where we paid for everything in thousands of something or other, so it’s hard to say.
You may wonder why I’m raving about strudel in Budapest when we went from there to Vienna, long hailed as pastry and strudel nirvana, just a couple days later. Well, I did finally order strudel in Vienna on our last day there. I wasn’t officially on a strudel quest or anything, but I tried the cheese strudel at an outdoor cafe near St. Stephen’s Cathedral that was also very good. It actually was like a piece of cheesecake with a little pastry on the top and bottom. Very rich. Good, but not as good as the apple confection in Budapest. Maybe it’s like comparing apples and oranges, though. Apple strudel and cheese strudel. Never the twain shall meet?
At this point you’ll probably be glad to hear that this is all I have to say about food in Eastern Europe. Not that it wasn’t usually pretty good, but there were some mystery meals (including a lunch on the Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Bucharest) that were a little on the scary side. Cabbage featured prominently, and cabbage rarely makes anyone’s list of top ten favorite foods. Or top 20. Or even top 100, I’m willing to bet.
I will say, though . . . next time I’m going to try the Sacher tort, too. Life is too short to skimp on opportunities to try pastries. Am I right, or am I right?