Every relationship has celebrated milestones. Like getting brunch together after dancing it up at 80s night, few things cement the “this is getting serious” step like the first trip away together. Most couples choose a sunny, romantic destination. Mike and I? We went to Hungary. In October. Okay so maybe Budapest isn’t everyone’s first idea of a romantic city but whatever. Mike and I are goofy like that.  

Photo courtesy of Love Apples

Our visit wasn’t driven by culinary travel, but we ended up having some of our favorite food-related experiences during the trip. Who would have guessed a tiny eastern European country could deliver a six-foot tall Michael Jackson statue made out of white chocolate? Or a wine destination with what might be the best Wine Goggled name on the planet?  

Gerbaud –  Thanks in part to its downriver Danube proximity to Vienna, Budapest has a striking coffee and pastry culture often celebrated in soaring salons fit for Marie Antoinette. Open since 1858, Gerbaud is the grande dame of Budapest salons. The light-filled salon was painstakingly restored in 1997 to look regally ancient. Gleaming floors lead our eyes up to a brillaint counterop filled with sugary delights. Taking a seat in the salon, we sat back as brisk waitresses flitted between tiny cafe tables with trays of pastel colored goodies and strong coffee. It was the perfect way to fight off jet lagg and ease into our vacation. 

Szabo Marzipan Museum – A little way down the Danube from Budapest is a village known as Szentendre. This little village might be in guide books recommending a scenic getaway into an artists village, a chance to stroll through a small Hungarian community and take in tiny shops and ancient churches. All of these things are true but they don’t shout the town’s biggest feature from the rooftops: The Szabo Marzipan Museum. Could it be true? An entire museum with all of its displays intricately carved from almond paste? So true and so bizarre. Especially considering the chosen topics – countless classic Disney characters vied for attention next to Hungarian landmarks. But the creme de la marzipan had to be the borderline creepy Michael Jackson. Standing at life-size attention and captured during the King of Pop’s miltary-esque costume phase ,the piece is just strange. Deliciously strange.

The Valley of Beautiful Women and the Most Hilariously Formal Restaurant I’ve Ever Visted after the jump. (more…)

We don’t make it out to Kansas City to visit Elizabeth’s family as often as we’d like.  More often than not, our visits are timed around holidays where there’s an abundance of home-cooked treats.

Tough to be us, right?  Even so, we always make it out to at least one or two restaurants while we’re in town.

For our most recent visit, we were all about the classics.  When the family asked if there were any places we wanted to eat while we were in town, we were ready with two establishments that have more than 150 years of restaurant experience between them.  We requested trips to Stroud’s and Rosedale Barbeque.

The family was happy to oblige, and so we hit up Rosedale for lunch one day and Stroud’s for dinner the next.  We were eager to see how the years had treated these Kansas City institutions.  And while Stroud’s is a long-time favorite of Elizabeth’s, Rosedale was a new experience for both of us.

Fried chicken, pulled pork and a drink called the “Chicken Choker” after the jump. (more…)

With all the snow we’ve gotten this winter, the idea of getting away somewhere tropical and warm is more appealing than ever.  Although we weren’t able to escape this year, we did just that a year ago to celebrate our birthdays.  We rang in 2009 at Jaguar Reef Lodge, an all-inclusive resort in Belize.

The resort was wonderful.  The excursions blew us away.  The food…not so much.

Don’t get me wrong.  Most of the dishes we ordered were tasty, and the portions were certainly generous.  But I was hoping for something a little more authentic than chicken nachos and conch fritters, so I found myself selecting the menu items that seemed to be closest to the kinds of dishes a local might eat: rice and beans with stewed pork, grilled fillet of snapper with fruit salsa, etc.

Even so, authenticity seemed to elude me.  I was getting my fill of Belikin beer (regular and stout, thank you) and seasoning my meals with a healthy dose of Marie Sharp hot sauce, but I was eager to see what a local meal really looked like.  So I borrowed a bike from the resort one afternoon and headed down the road to nearby Hopkins Village.

It was there, in Hopkins, that I finally experienced a truly local dish: the Garifuna fish stew known as hudut.  I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but everything about the experience was unique.

What is hudut?  Find out after the jump. (more…)

It’s pretty much official – I’ve crossed over into hard-core food geekdom.

How do I know?  Let’s put it this way: Elizabeth took a trip to Chicago to visit a college friend recently, and she asked me if I wanted her to bring anything back.  Without a moment’s hesitation, I asked her to bring back something that reflects Chicago’s status as one of America’s top food cities.  She smiled, probably because she knew that was what I would request, and she promised to see what she could find.

When she returned, I could tell that she was particularly pleased with what she had found.  Pulling out a large package wrapped in butcher’s paper, she handed it to me and watched with a smile as I opened it to find not one, but three different sausages made on site at the Lincoln Quality Meat Market.

Open since 1928, the LQMM (slogan: “Nobody Beats Our Meat”) is one of a dying breed of butcher shops and delicatessens throughout Chicago.  They are understandably proud of their homemade fresh sausages and farm-raised meats cut to order, but Elizabeth decided on a souvenir that was most likely to survive the trip back to DC: a trio of dry-cured Hungarian sausages.

Flavors and impressions after the jump. (more…)