Holiday Foodsteps: Wienerwald, Vienna

Settling into Vienna didn't go exactly as planned - checking-in involved a construction site for an entrance and a bathroom that started flooding so yes, not great. We left the apartment in search for lunch, with hopes that we'd return later in the day to find that everything was sorted. While we eventually had to move to a hotel (situated right on the shopping street so it really was a blessing in disguise for us), we did manage to sit down to a nice lunch right by Stephansplatz.

Goldschmiedgasse 6,
Vienna 1010, Austria

We found a whole row of restaurants on Goldschmiedgasse, all promising a good, traditional Viennese Schnitzel. We decided on the brightly (green) coloured Wienerwald. Hungry from our travels and from the drama that came with trying to check-in, we found a table on the lively terrace and quickly got down to the business of ordering.

Our first encounter with the Wiener Schnitzel in the city it was named after was a good one. The dish is a simple one, equivalent to Britain's fish and chips but breaded, less greasy, served with slim fries and not fish, of course. The dish seems unassuming but I suspect that there must be a great deal of  skill involved to making sure that the flattened meat is even so that it's perfectly cooked.

Roast pork with gravy, dumplings and sauerkraut. The pork was moist and flavourful - paired with the sauerkraut (which I always absolutely love) and you've got a winning combination. 

Wienerwald also gave us our first taste of Viennese Ribs - nicely roasted and served with those curry-flavoured potatoes that I fell in love with at the German pub in New York City, we knew that we'd have to have more ribs before our holiday was through. 

Wienerwald is located right in the heart of the city, close to a lot of the spots that you're likely to end up in if you are a tourist. Sure, the prices are not to lowest in town but food is satisfying and with a location like that, it's hard to complain.   

Holiday Foodsteps: Going Fudge-Crazy in Edinburgh

We arrived in Edinburgh not knowing that fudge was such a big part of their food culture - if not for the joys of mobile internet, we probably would have missed the fudge altogether. The weather had been rather unkind to us all morning and the thought of possibly having to brave more rain to get to the fudge store was a little daunting. Still, we took deep breaths and went for it - the fudge was so good that we ended up going to not just one, but two different stores.

A Lesson at the Fudge Kitchen

Fudge Kitchen
The Royal Mile
30 High St
Edinburgh EH1 1TB

A batch of sweet fudge concoction was enjoying its last few moments of being stirred over a hot stove when we walked into the store. While the stove area seemed like a good place to be on a gloomy, rainy day, I'm pretty sure constantly having to stir the fudge is no easy feat.

The liquid fudge is transferred from the stove onto a table with a marble top to cool. We were told that relative temperature is key in the cooling process - as such the temperature at the store has to be kept very low in winter, so much so that even with the huge stove in the main area, the staff have to bundle up for work.

The fudge is allowed to set a little before any extra little bits, like nuts or raisins, get thrown in. The mixture seems to gain a little elasticity as it sets, which is interesting because the finished product is far from elastic.

After our little lesson, we moved on to where to the treasure trove of goodies, eager to sample the fudge. We paid for our fudge, a block of rum and raisin and a block of chocolate-orange, stepped out into the cool air, contemplated saving the fudge for the train ride back to Carlisle for all of three seconds and gleefully took our first bites.

It's difficult not to fall in love at first bite. Crumbly but incredibly smooth, it was the texture that completely blew me away. I always thought that fudge was a synonym for toffee or caramel, meaning that it would share that soft, sticky, pliable texture - I couldn't have been more misinformed. Both flavours were rich, creamy (but in a non-creamy way, if that makes sense) and very, very yummy. We couldn't believe what we'd been missing out on.

What's funny is that as we were strolling along the streets of Edinburgh, enjoying our chunks of fudge, the skies cleared and the day became a lot more pleasant. You may put it down to unpredictable weather but I say that there's just a tiny bit of magic in fudge.

Fancier Fudge

We continued exploring the area after our first fudge-stop and stumbled upon another fudge store. A little fancier than the first one, this store had a display counter reminiscent of a French patisserie with the carefully arranged, smaller chunks of fudge sitting in long glass cabinets.

The Fudge House of Edinburgh
197 Canongate, Royal Mile,
Edinburgh EH8 8BN

We had a little more trouble deciding here as they had a sightly larger range of flavours and everything looked extremely attractive. I finally settled on the house special, coconut-chocolate and for easy comparison, the orange-chocolate.

The Final Verdict

Those huge blocks of fudge from the Fudge Kitchen won my heart. The ones we got at the Fudge House were pretty good but they just weren't quite up there with the ones from the Fudge Kitchen. The ones from the Kitchen also got some bonus points for surviving the journey back to Carlisle a lot better - the ones from the House were sticky, melty and looked a little worse for wear when we arrived.

You know how when you were 5 and your mum told you not to finish the whole bar of chocolate but you did anyway and felt sick after that? Well, fudge makes me feel like that kid again - it get's a little sickeningly sweet after awhile but you can't help yourself anyway. It probably also helps that all that sugar leaves you happy, giggly, and yes, feeling like a 5 year old.

Holiday Foodsteps: (Not so) Little Novelties in Budapest

Part of the fun of being a tourist is being able to get lost in the novelty of things. As a tourist, you're usually up for something different, especially if you get to come away with an interesting story to tell. To me, these two spots in Budapest had that element of fun - afterall, how often do you get to sample cakes from a 153 year old establishment or have a food tower come to your table?

Gerbeaud Cafe

Gerbeaud Cafe
1051 Budapest
Vorosmarty Ter 7, Hungary

I had read about this iconic cafe on the train-ride to Budapest. Expecting a tiny shop tucked away in a little corner, I was completely blown away by the sheer size of the actual Gerbeaud Cafe. Perhaps it's the Malaysian in me that automatically associates anyhing old and famous with something tiny and tucked away. The strategically located cafe is all elegance with its ornate chandeliers and old-school charm but it wasn't the beautiful interior that caught our eye, it was the large "50% off with the purchase of 5 slices of cake" sign that immediately got our attention. We picked out our slices of cake, hopped on our bicycles and rode carefully back to the hostel with our precious cargo.

The display counters are full of pretty, yummy looking desserts that aren't cheap so the 50% off promotion really helped keep our cake shopping within the student budget. Not quite knowing which cakes to go for, we picked the ones that had the most interesting names and came away with a variety of cakes including the famous Dobos and Esterhazy Tortes. My favourite, though, was a lemon basil slice that I thought was absolutely divine even if my holiday pals didn't share the same sentiment. I don't often come across basil in desserts but I'm a convert - I thought the herb lent a lovely flavour to the otherwise common dessert.

I have to admit that while the cakes were well-made and quite delicious, they didn't quite live up to our expectations but I suppose that's that thing about expectations - it's always nicer to go unprepared and be pleasantly surprised. Still, it's a must-visit for every tourist - it's not often one gets to enjoy a taste of traditional opulence and in a place that has seen the likes of Franz Liszt, no less.

Fatal Etterem

Fatal Etterem
Vaci utca 67., Budapest 1056

We had walked passed the restaurant many, many times on our way out of the little lane that our hostel was located on but it wasn't until we saw a huge platter of food being delivered to one of the tables that we thought it might be worth a visit. It was our last night in Budapest and we wanted something quick but memorable before we set on on our cruise down the Danube. 

Vetrece soup - cream of chicken with tarragon, served in a crusty bread roll. As you can probably gather from the picture, the bread roll isn't really a bread roll at all but more like a loaf of bread. I love the use of herbs in soups in this part of the world and this soup was no different - the clever use of tarragon cut through the richness of it.

The Fatal platter - for the child in all of us. Made up mostly of sinful, indulgent, deep fried chicken, potatoes and mushrooms, this isn't for the faint-hearted and definitely not to be tackled alone. The greasiness of it all gets to you after awhile but it still doesn't stop if from being a "wow" worthy, fun platter to share between friends. We saw couples trying to tame the beast of a platter, envying their skill and stomach capacity - we struggled between the four of us and were ultimately defeated by the mountain of potatoes.

The restaurant isn't all about their humongous portions (though I can imagine that to be part of the attraction), they serve up some nice traditional Hungarian dishes as well. The key is just to share, share, share.

Holiday Foodsteps: Alfoldi Etterem, Budapest

We were on the lookout for a cheap, hearty meal in the heart of Pest and the words "homestyle cooking" jumped right out at us from the pages of our travel guide.

4th Kecskeméti street, 

I like a good roll to start off a meal and these were really something different. We thought they were put on our table by mistake, these interesting looking Alfoldi scones, but when no one came to take them away, we decided it would only be best to dig in. We found out later that these paprika scones are an Alfoldi specialty. I usually try to refrain from filling up on starter rolls but these spicy, slghtly cheesy-tasting scones were so addictive that it was quite a feat not to go for "just one more little bite". My only gripe was that the scones weren't served warm.

Deep fried cheese on a bed of rice - mistaking this for the foie gras risotto, we happily dug in, commenting that what we thought were deep fried slabs of cheese and foie gras didn't taste like foie gras at all. It took us more than a forkful each of the delicious crunchy-on-the-outside-melty-on-the-inside cheese to realise that they had messed up our order.

Fisherman's soup - a spicy, paprika based fish soup that was hearty and appetising. Had I been blindfolded, I would have said without a doubt, that they had brought us a bowl of laksa. Who would have thought, laksa in Hungary. I always find it funny when I find dishes halfway across the world that resemble something from home - similar flavours, different cultures.

Hekkfile Dorozsma's Style - fish in a tomato-paprika sauce, served with egg noodles. This dish really drove home the homestyle cooking concept for us. A simple dish of fresh fish and soft, silky egg noodles, no fancy presentation - it felt as if we had been invited into someone's home for dinner.

Goose-liver risotto with cheese. Having sent the deep fried cheese back, the dish we'd been eager to try finally made its way to the table. Not quite knowing what to make of it, we gave the dish a cautious once over before taking the plunge. The flavours were surprising - cheesy, and with a well-balanced hint of goose liver, this was a good introduction to goose liver for this bunch of foie gras novices. The combination of risotto, cheese and fatty liver is an extremely filling one - how the dish made it to the starters section of the menu still escapes me.

With free wifi and good prices, this is a cosy, stripped down restaurant serving cosy, stripped down food.

Holiday foodsteps: Street Food in Budapest

"Ahh, you have to try Lángos!"

As soon as we heard a description of the popular Hungarian snack from our friendly receptionist, it slipped right to the top of our list of must-eats. As eager as we were to put a face (for lack of better word) to the description, we had to contain our excitement for the duration of the weekend - we were told that the best version of it could be found at the Great Market Hall which is closed early on Saturdays and all day on Sundays.

The market hall itself is probably the envy of most other market halls, with its gorgeous tiling and architecture that had us guessing that it was a train station initially. It's got the usual atmosphere of a market - the hustle and bustle, the fresh produce, the smell of baked goods, a few eateries and some stalls selling clothes and the like. What you probably want to head straight towards is the row of stalls on the 1st floor where you can get your fix of traditional Hungarian food-to-go.

Yes, that's where we found our little Lángos stall.

It was the only stall with a queue, a good thing when you are faced with a whole variety of different toppings. Deciding if I wanted to go for something sweet or savoury was a task in itself, what more trying to narrow down the exact toppings. I went with a simple ham and dill in the end - the dill providing the perfect foil to the decadence of the fried bread. Imagine youtiao (Chinese doughnuts) but shaped like a wheel and as large as your head topped with anything your tastebuds fancy and you've got Lángos.

Consuming it requires a little bit of skill, especially if you go for a drippy, flowy topping. Those huge dough wheels look extremely filling and trust me, they are.

It was the Hungarian funnel cakes though, that left us feeling sad that we had to leave. Having discovered the stall (Ground Floor) 20 minutes before we were scheduled to leave for the airport, there was a little bit of a mad dash to go back for seconds after our first round of funnel cakes. Crispy on the outside and slightly softer on the inside, these funnel cakes were unlike anything I've ever had before. Shaped like a funnel, a "cake" is really a long strip of dough - there's quite a bit of fun in slowly unravelling the funnel and crunching on little sections of the strip. I chose a cinnamon one and was absolutely blown away. To think we almost left Budapest without having had these. The horror.

The market hall is a little bit confusing (well, we found it confusing anyway) but stick around, explore a little and you'll find these little delights. Look out also for the Danish pastries the size of your head (see a trend here?) going for all of 50 pence.