Meet Linda Miller Nicholson, an award-winning food writer and blogger from Seattle. I first met Linda a few years ago after she invited everyone attending a Seattle food conference to go to a pre-conference party at her house. The delightful evening that followed allowed me to get to know the unique woman that Linda is: open, generous, eccentric, creative and incredibly funny. She’s an adventurous cook and, never afraid to try new techniques and apply them to home cooking, she’s quickly become a reference in modernist cuisine. She’s been published in an impressive list of national publications, and her persona and sense of style make her perfect for TV too. She is currently transitioning from city to country living, and her stories about this big change are something you won’t want to miss. Here’s Budapest, Hungary, in her own words.
My Edible City
Budapest. When Marie asked me to contribute to her Edible Cities feature, my heart immediately leapt to Torino, Italy where I spent several of the best years a wine-food-fashion-phile could ever hope to spend. But then, you all already know that Piedmont, Italy is the culinary capitol of the world, what with the Alba white truffle, the Nebbiolo grape, and tajarin that would make your grandmother hipcheck a hockey player just to get a taste of.
My next thought was Paris, a city that is dear to my heart. My husband proposed to me there, but not in the way you might imagine. Suffice it to say that hardly a girl alive exists who wouldn’t say yes to a man who had pulled enough strings to close down the flagship Louboutin store at the height of the afternoon so that he could work in cahoots with the shop boy to slip a ring into a very special box of stilettos. Christian even provided the champagne right there in the store once I’d said yes- it’s still one of my best memories. But Paris is a city we all know and love, and so I wanted to venture beyond her Laduree-lined streets to somewhere a little less-known.
Budapest is a city that is often undeservedly-overlooked on European culinary tours. Well, two cities really, because Buda and Pest (which unified in 1873) are divided by the Danube River. Hotel Gellert, which is tucked just inside Buda yet a short jaunt across the Liberty Bridge to Pest, home to a bustling market and thriving downtown, is THE place to stay in the city. Hotel Gellert is the site of the most famous bathhouse in all of Europe, and the hot springs water that feeds the hotel and baths/spa is as near to the fountain of youth as anything I’ve ever experienced.
The city itself is an architectural feast for the eyes, with more than enough culture to make you feel smart just walking around, never mind the many monument and museum tours. But at the end of the day, when baroque visions have escaped my mind and I’m left to daydream over what makes a city enchanting, I always long for food. Hungarians are beyond friendly, eager to help, and willing to share. Learn to say cheers in Hungarian (egészségedre, which took me the better part of an evening in a lively pub to master) and you’ll make fast friends in any bar, café, or restaurant. While it may be trite to order nokedli, the Hungarian version of spaetzle, in Budapest rather than opting for something more adventurous, the same could be said about ordering trofie in Liguria. Besides, sucking the milk straight from the cow’s teat, so to speak, inevitably yields superior milk. Or nokedli, in this case.
My Favorite Dish
Nokedli. Nokedli’s most traditional accompaniment is Paprikas Csirke or Chicken Paprikash. Composed of the simplest ingredients, whole chicken, stock, sour cream, paprika, and onions, every Hungarian restaurant and household manages to prepare it just slightly differently. If Tacos al Pastor are my litmus in Mexico, Paprikas Csirke with Nokedli is it in Budapest. The nokedli dumplings, although by nature irregularly-shaped, even tend to vary depending who is making them, and there are a host of nokedli-making tools used to make them, each with differently-sized holes. My favorite looks like a box grater, and you simply pour the batter through the top, working it through the holes with an implement that slides back and forth.
After I have my fill of nokedli, I always follow it with a healthy pour of tokaji, which is a sweet Hungarian wine similar to muscat. While tokajis exist in other parts of the world, the finest labels stay within Hungary and are really something special as far as dessert wines go.
On my list of Edible Cities, Budapest is at the very top, albeit with a focus on comfort fare rather than haute cuisine. Now after all this reminiscence, you’ll have to excuse me, I’m off to search plane fares for my next Hungarian vacation.
- 36 Hours in Budapest, a New York Times guide to the city
- The National Geographic City Guide to Budapest
- 10 Reasons to Try Hungarian Food
- A recipe to make Chicken Paprikash with Nokedli from No Recipes, and another one from Saveur Magazine
Next Week on Edible Cities
Next week, Eleonora Baldwin, a food writer, blogger and culinary tour guide living in Rome, is taking us to Positano, Italy. Don’t miss it!