During the second half of our time in Europe, we continued to try the local food wherever possible. What follows are the highlights of our food experiences from Hungary through Italy.
Hungary’s cuisine features meats and seasonal vegetables. Soups are also an important part of the meal, with many types to choose from on restaurant menus.
When we arrived in Budapest, the first thing we did was find a sidewalk café and order dinner. It was a warm summer night and wonderful to sit outside and enjoy the food. We ordered gulyas (goulash) soup as an appetizer. Hungarian food is known for being spicy, due to the use of paprika in many dishes. This soup was no exception. It had a little kick to it from the paprika and, after eating our share of bland food on this trip, it was delicious!
In northeastern Romania, we ate a variety of local food in the small town of Gura Humorului, where we stayed for three days. Pork is the main meat in Romanian cuisine. Lamb is also found on menus and we enjoyed a lamb chop with fresh garlic and mustard sauce. One of our favorite meals was a stuffed cabbage that came in the form of a pie. With many farms in the area, we enjoyed local produce, including a wonderful eggplant salad and some grilled fresh mushrooms. Polenta is also a common side dish.
For dessert, we loved the clatita, which is a type of crepe. They can have many fillings; ours had banana and chocolate.
Bulgarian cuisine is considered to be South Slavic. Dairy products and meat play strong roles in the main dishes. Pork is the most common meat found in Bulgarian food. Many Bulgarian dishes are oven baked, steamed, or in the form of stew. Typical of this food is a dish we tried in Veliko Tarnovo, which was a type of pork stew with cheese on top. We liked the food so much at this restaurant that we came back the next night to try some other dishes!
Food in Serbia is influenced by a variety of sources, including Greece, Turkey and its former Ottoman rule, which introduced oriental cuisine. We ate at an excellent outdoor restaurant in the heart of Belgrade, where we were treated to delicious Baklava for dessert. This dish, originating from the Ottoman Empire, is a sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. It literally melted in our mouths as we ate it and was a fitting end to a wonderful meal.
Many people identify pizza and pasta with Italy. Naples, Italy, is the birthplace of modern pizza. And, the average Italian consumes about 55 pounds (25 kilograms) of pasta a year. When we visited Italy, we had our share of pizza and pasta. However our favorite dish was Caprese Salad. It originates from the Italian region of Campania and is made of sliced fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, seasoned with salt and olive oil. This is a popular dish worldwide and, in fact, we saw it on menus in such far-flung places as Uzbekistan. We ordered it there and in several other countries, but nowhere did it taste as fresh and as good as it did in Italy.
As we continue to travel, we will highlight our food experiences. Did you miss any of our other food experiences?