Tagged: jewish

Budapest, Hungary

 On Sunday we said farewell to Bob, then Dave and I walked past St. Stephan’s church and the Opera House on the way to our hostel. We stayed in a 8-bed dorm in Carpe Diem Vitae aka Vitae, not Carpe Diem, which is the shitty sister hostel. Vitae is on the 5th floor of an apartment building with an interior walkway. Many apartment buildings in Budapest are designed this way. 
   
After checking in we headed back out. We ran into Judah Fest, a Jewish festival along Kazinczy street, which is also a bar street. The festival was like any other with food, activities, and women selling vintage and handmade jewelry. There were Jewish organizations trying to sign people up, and loud Jewish music playing. We stopped and ate a bean dish and then hummus.  
We continued down the street out of the festival to Szimpla Kert, the famous garden eclectic bar, which is also a farmers market on Sunday’s. We were too full to eat more real food so we bought a kilo of cherries and took a seat. The cherries were really soft but not overripe, which we’d never had before. We chatted with a few German girls who are studying abroad in Budapest. 

 We went to the Great Synagogue, the biggest synagogue in Europe. The bema is magnificent with a gold facade and a colorful ceiling. I was given paper towel to cover my shoulders and Dave was given a yamaka. Behind the synagogue is a gravesite for Jewish heros.  
We walked towards downtown and stopped at Blue Bird coffee. We then went to Erzsebet park and sat on the ledge of the public pool. The pool is only used for dipping your feet and it’s crowded all times of the day. People bring beers during the day and at night all liquor can be found.  
In the middle of the park there’s a few outdoor bars, street food, and a giant Ferris wheel. There was a stage set-up with a band playing, along with men cooking massive skillets of sausages and other Hungarian foods.  
We kept walking and ran into a used book market in a large square. We had a snack at Anna Cafe on a busy tourist shopping street for the people watching. For dinner we went to Kadarka Wine Bar on Kiraly street. I was being incredibly indecisive with both wine and food and the waiter was being a gem, except for when we asked him what food is best and he suggested the burger for Dave and a salad for me. 

After dinner we went to Retox, our sister hostel with a bar. Our entire hostel was there as well. The crowd was young, and the bar was a dump, but the space was big, the drinks cheap, and the people nice.

In the morning we went to breakfast at the elegant New York Cafe commissioned by New York Insurance Company New York Palace.    
We walked through the big City park, past numerous playgrounds and a kids soccer field with mini bleachers. We went to Szechenyi thermal bathhouse, the biggest one which sits on the edge of the park. The bathhouse has three outdoor pools and more than fifteen inside ranging in temperatures, along with saunas, etc. Some of the saunas reach as high as 70 Celsius which is just mad. The interior thermal pools smell like sulfur and hot pee but that’s just the natural hot spring smell. The best pool was the medicinal one. The temperature wasn’t too hot or too cold and the water felt like silk.  
We walked past the zoo, Heroes square, through town and went to Konyha for lunch, a restaurant we had past the day before that had cool sliding windows. We finally tried one of the traditional creams. Every restaurant in Budapest serves veggie and meat creams; a sort of pâté. My fear of them is the amount of mayo but this one only had spinach and feta. We also got fresh fruity lemonade, another thing all restaurants serve.  
We walked down to the waterfront, past our Viking cruise ship which was still there, to the Jewish shoes. The shoes represent the Jewish men and women who were brought to the riverbank and then shot from behind.    
Parliament is right across the road but unfortunately it was closed. We never did get a chance to go inside. We walked back to the social park downtown, and had drinks at Drk Dorko, one of the outdoor bars.

On our walk back home we ran into Gozsdu Udvar, a long pedestrian alley packed with restaurants and bars. In the middle of the alley you can go up or down in the opposite direction hitting more restaurants and a street food outdoor area. The space is awesome and we couldn’t believe we didn’t know it existed. We weren’t hungry for a real meal so we grabbed Pad Thai Wok 2 Go.

Later on we went to Szimpla Kert to check out the night scene there. The bar was great; there were all different types of people all ages. We ordered wine from the wine bar, then beer from the beer bar, and a grapefruit shisha from the shisha bar. It came with a grapefruit head with glow sticks inside the vase.

In the morning we went to Kozpont (across from Konyha) for coffee and sandwiches. It was 10am on a weekday and the local girls next to us were drinking beer. After getting our caffeine fix we walked across Erzsebet bridge and trekked up to the Citadel. You go there mostly for the panoramic views of the city. We came back across on the green bridge farther down the river. When you look back towards the Citadel from this bridge you can see there is a church inside the mountain.    
We walked into Central Market and bought the most amazing sweet cherry tomatoes.  
Lunch was at Trattoria Barca Bianca for the pizza, which we had smelled our first day. On the way home I attempted to shop but all the clothes (that weren’t in American stores) were trashy. I ran back to the hostel and missed getting caught in a crazy hail storm by a few minutes. 

We had beers and sandwiches at Farm, then went to Exit Point to play an escape game. We did Wonderland and couldn’t get out in the end. We made it into the second room but most of the clues were impossible to figure out. After playing we talked to some girls who play regularly and they say you have to ask non-stop for hints in order to get out.

It poured almost all night. After Exit Point we went to Soda bar with our hostel. The bar is famous for having carbonated vodka shots. The next morning we grabbed a cab to the airport and flew to Amsterdam. We then parted ways; Dave to NYC and me to London. 

    

Warsaw, Poland

 Our flight departed from NYC at 6pm and we landed in Warsaw at 11:30am the following morning. We flew KLM (also Delta) and had a 4-hour layover in Amsterdam where we ate smoked salmon sandwiches, a must-do when I’m in that region. In the past seven months I became accustomed to non-American airlines and it was incredibly disappointing to go back to one- the food and plane were crappy.
We grabbed a taxi at the airport which ended up costing $25 USD to get to the Old Port. I booked us four nights at Castle Inn, a unique boutique hotel in the main square of the Old Town. Each room in the hotel is unconventional and decorated differently. The three of us stayed in the “Comic Book” family room, which has black and white cartoon images of the city on the walls and grand pre-war furniture. 

 When we first checked in we took a nap. Dave and I didn’t sleep at all on the trip over here and by this point we were exhausted. Around 2pm we made our way outside and walked along the cobble stone streets of the Old Town. The medieval buildings are all different muted colors and each has a decorative design ex. decorative painted facades or window panes. 

We ate lunch at Bazyliszek outdoor cafe in Rynek Starego Miasta, a big square in the Old Town behind our hotel. The square is lined with restaurants; we chose the most popular one that still had some sunlight hitting the tables. Dave and I tried some Polish beers, I had Ksiazece red lager, which tasted like a mix of Heineken and a decent Canadian red beer. For food we split pierogis and polish sausages.
After lunch we walked back and took another nap. We then headed back out around 9pm to Portretowa, a cute restaurant we passed by earlier. The outside is covered in vines and florals, and the inside was the perfect old European feel with tall ceilings, a low wooden bar, walls adorned in oil paintings and eclectic vintage accessories, and lace linens. I ordered the beetroot soup with dumplings, and the steak tartar, which was tasteless. Bob’s roasted duck was delicious. With our bill we each received a shot or cherry vodka (tased like real cherries,) the perfect nightcap. 

 The next morning we slept in then went to Cafe Baguette for breakfast. We sat outdoors in the sun and I munched on a (real European) tomato mozzarella panini and sipped an Americano. After we walked all the way down the trending Nowy Swiat street. This street is touristy as it stems from the Old Town but it is cute and not too overcrowded. There are outdoor cafes and shops, and the sidewalk is dotted with Chopin musical benches; Chopin was from Warsaw. There’s stencil graffiti on the side streets. We stopped to look inside a church which was decorated differently from any I had ever seen. The walls were white and there were vintage crystal chandeliers- the beautiful type I want to steal from my grandmothers house. 
 We kept on going all the way to Lazienkowsi Park, the largest part in Warsaw. Within the park we saw the Chopin monument and the Lazienki Palace on the lake. We did the palace audio tour. The interior was beautiful with gold accents and jewel toned walls. There was a lot of artwork which sparked my dads interest. After we had lunch at a outdoor cafe behind the amphitheater. 
   At night we took the cable bus line 227 to the other side of the river to Soho Factory, a new industrial square which has a neon sign museum, a restaurant, etc. Here we ate at Warszawa Wschodnia, a trendy Polish/French restaurant that was recommended to me by someone along my travels. The restaurant was in a massive loft space with brick walls and an industrial ceiling. The design is very Scandinavian with light wooden furniture, white table wear, and green plants throughout. There is a live jazz band and the piano looks like the tale of a whale, sleek. As a foreigner the prices are almost half the price as they would be at home, which allowed us to indulge and feel good about it. David had the quail which was served in a ceramic pot and came with a side of mashed unseasoned beets- very Polish. 

The next morning we went back to Cafe Baguette then walked to the Polin museum, the new Jewish museum. It took us about three hours to walk through the museum with the audio guide. The museum tour leads you from one room to another very smoothly. Each room has a different layout and is incredibly interactive; it’s one of the best designed museums I’ve ever seen. The most interesting thing I learned here is that Poland is still antisemitic and that there aren’t many Jewish Pols in the country. 

   After lunch we walked down Gen. Wl. Andersa street towers the city center. We stopped at a Sphinx for lunch, a Polish version of Applebee’s. The food was good and place wasn’t as cheap looking as I expected.

We then walked over to Nozyk synagogue, the only surviving prewar synagogue. It was closed so we couldn’t go inside but from the outside it didn’t look like we missed much. The synagogue had a double barrier all around, two metal fences to protect it from cars. After Bob tried all the entrances we put him into a taxi and sent him home. 

 Dave and I walked across the street and watched a small legalize marijuana march where everyone looked under the age of twenty-five. We then circled the base of Palace of Culture and Science, the tallest building in Poland, looking for a way inside. Eventually we made it up to viewing deck on top; we were soaring over the city at only 30 floors up. The city is incredibly green with parks every few blocks. We saw this as we walked around but it was even more apparent from above. 
     When we exited the building it began to rain and was on and off for a few minutes. It ended with a double rainbow. We shopped right nearby in the city center, and walked down the pedestrian only Chmielna street which was hopping with locals and tourists. We stopped for ice cream which we constantly saw people eating. It was early evening Saturday and this time Nowy Swiat street was packed. There was a live traditional Polish band with the lead singer also playing a flute. There were random music performers, and a “ghetto” white break dance group that was choreographed. [They have nothing on our NYC performers.] I was attacked in the Old Town square by a massive collection of balloons. When it got dark a fire dancer came out.

For dinner we stayed in our lively neighborhood and ate at Trattoria Rucola. The interior walls were covered in wallpaper that looked like we were in a park. I ordered the big Prosciutto pizza which was massive and delicious. 

 The next morning we left for the airport at 7:30am. It only took fifteen minutes to get to the airport. We flew Lufthansa to Munich. 

Grammie’s Pot Roast

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Growing up we ate this Pot Roast on every Jewish holiday, and Christmas. My Polish Jewish grandmother taught it to my Swedish mother, and for the first time since both my grandmother and mother passed away I made it for our family holiday dinner.

Make sure to use First Cut Brisket, which is the leanest cut. Combined with the other ingredients the meat always comes out juicy.

Ingredients (serves 8) – Cook time approx. 3 hours

  • 6 lbs First Cut Brisket
  • 2 large white onions, sliced
  • 2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 2 packages Dry Onion soup mix
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • Salt and  pepper

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Directions

1. Remove excess fat from meat. Salt and pepper both sides of meat.

2. Put extra large pot over high heat. When pot is extremely hot add olive oil. Quickly add onions and meat. Sear meat, approx. 1 min on each side.

3. Remove pot from heat. Add garlic and dry onion mix. Then add soup and 4 cans of water.

4. Cover and cook on Medium heat for 2.5 hours. Feel free to add more water for a thinner gravy.

5. Remove meat, slice, then return back to pot. Cook for another 30 min or until tender.

6. With tongs put sliced meat onto a platter and pour gravy into a serving bowl.

Serve with Kasha Vanishkes and steamed green beans for complete meal.

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Kasha Varnishkes

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The perfect side dish for Pot Roast.

Ingredients (serves 8 as side dish)

  • 2 large white onions, chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup medium or coarse kasha
  • 1 lb bowtie pasta
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to tasteDSC03036

Directions

1. Sauté the onions in 3 tablespoons of olive oil in large frying pan until golden. Remove.

2. Cook pasta according to directions. When finished toss with olive oil to prevent sticking.

3. Meanwhile, beat egg in a mixing bowl. Slowly pour in uncooked kasha until all grains are covered by egg. Put kasha in the frying pan over high heat. Stir up until egg is dried and kernels are brown and separated, approx. 3 minutes.

4. Add broth, onions, salt and pepper to pan. Cover and turn heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes then check to see if liquid has absorbed, if not, cover and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

5. When the kasha is ready mix into pasta. Season with salt and pepper.