Saturday, December 19, 2009

Five Great Hungarian Products

5. Tokaj Aszú: Perhaps the wine of kings is virtually unknown in America because we have no tradition of royalty, or due to the fact that dessert wines don't figure into many menus. Or perhaps it is the price that is prohibitive, a modest 3 puttonyos bottle could set you back close to a hundred dollars at a wine shop. But in Hungary, Tokaj Aszú – made from grapes that have attained a 'noble rot ' on the vine – is available relatively inexpensively by the bottle – or by the glass at any of any upscale bar.

4. Tisza Trainers: Retro-hip has never been cooler in Budapest, especially to a generation that is discovering kitsch and didn't have to endure the repression of the Soviet-imposed socialist regime. This re-fangled brand of shoe updates the omnipresent state-owned Tisza trainer, to fantastic results. It is only a matter of time before Japanese shoe fetishists catch on.

3. Tomatoes: Try this: cut out the stem at the top of a summertime tomato, put it to your lips and suck. What you get is a burst of pure tomato flavor that might as well be another fruit from the pale, grainy supermarket-bought American variety. True, tomatoes are not originally Hungarian – not by a long shot – and they don't use them in cooking as much as they do in the Balkans, but a Hungarian tomato is one of our true simple seasonal pleasures.

2. Mangalica pork: believe the hype. The rescue of this species of wooly pig from near extinction and its ascension as a sought-after gourmet foodstuff is already well documented, so much so that it has become popular to bash the trendy pig. But there is a good reason mangalica it has found its way onto the menus of America’s most esteemed restaurants: the meat is beautifully marbled and fantastically rich. That'll do, pig.

1. Le Parfum perfumes: Using scents of derived from such whimsical sources as absinthe and smoky lapsang souchong tea, Zsolt Zólyomi’s perfumes, which he creates for his own line as well as already existing brands, are inventive and exclusive. But expect no Eastern European budget shopping here: prices of his artisan perfumes run close to $ 150 for a 100-ml size bottle. For a longer treatment of Le Parfum, and an interview with Zolt, stay tuned.

Matt Henderson Ellis is a freelance manuscript editor and author coach working with writers who publish in print and digitally.

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