Hanging out in Rockford: Old times, new times—conclusion

An e-mail arrives from my son in Budapest. Dad: I liked your article but you got some things wrong. (Last week’s article about the Royal Crown Restaurant Bar.) “Galuska” is the spaetzle part, not the rest of the dish. It sounds like you had “Veal Paprikas” (pronounced pawp-ree-kash), which is kind of like a stew made with sour cream. Also, Eileen writes for the Wine Spectator, not Gourmet. Enough said.

Drew and I spend a couple of days in Vienna. We visit a Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit and go to the Hundertwasser museum. Hundertwasser was an Austrian painter and designer who is much copied in the U.S. Some examples of his direction in design would be evident in Bacchus, Octane and Kryptonite. On our way to the museum, we ask directions, of a Viennese couple. After giving us directions they chat with us in perfect English. “It must be awfully embarrassing to have George Bush as your president,” observes the man. Later, we are talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Now that is embarrassing for both of us,” I remark. He laughs heartily. His wife is almost apoplectic.

I get ready to leave Budapest. Before I do, Steve and Judy, Dori, Drew and I dine together two more times. The first is at a wonderful restaurant in the country called the Kopar Csarda. I’m not really sure how to pronounce that.

We start off with a carp soup. It is really quite delicious. Drew has a “wild game of the day” that Steve thinks might be boar. Steve, Judy and Dori have venison, and I have pork loin stuffed with duck liver. With it, I have a kind of sour kraut. I am going to go for the pork loin stuffed with bone marrow, but Judy waves me off and says that she will make that for me at home, and it will be better.

We order the pear brandy before dinner, and I tell Drew to tell Steve that we have to drink a lot because the food will be greasy. Steve replies that he has always known this.

After dinner, we visit a wonderful Catholic university that Steve knows about. It is very unusual architecturally. There are few straight lines and the towers lean at angles. We meet an American couple who is on vacation. The man says he works for NATO. They ask about restaurants in the area, and we recommend the one we have just been to. They leave and drive in the opposite direction from the restaurant.

The day before I leave, Judy makes the bone marrow. We drink a lot again. I have brought a whole bottle of the pear brandy, and Steve and I make jokes about drinking to offset the grease again. Judy has prepared the bone marrow by salting the bones, rubbing them with garlic and simmering them in water for several hours. Steve stands in the kitchen removing the marrow from the bones with a long straight piece of stainless steel rod. Then Judy brings the bowl to the table along with some toasted bread and pureed garlic. In addition, there are slivered leeks and peppers, I think, but by now the pear brandy is having its way with me.

You eat the marrow by first spreading raw pureed garlic on the toast and then putting the marrow on top of that. Then you sprinkle it with salt and paprikas, and dive in. I loved it. Drew tried to eat it but suddenly looked pale and wound up sitting on the floor with a very strained look on his face. Dori ate hers, but, of course, she grew up with it. Later that night, she complained of heartburn. Personally, I had no reaction whatsoever, surprising since we drank so much pear brandy, (or maybe Steve is right, and you have to drink a lot because it is greasy).

I must say I was totally impressed by Steve and Judy’s knowledge of food. They are not rich people by any means. They own and operate a small storefront dress shop, but they are very cosmopolitan. I don’t think I know anyone in the entire city of Rockford that has his or her sense of fine dining. I guess they just know a lot more about that in Europe than we do here in the States. They haven’t become separated from their food by technology. But there, as here, McDonald’s is rearing its ugly head, and soon their food will be as mundane as ours.

I have had a wonderful time in Budapest, but I am itching to get home. Coming home, however, is not a simple thing. My easy trip through Frankfort airport on the way over was deceiving. Returning to the United States proves far more difficult, and I will write about that in a two-part article starting next week.

Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are also available on his Web site: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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