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Birthday Dinner and Boys' Weekend in Zalaegerszeg

ed phillips and the memphis patrolChris and I celebrated our joint birthday at the Ruben Restaurant as a change from our usual Chinese or Indian meal. The menu featured traditional Hungarian and Jewish dishes but presented in a new forms. From what I could see, this was really one new form - the meat placed atop a tower of mashed potatoes or other side dish rather than beside it. My mustard chicken with garlic mashed potatoes was OK, but I had to send it back for being cold - not lukewarm, but cold. Chris' venison stew with Czech knédli (steamed dumplings) was good, but a real letdown when the traditional dumpling (not a difficult thing to make) was replaced with a slice of toasted bread roll. There is really no excuse for this, even if the restaurant was filled mostly with ignorant tourists. My friend Gergő would probably have stormed into the kitchen and throttled the chef for debasing one of his favourite dishes. Instead, we concentrated on the deserts which, while they did not earn our forgiveness for the main courses, at least helped stay our anger. The Lavender crème brûlée with ruben etteremrhubarb was very good, as was the Ruben chocolate delight, served with candied orange peel (chocolate mousse, chilli chocolate ice-cream, chocolate soufflé) even if we did not taste the chilli. The mirror in the toilet above the sink blinked various moving digital advertisements as I tried to wash my hands. Sorry Ruben, we will not be making a return visit.

It has been 7 years since our last Boy's Weekend. It seems we are all slowing down a bit, but we tried to make up for lost time in Zalaegerszeg last weekend. We picked this out of the way city because of its annual beer festival at the right time. We stayed at the central and reasonably priced Beck's Corner Motel. A good breakfast is also included in the 6000 HUF/person/night price. Our first beer was at the Kecskemét Home Brew tent where we tried the stout, IPA and wheat beer. The stout was good but the wheat beer was forgettable. We were not sure what to expect from the Elvis cover band, Ed Philips and the Memphis Patrol but they rocked! The high energy band plays Elvis' not so well-known diszpinty gasztropubsongs from his army days and are well worth catching if you ever have the opportunity.

The next day, we all had lunch at the Díszpity Gastropub in the centre's main square. The menu features diverse burgers but all meats may be substituted with falafel. I had the yummy Bloody Mary Falafel Burger with fries. Our waitress was excellent and the staff flexible when we came back again the next day for lunch before getting on the train. They opened for us 30 minutes early with no complaints. We found the larger than could be expected farmers' market on Saturday by accident, and was very happy to find a litre of delicious pumpkin seed oil for just 5000 HUF from Zsolt Németh.

Three of us checked out the thermal baths about 3km away while others went to play billiards. We got lucky with the otherwise freezing weather that the sun was shining and we were able to take advantage of the outdoor baths, sauna and plunge pool. We even had a go at the water slide. The pool hall was in the back of someone's house, but the well-worn tables served their purpose until we zalaegerszegi termalfurdoheaded back to the beer festival. The highlight of the second night was taking a ride in the dodgem cars.