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Niall Connolly, World Peace, Churros and a Couple Restaurant and Shop Reviews

marcus goldsonWe were in Budapest a couple weeks ago to deal with flat issues and visit out new grandson Tomi. We had some time on our hands and wandered up from Kálvin tér towards Szerb u. We stopped into the Cserepes Cheese bakery/café at Kálvin tér for breakfast. Cserepes normally has good cheese and yoghurt, but were very disappointed with our experience here. There was no hot tea available (is it really that difficult to have some tea bags on hand next to the coffee machine?), none of the staff knew what the two sandwich creams were on the tasting plate, and the pastry was nothing special. In marked contrast, Jó Kenyér has a location just around the corner on Kecskeméti út 5. I was still hungry, so I dragged Kata into the shop were the service was excellent, and both the almond flavoured hot chocolate and the cheese croissant were phenomenal. The hot chocolate did not depend on syrup for the flavouring but also contained a good amount of almond slivers.

Later along the Kis Körüt we spotted an interesting courtyard full of small shops. This is not very unusual in Budapest, but we were lucky enough to spot a shop called the Rododendron Art and Design Shop were we spied an interesting poster in the window which Kata thought might be a good Christmas present for someone we know. The shop is full of very nice jewellery, posters, post cards, brass kaleidoscopes, pillows and other works by local and foreign artists and designers. One of the featured artists is Marcus Goldson who paints the often odd and colourful characters and situations of Budapest life. The goods are not cheap, but they are definitely worth a look if you in the market for a nice gift. There is also an entrance from Semmelweis u. 19.

Another morning I had a meeting at Ferenciek tere and over an hour to spare. I wandered down Veres Palné u. and spied a small Italian place at number 10 open for breakfast and decided to give it a try. Locanda Il Tagliere. I ordered a vegetarian omelette with vegetables (790 HUF), a croissant (420 HUF) and a cappuccino (470 HUF). The meal was prepared right behind the bar as I browsed through some magazines and gazed out the window at passersby. The warm breakfast hit the spot, service was good, and the atmosphere was pleasant. If I am back in the area, I will definitely stop in again - maybe to try their Italian cuisineI love churros

Over the years, Kata and I have made two trips to Spain to help friends harvest their organic olives. One of the things we liked best was the churros. Just across from the flat on Teréz Krt 42. we stumbled upon the new I Love Churros shop. Be aware that it is closed on Mondays. The churros were yummy, and can be eaten with several different dipping sauces. A normal portion of 5 sticks is 550 huf, and dipping sauces are another 100-200 huf. The Belgian dark dipping chocolate was delicious, but we would have preferred the traditional hot chocolate drink to dip into. Not to be picky, but the powdered sugar is superfluous. The place is not expensive, and churros is a perfect warm snack for a winter day.

niall connollyI soon had to return to Budapest because my friend and amazing musician Niall Connolly was back in Budapest for a one-night show during his almost annual European tour. Niall is promoting his new album Dream Your Way Out of This One, and performed at Beckett's on a rainy Monday night. Niall and poet extraordinaire Neal McCarthy, used to often come through Budapest with various musicians and poets in tow to play at Treehugger Dan's. It was an annual event I looked forward to. Niall put on a fine show for the small but enthusiastic crowd, including someone from the Irish Embassy. The embassy is helping to sponsor this year's tour. Local musicians Robert Jackson and Ted Nugent-Head, along with Patrick McMenamin former owner of the Caledonia and Terry Ethridge, former owner of the Fun Palace were also in attendance. It was great to see Patrick again. It is hard to believe that it has been 7 years since we helped organise Red Mud Aid. Niall played a few old favourites like "Seagull" and "Be There if I Have to Swim." When he asked if I had any requests I could not think of the name of the song, but I would have loved to hear "She Makes Me Want to be Clean" or "If you Find me in Morocco." "Jesus is Coming and I Can't Pay the Rent," would have been good, but he does not normally play that alone. We settled on "Skin and Bones," a song he often closes with, and one the entire audience often joins in singing.

A couple weeks ago in Kazincbarcika we were food shopping and decided to have lunch in town. We tried the HBH Restaurant and Brewery first because they usually have a good menu, but even at 11 they were fully booked. We had forgotten that it was St. Martin's Day when many Hungarian families go out for a big traditional goose meal. At least we were able to take away bottles of black cherry dark beer, dark beer and wheat beer homebrew. We were very lucky to get a table at the Ambrosia, and were thankful that they were able to find us a table without a reservation. I had chicken steak and potato latkes stuffed with cheese and parsley in a garlic-sheep cheese sauce, and a side salad (2280 HUF); while Kata had fried camembert cheese with blueberry sauce. The meal was good, and the portions were massive. Service was also good, however, I did not notice that the tip was included in the bill and ended up unintentionally paying a massive tip. I HATE this. A tip is earned, and is up to the guest to decide if they want to tip and determine if so, how much. It is not automatic. The waiter did not correct my mistake, either. So, while the meal was filling and the service was good, because of their tipping policy I am in doubt whether or not we will return.

I had to buy some new hiking boots this week and visited the Nomad shop in Miskolc. Nomad also has a shop in Budapest and several other places, as well as running the camp ground in Aggtelek by the cave entrance. They also organise the annual Nomad Cross-country Race that takes place above ground in Aggtelek National Park every September, but includes a significant section underground in the Baradla Cave. It was a much smaller shop than I had imagined, but there was still enough of a selection to get very reasonably priced pairs of both Olang winter and 3-season hiking boots. I also picked up a good Petzl headlamp to help me get home in the evenings after work. Surprisingly, the guy working in the place actually lives part time in Szalonna!

From Nomad we wandered up the walking street were Kata took me out for a pizza at the new Világ Béke (world peace) at Széchenyi út. 19. Although we have never been, everyone we know claims that the Ayumkammondta in Encs is the best restaurant in the region. Their pizza proved so popular and vilag beke miskolcdelicious that they recently opened up just a pizzeria in downtown Miskolc just under the Alfréd Hajós (A Hungarian swimmer and architect. He was the first modern Olympic swimming champion and the first Olympic champion of Hungary). -designed building where I took my mushrooming course for a year. Of course, we did not know any of this at first. Kata spotted the place because when we are both frustrated and she asks me what I want, I often answer világ béka (world frog). There were about 10 pizzas on offer, ranging between 490-990 HUF per slice. The slices are thick and large, and they do not spare on the toppings, so two slices were enough to fill me up. Pizzas include the regular margarita with olives, 4-cheese, stuffed, fig, ham and cheese, vegetarian, pumpkin, one stuffed with crispy Peking duck and figs....My 4-cheese pizza also had sage potatoes on it, which was very weird and unexpected, but it worked. I never order vegetarian pizza because it never fails, even in Italy, to be covered in canned vegetables; but this one was topped with fresh broccoli, purple broccoli, onions...Kata had the one with Peking duck. The raspberry cordial was thick with fruit, and Kata's lemonade was just right, overflowing with lemon and orange, and not too sweet. Our server, with 10-20 rings in his ear which I first took to be a communication tool, was extremely friendly, helpful and patient. Also on offer are local home brews and homemade ice cream. The wine list featured some top vineyards, so it was surprising to see that Anyakammondta's own furmint was much more expensive some of the other better-known wine cellars. The only thing we missed was a coat rack. In theory there is ample seating, but many used an extra seat or two to stack their coats so it was difficult to find a place. As it turns out, there are a couple coat racks, but they are at the entrance and not conveniently located if your seating is further into the restaurant. It is not a cheap place, 5000 HUF for 3 large slices of pizza, a cordial and lemonade, but the quality was excellent. What a joy to know there is finally some good pizza in Hungary. Next time I will try their margarita for the real test to see what their tomato pizza sauce is like - something Hungarians have yet to master, often covering their pizzas with ketchup instead.

By this time it was 2pm and the exhibition at the Palace of Arts was open that Kata wanted to see. Six members of the Országh family are artists in their own right, each working in different mediums. While Kata liked the black and white photo portraits, I found them boring. Nor did I like the paintings. However, we both loved the Márta Radics' "Bubbles" sculpture series of extraterrestrials painted on ceramic orbs. At first glance they are pretty, but only when you look at certain angles can the creatures be recognised.