2017 Cookery Project — The Year in Home Cooking

Here are some of the dishes I made at home during 2017. Not every meal was an unqualified success, but I learned something new with each of them.

Click any image to enbiggen and open a slide show.

Washington’s various Winter Restaurant Weeks begin on Friday, 10 January 2018, and run nonstop through 4 February 2018—I’ve already started to make reservations—so I won’t be spending much time in the kitchen during the next month.

I’m looking forward to launching the 2018 Cookery Project by mid-February.


Early Man — New Trailer

Let’s end 2017 on a happy note. This is the new trailer for Early Man, from Aardman Animations and Studiocanal. Voices by Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Richard Ayoade, and Maisie Williams.

Early Man opens on 26 January 2018 in the UK and on 16 February 2018 in the US.

A Late Lunch at Fatál, and the End of Another Adventure

For my last meal in Budapest, I went back to an old favourite. The restaurant is called Fatál, and it’s just off Vaci Utci, a couple of blocks from my hotel. Despite the hint of Eastern European intrigue suggested by the name, “Fatál” simply means “wooden bowl” in Hungarian.

The entrance to Fatál isn’t very impressive, but good stuff awaits within. You descend a dark flight of stairs and find yourself in one of those dimly lit, arched underground dining rooms that are so common in the East.

I knew enough to order only a main course. Even in Hungary, with its notoriously oversized portions, Fatál is famous for its generosity. Servings come in pots and pans because they’re too large for plates. The American “doggie bag” concept isn’t all that widely accepted in much of Europe, but, as my server said, “It’s not only allowed here, it’s required.”

None of that would have mattered, of course, if the food hadn’t been so very good. My meal—meals, actually—of Roasted Pork Brasso Style with spicy fried potato was a perfect example of Hungarian home cooking.

Roasted Pork

The check arrived, effectively signaling the end of my Budapest adventure, and, clutching my doggie bag, I went back to the hotel to pack for the trip home to Washington. That’s always a bittersweet task.

There are too many unexplored cities, too many life-changing experiences, far too much beauty, and an infinite number of undiscovered pleasures in the world.

And never, never, never enough time.

Downton Abbey — Party Like It’s 1925

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, which I’ve previously mentioned, has extended its New York run, and is now offering a new, interactive feature:

It’s 21+, and tickets are $225. The package includes:

  • A three-hour cocktail soiree with Edwardian inspired passed hors d’oeuvres and passed small plates menu
  • Unlimited bar featuring a Downton Abbey inspired cocktail
  • Access to the Exhibition
  • Exclusive screening of rarely before seen cast footage
  • A complimentary Downton Abbey: The Exhibition keepsake book
  • A complimentary media guide for touring the exhibition

“Guests are welcome to dress in their best Downton Attire. All waitstaff will be in period costume, providing service of which Carson would be proud.”

Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival II — The Food

And then there was the food.

The food at the Budapest Christmas Market is a long way from the Deep-Fried Peanut Butter Banana Cheeseburgers on sale at the Texas State Fair.

I could probably have dined here—and dined very well—every day I was in the city.

Here’s a small selection of what some of the vendors were offering:

It’s not too late! The Christmas Market lasts until New Year’s Eve, so you still have three or four days to get there. You can make it if you rush.

And there’s always next year.

Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival I — The Booths

The timing of my trip to Budapest wasn’t random. I wanted to be in the city during the Christmas Market season, which runs from 10 November through New Year’s Eve.

Many European cities have neighbourhood Christmas Markets scattered around town, and one big, internationally-known festival in a central location. In Budapest, that’s Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival, on Vörösmarty Square.

You can tell you’re getting close long before you arrive, because the smell of cinnamon and mulled wine fills the air. The site is overflowing with little wooden stalls selling all kinds of wintery things. It has a feel similar to that of a Renaissance Faire, or of an upscale arts and crafts celebration.

It looks like this:

On most days, the Christmas Market is open from 10 in the morning until 9 or 10 at night. As the sun sets, the lights come on.

Apparat (with Soap&Skin) — “Goodbye”

I’ve been watching Dark, the eerie, difficult-to-describe German TV series running on Netflix. The show delves into a number of seemingly unrelated but interlocking mysteries.

For me, the first mystery arose even before the plot kicked in:  Why did the theme song seem so familiar?

A little research revealed that the name of the song is “Goodbye”. It’s the creation of German synth musician Sascha Ring, who uses the stage name Apparat. On this song, he collaborates with Austrian musician Anja Plaschg. She uses the stage name Soap&Skin.

No help there.

And then I got it.

“Goodbye” is playing in the background of “Face Off”, the stunning final episode of the fourth season of Breaking Bad, as Gus Fring heads toward Casa Tranquila to kill Hector Salamanca. I must have watched that episode a dozen times.

Mystery solved, and a certain anxiety relieved.

But now I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. I got so into “Goodbye”, Apparat, and Soap&Skin that I’ve just spent a couple of hours exploring dark wave and contemporary Middle European ambient music, when I should have been doing important stuff like emptying the dishwasher and reorganizing my socks by colour.

2018 New Year’s Resolution Number 3

Don’t worry about falling down rabbit holes. That’s where the good stuff is hidden and the joy can be found.