On the occasion of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival – Hungarian Heritage: Roots to Revival program, the Grand Hyatt Washington (1000 H St NW) and the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill (400 New Jersey Ave, NW) partnered with the Embassy of Hungary to present special Hungarian menus during the Festival from June 24 to July 7, 2013 every day after 5:00PM.

Executive Chef Bradley T. Nairne, Executive Chef Ary M. Schalick, Corporate Chef of Hyatt János Kiss and Embassy of Hungary Chef Viktor Merényi put together an excellent menu combining traditional Hungarian cuisine with a contemporary flare, resulting in delicious and healthy dishes. Hungary’s food- like its culture - has absorbed many influences over the centuries, blending dishes from Turkey and the Balkans with the haute cuisine tradition of the West. This unmistakable flavor and the tradition of welcoming influences from abroad are also the defining traits of the latest trends in Hungarian gastro culture.

The ingredients are simple: tasty, high quality vegetables, fruits, and meat coupled with a creative use of spices. There are some ingredients in particular that account for the distinctive flavor of Hungarian meals, like Hungarian paprika, lard, onion, garlic and sour cream. For desserts, Hungarians use among others túró (a dairy product similar to cottage cheese), walnut and poppy seeds.

The restaurants in the Hyatt hotels will serve two signature dishes of the Hungarian culinary tradition with their Hungarian wine-pairings.

• Hungarian chicken “paprikás” served with steamed bread dumpling and spring vegetables. Pan-fried supreme chicken breast, finished in rich, creamy Hungarian paprika (hot pepper) sauce, served with steamed bread dumplings and seasonal spring vegetables. Suggested wine-pairing: Bodrog Borműhely- Furmint Lapis – 2011

• Grilled Beef fillet “Budapest” style. Grilled beef fillet cooked to your choice, served with a pan fried foie gras medallion, topped with Budapest ragout chanterelle mushroom, onion, green peas, tomato, and beef jus.

Suggested wine-pairing: Attila Gere- Cabernet Sauvignon – 2008

These dishes at the Hyatt will quite literally bring a taste of the vibrant gastronomy scene of Hungary to Washington. And there is a lot happening on the culinary front in Hungary proper as well, starting with a veritable gastro revival. As more and more chefs experiment with the renewal of Hungarian cuisine, a loose movement of “modern Hungarian” gastronomy was created. You can find “modern Hungarian cuisine” from Michelin starred restaurants to the more humble, but iconic cafés of Budapest. While some of the ingredients are lighter and might include flavor imported from abroad, the tradition of hospitality has not changed. „I am determined to represent the new “Modern Hungarian” cuisine in Washington, a new striving gastro-generation whose achievements are based on regionalism, creativity and individuality.” – said Chef Merényi, winner of the 2012 Embassy Chef Challenge.

Budapest is now home to several Michelin star restaurants. Restaurants Costes and Onyx already hold this honor, but there are a number of competing restaurants headed by ambitious young chefs such as Mák Bistro, Babel Delicate Restaurant, Borkonyha. Maceszhuszár, M, or Klassz represent great value with a youthful atmosphere. There is certainly no shortage of choice.

An inseparable part of Hungarian cuisine is the variety of drinks. Small “pálinka” (brandy) manufactures and artisan wineries have mushroomed everywhere in the country over the last few decades and are now bursting into the top league on an international level as well. Hungarian drinks are not only consumed in a glass to complement meals, but often play an integral part in the preparation of signature dishes. The apple pálinka-soup of Agárd, and the trotters cooked in white wine by Magony Cellar are just two of the delicious examples.

Hungary is firmly, and proudly, a wine-drinking country. A new generation of winemakers has emerged who are dedicated to producing wines of exceptional quality. At the same time, consumers have become more savvy and demanding, creating a more sophisticated wine culture. There are more than 140 varieties of wine grapes grown in Hungary’s 22 wine-growing regions,” as tastehungary.com explains. We produce reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling wines. Though Hungary’s wines are increasingly being recognized around the world, you won’t find many of the most interesting wines outside of Hungary’s borders. We often use the expression “boutique wines” while quality is more important than quantity. It is well worth a trip to come and taste them at the source!