01 Oct

Where all meals are made from organic ingredients

The café and food shop, Café Báthory that opened next to the Parliament just a year ago has its own culinary secrets. According to the owner, sociologist graduate Katalin Bohn, they distance themselves from „classic” gastronomy. Her commitment is shown by the fact that their approach to catering and quality food is quite unique.

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„When you eat chemical-free food made of organic ingredients, your body doesn’t starve even if only smaller portions are consumed, as its nutritional value is much higher than the plant grown by ordinary means.” Katalin said. Who would suppose that 100 grams of organic spinach contains one and a half more iron than regular spinach, and that the same tendency applies for mineral content of the other fruits and veggies as well. In her food shop, the owner utilizes this knowledge and approach – to the great joy of many customers who have some health issues.

The eclectic, yet attentively set up interior is her own design and has a natural flavor within the city milieu. They strive to make maximum use of the opportunities in the space of the café, with the works of contemporary artists creating a pleasant ambience for the visitor.

Organic and fair-trade coffee and the assorted tea variety also suit the enjoyable setting, just like the remarkable aromas of flavored craft beers and wines of small-scale producers. Fresh soda water awaits on the tables, to be consumed from seltzer bottles of the original design.

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Their weekly menu features an array of gluten- and milk-free dishes: Hungarian potato soup, cottage “cheese” dumplings and chocolate cake, just to mention a few. Fans of the paleo cuisine can also have their delicacy of choice, as well as those who are fond of the raw veggies and fruits from Békésszentandrás.

Mindful of those preferring meaty dishes, they have organic farm sources and the eggs are also from yard-kept hens, which is well perceptible in the taste of their foods. The finest oil is used for frying. Soups, sauces and vegetable dishes are thickened using the main ingredient and not with milk or flour. Similarly to some other Sustainable Foodshops, the sources of the ingredients are available listed on the restaurant’s website. (It is an unfortunate fact that a completely organic range of foods cannot be achieved through using Hungarian ingredients only.)

The Báthory Foodshop offers a recently introduced “fast food” selection, for example hamburgers, hot-dogs, falafel and more. At last, we are able to have a healthy and nice organic burger!

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The enthusiastic owner would be glad to see if more and more food shops would adopt their business philosophy and many similar places would appear, where everyone could pick their choice of healthy meals!

The terrace opened in mid-summer, where customers are welcome not only with a variety of foods, but with cool craft beer from the tap!

by Zsuzsanna Dencs

photography: Báthory Foodshop

09 Jun

Garden of Eden at Buda

Since we have started the Heroes of Responsible Dining blog, I keep finding good excuses to discover new places in Budapest. Sometimes my friends don’t appreciate it that much, because when they come with me, they usually cannot wait to eat their food as soon as it arrives – they have to wait for me to take pictures from all angles, and then ask the waiters/waitresses all kind of questions before we can finally start to eat. However, last time when my friend and I have checked out a place, questions and photos were OK for her, but she freaked out from the idea of eating a “free from” meal.

I have to admit that I always felt a little sorry for those, who – out of fear or resistance – avoid restaurants that knowingly don’t offer meat, gluten, sugar, or exclude something else. The funny thing is that many times these people are the ones who choose such meals from the menu in a traditional restaurant (e.g. pea soup and mushroom stew with rice). Still the idea of eating something “free from”, keeps many people away from enjoying real culinary delights.

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However, trust me,  „Édeni Vegán” (Eden Vegan) is a place that worth a try – luckily that day we could have our lunch there, and we didn’t regret it. I have even managed not to ask any questions or take any pictures. Few weeks later I have returned with an intention that I will surely drink a greenish colored smoothie, and eat an unusual dessert, that are most likely free of dairy products and sugar. While I was tasting a spinach-apple smoothie and some chestnut-seed cream sweets, I had a little chat with the owner of the restaurant, Mrs. Mária Török.

„What do we do for the environment? First of all we don’t have any meat products. Industrial farming doesn’t care about the environment, or animals, or human beings” – explains Mária. “Besides, we buy locally produced and/or organic products as much as we can, and we prepare everything ourselves. For instance we make soy yogurt of organic and GMO free soy and we bake fresh pastries every morning of spelt flour that we ground here ourselves.

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We stick to Hungarian products even if it means more work for us; for instance someone once offered us to buy peeled garlic. Since we use a lot of garlic, it would be great to have less work with it, but it turned out that the garlic they offer, comes from China. So we decided to use Hungarian garlic instead. It was almost the same with potatoes; we have tried many suppliers, who brought us peeled potatoes, but somehow none of them was good enough. So we did a little research and found out that after the potatoes are peeled with a machine, they go under a preservative treatment. We don’t use preservatives, so we’d rather stay with the unpeeled, but delicious Hungarian potatoes.”

Since they don’t use dairy products or eggs, those with milk protein and lactose intolerance can eat food here without any concern; and on top of all this, gluten-free food is offered also for guests with celiac disease.

We know that in a vega, vegan, raw- or new wave restaurant it is difficult to use local ingredients only; for instance cucumber and banana was also in that green smoothie I was sipping, besides the beetroot leaf and parsley. I could have chosen other mixes of orange, grapefruit, apple or carrot – and these are still much better than the soft drinks, even if imported. Other choices to drink are color- and preservative free Italian soft drinks, and – unfortunately – bottled mineral water, or organic grain coffee, lemonade, and 100% fruit juices from a machine and teas. To substitute protein or sugar, many times avocado, dates, coconut oil or different seeds and grains are added that travel often from a long distance, or are raised in greenhouses. So it’s extremely important that these ingredients should come from reliable (e.g. organic, or fair trade) sources. And as guests, it is better to choose meals at vega and vegan places that don’t require ingredients from the other end of the world. At “Eden Vegan” they use coconut oil to prepare the meals and they work with a lot of organic products. However, most of the dishes are not purely organic, because they contain a few not qualified ingredients too.

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Mária has also told me that they use a modern American technology and they pay high attention to keep the nutrients in the food. Whenever it’s possible, vegetables are steamed. In the salad bar they offer steamed garlic, so the harsh smell is gone, but the substantial part of valuable ingredients is retained. A microwave oven was put in the kitchen for only those guests who are in a big hurry and request faster service.

I have to tell you that the most pleasing to me out of all this is the community activities of the restaurant. During the previous years, the owners have built a very good relationship with the people who live nearby as well as with the returning guests. For instance there are people who can eat here for free: a family, who have been coming here for quite a long time now, and it turned out the father has brain tumor and lost his job; a guest in a wheelchair who travels all across Budapest to come here to eat. Many times homeless people  -who live nearby, around the market-hall – get some free food too. At one time the owners had given away the leftovers for free, but they noticed that it was taken away by people from the neighborhood that are not in real need. So they have decided to do a little test; they appointed a day when they would do a major clean-up in the restaurant and they asked for help of those, who usually take away the leftovers. Since nobody has shown up that particular Saturday, they stopped this charity activity.

When I asked whether the cleaning products used in the restaurant are eco-friendly or not, I received an almost angry and short “of course” reply, and Mária added that throughout the years, they have tried to educate their guests about what  it means to be eco-friendly – with more or less success. For instance they have plastic and recycled paper bags for those, who take away their food (unfortunately many people still ask for plastic bags instead of the recycled ones). They also put seasonally changing information materials on the tables. When I was there, I‘ve had a chance to read about whether there is a difference between the thicker and liquid types of coconut oils (they use 70-30% in the winter and 60-40% in the summer for cooking; and there’s no big difference between them, only in their consistency).

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By the time we’ve discussed everything, I finished up my spinach smoothie and chestnut sweets too. So if you guys decide to try something new – besides lunch – I suggest to taste both! And in addition to all of this – in the frame of the “30-day Vegan Challenge” initiative -, all menus of the challenge are available at the restaurant for a few weeks now.

The article originally appeared in Hungarian on 12th April, 2014.
As usual, Kati Hall and Juci Zollai did an awesome job with the translation – thanks! :)
Photos by: Édeni Vegán restaurant

11 May

Köles (Millet) Gluten Free Restaurant

Köles RestaurantYou slowly start to realize that your stomach is bloated after every meal, and the diarrhea does not want to get any better – even though you thought it was just a stomach bug. You are getting more tired day by day, your skin becomes drier and drier, and it’s getting itchy as well. You visit your doctor, they do a blood test, x-ray, send you to a specialist – and another month has passed. You are still weak and lost some weight, and the cream for your itchy skin doesn’t seem to be working. You start to be nervous.

At the end of the third month you finally get your diagnosis: Celiac disease. You are glad that at least you can be sure what is going on with you, now you have „only” one challenge: keep your gluten-free diet and all of your symptoms are going to disappear. First of all you start to bake your own bread from corn and gluten-free flour, and in the restaurant you avoid pasta. Then you realize that it’s not so obvious what contains gluten. In Hungary almost everything is condensed with flour, soups are cooked with pasta, and 80% of the meat dishes – and frequently even the vegetables – are breaded. Well yes, it is not as easy as you thought. Your nine-to-five job and/or having a family requires lots of effort from you to cook separately for yourself and pack your food – especially if you have to start making a sandwich by baking your own bread first. Not to mention the sweets! Luckily nowadays the companies are obliged to note if the product contains gluten, but this means you have almost no choice in the shops. There is gluten in the ice-cream, in the salamis, in the meals with soy sauce etc.

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So far we only mentioned the possibilities and we haven’t talked about the prices. Let’s just say the gluten-free diet is expensive. And also discriminative. You cannot go and just grab something to eat with your colleagues or have a slice of cake with your friends. You also have to eat differently than your family.

Fortunately in the last few years you can get gluten-free meals in some places. In Hungary there is the Organization for People Suffering from Celiac Disease where you can find the names and the addresses of the shops and fast food restaurants where you can get gluten-free products. Furthermore in many restaurants now you can identify gluten-free meals from the small sign on the menu. But there is still one problem: it is not enough if the ingredients of a meal do not contain gluten. All the equipments and tools used for making the dish have to be clean from gluten too.

In Budapest now you can find one restaurant that serves only gluten-free food: the Köles (Millet). Here you can be sure that there is no gluten in the kitchen. You don’t have to worry what if they cut your gluten-free pizza with a knife used to cut one that contains gluten before: you are in a safe place. They pay attention to wrap and store the products in gluten-free environment as well. And there is one more thing why Köles is a unique place: the two owners are very keen on sustainability. Healthy lifestyle and eating habits frequently came together with environmental protection, which this restaurant has been showcasing from the beginning. The most nutritious food for everyone is fresh, seasonal and local. By using local ingredients, you can avoid the pesticides what they use during the transportation to keep the product „fresh and healthy”. In Köles the main aim is to offer a balanced and healthy diet for those who are suffering from any type of intolerance, and as a result of it might suffer from a boring diet. Everyone needs carbohydrates; people with celiac disease cannot skip it either. In this place they substitute wheat with millet, corn and buckwheat. And they are also focusing on helping their customers develop better eating habits.

IMG_9758_kicsiThe meals are changing every day. Everyone can choose from the daily menu where you can always find a vegetarian option too. There are different types of salads, and when we ate there were two types of cakes (fabulous cheesecake and a cocoa cake). They always use seasonal ingredients: when we visited we could choose vegetarian baked cauliflower with ewe cottage cheese, spicy apple soup, beetroot and celery salad, chicken stew with celery and walnut cream served with potato. The ingredients are purchased by the owners – Krisztina and Rita – at the local markets. They even have a favorite butcher and they are happy to pedal a couple of kilometers for the best meat in town. Yes, the two girls are doing their shopping while riding their bicycles around the city.

Lately the expats in Budapest discovered the place, so for them the restaurant offers Hungarian chicken stew on the menu frequently. To make various meals on a seasonal basis is a big challenge in the winter, but luckily Rita has lots of experience about creative cooking. Creativity is one of the main strength for the owners, which is proven by the decoration as well:  you can find huge drawings on the walls and jars filled with millet – as well as a  „millet-wall”. IMG_9761_kicsiThe delivery service (on bikes of course!) started on the very day we ate in Köles. Therefore now you can order your lunch in the 6th, 7th, 8th districts and the southern part of the 13th. Everything was delicious thanks to the two chefs – Ádám and Rita -, we highly recommend to try this place even if you are lucky and don’t have to follow a special diet!

The owners of Köles don’t sell any Coca-cola products, but they have 7-8 different types of syrups from Hungarian producers what you can try with some fizzy water. Unfortunately they are unique with this solution as well, since 99% of the restaurants are serving unhealthy, sugary drinks what are producing lots of plastic waste. The bottles of the syrups are refilled by the producers so no waste is produced here!

IMG_9754_kicsiWaste minimization is a core value for Köles. Kriszta is separating the waste by herself. The portions are calculated well, if there is some leftover they usually eat it for dinner. The leftover veggies are used for veggie broth for the rice and buckwheat, so they don’t need to use any flavor enhancer. Also they use a special salt from Transylvania, and obviously they don’t use any artificial flavors or preservatives. Their latest improvement is also waste related: they found an animal shelter where they can donate the any food waste, so they don’t have to dispose that either. The owners are so determined they even asked us before the opening how can they be greener, but they were already so well-informed that we almost could not advice them anything new! Of course, they became a member of our Heroes of Responsible Dining Network quickly. They created a very unique restaurant within only two months and they filled a huge gap on the restaurant map if Budapest. Let’s go and try it yourself!