I’m afraid last night I led my posse into a tourist trap — a gentle, cozy and innocuous one, but a trap nevertheless. I was looking for a special and different culinary experience and came across this pop-up restaurant called Eat and Meet on tripadvisor.com. The reviews were fantastic. It was rated as #7 out of 1,971 restaurants. I was ready to be wowed.
The hosts are Susie the Mother, Susie the Daughter and Frank the Father. Since we were never given their full names I am now not sure if these are their real names or just their “stage names” — easy to use and remember for the tourists.
Susie the Daughter would gently but firmly shush us in mid sentence whenever a dish or wine was presented to give us the history, background or benefit of each item. After a while, some of us stopped paying attention and carried on with our conversation and Susie was somewhat at a loss as to how to proceed, as if we had deviated from the script. I noticed that Audrey was always listening even when the region of the wine production didn’t really interest her. I felt secretly proud that my daughter had good manners and was kind.
I think for ordinary tourists who are in Budapest for two three days, this contact with a nice local family might be enchanting. But we are no ordinary tourists, and they are no ordinary local family. They are in the tourism business, and we are that strange species called film crew — seasoned travelers who feel at home wherever we happen to film. We go to work everyday like the locals. We shop groceries like the locals. We drive around the city armed with GPS as if we know it like the locals. A tourist trap was the last place we would like to find ourselves in, though quite a few from our party were rather amused by the whole situation.
The appetizers were fresh vegetables, cured meats, fresh and smoked cheese and cold fried pork fat. The main course was baked chicken breast wrapped around prunes, served with stewed apple and rice. Dessert was a lemony fresh cheese, whipped cream, fruits and semi sweet cookie crumbs. The appetizers were interesting — probably the best part of the dinner, though cold fried pork fat sounded like something I would make someone eat if he lost a bet. To be fair, Dan Minahan, one of our producer/directors, did love the fried pork fat and said it was his favorite. The baked chicken was unfortunately as dry as cardboard. For 30 Euros per person in Budapest, even with the wine pairing, the food quality was not worth it. I felt really bad for having led everyone into the trap. If the family simply talked to us like real people about any topic instead of giving us a rehearsed speech about the food, we would have found the authenticity and the connection priceless.
Thank goodness for friendship and camaraderie, we enjoyed this shared experience and laughed about it afterwards. When I look at the photos I took, I remember mostly of the fun conversation and warm laughter we shared. After we came back to the hotel, Audrey said, “They probably just hit a low point in their cooking tonight.” She is always willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, and made me feel that I might be too harsh in my judgement.
We used Uber in Budapest for the first time this weekend. Audrey and I went everywhere with Uber and found the rides at least 50% cheaper compared to the taxi cabs. Some in the crew told me that the taxi drivers are not always straight when it comes to fares. Uber is definitely the way to go.