An overture of zander fillets, followed by guinea-hen soup, and blade-roast of veal were the main movement of a gastronomic tour that delivered Ministers of Sport, to a terminal of pear mousse, while wines from the Balaton region crowned the gala dinner, hosted on 22 February for the attendees of the informal meeting of ministers, who congregated in the frescoed Hunter Hall of the Parliament building.
A harpist provided unique musical support for the guests upon arrival, who were somewhat fewer than usual as only around 120 guest attended.
Wines and Dishes of the Gala Dinner:
The wine: Nagy-Somló furmint 2008 (Imre Györgykovács, Nagy-Somló)
The Nagy-Somló wine district, lends individual character to local wines. Known as “God’s lost hat”, Somló Hill prides itself on furmint as its most valuable variety, and is now recognised as a unique and native wine to Hungary. The grapes were harvested from a small plantation near the cliffs, just below the hilltop. Fruitiness from the grapes provides the backdrop for mineral, and salt flavours. Traditionally fermented and matured in casks, this authentic hand-crafted wine, boasts balanced acids and excellent longevity. Furmint is an excellent companion to Hungarian dishes. Should you need a convivial quaffing wine, or a refreshing spritzer on a hot summer day, furmint will never disappoint you; and as the versatility of furmints, finds true company in the versatility of food and vice versa.
The wine was served with “zander fillet with beetroot roasted on salt and forest mushrooms, marinated with micro-greens”.
Zander (Sander lucioperca), is one of the most valuable, highly revered fish varieties, in Hungary. It is native to the lowland waters in the Carpathian Basin. Individuals over 1.5 kg of weight, are called pike-perch, but the name is zander, below that weight. More than 50 fish varieties had been identified in the watershed of Lake Balaton, and at least thirty are still around these days, but zander has always been considered, to be emblematic of the lake. The meat is white, macerates delicately, holds no fat, and is first class, which has hardly any bones. The beetroot garnishing was roasted on a bed of salt, which is a classic method of preparing it. The earthy character of the beetroot dissolved in exciting harmony with the complex flavours of the fish, the greens and the mushrooms. Mushrooms, which are typical of the adjacent Bakony Hills, were also integrated into the spectacularly outfitted colourful entrée of noble Balaton fish, composed to suit the furmint of the Balaton wine region. The dish cuddled well the uniqueness of the wine.
The entrée gave way to “Guinea-hen soup with vegetables and truffle”.
Guinea-hen (Numida meleagris), is native to the steppes of West and North Africa. It first appeared in Hungary in the 13th century, when it was kept in cloisters and warrens. It’s entry, coincides with that of furmint. Guinea-hen meat is held in high esteem, just as the excellent soup it gives, which is normally consumed with a variety of vegetables. Truffle, or the gem in the soup served at the gala dinner, has been a compartment of Hungarian gastronomy for a long time, as large quantities have been collected in the Carpathian Basin since the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Presently, Hungarian forests and the woods in the area of the wine region, are a generous source of summer truffle (Tuber aestivum) and other varieties, such as the fragrant, grey-fleshed black winter truffle (Tuber brumale), which was served with the soup. The outstanding, unmistakeable aroma of the truffle, also added a new dimension to the guinea-hen soup. It was also worth sipping a little furmint to it for a change.
The wine: Szilénusz 2007 (Mihály Figula, Balatonfüred-Csopak)
In Greek mythology, Silenus (in Greek, Σειληνός), was a companion and tutor to the wine god Dionysus. The making of this wine, revived local traditions by harvesting grapes from the finest vineyards of the estate on the same day, so that they can be fermented together. To highlight the features of the Csopak and Balatonszőlős sites, was of high priority when making this wine, which is a blend of 50% olaszrizling (welsh reisling), 25% pinot gris and 25 sauvignon blanc. It has pleasing tannins, high alcohol and only a limited amount of residual sugar.
The main course prepared to accommodate the wine, was “Blade-roast of veal with celery casserole and parsley infusion”.
Blade roast of veal is traditionally a dish that takes much time to make, and is also frequently served at large family dinners. The meat was presented on a plateful of celery casserole, grilled vegetables, gravy (jus), and parsley infusion. Animal husbandry used to be a typical trade in the district of Lake Balaton, where the vines of Silenus ripens. Domesticated animals, which used to populate every part of the country, such as buffalo, grey cattle, Racka (a breed of sheep) and Mangalitza were also kept here; and animal husbandry was more important in the vine covered hills than crop farming in the valleys. Blade-roast of veal was a good choice, and the accompanying home-made technology was a good decision. The complexity of veal, vegetables and wine reached nice accord.
The wine: Áldozói Zenit Főbor 2003 (Sándor Tóth , Upper Balaton sub-region)
Áldozói Zenit Főbor, is made of late harvest grapes from the Áldozó site, a supreme location with registered designation of origin. It was the first vineyard to be granted registered designation of origin in 2002. Each vineyard site has a supreme location. The plantations in production, include 5 hectares of zenit, a variety bred in Hungary (in 1951), in the vineyard on Áldozó Hill. Zenit is a unique variety that gives whites with pleasant fragrance, a richness of aromas and fine tannins. Revived again, “Főbor” had been used in Hungary as a name from the period of the Árpád Dynasty of kings, up to the 13th century to denote a special sweet wine with sun-dried fruits on the palate made of ripe, late vintage grapes affected with Botrytis. This dessert wine of unique bouquet is a speciality of the sub-region.
The dessert made to accompany the wine was baptised “Quark cake with pear mousse”.
Quark cheese (also called quark, kwark, kvarg, kohupiim, tvaroh etc.) is known in several regions but it is still regarded to be a truly Hungarian ingredient, because of its mult-ifarious use, but other cuisines are also familiar with it. There are many quark cake varieties; some are even classified as cheesecakes. It appears in most of Europe in countless varieties just as pears, which have been with us for thousands of years. Quark, pears, the chocolate décor and the wine surprises you with a gift of exciting harmonies. This dessert spoke of remarkable fantasy and excellent workmanship.
The gala dinner hosted in the Parliament lived up to expectations. It was well organised, swift in routines and also mindful of details. The dishes dreamed up to match the wines and the food and wine couplets provided a worthy representation of the wine region.
Péter Györkös is Hungary’s Permanent Representative to the European Union. Diplomats carry their duties wherever they are ordered by his superior officers, but Péter Györkös has a “personal attachment” to his present assignment: for more than twenty years, he has been monitoring closely the process of European unification and has actively worked for it in his successive positions.