This summer couldn’t have gone by without Balatoni KÖR and We Love Balaton looking for the Beach Food of the Year, one that’s simple yet creative, fresh, made with local ingredients, and prepared quickly. Kalóz won the year before the last with its catfish and chips, then it was followed on the throne by Paletta’s Big Mekk. Here are the six nominees of 2017 – plus we mention a guest contestant from the capital, one that follows the genre Balaton started doing years ago.
They experimented with this meal in Paletta’s laboratory which resulted in a bagel filled with carp, cream cheese (from András Korosa, a cheese maker from Nemesbük), baby spinach, and garlic compote. They marinate the carp for half a day, then they smoke it for a few hours; it’s pulled to pieces after that just like they do it with pulled meats. You can buy this sandwich at Paletta for 1,250 forints, but it’s also available closer to the beach, at the Pavilon beach buffets of Keszthely and Fonyód for 950 forints.
Beetroot salad, goat cheese, raspberry, and arugula in a baguette made with sorghum flour: this is Mekk Málna, the innovative contestant of Kishableány in Badacsonytomaj. The name might sound familiar as this is the cousin of last year’s winner, Big MEKK. The flavors harmonize wonderfully but it comes at a price: this sandwich costs 2,090 forints which makes Mekk Málna one of the most expensive among the nominees. Only time can tell if the quality can make people forget about the price.
Kalóz is pretty innovative, too, especially since Bálint Kocsis, their new creative chef arrived. Since then they paint their burgers black, they put catfish herb dumplings into the carrot soup, and they serve the pork thin flank with ramsons and buckwheat risotto. They won with a less extreme beach food the year before last, and the catfish and chips has been loved ever since. Their nominee for this year is a result of a more adventurous combination, in which three different flavors unite in a big bang in a way that’s even filling. Well, that’s something to expect from a beach food that costs 1,990 forints.
This is the third year in which Neked Főztem in Zánka has been using locally sourced ingredients to feed the beachgoers with meals that put bistro kitchens to shame – and of course they were competing for the award this year, too. They put together the fried pork cheeks sandwich with pickled beans and cheddar cheese just for this occasion, and you officially can’t eat this one without taking even your socks off. The sizable meat pieces will give you enough energy to swim across the lake twice, but it won’t come cheap, as the sandwich with its 2,590 forints price is the most expensive of all the nominees.
Konyhám started to try and reform beach-meals in Balatonfenyves this summer – they already acclimatized their burgers, sandwiches, and the beach buffet breakfast as well, among many other things. One doesn’t have to be a Sherlock Holmes to figure out from the name of their nominee that it’s a hybrid of tortilla and pizza, or more like a pizza that piles the toppings on a tortilla instead of pizza dough. The topping is the classic and breezy combination of cheese and walnut with a little green pesto. Tortizza is also pretty filling, but you won’t feel stuffed and bloated from it, so it’s a real light beach lunch for 990 forints.
The summer kitchen of Keszthely’s Municipal Beach tries to bring the flavors of Zala County to the beachgoers – and that’s not always easy when people are used to eating lángos; however, their soup made from strawberries grown in Marcali is a hit, and many people come here just to taste it. That’s not surprising as it’s the prefect summer meal with a curd cheese dumpling making it also pretty filling – it’s perfectly enough for lunch when the weather is hot. They also have a children’s version, in which the dumpling is replaced by marshmallow. The adult version is 890, the children’s is 650 forints.
The last name on the list is the odd one out: on the one hand, it’s located in Budapest’s Palatinus beach, so it can’t participate in the contest. However, we still listed it because we mustn’t forget that following the positive changes in Balaton’s beach gastronomy scene, the beaches of Budapest are starting to catch up, too.
On the other hand, it’s a sandwich with Bologna sausage, which is a very common and cheap snack in Hungary. But this isn’t the kind of sandwich one puts together at home when the funds are running low. This is made by Lajos Bíró, the well-known chef of Bock Bistro, A Séf utcája, and Kisbíró, a chef who is one of the best-known wunderkinds of Hungarian cuisine, who made caviar from pasta, and sushi from duck liver, so no wonder that he took this plain meal to the next level. The huge sausage on the delicious, lean bread is 99% meat, and is accompanied by boiled eggs, smooth mayonnaise, vegetables, and pickles as well. It costs 990 forints, and represents what beach food is supposed to aim for: classic, well-known meals in a new perspective.
Balaton KÖR already finished judging the meals, and the Pulled Carp was named as the winner in 2017.
Translated by Emma Póli