Chimney cake (kürtőskalács) is a Hungarian spit cake from Transylvania. In Hungary, they are usually sold from food carts at most markets and events (or next to the local Tesco).
“Do you want Nutella with your chimney?” Asks Susy Gál Rødtnes as she walks out of the kitchen in the chimney cake shop in Ballerup.
Rødtnes is Hungarian. Together with her husband Martin, whom she met on Tinder two years after she moved to Denmark, she owns the shop.
You say no to Nutella and take a bite of the chimney cake. The crispy, caramelized crust is crushed under your teeth before cutting through the soft inner layer of pastry.
Meeting in three countries
The couple attended a chimney cake course in Slovenia and traveled to Prague and Budapest to try some of the many different types of chimney cakes out there. On social media, Susy and Martin follow other chimney cake stores from around the world to find inspiration for the next new item on the menu.
“What we are trying to do is introduce people to the original – the chimney cake that is known and loved in Hungary – and at the same time offer new and innovative versions of it,” explains Martin.
They fill e.g. Chimney cakes with ice cream or making salted chimney cake sandwiches – an innovation very rare in Hungary, if it exists at all.
Bite out of Budapest
“Our sandwiches are actually much more popular with Danes than our classic sweet chimneys,” explains Susy. One of these chimney cake sandwiches is ‘The Budapest’.
“Martin, make a Budapest for our guest,” Susy says enthusiastically to her husband. “It’s the chimney cake version of the classic sandwich they serve at your aunt’s birthday party in Hungary. You know, with salami, cheese, egg slices, ketchup and pickles. ”
You’re skeptical at first, but Budapest is a winner: the hot, salty, cheesy pasta can be even better with the fillings (or in this case fillings) than the regular bread from the original sandwich.
Past meets present
Susy then tells you that they also offer workshops – where you and a group of friends can start mastering the craft of making chimney cakes – as well as catering services.
When it’s time to take off, look around the room. In The Chimney Cake Shop, the past meets the present, tradition meets innovation and Denmark meets Hungary. And it’s all facilitated by a couple who themselves incarnate this cross of cultures.
Into the vineyard
“When people think of Hungarian wine, they think of Tokaj,” claims Mihály Fekete. “Yes, Tokaj is the crown jewel, but we have 21 other historic wine regions in Hungary.”
Fekete worked as a chef in high-end Hungarian restaurants before moving to Denmark, where he is now head chef at Boulebar Nørregade. In the meantime, in his spare time he has been working on constructing a Hungarian wine portal called the Wine and Spirit Store.
Vintage in the vault
Fekete is very accessible. He is happy to talk and eager to teach, and he will even invite you into his treasure vault, the stock located “in the basement of the house where I currently live with my mother”. There he opens some wine so you can make an informed decision before making an actual investment.
“The storage space will be a bit tight,” he says. “You will also find wine upstairs, e.g. In the bookshelves. But basically in eight out of ten drawers you will find some of the wine we sell. ”
From Egri Csillag of 75 kroner to special editions such as the Balassa Betsek trilogy from 1975 – a package with three bottles of wine and three stones and minerals of the type in which these wines were grown (quartz, rhyolite and andesite, respectively) – Fekete aims to offer a varied selection of wines.
“My goal is to give you the best quality wine for the price range you come with,” he claims.
While he does this partly for profit, Fekete is really proud of Hungarian wine.
“We are incredibly underestimated. Still today you sit down at a wine school and they will tell you that the French sauté wines – produced in Bordeaux – are the best sweet wines in the world. A side note: they are very good, ”he claims.
“But our similar Tokaji Szamorodni is just as good, only less famous. And above Szamorodni, we even have another classification called Aszú, which is even better. ”
Fekete takes further questions with the Bordeaux region, as history tends to credit the French for creating the first classifications there – in 1855 at the request of Emperor Napoleon III.
Nevertheless, in 1737 Tokaj had already become the first classified wine region by decree of Charles VI, ruler of the Habsburg monarchy. Just say, ‘he adds.
A sailor pub?
It looks like a sailor pub. The compass logo, wooden tables and candles burn on top of them. Sure enough, this pub was founded by a British sailor.
But take a few more steps in and take a closer look: you begin to discover that these candles are burning in Unicum bottles (a Hungarian herbal drink), and that the old newspaper framed on the wall is from November 1953, when Ferenc Puskás led Hungary to a 6-3 victory over England.
You meet the current owner, Balázs Szilágyi. He’s Hungarian. And then you meet several of the bartenders in Kompasset, and you learn that only one of them is not Hungarian.
In addition, there is a pub quiz every Wednesday night, and Balázs often contains questions related to Central Europe. When you mention this to him, he says, “Of course! Of course, look, let Western Europeans learn about it. ”
Balázs will also invite Hungarian musicians to its pub and throw special events on Hungarian national holidays. If you catch one of the latter, there will be no shortage of Hungarian company. You meet everyone from chefs to engineers to businessmen to fashion designers.
Standing at the bar, you examine what is on offer: all kinds of craft beers (of course Hungarian), gin, vodka, Unicum, long drinks (like ‘thin bitch’ and ‘white Russian’) and cider.
A few drinks later, when you return to Poul Henningsens Plads, the nearest metro station, you decide to come to Kompasset on a Tuesday next time – to see the open microphone, where random musicians play three songs in hopes of winning a free drink.
But where are the Hungarian dishes, you think to yourself. The ones they eat for lunch or dinner. Fortunately, there is Nomad on Valby Langgade 25.
It all actually started at a party when Zoli, my business partner, said to me: ‘There really should be a Hungarian restaurant here. We really need one. ‘I just looked at him and replied,’ Okay, let’s do it, ‘”explained Imre Lengyel, the head chef at Nomad, who worked as a chef in Hungary for 30 years before moving to Denmark 12 years ago.
In fact, there has not been a Hungarian restaurant in Copenhagen since Hungaria closed its doors many years ago.
All the classics
“So what we have here is classic Hungarian food,” adds Lengyel’s business partner Zoltán Karpf, who used to run a small grocery store in Debrecen. A glance at the menu reveals dishes such as ‘beef with pasta’, ‘fake goulash’ and ‘mushroom cake ala Somló’.
Nomad also strives to take things in new directions: every day there is a new menu, and from this week they also include a fitness setting in each one. These are all on their Facebook page – @Nomadfoodcph – or their brand new website nomadfood.dk.
And pizza too!
And then there’s the pizza. Although they do not claim that pizza is a Hungarian invention (although you never know), it is a special recipe. ”
“No, I’m not revealing it now,” Lengyel tells you with a laugh. “But I use a very healthy kind of flour that has a low gluten content. It tastes good – so far everyone loved it. ”
When the conversation ends, your stomach starts to growl and you are now sure that you are hungry. So you sit down to enjoy a steaming hot stew while watching people cut the winter cold into big coats and heavy boots.
The hot pork crumbles in your mouth when you dip a piece of potato in its brownish sauce. When you stare out the window, you think to yourself, “Hey. It’s Denmark out there, yes, but this, this is Hungary. ”