Somehow, the Mister found Fricska Gastropub our first week in Budapest, shortly after we began to establish rules for choosing lunch spots, such as no red-checked tablecloths, no life-size figures out front with cut-outs to stick your head through for silly selfies and no tour groups in evidence. Our recommendation for Budapest: Skip the tourist traps and seek this place out.
Tucked into a basement, Fricksa is intimate in size and huge on service, yet far from stuffy. The kitchen takes whatever is fresh in the market to create its own style of nouvelle Hungarian cuisine. Rich sauces and flavorful soups might reflect classic French techniques. Freshly made pasta would make an Italian chef proud.
We never knew what the choices on the prix-fixe lunch menu would be, but we quickly trusted the kitchen so much we tried dishes I would never have considered ordering elsewhere. Three courses ran slightly over $9 and never left us thinking of eating anything at night.
First-course offerings might include a soup, a salad, duck liver cream or a fish rollade. The seafood soups were amazingly flavorful, and a wild garlic soup featured some of that sexy garlic that only used to be found in the Soviet ‘Stans (reference to a much earlier post). Main courses led us to enjoy salmon, cod and bream. We dined on chicken, chicken livers, rabbit and veal, often accompanied by sophisticated vegetable purees and potages. My favorite, possibly, was tender rare lamb atop a pea risotto; the Mister’s was the best venison he ever has tasted. The tortellini and shrimp were wonderful, and the gnocchi with four cheeses decidedly decadent. Desserts might be parsnip cream with apples and strawberries, cinnamon crème brulee, an apricot mousse or a dark chocolate ganache playfully paired with peanuts and blueberry jam.
We often returned hoping for a repeat of our most recent lunch there, but everyday was different. We never left disappointed.
strawberries with almond crumble
chicken atop kohlrabi potage
chocolate ganache with peanuts and blueberry jam
roasted rabbit atop bulgar
spinach-filled tortellini with shrimp
veal shoulder over squash potage
lamb with pea risotto
salmon atop parsnip puree
milk pudding with salted toffee
gnocchi with four cheeses
grilled chicken livers atop cauliflower puree
sea bream with polenta and squash
wild garlic soup
And one of our favorite features making us feel at home? Often the music track playing at Fricksa was all blues.
Definitely still experiencing a severe case of the miss-you-Fricksa blues.
Wonder what the older girls think when the Mister introduces a new one into the harem, watching as he lovingly caresses the curves of the latest arrival.
Not one of them has been a part of his life for more than 20 years, except for one with such a wimpy, wispy voice he rarely touches her. No electric sparks fly through her veins.
The flaming red-haired Gibson girl always thought she was his favorite, even after he brought in the skinny, slender-hipped, bleached-blonde.
But then came the gaudy one from Austin with a gypsy-sounding name wearing all that turquoise.
The Gibson girl was confident she could triumph over the tackily clad Mother-of-Toilet-Seat one who likes to lazily lay across his lap, but that turquoise tart?
The gypsy thought she won his heart, but his love was fleeting.
The room is so crowded; yet he found a way to squeeze in one more.
This one, like the gypsy, is young. The child of guitar-maker Chuck Thornton belonged to Jay Wright, who broke her in, then struggled to part with her.
Wright loved her so much, he almost made her a cover girl before letting her go. When the Mister snapped her up on eBay, Wright wrote to him gushing about her attributes and telling him how lucky he was to have her.
The book, featuring the Mister’s newest acquisition on the page just before its table of contents, is a manual. A tongue-in-cheek primer not for curing the addiction, but for justifying it. It’s filled with how-to hints for hiding the disease’s symptoms from your significant other. A litany of excuses and ruses, such as this one:
Display your guitars in different rooms. Spread them out – to a bedroom corner for one, beside a TV or piece of furniture in another room, in a closet, or under a bed. A herd never looks as large dispersed as it does clustered together in one room.
The Mister needs no excuses. Someone married to a writer needs a major outlet of their own.
So how do I feel when the Mister’s in his lair and I overhear him making one of his girls sing, even scream, loudly?
Hey, I’m upstairs tapping away on my keyboard humming along.
I say keep playing those blues, bearing in my mind what he said before one of those significant birthdays:
Some men get new wives when they turn 40; all I want is an electric guitar.
Okay, that was an understatement. He wanted more than that first redhead.
But no need to hide or thin out the herd.
Surely the space in that music room is maxed out by now….
And, if I did object?
I think I might hear a loud chorus of “I’m gonna sell the bitch’s car and buy myself a cool guitar.”