Of Hungarian food, homemade ice cream and more
And to think I once worried that Robert of Cross Keys' guest posts wouldn't have enough food in them. If you don't understand what I'm talking about, wait till you get to the third paragraph. I'm expecting next week's guest post to be on the South Beach Diet. Plus, it has high drama. Here's RoCK with an excellent Free Market Friday. EL
Ohio Amish, Hungarian-Canadians, and Jamie Farr
This past week I went on a vacation to Detroit. Yes, Detroit. Now I’ll get into what I actually did in the Motor City next week. For now, I’ll touch on some of the places I found on my way out there. ...
My desire to avoid toll roads, notably the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes, gave me a chance to see parts of US 40 and 250 that I’ve never seen before. I came to two realizations. First, it is very scenic. Second, there are no doubts that stimulus dollars have found their way to the political battleground states. My entire route was one long repaving and guard rail replacement project.
In Mount Eaton, Oh., I found a great little place called the Hilltop Market. It was part grocery store and part Amish bus station. Since I already had a car, I was in no need of a one-way ticket to Gary, Ind.or Canton, Oh. Instead I availed myself of the wares of the grocery store.
I loaded up on various Amish meats and cheeses, including jerky, sausage sticks and a rather large block of Baby Swiss. I was about to check out when I saw a sign for homemade ice cream. I knew I shouldn’t, but when would I be in Mount Eaton again? Anyway, for a cold day there were quite a few of the plain folk enjoying a cone outside the door, so I figured it must be good.
Oh, it was good. Quite good. The wife and I split a double scoop of Carmel Apple and Buckeye, which is chocolate with peanut butter candies. I was very impressed. It had a great rich and creamy texture, good flavor composition, and was packed with apples and candies. It was at a premium ice cream level except for the price. For what would be about a pint of ice cream, I think I paid $1.50.
A few hours later I was in Toledo, Oh. at Tony Packo’s, a Hungarian hot dog restaurant known for being frequently mentioned by Corporal Klinger on M*A*S*H.
Tony Packo’s is a genuinely fun place. I mean, how can you not enjoy a place that pays homage to Jamie Farr? Also, you have to love a place that asks celebrities to sign its hot dog buns. Where else can you see baked goods autographed by the likes of Burt Reynolds and Barbara Bush?
The food at Packo’s is also pretty good. And being that it's in the Midwest, the portions are huge.
I went with Tony Packo's Feast. It features a Hungarian hot dog, which is like a smoked kielbasa, topped with chili sauce, mustard and onions; a cup of chili; a stuffed cabbage filled with pork, beef and rice; and a scoop of the sweet-hot pickles and peppers. All of it had a lot of flavor, and it all seemed to work well together.
The wife had the chicken paprikas, a chicken breast simmered in a mild paprika-based sauce served over dumplings. I found it bland. She, being from the Midwest, found it comforting.
The next day we drove into Windsor, Ontario. Not having had my fill of Hungarian food from the night before in Toledo, I ate lunch at the Blue Danube.
Now the Blue Danube is more of a traditional Continental restaurant, while Tony Packo's is more of a bar and grill. Nevertheless, both are Hungarian, and I can’t get Hungarian back in Baltimore, so I’ll forgive myself for falling into a mini-rut.
At the Danube the wife and I split a kettle of goulash. This goulash showcased just how wonderful a spice Hungarian paprika is, with a deep and complex flavor. I grew up thinking that paprika had no flavor. It was just something people put on deviled eggs for aesthetics. I didn’t grow up with soup like this.
I followed the soup with wiener schnitzel, while the wife had chicken topped with mushrooms and cheese. Her chicken was good, but the schnitzel was maybe the best I’ve ever had. Too often, schnitzel is heavy and greasy. This was not. It was very light, and the veal wasn't subdued by its breading.
After lunch I talked to the owner, who fled Hungary in the 1960s. She told me about her difficulties at the border crossing -- at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel in 2009.
Her complaints proved justified.
I drove through the tunnel, and proceeded to the customs gate. I thought I would have no delays. Passports and all other IDs were up to date. Everything seemed to be in order. And then the endless questions began, and for whatever reason I must have been giving off a worrisome vibe. Next thing I was told to park the car and leave the cell phones. The wife and I had to go wait in a room out of sight while the car was searched.
While I was sitting there, all I could think about is that I’m going to be cited for the Amish cheese, sausage and jerky that was in my trunk. Even though I bought it in Ohio, I was expecting to be accused of smuggling Canadian foodstuffs across the border.
About twenty minutes later we were released with no explanation. Nothing was said about the meat and cheese in my trunk. I guess if they were looking for something in particular, it was not Baby Swiss.