209 - Hungarian Sophistication
By Mary Luz Mejia
While many European countries prefer their meals “dry” without a sauce or gravy, Hungarians love to ladle rich sometimes spicy sauces over their savoury mains. And although tomatoes, green peppers and sour cream all lend their particular flavours to the wonderfully varied and delicious Magyar table, it is paprika that makes it uniquely theirs. There are many grades of Hungarian paprika - ranging from the sweet, bright red Különleges to the hot, brown-tinged Erös variety. From goulash to paprikash, this unmistakable spice makes its way into some of Hungary’s most notable dishes.
In Toronto, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better example of creamy veal paprikash than at Yorkville’s Coffee Mill. Made with a mild sour cream and paprika-based sauce surrounded by tender chunks of veal and Hungarian dumplings or egg noodles, the Coffee Mill’s version is culinary comfort in every bite. It was restaurant owner Martha Von Heczey who, in 1963, had a big hand in bringing sophisticated Hungarian and Continental European fare to a very “meat and potatoes” Toronto when she opened her now legendary restaurant. Complete with an outdoor terrace fitted with patio heaters, the Coffee Mill was a restaurant maverick – divine European dishes that you could enjoy alfresco!
While the dining culture in Toronto has come a long way, tried and true favourites like the fork-tender veal paprikash or their fantastic schnitzels, served with a side of tart apple sauce and cabbage slaw, are here to stay. But as enjoyable as the mains are, it’s Martha’s delicate palacsinta that I often crave. Palacsinta is Hungary’s version of the crêpe, only they’re smaller and more tender in texture. They’re rolled and filled, often with some lovely apricot jam. My favourite filling is Martha’s lemon-scented sweet fresh cheese which I like to savour with a frothy cappuccino. It’s the perfect excuse to while away afternoons by the lovely terrace fountain, imagining yourself at a downtown Budapest café.
The Coffee Mill
99 Yorkville Avenue