Bar, restaurant and cafe reviews with a STING from the BUZZing cities of Europe.
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AT LAST! All the Rude-Food-Reviews We Dare To Blog.
I've suffered for my expanding girth and ailing gall bladder - now it's your turn...
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Bradt City Guide to Bratislava
In-depth, insider details about this overlooked and underrated city. The first guide published in the UK that is devoted exclusively to the Slovak capital, rather than just dumping it in a few pages at the back of the 'Czech & Slovak Republics' guide. Published in the US by Globe Pequot. Price: £6.99 ISBN-10: 1 84162 142 0 Available from Amazon, Borders & Books etc., Ottakar's, Stanfords, Waterstones and all good bookshops...
As an homage to Pedro Almodóvar, one of my all-time favourite film directors, whose latest masterpiece Volver opens in the UK this week, FourBees presents a list of her favourite films of all time. FourBees worked as a film critic for a drearier than dreary weekly newspaper in Budapest for seven long years (1996-2003), watching press screenings at the ungodly hour of 10am and then having to think of something vaguely amusing to say about some dullard Hollywood pap. Strangely, with global warming, famine, prostitution, paedophilia, child labour and all the horrors of the modern world to occupy our waking hours, my film and restaurant reviews always drew the most response in nerdy letters to the editor, commenting on how I had failed to understand the universal significance and profundity of Lord of the Rings. The attacks were often directed at me personally and were pretty vitriolic and mean-spirited, which leads me to wonder what all those sad expats were doing in Budapest. Maybe they should get a hobby, or get out more – and at least invest in a sense of humour and irony.
The Best Films Created EVER in the History of the Cinematic Universe, the world and all creatures therein (4Bees szerint)
Volver 2006 (I've seen it now and it is indeed estupendo) – Pedro Almodóvar La mala educación (2004) – Almodóvar Hable con ella (2002) – Almodóvar Todo sobre mi madre (1999) – Almodóvar Carne trémula (1997) – Almodóvar La flor de mi secreto (1995) – Almodóvar Kika (1993) – Almodóvar Tacones lejanos (1991) – Almodóvar Átame! (1990) – Almodóvar Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (1988) – Almodóvar La ley de deseo (1987) – Almodóvar Matador (1986) – Almodóvar Jamón, jamón (1992) – Bigas Luna La teta y la luna (1994) –Bigas Luna Krótki film o zabijaniu (1988) – Krzysztof Kieslowski Krótki film o miłości (1988) – Krzysztof Kieslowski Dekalog (1989) – Krzysztof Kieslowski Trzy kolory: Niebieski (1993) – Krzysztof Kieslowski Trzy kolory: Bialy (1994) – Krzysztof Kieslowski Trzy kolory: Czerwony (1994) – Krzysztof Kieslowski Spoorloos (1988) – George Sluizer, based on Tim Krabbé’s novel 'The Golden Egg'. Don’t bother with the dire 1993 Hollywood remake The Vanishing, despite the same director. Monsieur Hire (1989) – Patrice Leconte (Georges Simenon novella) Le Mari de la Coiffeuse (1990) – Patrice Leconte Le parfum d’Yvonne (1994) – Patrice Leconte Ridicule (1996) – Patrice Leconte (note to ed. never meet your heroes in person, ultimately disappointing and depressing) La fille sur le pont (1999) - Patrice Leconte La veuve de Saint Pierre (2000) - Patrice Leconte Abre los Ojos (1997) – Alejandro Amenábar The Others (2001) – Alejandro Amenábar Mar adentro (2004) – Alejandro Amenábar, starring one of my three favourite actors, Javier Bardem, the others being James Mason, for the voice and Denzel Washington for the overall gorgeousness and dignity Fresa y chocolate (1994) – Tomás Gutiárrez Alea y Juan Carlos Tabío La Vida es silbar (1998) – Fernando Pérez Megáll az idô (1982)— Peter Gothár A tanú (1969) – Péter Bacsó Egymásra nézve (1982) – Károly Makk, novel by Erzsébet Gálgóczi. It speaks volumes about how homophobic Hungarian society is, even now. They couldn’t find local actresses to play the two lead characters and had to use Polish, which is a bit ironic, given the potato-faced twin-Pres & PM in power there now. Napló gyermekeimnek (1984) – Márta Mészáros Napló szerelmeimnek (1987) – Márta Mészáros Napló apámnak, anyámnak (1990) – Márta Mészáros Kisvilma, az utolsó napló (2000) – Márta Mészáros Nostalghia (1983) –Andrej Tarkovsky Zerkalo (1975) – Andrej Tarkovsky Solyaris (1972) – Andrej Tarkovsky (Stanislav Lem novel). Steven Soderbergh’s 2002 version, was a rare example of a respectful, moving remake (unlike The Vanishing, see above) Delicatessen (1991) – Marc Caro et Jean-Pierre Jeunet La cité des enfants perdus (1995) – Marc Caro et Jean-Pierre Jeunet Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001) – Jean-Pierre Jeunet, heart-warming and life-affirming; anyone who fails to be moved by Amélie is a bilious old curmudgeon. Le Placard (2001) – Francis Veber, Daniel Auteuil is a comic genius as François Pignon, his facial expression are classic ‘Pignon est (vraiment) mignon…’ Don’t Look Now (1973) – Nicolas Roeg (Daphne du Maurier) Eureka (1984) – Nicolas Roeg The Sweet hereafter (1997) – Atom Egoyan Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) – Jay Roach (written by Mike Myers). I have the hots for Dr Evil. The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) – Jay Roach (written by Mike Myers) Goldmember (2002) – Jay Roach (Mike Myers again) Some Like it Hot (1959) – Billy Wilder Now Voyager (1942) – Irving Rapper Rebecca (1940) – Alfred Hitchcock (Daphne du Maurier novel) Marnie (1964) – Alfred Hitchcock Vertigo (1958) – Alfred Hitchcock North by Northwest (1959) – Alfred Hitchcock The Birds (1963) – Alfred Hitchcock Magnolia (1999) – Paul Thomas Anderson Lantana (2001) – Ray Lawrence Far from Heaven (2002) – Todd Haynes The End of the Affair (1999) – Neil Jordan (Graham Greene novel) Lolita (1962) – Stanley Kubrick (Vladmir Nabokov novel) The Shining (1980) – Stanley Kubrick Utomlyonnye solntsem (1994) – Nikita Mikhalkov Doctor Zhivago (1965) – David Lean (Boris Pasternak epic) Heavenly Creatures (1994) – Peter Jackson, yes he was good then... An Angel at my Table (1990) – Jane Campion The Piano (1993) – Jane Campion The Portrait of a Lady (1996) – Jane Campion Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) – Peter Weir Living out loud (1998) – Richard La Gravenese, very moving and melancholy and starring two of my favourite actresses; Holly Hunter and Queen Latifah. Apparently based on two Chekhov novellas...hmmn.
I had a great time compiling this list when I should have been working, writing the first great Budapest novel (ha, ha). These are all films I could happily watch over and over again. Please feel free to comment on how pretentious, facile, superficial, banal, intelligent, well-read, well-versed, highly-educated I am and how there is an unforgivable paucity of American directors in my list. You know me so well, after all. ...and anyway, I fart in your general direction, to quote a character in Monty Python & the Holy Grail.
Vegetables in Budapest can be pretty revolting. If you don't believe me, pop into Tesco or the vile Spar and admire the piles of stinking potatoes, sprouting and greeny black, the soft, rotting onions, mildewed broccoli and cauliflower and wizened fehér répa (white carrot, not the same as parsnip at all. In fact it's the oh-so-fashionable parsley root, although don't tell the nénik at Bosnyák tere market or they'll whoomp up the price). Don’t even get me started on the sheer horror of fôzelék. What other nation takes a delicious vegetable such as a pea, carrot, spinach leaf or even lentil and turns it into a thing of unspeakable horror? Hungarian chefs have little respect or enthusiasm for vegetables. A perfect example of this attitude is the fôzelék, a horrendous transformation of a healthy thing such as a plate of spinach into something inedible, a pappy mush for toothless invalids. To make a fôzelék, you take fresh vegetables, such as spinach, French beans, peas and carrots, pumpkin, lentils, sóska (mouth-puckering sorrel); all delicious and packed with flavour and vitamins, not to forget the inherent fartable roughage. Then boil it up to within an inch of its life for days and days so that every trace of goodness, texture or taste evaporates. Mix up a good chunk of zsír (lard) and white refined flour and add a large dash of salt to create a nightmarish roux or rántás, which you add to the pulp. Serve luke-warm with a greasy kolbász floating listlessly on top.
Where the Magyar redeems himself is in the garden market. While pears and apples are best suited to damp countries like England and Belgium, the soft fruits of summer such as apricots, peaches, plums and cherries are divine and plentiful in the heat of the stifling, airless Karpát medence. (The strawberries and raspberries are always rotting, oversized and tasteless but you can’t have everything). The apples also are a nightmare; Jonatán should have been strangled at birth. I’m not a fan of watermelon although Mr Drone comes from a family of magyar watermelon peasants stretching back as far as the Honfoglalás, so I have to get a football-sized slice down occasionally. Perfect for inducing a dose of the runs, in my not-so-humble opinion. The other great fruit is the Magyar tomato or paradiscom, which in Hungarian also significantly means ‘paradise’ (cf. the film 1492: the Conquest of Tomato) which in summer are so full of flavour they burst through their skins with sheer exuberance. The paprika (bell pepper or capsicum, not the powder here) is the other great item of Hungarian food. TV paprika are so-called, not because they are snacks for couch potatoes, although they are that too, because they are tölteni való or ‘for stuffing’. Fresh paprikas, bursting with vitality and Mittel Europa exuberance (an oxymoron if ever there was one) such as the squat, deep red pritamin paprika, knock the tasteless California peppers that shamelessly flood Europe, right out of the window and into the turds on the pavement. Hungarians are still a little scared of eating their fruit and veg raw and often boil up tomatoes and peppers into lecsó, a stew that in a vague way resembles ratatouille, but without the courgettes, and the aubergines, and the garlic, and the culinary verve. The photo shows some approximation of a Magyar TV paprika that I found in a Turkish corner shop in Bruxelles, in the beautiful main square of Forest/Vorst. This is FourBees half-hearted homage to the Magyar paprika. (It probably trundled all this way on a lorry direct from Bulgaria....) A FourBees photo.
FourBees loves Bjork, the Vicar of Dibley is pretty cool too. Please vote for June Whitfield for our next Queen of England. Edina in Ab Fab: 'Inside me there's a thin person struggling to get out' The mighty June Whitfield as the mother: 'Just the one, dear?'
Pockmarked beauties, scene one Here is the beautiful House of the Blackheads in Riga. I have a big buboe on the end of my elegant nose at the moment so I can empathise. FourBees is buzzing all over the Baltics.