Where I was born, and grew up there was a mix of different nationalities. The “borough” of Delray in Detroit was home to immigrants of Armenian, Hungarian, Italians and Polish descent and each group had their own church to further bolster their identity, though they all strove to become Americans. As I look back to those early days where most of us were either first or second generation of new Americans I can remember how the parents and the grandparents stressed the importance of speaking English first and their Mother tongue second. No one wanted the stigma of being a D.P. (Displaced Person) and most of them had come to America to start a new life after The Great War looking for the “streets paved in gold.”
A wonderful Hungarian restaurant arrived in the Detroit area long after my original memories of the old neighborhood, but The Rhapsody followed the migration of the original Hungarians as they populated the Downriver suburbs as they discovered the American dream. Some families had lost the family traditions of old country dishes, but there were restaurants that could maintain the aromas and tastes that did not disappear from memory. Here was a restaurant where one could find Kolbasz, Palacsintas, Kaposztas Teszta, Paprikas, Goulash and other dishes known to the Magyar. Big hearty helpings of dishes with rich sauces and spices to feed the soul, as well as the stomach. This is a restaurant where the diners line up to get a table to enjoy food with gusto, not a place to photograph a perfectly plated dish, just like the old days. A place where they run special evenings for duck or for goose dinners and special nights when one can be serenaded by Romany violinists. A place where no matter how much you ate, you still had to make room for some rich desserts afterwards.
As the saying goes “when in Rome…” so why not try a Hungarian wine. Of course, one night that I was there I may have had a Hungarian wine, but it was of a French varietal, as wine grapes have become international. One night we had Balatonboglar Winery Duna Merlot 1991 from the Balatonboglar Region. While winemaking has been in Hungary for ages, the Balatongoglar Region on Lake Balaton is a relative newcomer. Hungary is noted for big wines like the classic Tokays and Egri Bikaver, strong wines with some sweetness and this Merlot was in the same style. At first I was taken aback because it was not a Merlot in the style that I had known, but it paired well with the rich dishes on the table, and that is what a wine should do.