Saturday, August 28, 2010

Passport Not Required: Part III

I can't believe another entire week's gone by and I'm still writing about last weekend! As always, thanks for sticking with me as I explore the life/work balance.

Today's the perfect day to write this post, though, because it's my dad's birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad!

After we recovered from our trip to Findlay Market last Saturday, my parents and I continued our Cincinnati adventure at Laszlo's Iron Skillet, a Hungarian restaurant in Newtown. We've been talking about trying the Iron Skillet for years, and finally, the time was right!

A little family history... 

My dad's father, William Molnar, was Hungarian. His parents, Joe and Elizabeth Molnar, emigrated from Hungary at the turn of the 20th century. My Italian grandmother, Angie Molnar, is an excellent home cook (and one of my kitchen inspirations). When she met my grandfather, she learned how to cook the Hungarian dishes that he loved. During their life together, she spoiled him with homemade cabbage rolls, chicken paprikash, spaetzle, and delicious nut rolls.

That's Grandpa Bill and Grandma Angie in the middle, with friends during a trip to Europe in the 1980s. Don't they look like they're having a blast?

Here they are in Switzerland, on the same vacation.

My family has been lucky enough to enjoy Grandma Angie's Hungarian home-cooking for years, but we still couldn't wait to try the Iron Skillet!

Laszlo's Iron Skillet

Laszlo's Iron Skillet was established by Laszlo and Elizabeth Molnar in 1973. Using family recipes handed down through generations, the Molnars quickly became known for their German and Hungarian specialties as well as fresh breads and pastries. Like the recipes, the restaurant itself has passed from generation to generation, and is now co-owned by Laszlo and Elizabeth's children, Lazlo Molnar, Jr. and Monica Lippmeyer.

The Iron Skillet's menu includes a plethora of American and European dishes, and features the Eastern European specialties for which the Molnar family is well-known--cabbage rolls, goulash, paprikash, and schnitzel.  According to our waitress on Saturday night, everything, including the breads and pastries, is made fresh in-house. Impressive, especially when you consider the size of the menu. And they're doing a nice job of it, too--everything we tried was delicious!

We started with a basket of homemade buttered rolls, which had a texture similar to brioche but tasted like sourdough bread. Next, our waitress brought cold cucumber salad with parprika and hot slaw. We loved the cucumber salad, and it's on my try-this-at-home list!

Dad went with an Italian dish. He had the Chicken Piccata, a chicken breast cutlet served with a white wine-lemon-caper sauce and Parmesan risotto, and he enjoyed it.

But in my world view, when you have a chance to eat authentic Hungarian food prepared by a real, live, honest-to-goodness, straight-from-the-mother-country Hungarian chef, you just smile...

Do you think the M stands for Molnar or Magyar?

and order the Goulash, like I did...

The Iron Skillet's Szeklar Goulash, a combination of pork goulash and sauerkraut served over spaetzle and topped with sour cream.

or the Schnitzel (like Mom). 
The Hungarian Schnitzel, a veal cutlet, seared and topped with sauteed onions and mushrooms in a paprika-sour cream sauce, served over schnitzel.

And maybe the Cherry Strudel, too, which we shared.

The cherries were fresh, a combination of tart and sweet. And would you just look at that flaky crust?!

My parents and I really enjoyed our experience at the Iron Skillet. I'd love to go back to try the Mushroom Paprikash, or maybe for a cabbage roll (my all-time favorite Hungarian dish). Mom and Dad both said they'd like to visit again next time they're in Cincinnati, but something tells me it'll be awhile...there's too much left to explore in Cincinnati to go back to the same place twice!

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