It is pure happiness when one’s kitchen cabinet or pantry shelf is full of delicious homemade jams, pâtés, preserves and syrups. However, we are not always so fortunate to have a grandma in the countryside to supply us such delicacies, and sometimes we also have less time to hustle in the kitchen. Luckily, there are some who have found a solution for this, beyond the farmers’ markets: in the fourth part of our Behind the scenes series, we visited Ádám Kovács, delicatessen owner, who brought the FALU. (‘village’ in Hungarian—the Transl.) into the city.
Ádám Kovács comes from a real catering dynasty, whose mother was the only odd one out, choosing a teaching career. He grew up in the Balaton Uplands, where the love of gastronomy quickly caught up with him, but suddenly found himself in Pannonhalma working as a commercial manager at the abbey, with brands like the Vis Vitalis mineral water. Once he felt it was time to take new paths, he returned to Balatonhenye in the Káli Basin, in 2015. This period was mainly about re-evaluation, self-examination, introversion, and recharging for him. He was looking for a new focus and new goals, a profession, a vocation where he could truly be himself. As he walked between the towns, he made friends with more and more local producers, who told him that although they make countless products, they do not have the time and energy to deal with sales.
“I’ve made friends with a lot of farmers and I thought they’re creating tremendous value, so why don’t more people know of them?”
In 2019, he had the opportunity to take over a shop on Szent István Boulevard in Budapest, which used to operate as a perfumery, but it had been covered in dust for years by then, offering an inviting sight. Ádám leaped for the chance and decided to bring backyard flavors to the city center, even if at first this concept seemed a bit unusual in the bustle of Budapest. Of course, along came Covid, and after opening the store he quickly switched to home delivery, which had its advantages—so he was able to a regular clientele who truly get and appreciate the world of FALU.
He did not design a nowadays fashionable minimalist store, nor a glamorous gourmet boutique with goods from far away lands, but a cozy shop where you can almost feel at home. He collected the equipment himself with the help of friends and family, evoking the atmosphere of flea markets, but the sight is far from the kitsch we see in some tourist-attraction shops. In a way, every object has a soul, a personality, and everything feels very natural with its eclecticism, just the ways we would experience on a nice visit to a village.
“One way or another, we were always able to stay open—I always adjusted the business profile to what was needed because I didn’t want to give up right away.”
Honestly, you can find anything on these shelves and if it’s not there now, it will be later. He only works with domestic producers and constantly changes the supply, depending on what is in demand and what novelty he discovers. There is a wide range of wines, with great emphasis on natural wines and ancient Hungarian varieties (what’s more, Ádám even sells his own products), but there is also plenty of Hungarian gin, pálinka, whiskey, and syrup. One can even plan a variety of different dishes from the store’s product range: the various pâtés, vegetable and fruit jams, pasta sauces, and homemade pasta can be used in many ways, but you can also buy snacks (seeds, dried fruits) and coffee from Hungarian roasters. There are, for example, Pepo Papa pumpkin seeds, Panyolium dried fruits, Heit horseradish, and Roastopus coffee, but also smaller brands that I didn’t even know about before. The refrigerated counter is the heart of the store: varied cremes, cheeses, körözött, and meat products come from the local farmers, and even pickles prepared with lactic acid fermentation (that is, without vinegar) can be found in the refrigerator.
“Of course, it would be nice to open more shops, but I am here from morning to evening—without this, the soul would be missing from the FALU.”
Ádám’s current goal is to bring together small farmers and show Hungarians and foreigners what fantastic products are made in the Hungarian countryside, so we can enjoy a coffee, a beer, and even ask for cold cuts and sandwiches from the deli’s offer. Since there are a total of three people in the team, friendship and trust between the guests and the staff develop quickly, so they often know in advance what the shop visitor would want. In order to serve more to the audience, the owner dares to dream big: his plans include the expansion of the shop, where, by building a gallery or a kitchen he could operate not only as a deli but also as a bistro. In the current situation, he has suddenly faced great challenges (as farmers usually work as self-employed workers), but he doesn’t plan on giving up. His sincere love and dedication to domestic flavors are unquestionable, so we can be sure that he will succeed in this as well—in the meantime, let’s drop in for some red onion jam or liver pâté, but also a few good words.
Photos: Dániel Gaál