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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Taste of Prague Food Tour

Today we met with a small group--6 Aussies and us--for our food tour of Prague. Two couples were traveling together on a tour and the other had been here a night or two and heading for a river cruise for 3 weeks. We passed the door in this shot on our way to the meeting had 3-D effects and carvings. I find doors most interesting in other countries. We need to work on that in the US. 
Martin started our tour with some history of the country and how it changed after the Communists took over (every restaurant was given a specific menu to follow and expected the decor and prices to  match each other), and how it's changed since the Communist were forced out. The country is relatively new to the food revolution, so they promote the best in their city because many try and fail to produce good food. 
The first two places we hit we stood outside in the hall and Martin explained about the history and why we were there.  Sisters is an example of the Czech's famous open-face sandwich that goes back many years. The butcher shop across from it shows every detail of the process from animal to hot food. They have windows showing the meat drying and aging, and they also sell hot food where people come in and order, then sit and eat or leave with it. It's very popular...all organic meat. Martin is a butcher there--changed jobs a year ago from being a psychologist. He studied English during college summers at UCSD which he told me after I showed him Jeff's picture with Maddie and Em looking enormously ready to bring their baby boy into the world. Jeff had a Titans T-shirt on, so it caught Martin's eye.

 Beets and goat cheese on the left (notice they got my message saying Matthew doesn't like beets, so he got fresh tomato instead) and celery root on the right.
 This also had meatloaf on a piece of bread, sausages, and steak tartare. I finally wised-up and only ate the meatloaf and not the bread trying to pace myself. One lady refused the tartare because it's raw meat, but I happily downed mine. Dad used to make us tartare once in awhile and we loved it. Well, Marianne and I did; I'm pretty sure my mother never touched it.
(Tori, skip this part): Martin enhanced his talk with pictures on his iPad...this one showing one of their former clients. They're specially raised pigs from the country so they know how they're raised and what they eat.
You can see the portions and how large they were. We thought we'd be getting a few little bites in some places, but they were large tastes.
Next it was time to sit time. 

I'm not a huge beer drinker or fan, so I drank about half of this....notice how much foam I have. Matthew's had about half this foam and Martin and one that was mostly foam. He explained that's done on purpose--the foam causes it to be less bitter so he orders that for the ladies. People come into these establishments and hang out for hours. They reserve a table and it's theirs for the night and the beertender keeps bringing them new glasses as soon as they're within several sips of finishing. A tab is kept on the table which they mark for each person as they're given a new beer. He says the average is 4-5 per person. I was done after half.
We all thought this was just a beer stop so wondered about the silverware on the table....
then the food started coming. 

This is a spiced cheese with peppers we shared. The Czechs don't eat spicy food, so everything is mild, which works for me. I know Matthew would have liked hot sauce...
I don't have pictures of the food served, but we had a bit of goulash with dumpling in a bowl followed by some schnitzel with potato salad. Maybe drinking beer distracted me from taking pictures.
Here's Martin, our guide with his foam:
Our next stop Martin referred to the "guilty pleasure" stop. I knew I'd be happy no matter what that meant...
We were served Scotch eggs first, which were delicious. All the Aussies particularly loved them, which is proof how good they were since they're familiar with them culturally.  That would have made a great picture, but I downed it before thinking.
The owner of this establishment is English and works to make unusual things, but his place is called Meat and Doughnuts (only not in English).  So course:
Matthew and I do not eat donuts.  It's the one sweet I find easy to turn down, except of course, if on a food tour in a foreign country. Then I am obligated to ....
Oh, sorry, got carried away. It was filled with sweet custard and thank goodness he cut them in half for us. 
Now you might think that was it. Dessert. Done. 
Nope. On the tram (with a short unplanned stop along the way to introduce us to a pastry that's unique to Czech Republic), then to a place 3 stops away from where we'd been because this restaurant is owned by brothers who have about 20 places in the city and Martin says every one of them is high quality. This is their newest, open about 6 months in a building that was renovated after a huge flood that took out many fabric businesses.  We were given the chef's table where we faced the kitchen and watched the cooking take place. I took some shots of the kitchen: 

More bread....really good bread. 
 Martin explained each dish in detail--not just ingredients, but what it signified or what story it told.
The first course--after the specially-made fruit (soft)  drink, bread with homemade butter, and kefir dip, was my favorite. It's called burnt potato which referred to when children went to camp during the summer and at the end of the day after dinner, they threw potatoes into the ashes till they were cooked, then ate them. The sauce was amazing with smoked carp, dill, yogurt base,  and amazing shredded dried egg yolk. I can't remember what it represented. The flavors were fabulous.

Next, we had whole red wheat kernels that had been fermented, fermeneted pine chips representing the outdoors, with a poached egg lightly cooked on top. Oh and foraged mushrooms.

Finally, yes, we did have an ending to this 4-hour extravaganza....
  This is their version of bread pudding--more bread!--which is a sweet bread soaked in the sauce with something interesting on top, but I was now in a food coma, so missed that.
 A fun day! We enjoyed the Aussies' company and Martin was a great guide. He encouraged us to ask anything we wanted to know about the Czech Republic. I highly recommend Taste of Prague if you're coming to the area. They found ways to personalize the tour with accommodating food preferences but also remembering I'd mentioned my interest in beads, so provided me with information on where to shop after the tour.
 We came back to the apartment and didn't move for a few hours. But I wanted to walk a little, so we headed out after dark and made our way to the main square. It's beautiful at night. Lots of people, restaurants for tourists to sit outside, buskers, pick pockets, etc. We mainly walked and looked and took pictures:

Adding an edit because Martin has already emailed with what we did today. I'll add it here so anything I missed plus the names of every place will be mentioned:

1. We had the beet root puree with goat cheese,the celery root salad and for Matt the dill “chlebicek”, the open-faced sandwich, at the Sisters bistro.
2. We followed with meatloaf on bread, Wiener sausage, and steak tartare at the Nase maso butcher shop. Both the bistro and the butcher shop are at Dlouha 39 street. 
3. We had the pork schnitzel with potato salad, the Prague ham with horseradish cream, marinated camembert style cheese, and beef goulash dumplings at the Lokal pub at the Dlouha 33 street. We also had Pilsner Urquel lager - milk style and regular style. 
4. We had the Scotch eggs and the vanilla custard donut at Maso a kobliha at Petrska 23. We also had Matuska’s pale ale to wash it down.
5. We continued with kolachees at the Simply good bakery at Sokolovska 146/70 street.
6. We finished at the Eska restaurant (Pernerova 49) with fermented soda, burnt potato in ash with potato espuma, fermented red wheat with sous-vide egg and button mushrooms, and zemlovka: bread pudding with apples in an espuma of vanilla and rum. We also had the 2015 Blauer Portugieser by Mr Osicka.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Big City Trip--Prague, Krakow, Budapest Day 1

  Traveling is no picnic and we're hoping to do as much international trips while we can still enjoy ourselves and not feel 100 years old when we get there. After arriving yesterday, I only felt about 80.
 I booked us on business class Air France to Prague, which stopped in Paris. Business allowed us to use their lounge, which was so different from Hawaiian...night and day. The rooms were filled with comfortable seats everywhere and food and drinks of all kinds. Having to get to the airport 2 hours early for a flight is rough, but it helps when you don't have to squish yourself into a seat at the gate near 5 people loudly talking on their phones.

Our plane was the new airbus 380-800 and we were in the upper deck, which was cool. The seats are great with places for feet, slots for purses and other items, etc.  Matthew immediately demonstrated how easily one could recline and hopefully fall asleep.
First course for dinner... a little portobello amuse bouche, then cold lobster legs with wasabi aioli, green salad, and mango salsa salad. For dinner I had the special tagine dinner which was chicken and couscous .... absolutely fabulous! Matthew had scallops with lobster sauce. Yes a cheese course also, then dessert, which were choices of 2 sorbets, fruit bowl, or pastries. We didn't have the fruit...
We were delayed an hour leaving SFO, so when we got to Paris, we had to move fast to get to the other terminal and our gate, but that was also delayed so we waited in the lounge...getting used to this nice area for waiting.  By then, we were sweaty from hurrying and never cooled down until we hit the air-con turned too high all the way to Prague.
Our plane experience went from the sublime to the absurdly old as evidenced by the ashtrays in the arm of the chairs, old tired seats, and just slightly more legroom in our area. We were in row 1, so had a bit more room, though I felt like I was flying the plane or sitting in the male flight attendants' laps.
They offered small bottles of water and after I fell asleep asked me if I wanted a thanks, still full from the flight there. 
Oh, forgot to mention to breakfast they served before we hit Paris. Cheese omelette, croissant, fruit bowl, yogurt, coffee and juice. I had a little of each and still felt so full.  I think I ate more on that flight than in the last 6 months, definitely at one sitting.
 We found our ride easily at the airport and were taken to the office of Prague City Apartments. It started pouring on our way, and the manager came out with umbrellas to greet us. He checked us in and we drove over to the apartment with him. It's smaller than I expected and somewhat sparse, but has what we need for a week. It's a one-bedroom with a small kitchen and decent-sized living room. The best part is the view of the church and other buildings in the old town. 

As we explored the area, we found the next best thing about this apartment...location. We are surrounded by places to shop for food and eat and within a block or two of the main square. We discovered one place where the young man spoke English well and directed us where to buy coffee and creamer for breakfast, then we returned to him to buy some deli meat and cheeses. He works at Food Story, which has fresh produce, a deli, bakery, juice bar and downstairs a beer and food restaurant. We ended up returning there for dinner because we were told they have 8 beers on tap, plus more, and Matthew wanted to try local beer.
 I ordered potato soup, which was delicious and smarter than ordering the beef goulash, which was my original choice. Matthew had that, and though also delicious, too much food when I was fighting to keep my eyes open. He also tried a local liquor after dinner called Becharovka made from 37 herbs. He might be bringing a bottle home...was told it's Czech's best kept secret. I ordered cheesecake to try and ate about half. It was dry and heavy...
 We returned to our apartment and fought to keep our eyes open, but finally gave in by 9 and went to sleep. The bed is large and comfortable. We have no air conditioning here, which might be a mistake on my part not checking that when booking, so we kept a fan on. It is a city and noisier than we're used to, so closed the double windows in our room and left them open in the living room. We could hear the church bells, which are lovely, and then some noisy twenty-somethings at 4 am talking and laughing and yelling on the corner below us. By then I'd had 7 hours sleep, so was ready to get up. I would have liked to sleep more, but was done.
 Today we're heading out for our first food walking tour. I've booked one in each city, so hopefully it will be informative, fun, and delicious!


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Last Day, Last Meal, Fogward Bound

 Put some miles on the car yesterday going to Lahaina--more touristy shops and very hot walking around, then headed up to Kula to the surfers goat farm. Had a "flight" of 6 goat cheeses all well-flavored. Saw the goats, but with it being about 100 degrees, didn't opt for going into the fields to see them up close.
 We splurged on dinner or lunch, well, both actually, at Mama's Fish House, considered one of the best and certainly one of the oldest restaurant on the island. I had been here about 25 years ago or maybe 30 with a friend. Beautiful setting, very pricey.
 I couldn't eat a huge meal again (most were about $45-$85 the latter being a whole fish), so shared crab cakes with Matthew:

It came on this pretty plate, so I added it after we removed them to our own plates. Salmon roe on top. Quite good.

 Then I had the ahi sashimi salad, which was perfect. Matthew had a huge meal, so I got a taste of his salmon, mahi mahi, poke, and wild boar. I passed on the poi.
This was perfect for me. At $32, it's considered a first course, but I was happy as a main.
  Opted out of dessert and also drinks....too much for me.
 Returning today to our foggy home where I also return to eating lightly and healthy so I'm ready for our next trip!

 Made some new earrings before we left using wire, a hammer and bench block, and freshwater pearls. I can't wait to do more..I've done about 4 or 5 pairs and now have an idea for a wall hanging using the same technique. All this art on Maui inspired me!!

No two are alike...and I don't mean the pairs~ each one is a little different from the other, but you can't really tell when they're on you. Obviously not for those who like everything perfectly symmetrical and even. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Continuing on to Maui

 Our little plane on Mokolele Airlines...very tiny and so much fun! We had to bend over to get to our seats--yeah, even short me had to do that. I wondered how Jeff and Garret would have managed. It holds about 8-10 people. I sat behind the pilots and watched one of them playing on his phone.
 We stopped for sushi on our way from the airport to our condo and it was SO good! I haven't had sushi for at least 6 months, and this was worth the wait.
 Then got to the condo, which is very nice. I've never been in a VRBO place with so many rules and warnings to follow, but we're good tenants, so no worries.
 We'd heard about Lapperts ice cream, so had to stop there after dinner and try it. Glad I saved room. This was espresso ice cream with coconut, fudge sauce, and macadamia nuts. OMG!!

Many beautiful art galleries in this high-end mall. We were in two where we could have bought many things. This cat or one like it might be coming home with us. 
 And below is something called pohaku, I believe.  It's a stack of rocks, very controversial if done outside in Hawaii because they feel it's disrespectful to their original intent, to honor Pele. These being blown and fused together. I'm so intrigued with them....and thinking one could find its way to Sonora.

   Part of the view from the condo....
 Read about a great breakfast place from the list the owner left called Kehei Cafe. They do a phenomenal business...get in line to order from a huge menu. I decided to go Hawaiian with pork fried rice with chorizo and bacon and eggs on top. Matthew got corned beef hash and eggs. I'm surprised we weren't done in for the rest of the day with all that food...and it was again, SO good!

  Drove to another part of the island--Paia where they're known for local art and galleries, which was great to see, then stopped near Mama's Fish House where we have reservations for 3:30 Wed. ...the only time we could get this week! Wind surfers and regular surfers' paradise here.

  Lots of local art on walls too.  This was at the end of our parking lot -- part of the wall of art.
 Breakfast in the condo today. No more giant meals during the day, though we have dinner plans at the local hot spot called the Monkey Pod. We hope to stay home and watch the sunset before walking up the hill to eat.

Papaya, watermelon, avocado, yogurt, apple banana, and corn bread on the deck. Yay!