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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.

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