Europe 2013: Day 2, Part II–Taste of Prague Tour

It’s the post you’ve been waiting for! Maybe you didn’t even know you were waiting for it, but trust me, you were. It’s going to be a fun one for you food lovers.

I’m here to tell you about the Taste of Prague Tour in which the huz and I participated during our recent travels to Prague, Czech Republic. After reading fantastic reviews for the tour online, the huz and I knew it would be perfect for our food-obsessed selves. And we were right!

Our tour met near the top of Prague’s Wenceslas Square.

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Soon, we moseyed up the steps of the National Museum, overlooking the square. Here, we met our two wonderful local guides Zuzi and Jan, had a little ice breaker with the other five members of our tour. I loved the small size of the tour!

…and then we took shots!

No kidding. Slivovitz is a plum brandy, and our guide Zuzi brought along a homemade bottle of it, made by her father in the Moravia region of the Czech Republic. I neglected to take pictures because I was so ready to get the party started I guess! The Slivovits was reportedly “moonshine strength,” around 120 proof, but was as smooth and velvety as could be.

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Čestr

Not far from the start of our tour was our first restaurant destination: Čestr. Housed in the old Communist Federal Parliament building, Čestr is a steakhouse known for it’s amazing beef which is obtained from the now rare Čestr breed of Czech spotted cow.

The philosophy of the tour is not to give a lesson in “traditional” Czech cuisine (which is mostly just eaten by tourists anyways), but instead to highlight great foods and restaurants that modern Czechs enjoy. Love it!

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The interior was lovely – we arrived before the evening dinner rush.

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Maturing meats hanging in the window in the restaurant:

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When in Prague, do as the Czechs do, and drink beer.

Specifically, get yourself some Pilsner Urquell unpasteurized "tank" beer. The ladies of the group were served our beers “milk”-style, [see below] while the gents were served their draught beer in a more traditional manner, with much less of a head, in order to demonstrate the taste differences that exist when the beer is poured differently. The huz and I tried sips of each others’ beers. The “milk”-style definitely seemed sweeter and less bitter (though I preferred the “regular” pour because I am a man apparently).
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Then, things got real. Food starting arriving at our table. An endless stream, it seemed!

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Pretty salads.

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Potatoes with farmer’s cheese.

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And then… the MEAT!

Succulent, slow-grilled chicken with truffle stuffing served with a black truffle gravy.

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My favorite dish of the night (and possible the trip!?): beef golden muscle cooked in goose fat for 16 hours. This astoundingly rich and tender beef simply fell apart when cut with a spoon, and melted in my mouth.

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The prettiest plate award goes to the roasted Czech salmon trout with peas and carrot purée.

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For the adventurous (that would be me): beef steak tartare with quail egg, which we (actually the huz had the honors!) mixed together, and smeared onto garlic-rubbed toasts. Those are potato chips and capers served on the plate with the steak tartare. This was my first steak tartare experience! That’s some raw beef there, kids. I did like it but I didn’t go as ga-ga for it as some of the others on the tour.

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Beef and pork sausage served with horseradish mousse.

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And that is just a sample of the dishes we tried! The food was served family-style and I prepared myself a pretty amazing first plate of food, focusing on trying the warm items first. Shoot, don’t forget about the escargot and fried cheese on there, too! Literally everything on the plate was delectable.

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We were also in for a treat with dessert! We were served beer ice-cream and "dukatove buchticky" which are poppy seed-filled sweet buns, served in vanilla and rum cream. I loved that these desserts were not too sweet. And heaven knows I love poppy seeds, but dang, those suckers get stuck in your teeth for ages. It was worth it though.

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During our meal, our guides Zuzi and Jan shared all sorts of both food- and non-food related information about the Czech Republic with us. It was truly such a fantastic opportunity to learn about the country from the perspective of a young, local couple – and we learned a lot! We also received invaluable recommendations for the rest of our trip.

Deli

After our incredible food at Čestr, we visited the "Svetozor" deli, which houses what is basically the Czech version of fast food: chlebicek.

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These open-faced sandwiches consist of a baguette slice, slathered with potato salad spread, and topped with smoked ham, cheese, tomato, hard-boiled egg, and sliced pickle. Naturally, there are many variations available to those in need of a quick breakfast or lunch on-the-go.

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Wow, if we had a Czech deli near my office, I’d grab a couple of these for lunch all the time! It’s like  a meal in the palm of your hand. I especially enjoyed the sliced pickle.

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Patisserie St-Tropez

Our next stop was also amazing! I wish I had taken more pictures of the gorgeous pastries in the display cases of Patisserie St-Tropez, which is housed in the art deco arcade Dum u Novaku.

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At the patisserie, we were treated to three indulgent pastries. In the front, below, are :

  • “vetrnik"  – (round pastry with caramel and cream filling and caramel glaze)
  • "venecek"  – (puff pastry filled with vanilla cream with sugar glaze)

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And in this picture, take a good look at that chocolate nougat cake, dusted with unsweetened cocoa powder. Heavenly!

With our trio of dessert, we were each also served a small glass of Becherovka, an aromatic Czech herbal bitters (38% ABV) that tastes of warm, Christmas-y spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. It is most often served after meals as a digestif, or digestive aide. The recipe, which consists of a special blend of herbs and spices, is top secret and, reportedly, only two people in the world know it. I was a huge fan and ordered it after meals on other nights during our trip as well. I wish I’d brought a bottle home with me!

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Next up, we hopped on a tram to travel across the city! I wish we’d utilized the tram more often during our trip to save our legs! It was nice having our tour guides there to make sure we got on and off at the right spots.

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Prior to partaking in the tour, participants complete a brief survey asking about dietary restrictions and preferences. Apparently, more often, the tour ends at a wine bar, but our tour had lots of beer lovers, so instead, Zuzi and Jan took us to a pub. I said I loved beer AND wine, so this worked for me. I don’t discriminate when it comes to booze. And I love a good, local beer.

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The Pivovarsky klub pub offers a constantly rotating selection of six beers on draft, as well as over 200 types of other bottled beers on hand at a time, mostly from local Czech breweries.

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Everyone on the tour ordered a draught beer of their choice. I went with the Brevnovsky Benedict, an unfiltered pale lager, and the huz ordered the Granat Tmavy Lezak, a malty amber lager, and we shared. Good beer!

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The pub is filled to the brim with beer!

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And there, our tour ended! The Taste of Prague Tour was an absolute blast. We learned so much, tried so many amazing foods, and had such a fun evening. I appreciate that the tour focused on restaurants and pubs that are favorites of the locals. I cannot recommend this tour enough. Zuzi and Jan are such nice, welcoming people, and they are fantastic tour guides!

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