Hey y'all! I am so sorry I have been quiet over here for the last few weeks. We have had quite the whirlwind and I am finally coming up for air. The last time I posted, it was Labor Day weekend, then we had Hurricane Irma hit (all safe, no trees down this year, thank goodness!), and then we drove to Atlanta to hop on a plane to Berlin! And the day after we returned from Europe, it was back to substitute teaching for me. So today - I have a day off, and I'm writing to all of you, and to make up for lost time, it's a long one. Thank you so much for being patient and I hope you enjoy these photos and reflections.
At the end of September, Ryan and I took a trip to Germany and Prague with our best friends, Alan and Rachel. We became friends with them a few years ago because they worked with Ryan. We have spent many a Saturday at their house watching WVU football, belting it out on Rock Band, playing Cards Against Humanity, Munchkin, and cooking out on their Big Green Egg. When they decided to ABANDON US and move across the country, we were very sad. But we quickly planned this trip together, and I have to say, just reuniting with them was maybe the best part of the whole trip.
First of all, how gorgeous is this? This was one of the many views of the German countryside we experienced during our first full day of our trip. We landed in Berlin late the night before and took an early morning train to Prague, mostly spent catching up, playing Catchphrase, and pausing to take snapshots like these.
Old Town Prague is pretty dope. We stayed in a massive apartment through Old Town Square Apartments that was so comfortable and equidistant to so many restaurants and the Old Town Square itself. The Astronomical Clock tower was under construction but we were able to see the clock itself. And despite all of the street vendors, the Charles Bridge was excellent for views and fresh air.
Our first night, we went to this amazing bar: Hemingway Bar. Having been to Cuba, I was expecting Latin flair, mojitos, and daquiris, but it was a complete 180 from that. This bar was tucked in an alleyway (much like La Bodeguita del Medio, actually) and had this gorgeous gold glow to it downstairs, and the upstairs where we sat had these gorgeous leather chairs and sexy atmosphere. The drinks themselves were truly creative - the names, the flavors, and the "glasses"! The drink I had was the Taste of the Forest, which was served in a regular rocks glass, nestled in moss, on top of a carved piece of wood, and garnished with a burning twig of spruce tree. It was maybe the best drink I've ever had in my entire life. Ryan had The Light Side, served in an R2-D2 cup (!!!) and Rachel had the Christmas in Havana, served in a snowglobe! You can check out their signature cocktail list and what vessels they're served in here. This place was amazing.
On our second day in Prague, we went on an amazing tour through Taste of Prague. Their website is awesome and really helpful, if you ever find yourself in Prague. Our guide Jan had more knowledge about Prague history and food than I knew was possible for one person to know. He was also funny and kind and felt like a real friend by the time we departed.
So. This is a food blog after all, I'm sure y'all want to know what we ate. Luckily, Taste of Prague gives you a breakdown and even a few recipes at the end of your tour, so I have a list of where we went and what we ate! And a few photos as well.
These are some samplings we had at our first two stops. In the picture on the left are "chlebicek", open-faced sandwiches, which are typical lunch or party food, Jan told us. The top is a classic potato salad-Prague ham-egg "chlebicek", and the bottom is a beet root with goat cheese "chlebicek" that we enjoyed at Sisters bistro. The beet root chlebicek is definitely a recipe I'm going to recreate here on the blog, so stay tuned for that. And I was so happy that Ryan tried beets! And mayonnaise! Next to Sisters bistro is Nase maso butcher shop, where we tried meatloaf on bread with mustard, a slice of Prague ham, beef flank with a rosemary au jus, and beef steak tartare. The picture on the right is the beef tartare. The quality of each of these meats was excellent, as these guys are truly skilled butchers. I was blown away.
Our next stop was Next Door restaurant - the reason it's called Next Door is because it is literally next door to Cafe Imperial, one of the most famed restaurants in Prague. We had crispy roast duck, sauerkraut, and potato dumplings, accompanied by the Vimperk Next Door beer. This was Ryan's favorite dish, maybe of our entire trip. Confession: this was my first time ever having sauerkraut, and I didn't hate it.
We moved on to Bokovka Wine Bar in this cool old courtyard. The bar itself was cool and dark inside, like being in a cave. We learned a lot about Prague wines, including such small batches that the wine maker's home phone number was on the labels! The wines we tried were the 2015 Creme de National Parc by Mr Nejedlik, the 2015 Welschriesling by Mr Gala, and the 2013 Karmazin by Mr Stavek.
Our last stop was at Eska restaurant. The entire kitchen was open downstairs and had these amazing jars filled with pickling vegetables everywhere. We ate upstairs and enjoyed maybe my favorite meal of the tour. The first dish is fermented red wheat (similar to farro) with raw button mushrooms aand sauteed black trumpet mushrooms and pickled spruce tops. The sauce was creamy and the red wheat had a great crunch and the mushrooms provided an earthiness and the spruce tops were the perfect tangy compliment. But, I love mushrooms, so, of course I loved it.
The second dish is a potato cooked in ash with a potato espuma (sauce), grated egg yolk, chives, dill, and smoked carp. This was really interesting. There was smokiness from the ash and the carp, and the potato sauce was creamy and the herbs brightened up this otherwise heavy dish.
We also had zemlovka - a bread pudding with apples in an espuma of vanilla and rum. It wasn't my favorite (sorry y'all) because I don't like cooked fruit, but I still tried it! The espuma was excellent though, and the spices reminded me of Christmas.
We left the tour here with full bellies, smiles on our faces, a guide to the best food and drinks in Prague, and a number 2 pencil! (They were invented there) Please go to Prague, and when you go, please do this tour. I wish I had written this post immediately after so I could have remembered more facts about Jan (he went to high school with our Lord and Savior, Beyoncé!) and about Prague (how food was regulated by quantities to serve 100 people and no flavor during communist power). Thank you for a wonderful time, Jan.
Okay, this was just a very small part of our Euro-trip, so stay tuned in the next few days for details on the rest of our trip! Still to come: Munich, Oktoberfest, my favorite place in the whole world, and Berlin.
Food that maximizes flavor and minimizes effort and time.