Ah, Czech cuisine. In the week I’ve been in the country, I’ve consumed an obscene amount of meats, breads, cheeses, pastries, and ice cream.
Not to mention wine, beer, and liquor, but I will spare you the details on that front.
We had the absolute pleasure of taking a food tour with Taste of Prague. Our tour guide was Jan, born in Prague, and he showed us around the city as we bounced from meal to meal. We learned so much about how Czech cuisine surged in development and authenticity post-communism. But more on that shortly.
The first thing I learned upon ordering breakfast when we arrived was I definitely won’t be able to keep to the relatively regimented diet I have at home! But that is okay, because food is a huge component of culture, and I refuse to miss out on any cultural experiences on a once in a lifetime journey.
The second lesson learned in Prague is simple. Beer everywhere, always. In the streets, in the restaurants, all times of day. Czechia does hold the record for most beer drank per capita in the world, after all. (That is before counting the 7 million tourists that pass through every year).
At $2.00 CAD worth for a 20oz pint of beer, literally making the beer cheaper than water or pop, it’s no wonder why!
The next things I picked up on pretty quick? Cheese on everything, potatoes with every meal, and hefty portions, especially of meat.
Speaking of meat, Czech cuisine makes use of every piece of the animal, from tail to nose. It really makes you realize how wasteful American and Canadian culture can be.
(Many central/eastern European countries have their own take on goulash. Hungarian goulash is a soup, for example, while Czech is a stew).
Accompanied by local beer, Krusovice, of course.
Our second day, we went on the most amazing dinner cruise on the Vlatava river, which runs through the city of Prague. Not only did we get a leisurely, effortless sightseeing experience, passing under the Charles Bridge, in all it’s medieval glory, and the Prague Castle, lit up by night, but we also got to dig into an all-you-can-eat buffet of traditional Czech foods.
Our plates were piled high with goulash, fried chicken schnitzels, potato salad, and pastries for dessert.
Potato salad, we later learned from Jan, is one of those dishes that every Czech family makes their own special way, and thinks theirs is the best (much like the Sault Ste. Marie equivalent of ‘Nona’s pasta sauce).
That brings me to day three in Prague, where we took the Taste of Prague food tour.
We went to five different restaurants, consuming the most delectable dishes, ranging in nature from vegetarian delights to a meat lover’s heaven.
We started at a café, with ‘chlebicek,’ an open-faced sandwhich with shrimp and mayo/avocado mix on a delicious slice of bread. Jan told us that the chlebicek is as common as pizza in North America, the go-to office food and party snack. We also polished off ‘venecek,’ a choux pastry with vanilla cream and a sugar glaze – all complimented with an in-season apple cider.
Things got heavy at the next location, a butcher palace where the butcher is fully involved with the process from farm-to-table. We had a mouthwatering platter of roast pork belly, dry-aged beef sausage, potato pancakes, beef steak tartare and pickled vegetables.
And yes – by beef steak tartare I do mean completely raw beef, which apparently is a pretty common thing in the Czech Republic.
Everyone in the group was from the U.S, us being the only two from Canada, and needless to say, we were all a little thrown off at the idea of eating raw beef. Despite my reservations, it tasted quite good, as long as I didn’t think about what it was while I chewed it. Mind over matter, right?
You may be wondering how one best consumes raw beef. Well, you first rub down a nice piece of bread with some strong Moravian garlic, then you load on a healthy helping of the paste-like meat onto your bread, eating it like an open-faced sandwhich.
I did say I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone!
We washed it all down with the Pilsner Urquell lager, a staple beer found everywhere in the country.
Now this next place was my favourite in terms of the actual venue. ‘Lokal Diouha.’ It is your classic pub experience where you can actually watch the beer flow from the tanks to your glass. The bartenders say that the average number of beers that Czech patrons consume per sitting is nine.
Needless to say, I would be on the floor.
We ate fried cheese with tartar sauce. This is the classic ‘drunk snack’ amongst Czechs. Jan assured us the two weeks the fried cheese would take off our lives would be well worth it, and I don’t think he was wrong.
Here we also had chicken schnitzels, potato salad, marinated camembert cheese, beer as dark as Coca-cola, ‘Kozel dark lager,’ and beef shin goulash.
A bowl of goulash a day keeps the sadness at bay, or so it seems since I was three for three!
Now let me tell you, by this point, I was full. But if you thought that would stop me from consuming some delectable vegetarian dishes at our next location, burnt potato in ash with potato espuma (almost like a foamy, stewy soup), fermented wheat berries with mushrooms, some wine, and a pre-dessert, ‘kremrole’ (puff pastry with meringue filling), you thought wrong.
Last but certainly not least, we finished off with dessert – plum dumplings with butter, crème fraiche, poppy seeds, and stewed plums.
(Speaking of great company, big shout out to our new friends, Brad and Diane, from not-so-far-from-the-Sault Michigan. Nothing to put into perspective how small our world is than meeting someone from the U.S in Prague who has skied at Searchmont!)
That’s all for now, folks. Next time we chat, I will be in Krakow, Poland, hopefully stuffing my face with kielbasa and pierogies.
Keep an eye on our live stream as I bring you footage from my trip from the news desk.