This is the link to the Facebook album on the Eating Prague Walk. Please like the Finely Chopped page and join in the discussions there
We have just returned from a lovely trip to enchanting Prague, a city that is a meat lover’s heaven.
I don’t know about you but I don’t do much research before going to a place. I normally land at a place and let the gods of social media and food take over and have had some great experiences. Sightseeing is never at a premium for me. For me biting into a juicy steak gives a lot more pleasure than visiting a cathedral. As I recently said on Facebook, ‘happiness is medium rare’.
After conducting quite a few food walks in Mumbai this time I got a chance to participate in one in Prague! This walks was conducted by Eating Prague
K did all the research before the trip and landed us in a fantastic hotel, Hotel Maximilian, more on that later. The night before we left Mumbai I decided to do my bit, opened the iPad and typed ‘food walks in Prague’ and Google took me to Eating Prague. I got in touch with them and Shannon from Eating Prague immediately replied. She booked us on a walk and till we reached Prague patiently answered all my questions of the sort which any good Bengali son would ask, “do we need warm clothes”, “should we get an umbrella” etc.
Couple of days into our visit we joined the Eating Prague walk and the first stop was actually very close to our hotel. I always believe that one should do a food walk at the start of one’s visit as it gives a good insight into a place. We were going to spend a week in Prague so this would be a good way of knowing the city. The Eating Prague walk turned out to be everything that I had hoped for and what I feel a food walk should be and there was a lot to learn for me.
Our host was Mirka Charlotte, country manager, of Eating Prague and she was joined by Jan Macuch. They made a great pair. Mirka who coincidentally looks a lot like Charlotte of Sex and the City (yes, yes I have watched it) is as sweet as Charlotte’s character and brightens your day with her charming smile and is a most patient host. Jan is a journalist who attended a Prague walk himself, got hooked by it, and decided that he wants to conduct them too. Being a journalist you can discuss politics with Jan which is great as a walk should also give an insight into local cultures. Mirka and Jan are both very fluent in English, lively and witty and held our attention over the four hour walk.
A food walk should show you places which you would have skipped otherwise and our first stop of Le Court was just that. A beautiful garden cafe just outside our hotel which we had no idea existed.
A good food walk should take you to the best rendition of local delights and the apple strudel which we had along with our coffees in Le Court was the best I have had. A traditional recipe where the apple was cooked in roughly chopped pieces kept whole and not pureed and was served in a light crepe casing which made it the most delicate apple strudel that I have had and made it looked like a princess compared to the other strudels with thick pastry casings and stodgy apple puree that I saw in other shop windows of Prague.
A good food walk should be like a walk among friends and Mirka gave us enough time to get to know each other in the garden. The others were a group of Canadians, and thanks to our warm up we chatted together through the rest of our walk.
A good food walk should give you a perspective of a city. In Mumbai, the heat and dust and the traffic force me to limit my walks to specific areas from a practicality point of view. No such problems in pretty as a poem Prague as Mirka and Jan took us across the city, pointed out the sights, told us about the history, told us where to shop for food, where to go for a drink, what to buy and when to look up to see sculptures hanging from the sky. We must have walked for two hours out of the four hours. This is not a walk for lazy foodies as walking on the cobbled streets can get a bit trying but as any cardiologist will tell you, there is nothing like a good walk to ensure you can eat without feeling as burdened with guilt.
A food walk is all about planning to ensure that you can eat at every spot and with the carefully chosen portion sizes and the gaps in between we marched on and were able to relish all the food delights in store for us.
A good food walk should introduce you to places which you want to revisit and our second stop of the Ambiente group owned butchery, Nase Maso, was just that. Jan explained that most folks in Prague buy their meats from super markets today and that Nase Maso (our meats) was an effort by Ambiente to change this trend. We sampled some great sausages (stuffed with bacon), ham, meatloaves and fried lards and got to know that you can choose your meats and have them grilled here. We came back twice later for our share of marvellous steaks, sausages and steak tartares as Nase Maso became my favourite place to eat in Prague. Again, not a place mentioned in the tourist guides.
Nor was our next stop, the Czech family run Choco Cafe. A good food walk should also tell you what to choose at a place and the Eating Prague reco of cream filled horice rolls, whose recipe came from Napoleon's mom if I remember right, with the heavenly hot chocolate dip was a perfect pick. It’s a great place to buy chocolates too. We came back a day or so later to Choco Cafe and had the chocolate milk shake but these clearly paled in comparison to the horice rolls. And, as Mirka said, it was too hot for hot chocolate. She had obviously chosen perfectly for our sampling with the horice roll and hot chocolate dip.
A good food walk can always do with a bit of interactivity and understanding of the process that goes behind the treats one enjoys. This happened at our next stop, the Novomestsky Pivovar where we were taken through the process of beer manufacturing and tasted the local beer. Since I am off alcohol I had a non-alcoholic beer which tasted just like the real thing.
A good food walk should get you to challenge your preconceptions and that’s what happened next.
We took the elevator to the top of a church tower which was the base for our next stop, a Czech restaurant called Zvonice on the 8th floor of the Jindřišská Tower. On offer according to Mirka was the traditional Czech sauerkraut soup. The Czechs are apparently big on soup and Mirka said that her grandmother has to have soup twice a day. Our Canadian friends, going by memories of hot dogs at home, made a face when they heard sauerkraut and pooh pooh’d the manager’s claim that this was the best soup in the world.
A few sips later we all agreed that this creamy tangy soup with a burst of fresh basil oil cutting through and the flavours of meaty smoked pork holding it together and a little baked potato bobbing in it was one of the heartiest and most complex tasting yet soul satisfying soups that any of us have ever had.
A good food walk hosts takes into account the needs of the guests, and the lactose intolerant lady in the group got a consommé with dumplings.
Our last stop was about going to the right place to enjoy a specific dish which is what a food walk should guide you to. We had the traditional Czech favourite of braised beef sirloin in cream sauce with cranberry compote and bread dumplings (svíčková na smetaně s brusinkovým džemem a houskovým knedlíkem) in the pretty elegant Cafe Imperial. The sauce was creamy and dreamy and the sirloin soft and indulgent. I tried this dish again at Cafe Louvre for my last dinner of the trip and it just didn’t match up to what was served at the Cafe Imperial.
For the lactose intolerant one in the group, there was another traditional delight, braised duck.
Our engagement with Eating Prague didn’t end with the walk. Mirka sent us a mail with the list of places we went to in the walk, their addresses and the names of what we ordered. A practise I emulated when I came back and did a walk at Bohri Mohalla. They also gave us a list of other restaurants to go to and we followed that for some lovely meals at Sisters and Cestre after the walk and went back to Nase Maso and Choco Cafe from the walk.
The idea of a food walk is that it should be like a walk among friends and since then Mirka, Jan and I have become Facebook friends across borders and are still in touch.
Hopefully someday I will be able to show them my Mumbai.
The walk costs 65 euros per person. We were hosted by the Eating Prague team for the walk and this is not an anonymous review. I honestly can’t think of any negatives though you will have to take my word for it.
The Eating Prague contact details are as follows:
Mirka Charlotte Kostelkova
Eating Prague Food Tours
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