On the fifth day of our 10-day trip to Prague, Therese and I took a culinary tour with Eating Prague Tours. We were part of a lively group of 10 people with a wonderful guide named Mirka (I’m pretty sure that was her) who visited 7 different culinary stops. The tour was supposed to be four hours, but it took a little longer than expected – five hours, to be precise. That didn’t bother us a bit, but I gather some people had plans for later in the day or that sort of thing (more on that later).
To keep things at a manageable length, I thought I would break the culinary tour into two posts. In this first one, I will cover stops one through four, and in the second/concluding post, I will cover 5 through seven. Just so you don’t think you’ll be getting cheated in the 2nd post, I can tell you that we covered more ground geographically later in the day, so there are more city sights we encountered along the way that I will describe in that later post. So please do check it out.
1. Le Court Galerie. OK. So we had an invigorating walk from our hotel to the starting point of the tour, Le Court Galerie, a cafe set in an enviable location, a quiet courtyard lined with trees. It is the perfect place to have a beverage and a snack, which is what we did, while we waited for everyone to arrive.
I should tell you that the strudel we were offered was NOT dairy free. Here’s what happened: even though I had told Eating Prague about my allergy when I reserved our place on the tour, somehow that information was not communicated to Mirka. When we went around the group and introduced ourselves, I talked about this blog and my allergy, and she apologized and immediately went to work contacting other stops along the tour to ensure that there would be dairy free options for me (yay!). But she couldn’t do anything about the strudel.
So what did I do? I reasoned that a tiny taste would not be enough to make me sick (I know that some of you would not choose to take this risk, but based on my experience, I felt comfortable doing this). This strudel, in any case, was a modern, healthy take on the popular dessert. The apples had a bit of crunch to them, and they weren’t bathed in lots of sauce. And the pastry was not flaky with layers of butter, but more like a wonton wrapper.
At this first stop, I think our hostess could’ve been more cut-throat about getting off to a timely start. There was a group of three ladies who were running late and had informed her of that; but when they arrived, instead of rushing us off to the next stop, she let us all linger for a good bit of time so the three late arrivals could enjoy a beverage and some strudel. Which was fine with me, but I’m just saying: if there are time concerns, that would be a place to cut some.
2. Sisters Bistro & 3. Naše Maso. I mention these two stops in the same breath, because they are literally right next to each other, with their entrances facing each other across a narrow alley-way.
Sisters Bistro is an homage to the Czech open-faced sandwich or chlebiky, but with a modern, farm-to-table twist. We were told that one of the two sisters who started the restaurant is a pioneer in bringing the farm-to-table concept to Prague, and in promoting the neighborhood food markets that will support this movement.
All of the open-faced sandwiches we tried featured some great fresh vegetables: beet puree and basil, celeriac and tomato, even the herring sandwich came with radish and dill. The first one came with a sizable dollop of mozzarella, which I let Therese handle for me.
I had hardly swallowed my third sandwich sample when it was already time to slide across the alley to Naše Maso. This is the cool, hip butcher that we all wish we had in our neighborhood, and all appearances is that this establishment, just a year after opening, is already quite popular.
Now normally I am not much for hip, but this is a little different than the hip I am used to – this is hip with substance (I think we need a new word for that). The cured and smoked meats are done slowly using natural ingredients in a way that delivers the flavor cleanly.
As much as I loved the hams, especially the second one that tasted a bit like pastrami, the two sausages were even better. And the house mustard, spicy and sharp, was perfect for dipping the sausages.
I am glad that we had a fair amount of walking to do after samplings these hams and sausages, because I was pretty full at that point. Our journey took us through Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky), the square near to our hotel, where there was the opportunity for photos of the soot-covered Powder Tower. At that point, we passed from Old Town to New Town (the section of Prague that was founded in 1348). Our guide explained to us that the street called Na příkopě, which is now a busy commercial street full of shops, whose name means “At the moat,” was the site of the moat that separated the two sections of the city. We left the square behind and turned southeast, passing through the Czech National Bank building to our next stop, a surprise.
4. Restaurant Zvonice. Zvonice is notable for its location, inside Henry’s Tower, the tallest belfry in Prague. In modern times, the belfry was stabilized by building a structure within it, so that it now features an elevator and stairs as well as air conditioning.
The dish that Mirka promised us at Zvonice was a sauerkraut soup. Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat the sauerkraut soup, but the soup that was prepared for me was also quite lovely: a chicken consomme with julienned carrots and a dear sausage. This was a result of one of the phone calls that dear Mirka had made after hearing of my allergy – and I of course was very appreciative.
I enjoyed the soup, but I think the best part of being at Zvonice was sitting at the long table with our group in the cozy confines of the restaurant – using one of the floors of the belfry, with large beams cutting through it, I would guess that the restaurant seats less than 30 people. On the way down, I thought I would walk; but when, after just a couple of flights, the elevator opened on the floor near me, I hopped aboard, and there was Therese, as if she had been waiting for me.
At that point, I had probably already eaten enough food for the day; but there were still 3 more stops. One of them would be for a sit-down lunch (wait, hadn’t we just done that?), one would be at a local micro-brewery, and lastly, there was a dessert promised (and for me, there would be a nearly-dairy free version of the dessert).
As we left Henry’s Tower and started on our way further south, I turned and saw this cool retro Coca Cola ad painted on the side of a building: