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Throwback Post: Pilsner Urquell and Olomoucké Tvarůžky in Prague

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Hey there and welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  If you haven’t been reading my latest posts, I’ve started to chronicle my past food and drink adventures throughout Europe.  My journey starts in Eastern Europe due to its funky food history and local flavor.  Part one in Bucharest featured a heart-clogging favorite with Romanian shepherds, and part two recalled my misunderstanding over a piece of meat in a unique Budapest restaurant.  Now, part three takes me to Prague where I encountered one of the worst tasting foods I’ve ever consumed, and I actually enjoyed the controversial king of fruits, durian.  So you know it has to be bad.

Prague is hands-down one of the most gorgeous places in Europe I’ve visited, but unfortunately everyone else in the world has found this gem behind the former Iron Curtain.  What this means is that such lovely places like St. Vitus’ Cathedral and the Charles Bridge are crawling with tourists like ants all over a picnic. 2819_1239081974244_3750230_n2819_1239082094247_4265863_n2819_1239080894217_306123_n2819_1239081654236_6953299_n However, there are some hidden gems like the Dancing Building which is colloquially known as Fred and Ginger as in Astaire and Rogers since the two structures look like they’re gliding across the dancefloor like their namesakes.2819_1239082334253_823374_n  Summer hordes aside, it is a metropolis that combines plenty of history with cuisine that has strains of both Slavic and Germanic traditions.  During our stay in Prague, Kevin, his then gf, and I traveled throughout the city and experienced the best Prague had to offer in regard to sites, sounds, and toward the end of our trip, smells.  I’m getting ahead of myself.  First, let’s talk about beer.

In America, we have a very large beer culture compliments of the scores of Northern and Central European immigrants who came to our country, but Czech beer plays a very large part in the history of the hoppy drink, especially when it comes to pilsner beer.  The word “pilsner” derives from the Germanic form of the Czech town of Plzeň (Pilsen in German) since that’s where this type of beer was invented.  Therefore, it only made sense to Czech out (pun YOLO!) the most famous and original pilsner, Pilsner Urquell, in the heart of Prague.  The most interesting part of our bar hopping adventures beyond the beer was a local bar outside the Prague city center that was around the corner from our hostel.  It looked like any other watering hole on the outside, and when we walked in, it didn’t strike us as anything novel.  There was a mix of men and women sitting throughout the establishment sipping on steins, but then there was the all female wait staff.  They were all topless.  TOPLESS!  It wasn’t a nightclub or anything.  No Guns and Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” pumping over the speakers as dancers took their turns on the pole.  Instead, it was like any other bar in the world, but all the ladies must have forgot their shirts at home.  It made holding a conversation with my traveling companions hard and ordering beers even worse.  The whole experience was the polar opposite to the Puritanical views in America toward nudity.  The Pilsner Urquell was equally titillating when it came out.

Bros and brews

Bros and brews

It tasted better out of the tap than the bottles sold in America.  It was crisp, clean, and slightly bitter with hoppy elements that complimented the intense roast pork I had to eat.  Along with the amazing beer, I tangled with a very interesting dish that hails from the capital of Moravia, Olomouc.

Olomouc (pronounced “Oh-luh-moots”) was the only other city we visited in the Czech Republic, but it was the ideal balance to the hectic streets of Prague.  It was more provincial but just as beautiful. 2819_1239094654561_7931694_n The St. Wenceslaus Cathedral was immense like most houses of former worship in secular Europe, and the town square possessed a beautiful sun clock that was shot up by the Nazis during their retreat from Russia in WWII.2819_1239095054571_3336137_n  When the Soviets took over the town, they rebuilt it with proletarian heroes in place of the Catholic saints that originally decorated the clock’s facade. 2819_1239094894567_4225919_n There still are other remnants of Soviet rule like the working scenes in the train station, and all of it added to the character of the town.  We enjoyed our time in the town, and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a daytrip outside of Prague.

Mmm Olomouc ice cream

Mmm Olomouc ice cream

When we came back to Prague, we visited the Jewish Quarter since Kevin’s gf was Jewish. After seeing a synagogue, we stopped at a local restaurant.  They had a mix of Czech and American dishes, but I was drawn in by the “stinky cheese” option.  I ordered one plate which didn’t look that stinky.  It just looked like two patties of fried cheese, but when I sliced into it and took a bite…wow. 1024px-Kartoffelpuffer It tasted like the smell of the pachyderm house at the Brookfield Zoo, i.e. think of hay mixed with pungent urine and aromatic feces.  You know it’s bad when you can only describe the taste of something as a smell.  I could only finish one patty since it was so nasty yet I was so hungry.  Luckily it was only a side to my main dish.  I did some research, and the name of this nasty cheese was  Olomoucké Tvarůžky. tvaruzky It’s a cow milk cheese that originates from Olomouc, the city we visited earlier in the day.  How such a terrible creation could have come from such a wonderful part of the country and has been “enjoyed” since the 15th Century is beyond me.

Overall, the Czech Republic is a great budget vacation in comparison to other places in Western Europe, but you really can experience what the country has to offer at reasonable prices if you venture outside of Prague.  Drink as much beer as you want there but beware of the stinky cheese.  You’ve heard it here first!

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I approve this message on behalf of Pilsner Urquell

 

 

CBIK? Once In A Brew Moon Part Deux (with freshly baked cookies)

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Hello and welcome to the latter half of a two-part post about some of the best craft beers in Seoul.  In my last post, I spoke about going to both Craftworks in Itaewon and Oktoberfest in Hongdae.  Today, I am going to describe the delicious findings I encountered during a trip to the creative Castle Praha in Hongdae and my after dinner trip to Tom’s Cookies.  First things first, the beverages in question.

Now, I have already been to Prague, so I was curious to see the mysterious but much heralded Castle Praha located at Solnae 6-gil Hongdae in Seoul (http://www.castlepraha.co.kr/new/home/eng/page5.php).IMG_1725  After a bit of walking from the metro stop, I was face to face with a large building that looked very out of place next to the more typical Korean looking buildings, i.e. large, soulless blocks of concrete. IMG_1726 I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be a castle or an old church, but it had a replica clock and sun dial like I saw in the Czech Republic in both Prague and Olomouc. IMG_1727 The stone work was quite intricate much like the taste of beers that I had inside.  Upon entering the warmly lit interior, I could see that they blended the feel of an old castle with modern design.  However, it was kind of bizarre hearing hip hop music over the speakers as a soundtrack to this quaint visit.  Please look into some Classical music, Castle Praha.  My group and I were seated on the top floor which was right by the wine elevator.  Castle Praha has more than just beer.  They also have a wine list and a full menu of both Czech favorites and American staples like pizza, salads, and bar food.  However, if you’re looking to try a bit of Czech cuisine, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny.  The koleno or roasted pork knuckle was 37,000 Won, so I just opted for two beers:  the Jerzek Hedgehog Grand Pilsner (10,500 W for a large) and the Royal Porter (10,000 W for a large).

I picked the first one because it would make sense to get a Pilsner since it was invented in the Czech town of  Plzen in 1842.IMG_1729  Plus, there was a funny animal thrown into the name, so I couldn’t say no to it.  Overall, it was not an overly light brew in terms of taste like a lager, but it was quite foamy and filled with fruity notes throughout each sip.  It would definitely sit well with me on a hot day like today.  As for the Royal Porter, it is a beer that is more my style as I have mentioned in previous posts (See CBIK 1 or Troika or Dandy Candy).IMG_1730  It was dark and thicker than the Pilsner but not too overwhelming in terms of taste.  True, it had a more bitter bite to each sip, but it did not have the more unusual coffee background like their Dark Lager.  So I think if I had to choose one, I would choose the Royal Porter just based off of my penchant for dark beer, but they have beers and liquors for all types of palates.  Once we had downed and thoroughly enjoyed our drinks, we headed out for dessert at Ben’s Cookies.IMG_1733

We arrived at Ben’s cookies with not even a line out the door, but all of my friends were saying that these cookies, especially the peanut butter ones, were the best thing since someone figured out how to untwist an Oreo.  Naturally, that piqued my interest.  Unfortunately, they sold out of the peanut butter by the time we arrived, so I settled for a cranberry and white chocolate cookie along with a triple chocolate cookie (completely necessary).  They’re priced by weight, so mine came out to 5,000 W for two.  They were semi-soft which received a big seal of approval from me since I hate crumbly, hard cookies and were chock full of their respective title ingredients.   Texture aside, more elements doesn’t always equal better food.  First, the cranberry and white chocolate cookie had some of the largest cranberries I’ve ever eaten in my life.

Not berry good

Not berry good

They were semi-dried and resided alongside hulking chunks of pure white chocolate.  However, it was overall a pedestrian cookie since all I tasted were the tart cranberries while the chocolate and dough were mere bystanders in terms of flavor.  Thankfully the triple chocolate was as decadent and delicious as it sounds.

A triple threat...to your waistline

A triple threat…to your waistline

The cocoa trifecta came from the chocolate dough which was then topped with three large, melted chunks of white chocolate, and then on the inside there were smaller chunks of melted white chocolate.  The molten interior is what really made this delectable morsel stand out from the tamer first entry.  Overall, I’d recommend Ben’s Cookies if you’re looking for some legitimate Western style cookies, but the price might keep me from coming back for more.

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