Austria/Czech Republic

Eating in Prague

Eating With Ziggy

Krystal Mozaika Bistro Lamb ShankPraha, what took you so long.  Such beauty, such history, such personality, such food?  Yes, apparently!  The popular notion that its not especially known for its food scene may have something to do with our hesitation all those years.  Conclusion after three days:  Color me surprised, and impressed, and.. a little heavier full.  There were beer gardens, bistros, and even street vendors, all cooking with high degree of skill.  Some meals were better than others (hint: pay special attention to the last three) but overall we did not have a bad one, a rarity during our travels.  Every meal offered something.  Whether it was the food, the Provaznice menubeverages, the location, or in some cases all of the above.  And yes, there was plenty of pork, there was plenty of beer, and there was even plenty of pork swimming in beer.

At Provaznicewe learned about what happens to cheating Real Housewives of Praha.  Nothing better than a nice meal with a life lesson…

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Most Memorable Meals of 2015

Pulker's Heuriger Feast

Pulker’s Heuriger

And just like that, its over Johnny.  2015 was yet another year of great eats, great drinks, and yes great chicken wings.  I’m grateful!  Grateful for living in the greatest food city in the world.  Grateful for living with someone who not only supports this addiction but also willing to sleep with that thing.  Grateful for the kids who will eat anything as long as its not made by mom and dad.  Grateful for the friends and family.  What will 2016 bring?  Sicily!  Other than that who knows.  Most likely more chicken wings.  Here are the most memorable meals of 2016…

Momofuku Ko (NYC) – Quite possibly the best meal we ever had in NYC was at this new Ko 2.0 location.  An 18 courser, counter sitting, feast for all senses extravaganza.  Perhaps the best, most unique dining experience NY has to offer at the moment

Momofuku Ko Venison

Bruno Pizza (NYC) – The best meal with the most unassuming name.  While there wasnt anything earth shattering food wise, the entire meal from start to finish was just brilliant.  And before Danny Meyer made the news with his no tipping policy, there was Bruno implementing its own spin on the controversy.

Bruno Pizza Eggplant

Aquavit (NYC) – Emma Bengtsson’s Chef’s tasting menu is quite possibly the most underrated tasting menu in town.  The kicker here is that not only you are presented with tasty opulence coming out one after another, but you also got the anticipation and the arrival of one of the most Instagrammed desserts on the planet

Aquavit sorbet

Caicos Cafe (Turks and Caicos) – An odd mention considering we’ve been here over a dozen times, but still very much memorable in my mind.  Two meals on every visit is our ritual these days, and both meals this past year featured all our favorites and then some. It just gets better and better.

Caicos Cafe - Tagliolini

La Taqueria (SF) – Strange for me to choose this one over the great meals we had at Cockscomb and NOPA.  But this rather hectic light lunch was the one that gave me food envy like no other.  I’ve been eating tacos and burritos for many years, but the carnitas tacos and Carne Asada Burrito here was like eating this stuff for the very first time.  Cliche, but true.

La Taqueria food

Pulker’s Heuriger (Rührsdorf, Austria) – Our first foray into the Austrian Heuriger scene was memorable to say the least.  A wine grower’s wine tavern that serves menuless, fresh, local homemade food.  This one is right by the Danube, in the picturesque Wachau Valley.  This is why you rent a car

Pulker's Heuriger

Hibernia (Anguilla) – Still fresh in our minds, we are still awestruck by this one.  A 30 minute drive East brings you to this foodie paradise.  Brilliantly executed Asian inspired food with a French flair in an absolute stunner of a setting, surrounded by essentially an art gallery.  A dining experience like no other

Anguilla Hibernia Smoked Trio

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Eating in Salzburg

2454Salzburg did not leave a mark in my imaginary culinary little black book.  I dont exactly have wet dreams about it’s Salzburger Nockerl.  You wont hear me say things like “oh I would die for another Schweinhaxen just about now.  And with some consideration to where I live, I’m not going to miss its ethnic, seafood, fine dining scene either.  But in a way, that is what makes this post so important.  While there was nothing particularly spectacular about the food, in a city not renowned for its culinary ingenuity, we managed to eat fairly well.  Hooray to research?  Possibly.  As always, I did spend a significant amount of time researching, especially considering we had four days to fill.  And considering the spectacular day trips one can make from this base, four days is the minimum one should consider1241

We started off the bat with a foxy one, Alter Fuchs, one letter away from losing its Google friendliness.  The soups here in particular were satisfying.  A solid veal schnitzel, and something we haven’t seen much during the trip, spatzle, which came with pork cubes and gravy.  When in Salzburg… you gotta have the great looking Salzburger Nockerl, but the higher sweetness levels proved a little too much for our palates.  Contrary to what its website said this fox is open on Sunday, a rarity in Salzburg.1249 1246

After a long day trip, like in the scenic Salzkammergut region, Die Weisse and its sprawling garden is the perfect retreat.  The place is somewhat secluded in a residential area away from those pesky tourists.  Full menu featuring a cheesy Kaspressknodelslsuppe (beef broth soup with cheesy dumpling), a brighter more acidic than usual goulash, and other classics like the Teleschpitz with an oniony gravy.  Innviertler dumplings were interesting and  flavorful.  The place was packed with locals, enjoying good food, and one of the better beers of the trip (their own).  It seemed like we were the only pesky ones there1900 1901 1905 1903

If Salzburg is in the middle or end of your meat heavy itinerary, chances are you are ready for a change at this point.  And by change I mean Korean.  Koreasküche HIBISKUS in the Mozarteum is an odd location for the town’s lone Korean.  The apps here were a little weak, but the rest of the offerings featured plenty of  those Korean bold flavors.  Bibimbap was one little egg shy from completion (ask for egg).  Chicken with curry sauce was all too familiar in a good way.  Fried tofu came with exceptionally tasty veggies.  The winner was the spiciest dish in the form of porky goodness sautéed with fire.  Mozart would be proud, and confused.2224 2220 2228

At Stadtkrug hotel we enjoyed some farm to Ziggy flair and one of the more memorable meals in Salzburg.  Italian owner (my favorite kind) Luciano walks around treating everyone like long lost relatives.  The bulky sweet white asparagus was something I couldn’t get enough of during the entire trip.  An outstanding Beef Stroganoff with a side of yet another rare spatzle.  And a fine entrecote with flavors meant to forgive and forget its slight overcookness.  Another one of very few open on Sundays1454 1458

The friendly smiles in one Michelin Esszimmer will win you over, if the food doestnt do that first.  Four seafood and vegetable heavy fixed menus to choose from, may frustrate those looking for them online.  I already blogged about this one here

At Pescheria Backi we were transported to a Key West fisherman’s shack.  A family affair dishing out fresh seafood of all kinds right in the middle of Salzburg.  Other than the squid that could have used a little less salt, very good seafood all around.  For an appetizer you can ask them to make you a plate of various seafood salads and spreads, but verify the price first, and consider getting for one or two less people (if you are a group of 4, get for three, etc).  Popular with locals2383 2379 2375

Highlights outside of Salzburg:  Sausage stand at Bad Ischl (Esplanade/Wirerstrasse corner by the bridge) gave me some serious sausage envy!  It was just pure juicy, spicy awesomeness.  Gaststätte Echostüberl on Konigssee was another highlight which I mentioned briefly here.  Beautiful setting, great fish and meat dishes.

Buon Appetito friends!

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This is Königssee

2151Did you think I was done with our Austrian/Czech Trip?  Think again.  I only left out possibly the best day.  The German day.  Specifically Berchtesgadener National Park near the Austrian border.  In fact for us, driving from Salzburg, it didnt seem like we are venturing into the German side.  The weather that day was misty, and fairly cloudy throughout the day, but got better after lunch.  And oh boy what lunch it was at the marvelous lake side Echostuberl, despite our much anticipated “Ya we have good Oxtail” turning out to be the 5th pork knuckle of the trip.

If I have to give one tip about this one to those researching, dont miss the stunning Obersee, the stop at the end.  So many get off the church and come back.  Its not only Obersee itself, but the walk to it, and the cows.  Perhaps the luckiest cows on the planet.  Ok, getting hungry… here are some pictures

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The Strange and Bizarre Art of Prague

636Mostly by David Cerny, one of the most controversial sculpture artists in the world.  Finding his sculptures all over Prague is like an adult scavenger hunt (probably too boring for kids).  The only one we didnt get a chance to see because its out of the way is what I can only passionately describe as the “A-Hole”.  You climb the ladder, stick your head in there and watch some propaganda videos.  Cant quite imagine this working in Central Park or anywhere in the US.  The only issue we encountered that got Mrz Z truly upset for some reason was that the Pissing Fountain wasnt pissing and wasnt fountaining on this particular day.  It was just two men holding their Chorizos statue

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Dining in Vienna

3098Our first foray into the Vienna food scene was quite successful.  Hooray for research!  The best I can describe Vienna is like eating at your mother-in-law after shipping her to the Culinary Institute of Mother-in-Laws for a year.  Feel good home cooking at its finest, filled with all sorts of familiar tastes.  Even the touristy places had enough hits to award recommendation tags.  The golden schnitzels, goulashes and cordon blues were the only rays of light during our sunshinless four days.  Here’s the recap…

Pulker’s Heuriger in Rührsdorf, Wachau Valley.  The one place that requires its own post.  Perhaps the most memorable meal of a trip that included a Michelin Star meal.  You essentially say “Ja” to the food option and get a mini feast of various home made goodies.  Pork fat spread, ham, fresh goat cheese, black pudding, fresh pork belly with crackling (revelation!), veggies, various spreads, and great homemade desserts.  All, washed down with the fantastic house whites.  Its slow Food at its finest, in the stunning Austrian wine country.  When its nice out, you can sit at the garden surrounded by vineyards.  Cant recommend this place highly enough.

Pulker's Heuriger Feast

Restaurant Sperl – If I can only give you one tip for Vienna its this:  Bring and umbrella.  But my second tip would be to eat at Sperl on your Belvedere Castle day.  Sometimes you just know you are in the right place as soon as you enter.  Best Goulash of the trip – most tender meat with even a bit of heat.  A very respectable Schnitzel (The tables next to us ordered 6 of them.  There were four people).  A rather flavorful creamy asparagus risotto.  And something called Geröstete Knödel mit Ei, essentially bread dumplings with egg and bacon (optional)… although tasted too familiar, it was a feel good familiar.  Our waiter was the Austrian Kevin Nealon2854

Appiano – Best meal in Vienna though also the most expensive (not outrageous by any means).  Austrian with a nice Mediterranean/Italian twist.  Starting with their excellent octopus app is an absolute must.  Quadratini pasta stuffed with beef shoulder was a pleasant surprise.  Pork schnitzel was pounded a little too thin for my taste.  Get the expertly cooked beef shoulder filet instead with mashed potatoes and asparagus…  melt in your fork tender awesomeness.  Our lone Cordon Bleu of the trip was a hit.  Appiano is somewhat isolated, away from via tourista, but close enough to many hotels in the center.  We were the only tourists there.  A month after this visit however, I got a note that they will shut down for the summer for health reasons.  Hoping for a speedy recovery chef2979

Café Central – Did not suck!  There was no mistaken that you are in one of the most touristy spots in town, but it wasn’t bad at all.  Goulash soup was actually one of the better soups of the trip.  Would make for a very nice ragout. “Sacher sausage” essentially a simple Vienna sausage.  Backhendl turned out to be quite acceptable, juicy fried chicken.  But its the torts (top) here that are the real draw, and I wish we could have spent some more quality time with them.  Not bad for a place with over 2500 Trip Advisor reviews.3099Gasthaus Pöschl – A little gem smack in the center.  Not the prettiest and most comfortable interior, but when the food is this good, who cares.  And they are open on Sundays.  Try the Reisfleich,  like a saucy plov with juicy pork cubes.  Veal Schnitzel was one of the better ones of the trip, and a bit more seasoned than the others.  Liver sauteed with potatoes was a big hit with our group.

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Konoba – Not one of the better meals, but I can see why locals flock to this Croatian seafood joint well outside of the center.  Octopus was a far cry from what we got at Appiano. Squid ink risotto had a nice flavor, though no so lucky with the grilled sardines . Platter for two was the saving grace. There was a whole Seabream, calamari, a few overcooked butterflied shrimp, and some filets.  If you go, try to get a table inside the lively room, as opposed to the side by the entrance.

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Street food –  Reserve Sunday lunch for street food, mainly around the church.  Not only its fun and one should always take advantage of street food wherever they go, but many restaurants are closed on Sundays.  Obviously you cant miss the fantastic pretzels and sausages (try the spicy ones).  Also the sausages at the Wurstelstand on Hohen Markt in particular the cheesy Käsekrainer were quite good.  We can use some of that action here in NYC.

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Sperl – Geröstete Knödel mit Ei

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Gasthaus Pöschl

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Appiano

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Appiano Cordon Blue

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Cafe Central – fried chicken

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Gasthaus Pöschl rice with pork

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A Man and his Mountain. And a Choo Choo Train

1546Consider this Hallstat part deux.  A day so immense with beauty that it requires two posts.  Three actually with a visit to Bad Ischl in between.  50 minutes from Salzburg, in the town of St Wolfgang in the region of Salzkammergut you can hop aboard the SchafbergBahn, the little red engine that could.   A 40 minute picturesque trek takes you to the summit of the Schafberg where you are surrounded by 16 lakes.  Ok, I may have counted the same lake more than twice but you get the idea.  A breathtaking, stunning, 360 panorama, with a little restaurant on top to boot.  If you decide to stay less than an hour in the summit after seeing this, there’s something seriously wrong with you

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This is Hallstatt

HallstattI dont pay much attention to Trip Advisor lists because they are usually review algorithm based.  But sometimes they send lists based on their Destination Experts inputs (like myself) which are more interesting.  Last year they came up with a small list of unknown picturesque gems in Europe that no one knows about (that’s why they are unknown).  Sintra in Portugal was one of the only towns from the list we visited.  But a few weeks ago I received the same list yet again (which I cant find it) from TA and noticed there are two more places I can now check off, Cesky Krumlov, and this beauty located in the Salzkammergut region in Austria.  Hallstatt.

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Such stunning location very often lacks ample flat cemetery space.  Up until 50 years ago, the graves would be recycled every 10 years or so.  Bones and skulls would be removed and put inside the Charnel house, or bone house which visitors can visit today.  About half of the 1200 skulls are lovingly painted, along with the deceased’s name, and sometimes profession, and date of death.  And the cemetery itself offers more stunning views from above.  A little tricky to find but well worth it.  When walking back from the side of town where you’ll take the top picture, look for steps going up with a bunch of signs pointing up.

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20 km west of Hallstatt, there’s yet another stunner, Gosausee.  You can walk around the lake (about an hour) or find a spot and just stare.  Its so quiet you can hear a lung collapse.  The drive from here to A10 toward Salzburg is a fun one, as long as you stay alert (otherwise, you already know where the best burial place is)

 

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Eating in Prague

Krystal Mozaika Bistro Lamb ShankPraha, what took you so long.  Such beauty, such history, such personality, such food?  Yes, apparently!  The popular notion that its not especially known for its food scene may have something to do with our hesitation all those years.  Conclusion after three days:  Color me surprised, and impressed, and.. a little heavier full.  There were beer gardens, bistros, and even street vendors, all cooking with high degree of skill.  Some meals were better than others (hint: pay special attention to the last three) but overall we did not have a bad one, a rarity during our travels.  Every meal offered something.  Whether it was the food, the Provaznice menubeverages, the location, or in some cases all of the above.  And yes, there was plenty of pork, there was plenty of beer, and there was even plenty of pork swimming in beer.

At Provaznice we learned about what happens to cheating Real Housewives of Praha.  Nothing better than a nice meal with a life lesson on the side for the ladies.  Relatively quiet side street by the same name in the center, with community tables on the sidewalk.  Our first foray into the town’s celebrated Pilsner Urquell scene.  The goulash and the schnitzel did not disappoint, and so was our first pork knuckle (of many to come, even when we were offered “oxtail” in Germany).  But the most memorable item was one of the more healthier local vegetarian options, fried hermelin cheese!  Skip the fried mushrooms unless you enjoy eating fried dough (like Beignets that took a wrong turn in the cooking process).

Provaznice Hermelin

Provaznice Hermelin

At Sisters Bistro we sampled some Chlebicky, open faced sandwiches.  Hana Michopulu a local food celebrity and farm to mouth pioneer opened Sisters along with.. you guessed it.. her sister not too long ago.  It can be tough to choose betweeen the large Chlebicky array, but the girls speak English and can help.  The beets one was the surprising winner.  I’m finding that “beets” and “surprise” are being used in the same sentence very often lately on the blog.  Something is up.

Health conscious folks exiting Sisters, are staring straight in the face of danger.  Nase Maso, a newish popular butchery.  After multiple attempts I havent actually eaten anything here except for a few lean pastrami slices.  On both visits, things got a little hectic, and I ran out of time.  Its practically a standing room only butchery where they cook their fresh goodies right on premises.  Burgers, steak, meatloaf, and much more.  Seems very popular with the locals.  You can grab one of the few tables in the back, or hover over one of the tables outside and eat like in the good ol’ days.  The cave days.  Nice option for a quick bite or combined with Sisters next doorSisters Bistro Prague Nase Maso

Strahov Monastic BreweryWe planned the castle visit around our Strahov Monastic Brewery lunch appointment.  After a shaky start where we were led to an empty room “This is where we sit reservations”, we said “no diky” and proceeded with a nice meal outside where the action was (and weather to boot).  Nice pork tenderloin in beer sauce.  Ribs, a bit dry but a terrific ginger sauce (out of 3) to the rescue.  Tried another local specialty, Svickova na smetane – Sirloin in cream sauce with bread dumplings and cranberries.  A somewhat uninspiring meat with gravy like cream sauce that will make anything taste great.  Meat, car keys., anything.   Domácí utopenec which translates to “drowned men” (after the rope maker of Provaznice strangling his wife story, I dont want to know what happened with this one) featuring cold pickled sausages.  Nothing out of the ordinary but probably my favorite dish here.  And one of the better beers of the trip, the St. Norbert, in particular the complex, slightly fruity darkStrahov Monastic Brewery Beer

PragueA note on sausages.  They are all over the place, and they deserve proper respect.  Sacrifice one dinner, or lunch, or in our case, a 4 pm snack to sausage and beer from one of the stands in the center.  They are juicy, with ample heat, and pack more flavor than the ones we got in restaurants.  Same goes for sausages all over Austria.

And then there’s the Trdelnik.  I don’t even need to mention it because you cant really escape it, and resistance is futile.  You may survive the first day, but after two you will not only succumb, but start experimenting with it.  Add nutella, jam, pork, or anything else that comes across.  Essentially its sweetened dough, rolled on a stick and grilled out in the open.  Whether I liked it or not is not important.Trdlnik

Once you are tired of all that meat and potatoes, consider the meat and potatoes at Krystal Mozaika Bistro in the up and coming Karlin hood, a short subway ride away from the center.  A full menu more akin to what you may find in Soho, or Paris with a touch of local flair.  Nicely executed soups.  A silky smooth home made chicken pate.  Melnik asparagus was the beginning of our white asparagus love affair during the trip.  An excellent salmon tartar.  Burger krystal with Emmentaler cheese was the real deal in both size and flavor, and would fit in quite nicely in burger town NYC.   There was that addictive svickova sauce again but this time featuring a tender beef neck with herby dumplings.   The star however was a Moroccan style falling off the bone lamb shank with spinach, bulgar, sundried tomatoes and an aromatic minty pesto.  Plum Dumplings with poppy seeds, nuts and clarified butter was a proper, if not a bit heavy finish.  Very impressed with this oneKrystal Mozaika Bistro Burger
Kolkovna Olympia wingsSomething tells me that in Prague, the rule of avoiding chains does not apply, with restaurant gangs such as Lokal and Kolkovna pack with locals nightly.  We tested this theory at the bistro looking Kolkovna Olympia which delivered all sorts of surprising flavors for a chain joint.  There was “Spicy” (but not quite) sausages swimming in a tangy tomato pepper sauce.  Hermelin cheese, this time not fried, but topped with garlicky bread crumbs.. an improvement.  There was creamy but refreshing Asparagus soup.  Beef cheeks with French style mash was spot on (I’ve been spoiled with an abnormal amount of crazy good beef cheek dishes in NYC lately).   A chicken roulette stuffed with liver, spinach, and egg wasn’t as memorable as the chicken wings that came at about the same.  Yes, chicken wings, spiced and cooked to perfection, with BBQ sauce on the side that demanded a few finger dips.  Ok, more than a few.Kolkovna Olympia Hermelin
Another gem in the Karlin neighborhood is the popular Pivovarsky Klub where a room full of patrons sing 250 bottles of beer on the wall on a nightly basis.  Not only it features the largest collection of bottled beer in Czech Republic but, it can also boast something very few in the country can, “Bourdain was here”.  Six rotating beers on tap with the excellent Benedict at the helm.  Fried Bread with raw garlic was just that, but quite addictive.  Juicy sausages can be had in beer sauce or with red and white beans.  Get both.  Pork knuckle with light gravy came in sliced but retained all its glory.  And if you leave without trying the excellent venison goulash, you haven’t done any homework.
Dobrou Chuť
Pivovarsky Klub Sausages

Pivovarsky Klub Sausages

Pivovarsky Klub Beer

Pivovarsky Klub

Pivovarsky Klub

Sisters

Sisters

Provaznice

Provaznice

Provaznice Knuckle

Provaznice Knuckle

Strahov Monastic Brewery Sausage

Strahov Monastic Brewery Sausage

Krystal Mozaika Bistro Dumplings

Krystal Mozaika Bistro Dumplings

Trdlnik Prague

 

 

 

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This is Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna

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