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To be tempted and indulged by the city’s most brilliant chefs, it’s the dream of every one of us in love with food.
– Gael Greene

LE DEGUSTATION BOHEME BOURGOISE – Prague, Czech Republic

Le Degustation Boheme Bourgoise

I can’t begin to explain the excitement I felt when Jonathan, my fiancé at the time, told me he had made reservations for several restaurants in cities that we would travel to for our honeymoon. I knew right away these restaurants must be quite special if he is reserving tables months in advance. It took every bit of willpower I had to not google these places just so that I could have a sincere sense of surprise without any expectations…and boy was I surprised!!!

Our second evening in Prague started out at Le Degustation. As we were on our way, Jonathan began to tell me a bit about the restaurant, my belly grumbling in anticipation the whole way. What I learned is that we were headed to a restaurant that was just recently awarded one Michelin Star in 2012. Prague happens to only have two Michelin starred restaurants in the city so this was a big deal to me. To date, we’ve eaten at a quite a few starred restaurants and have only been let down by one (WD-50 in NYC). So good odds!

Le Degustation exceeded my expectations. From the ambiance, service, food and down to the drinks – I fought to find my favorite dish. Everything seemed to win over the previous dish and the same thing happened with the wine.

Worthy of of more detail is the ambiance. When you enter the restaurant you immediately notice that the decor is rather dark and that the lighting is sparse. The main light in the restaurant comes gloriously through the kitchen window. I enjoy this type of atmosphere so I didn’t think too much more about it and sat down to order our first drink. Once we ordered and had a drink in hand, we received the first ‘amuse-bouche maison’ (hors d’oeuvre sent by the chef to prepare the guest’s palate for the meal to come). It was then that I realized the lighting had a specific duty – highlighting the food. The lamps from the ceiling are strategically placed to beam on each table, never too bright, always just right, allowing the hungry diners to see the beauty in each dish. Below is the first of three amuse-bouche we received before our first course…

Just the Beginning…

Amuse-Bouche Maison – A Grand Opening Act!

These single bite potatoes set us up for an unbelievable meal. I have no idea what all of the components were but I think these were made from small Yukon gold potatoes with crème fraîche and herbs. It reminded me of a miniature baked potato but done to perfection. The potato itself was full of flavor and needed very little to enhance it. It was delivered in this little bowl abed some rocks and steam – liquid nitrogen? Not sure what scientific method was used here but what matters most is that it was divine and had I not been so excited for the next hors d’oeuvre, I would have asked for a plate of them!

Next up was the second amuse-bouche. It is an understatement to say that this was a glimpse of the chef’s creativity. I cannot personally tell you what it was. Two bites of something crunchy yet soft, salty but yet sweet, and a bit fresh yet homey and mushroomy.

Amuse-Bouche Maison #2 – Lost in Translation!

According to Jonathan, this was some sort of crispy potato with squid ink and an exotic mushroom but we can’t say for sure… It doesn’t take a culinary scholar to guess the third amuse-bouche. The follow-up to the previous unknown dish, and my favorite of the first three, was steak tartare with minced shallots and herbs on crunchy, nutty, thin crostini. The following picture is an example of my excitement – I hastily snapped the photo without checking the focus so I could immediately get my hands on this bite!

Amuse-Bouche Maison #3 – Steak Tartare on Crostini

The steak tartare was extraordinary. The juxtaposition between soft and creamy textures with almost-roof-scraping crunchiness was startling. Not that I didn’t expect it but mainly because I was a vegetarian for nearly 18 years (and for about 23 years I didn’t eat beef or really anything other than chicken, turkey and most seafood). Some people say that bacon is the gateway meat, I beg to differ. Raw beef is where it’s at! My evolution really begins right here. In one course, I surprise myself by eating a creature that I would have never imagined…and it’s heart. Kind of sad if I think too long about it, so for now I live fully with my eyes closed to my own decisions and begin recounting an incredible night of dining.

Land and Sea Creatures Beware…You Will Be Eaten

Fair warning – my recount is not only epic because no matter how hard I try, I cannot shorten a story by leaving out the details but also because this dinner took the better half of an evening, with 13 courses when you include the chef’s bites. Le Degustation offer’s two menus. The first being, Dégustation du Chef, a tasting influenced by modern and international ingredients. The second option is, Dégustation Bohême Bourgeoise, a tasting reflecting the beauty and tradition of Czech cuisine while using only local ingredients.

I chose the modern tasting while Jonathan selected the traditional tasting. We decided to go against our norm and try the wine pairings – even though Czech Republic is known largely for their beer. A large part of the fun of traveling is trying and learning new things – so why not!? Our wine pairing differed since we selected different tasting menus. My selections were from different parts of the world while Jonathan’s kept in true manner of his traditional menu and were varietals produced only in the country. The wine was wonderful and perfectly matched to each dish but the food is the real focus here. Onward!

Miranda’s Course One:

Russian sturgeon caviar, organic egg, creme fraiche, Prague ham

A recent discovery of ours…we unfortunately love caviar, unfortunate because it is not that often that we can indulge is such an expensive treat. Fortunately for me – I got a generous portion of caviar on a plate that should have been delivered with its own symphony behind it. The beauty of this arrangement went beyond the eyes…every teensy bite (because I was savoring it) developed a new sensation on my palate. The ingredients went together harmoniously. Well-balanced and light yet savory.

Jonathan’s Course One:

Cold smoked south bohemian trout, sour cream, spinach, elderberry vinegar, fennel, poppy seeds

The picture (again, my impatient hand) does no justice for this salty and savory dish. The trout melted into this creamy tanginess that left me wanting more…it was Jonathan’s dish so I had only a bite but it was certainly memorable.

Miranda’s Course Two:

Sea bass, scallop mousseline, seaweed, Moravian sparkling wine

A genius follow-up to course one! This dish was delicate. It didn’t scream with any exuberant flavors but was tasty none-the-less. I remember being surprised at how the seaweed and wine enhanced the mellow flavor of the fish. I want this again on a long, hot summer afternoon.

Jonathan’s Course Two:

Buttermilk, marjoram, potatoes, guinea hen egg, lovage

A serious contrast from my dish…Jonathan’s soup was creamy and the flavors long-lasting. This is where I began to realize that he may have chosen the better of the tasting menus. Not that my selections weren’t amazing but when given a choice, I always go for the heartier of two dishes. I’m a dairy lover, what can I say! This was simply divine and presenting the solid ingredients in the bowl and then adding the soup at the table – wow! This guy is lucky I didn’t grab the ladle out of his hand!

Miranda’s Course Three:

Mnetes pigeon, straw, lard, juniper glaze, green peas

And here’s the pigeon…and it’s heart. I regret eating this only because Jonathan has yet to stop teasing me about it. Who goes from veggie to pigeon heart? There’s a funny story I will only tell in person…just ask sometime – but let’s just say for now – pigeon all over are out to get me since this event. As for taste, not the best dish but not my least favorite either. I was taken aback by the combination of lightness from the peas and the heaviness from the lard. Good job chef – you took me somewhere I never imagined I would go.

Jonathan’s Course Three:

Farm chicken, malt crumb, nuts, spelt puree, herbal butter, radish, zucchini, sorrel

Again, Jonathan wins in this round. Chicken beats pigeon – not because of the familiarity of the meat but due to the vibrant flavors at play. The chicken was perfectly cooked, moist and flavorful with all the other components. Especially the radish. Why aren’t more dishes prepared with radishes? I have always loved them but it is rare to see them on a menu until recently. Radishes making a comeback or have they just gone unnoticed by me?

Amuse-Bouche #4

Amuse-Bouche #4

This one from the chef is best described by us as “the best damn hush puppy ever”! Super salty, a bit crunchy on the outside and doughy on the inside. The cream on the side was a bit spicy but not too much to overpower the rest. More please!

Miranda’s Course Four:

Stepanovsko rooster, celery veloute, truffle, young celery, sweet corn, nasturtium

Okay, maybe I did order better. Hello rooster! Although this was from the modern, international tasting it certainly had a Czech influence in the sense that it was hearty, with all textures rolled up into one dish. Slightly salty, creamy, peppery and tangy – so good!

Jonathan’s Course Four:

Beef tenderloin, semolina dumpling, cream sauce, fresh dill

And for the beef again…this time not as light as the tartare but delicious all the same. The cream and dill were a perfect match to the tender beef. I don’t know much about beef yet but this had loads of flavor so my guess is that is was prepared at it’s best.

Miranda’s Course Five:

Wagyu kobe style beef entrecote, ponzu sauce, cauliflower, garden cress, ash

Course five for both of us was a work of art, look at this plate! Again, the beef was amazing, delicate in a way and when combined with the earthiness of the cauliflower and the light, tanginess from the ponzu sauce I was speechless. What have I been missing?! I have a new love for cauliflower and to my delight, have seen it come up more and more (much like the radish – but more popular). The cauliflower seemed to be cooked in two different manners. Some parts crunchy and other parts so creamy it seemed to dissolve into the meat. Bravo.

Jonathan’s Course Five:

Stepanovsko rabbit, mushroom butter, chanterelle, beetroot essence, garlic, clover, wood sorrel

Rabbit. Yeah, not my favorite. All of you rabbit lovers out there – don’t worry, I won’t be chasing them any time soon. The glory of this dish for me was not in the meat but in everything else. Jonathan would disagree but the dish would have been just fine without it. Garlic, mushroom butter with the earthy flavors of sorrel, beetroot essence and chanterelle was quite clever. I can see how the wild flavors of these ingredients should have suited well with rabbit but I just can’t go with it. Just allow me to lick the plate.

Amuse-Bouche #5

Ohhhh, where did it go? I believe this one never lasted before I could take out my camera…it was a prelude to the fromage course. For some reason, I have a picture of a bottle of wine between course five and six – that might explain the missing photograph!

Miranda’s Course Six:

Roquefort, cardamom, mascarpone, aceto balsamico, seeds

Fromage! My favorite course!!! But this may have been a bit too much for me, with everything else being so delicious, I thought I was going to be blown away with this course. Not so. It was good but not earth shattering. Roquefort combined with balsamic vinegar and cardamom turned out to be more acidic than it should. The aroma was strong and was more pleasing than the taste.

Jonathan’s Course Six:

Olomoucke tvaruzky, currant, dried milk

There should be poems written about pungent cheese. Oh, how I love it so! The sweetness of currant paired with this strong Czech cheese takes the cake! Jonathan officially wins with the traditional menu. I will be on the look out for this cheese although I imagine I may not find this at Murray’s.

Amuse-Bouche #6

Amuse-Bouche #6

Creamy goodness, that’s all I have to say about that! Sadly, I don’t remember what was on top – I think Jonathan must have stolen my spoon.

Miranda’s Course Seven:

Apricot sorbet, thyme coulis, merinque, fresh cheese

Bright with a zip. The apricot sorbet was vibrant and tart which paired so well with the thyme. Fresh cheese was just the bit it needed to meld it all together. Refreshing after a big meal.

Jonathan’s Course Seven:

Cranberry foam, blueberries, organic cottage cheese

I want this again, and again, and again…Jonathan wins for certain. His was better. More savory and comforting. I would recreate this at home if I could. Cottage cheese always goes well with blueberries but the texture of this foam and the combining flavors altogether is a home run!

And because there’s always room for more…

Chocolate & raspberry!

It doesn’t take much to make this man happy!

Espresso martini!

Best espresso martini I’ve ever had. Order this – you will need it after eating for several hours. Notice how I’m stealing his drink – that’s payback for earlier.

Final thoughts:

Verdict ~ when in Czech Republic, splurge a little and dine at Le Degustation. Request the traditional tasting menu. Sit back, admire the beautiful restaurant, indulge in the unforgettable dishes…and don’t forget to thank the chef!

The artists at work!

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The Beer Prayer

Our lager,
Which art in barrels,
Hallowed be thy drink.
Thy will be drunk, (I will be drunk),
At home as it is in the tavern.
Give us this day our foamy head,
And forgive us our spillage,
As we forgive those who spill against
us.
And lead us not to incarceration,
But deliver us from hangovers.
For thine is the beer, the bitter, and
the lager.

– Barmen

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

July 16 – 18, 2012

Prague in 10:

  1. Beer
  2. Gothic
  3. Pork
  4. Castles
  5. Hearty
  6. Cool & Rainy
  7. Dumplings
  8. Cabbage
  9. Ancient
  10. Mozart

Nothing more dramatic than arriving to a city surrounding by romanesque and gothic architecture just as a rain storm begins to hit.  Grumpy from the long flight and time difference, I opted for a bit of breakfast and a long, necessary nap.  After waking to a charming and cheerful new hubby, I snapped out of my sleepy slumber to enjoy the city and embraced the fact that I would need to buy an umbrella and a sweater to make it through the remainder of the day.

Lucky for me, I think rain is romantic.  It makes you snuggle close to the one you’re with – especially if you are sharing one umbrella.  It forces you to stop and seek shelter when the storm picks up.  This all leading one to forget about where you’re headed and immerse yourself in the moment at hand.  Jonathan, being the best hugger and comforter I know, made the rain feel like a blessing.

Sounds gushy, I know.  But hey, it was the first day of our honeymoon.  I’m allowed to go a bit overboard on the love stuff for now!

Two of the best memories I have of Prague:

Exploring the grounds of Prague Castle on day one (after the storm passed) all the while playing around with our camera…impromptu photo shoot, why not?

Prague Castle

Check out the door hinge…it’s bigger than Jonathan’s head. And who is that carved in the door? Maybe we should have gotten a tour guide.

Captivated by the architecture…

Man down!

The Honeymooners

Taking a break…

Wasn’t unusual for us to be caught staring straight up – with views like this is would be a shame to not stop and take it all in.

Another memorable moment captured in photos is a late night at the Beer Museum.  This is a must do for anyone who loves beer.  To be honest, I have no idea if any part of this pub resembles a traditional museum or not.  We never made it past our table near the front door – the beers were just too good to leave.

Beer tasting at Beer Museum. Na zdravi – cheers!

Beer annihilation…

Beer love…

Beer dilemma…what to eat with beer?

Beer fog…am I really eating beef jerky? First time for everything!

Beer feistiness…

Silence of the beers…

Beer aftermath…hidden on the second shelf are omelettes too. Oh boy!

And for the food!

My (our) favorite meal in Prague was at Le Degustation Boheme Bourgoise.  Jonathan reserved us a table weeks before the wedding.  Le Degustation was awarded a Michelin star this year.  It was a well-deserved earning and for that reason I will save my pics and thoughts for a post solely based on our experience there.  So here’s how we filled our bellies elsewhere….yum!!!

Street food in old town square – a proper lunch! Klobasa, halusky, and slovak donuts, with beer of course

Slovak donuts

Local cheese and honey with wine jelly and Moravian wine

Prague sausage for breakfast in Wenceslas Square

Smažený sýr (breaded and fried cheese on a bun) in Wenceslas Square

Guláš polévka (goulash soup)

Vepřo & zelo with bramboráky (roasted pork & sauerkraut with potato pancakes)

Svíčková na smetaně (marinated beer with dumplings)

Indulging in some czech varieties of cream cheese with crackers while touring the city…

Koláče – pastry with poppy seeds and strawberries

Bílá rajčatová polévka (white tomato soup)

 

In Summation ~ Prague, Czech Republic – 3 nights

  • Hotel Kempinsky – SLEEP HERE
  • Prague Castle
  • Old Town Square
  • Jewish Museum & cemetery
  • Charles Bridge
  • Le Degustation – EAT HERE!
  • Museum of Communism
  • Dali Exhibit
  • Wenceslas Square
  • Beer Museum – DRINK HERE!
  • Vinograf – DRINK HERE when you need a break from the beer
  • Klub Lávka – DON’T EAT HERE but have a drink and people watch

Verdict ~ Travel here…stay in the Jewish district (known as Josefov), eat the local dishes and save room for plenty of beer!  All you really need is two full days. 

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