I was looking forward to writing a post that is more than just a selection of photos and captions, but somehow that’s simply not meant to be. With work-related stress and what seems to be an never ending succession of birthday gifts to knit my poor blog has taken a bit of a hit. I am now more likely to be found filling in job applications and writing personal statements than blog posts. As a result I have accumulated a backlog of ideas to develop and events to report on, items I am sadly only able to pick up with a month’s or so delay. Well then, I need to tackle this shortcoming and on that note I give you Prague Food Festival 2012.
I have been a supporter of Prague Food Festival from its humble yet ambitious beginnings, having been blown away by its debut back in 2007. The event was truly a revelation. I was 20 and had only just moved out of my parents’ house the year before to go to university and fend for myself, at which point I embarked on my food adventure. Me and my parents never ate out at swanky places in Prague as to do so was deemed obscenely expensive and unnecessarily extravagant. Yet here we were, me and my mother, sampling miniature dishes from Prague’s best kitchens against the stunningly green backdrop of Slovansky Ostrov island. We both got our souvenir Prague Food Festival engraved forks to keep and with full tummies and full of unknown flavour experiences we vowed to be back.
And so we were. Over the course of the years I have only missed one event. This year I was back again and saw the festival has really come a long way. For 500 Czk (£15) you still get festival entry and 10 Grands (tokens used instead of cash, clearly exchanged later for cash at a less favourable rate so that the festival makes a profit not only on stall subscription but also every single dish sold). Moved to more glamorous settings of Prague Castle gardens amongst the imposingly majestic trees and 16th century architecture to accommodate larger numbers of exhibitors and visitors, they have sadly done away with the souvenir forks. Unexpected food discoveries however are very much here to stay.
Expat Gourmet meets the Czech equivalent of Jamie Oliver… slash half of the Jamie Oliver equivalent duo. Too complicated, so let’s just say I coerced a famous chef into posing for a slightly awkward fan shot. Their ‘Kluci v akci’ programme started back in the early 2000s and was a great a revelation and a massive departure from the then so popular ‘actor or singer gets 5 minutes in a Sunday DIY programme to cook their ‘twist’ on Wiener schnitzel whilst telling funny stories from backstage’ type programme that was the only way to tackle the topic on TV until then. The programme has gone down the pan slightly since then, still here we are.
And so on to food. We started off with ceviche at U Emmy Destinnove, one of Prague’s best fish restaurants (if they do say so themselves). I have never had ceviche before as it clearly proves a problem to obtain fresh enough fish in the landlocked Sheffield. This ceviche was made of yellow fin tuna, yellow pepper and and ginger, coconut and lime dressing and it was yummy, if quite unsightly. The minuscule portion was gone in two mouthfuls, probably for the best as we ended up sampling quite a lot. We frittered away our 20 initial Grands quite quickly and I ended up buying 20 more.
More celebrity spotting, rainbow macaroons and chocolate shots courtesy of the bald headed Roman Paulus, the resident celebrity chef of Alcron, a legendary Prague restaurant since the 1930s and recently awarded a Michelin star.
Gorgeous grilled beef and ground poppy seed cake, Czech classics with a modern twist courtesy of Le Grill Kempinski. We resisted the tempting aroma (for some time anyway) and headed to Bellevue, where we splashed out on their set menu. We had grilled tiger prawns (a tiger prawn) with cucumber, yogurt, mint and green tea salad, slow roast rabbit roulade with parmesan polenta and wild garlic sauce and vanilla mascarpone with strawberry coulis, pepper and balsamic glaze. The polenta especially was gorgeous, whilst the cucumber salad with its clashing flavours left a lot to be desired.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel presented their food technology menu assembled with tweezers into what seemed to be some kind of lab dish. We did not try these but we stayed a while to watch the assembly process, which was fun. I particularly liked the ‘soil bed’ of pearl barley and lentils.We then moved on to Le Patio, where we again went for the set menu (by this time I had to purchase another packet of those Grands). We went for grilled squid with caramellised chilli sauce, baby spinach and sesame seeds, organic beef slow cooked Indonesian style with turmeric and kaffir lime leaf rice and beetroot and sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream. In a country that doesn’t know clotted cream everybody raved about the sticky toffee pudding, I was like yeah right. No really, it was a pretty good pud. My brother requested that we bring him some treats, so we headed over to Yasmin Hotel Noodles who, bizarrely, offered a spit roast suckling pig with really quite good saurkraut and pearl barley. On the sly under the table we tipped this into a Tupperware box, but to stop us from feeling embarrassed we also bought some sticky rice, coconut milk and mango pudding. Needless to say by this time we were pretty full, but still had 2 Grands on our hands. To do away with them we got some parmesan and fig ice cream from Angelato and chicken pate with morelles and foie gras on homemade bread from Mozaika. And then we really couldn’t take any more.
There really was little to fault the day. Certain areas of the exhibition space proved to be a bottleneck though – whoever thought placing stalls in narrow walkways was a good idea? This was only a small niggle and more than outweighed by the gorgeously warm weather, the stunning and airy surroundings of the castle gardens and the stall choice just on the right side of overwhelming. I’ll say I will be back, but that’s simply stating the obvious.