Sunday, 13 October 2013

Czech Republic – A big beefy burgerfest

October 12

Hello everyone!

WARNING: This blog talks about delicious food. I accept no responsibility if reading this results in you starting to salivate and breaking your computer due to the saliva dripping over your keyboard whilst you are in a dazed state.

 The Czech Republic has its own authentic, Bohemian cuisine which is sampled by tens of millions of locals and tourists every year. From its own take on goulash to slow-roasted pork, via a cinnamon roll and the obligatory dumpling or three, the local food that can be sampled in Prague is particularly hearty. However, eating meat, potatoes and dumplings every day is a one-way ticket to an increased waistline, and the lack of vegetables on your typical Czech plate is also a health concern. It is thus a relief to live somewhere which also possesses a cosmopolitan and international foodie vibe, so that one can take a break from the stereotypical Czech restaurants.

Whatever cuisine you enjoy, the chances are that it will be within a short tram ride in the centre of Prague. Even in the suburbs, the choice is impressive. Within the suburb of Prague that I currently live in there are Thai, Italian and Vietnamese options, amongst others yet to be sampled. The Thai option, called Yam Yams, has a section on its menu delightfully called ‘Hell’. Each of the three choices had a whopping seven chillies next to its name, suggesting it wasn’t for the faint-hearted. I tried the tom yum soup from ‘hell’, and can’t say that I enjoyed it. Others around the table struggled to even take one mouthful or lick from their fork.

American cuisine seems particularly popular in Prague; a fact showcased superbly by the second annual BurgerFest that we visited over the weekend. Joined by hundreds of other meat lovers in the pouring rain, which seemed to keep topping up our plastic beer cups, we patiently waited for an hour in a line for one of the fifteen or so souped-up burger vans representing the biggest and best American restaurant chains in the Czech capital.

The weekend festival was taking place in the Prague 2 district, under the imposing Church of St. Ludmila. Though it looked a bit amateurish on the outside, perhaps resembling a colourful Roma settlement, it soon became evident from the aromas invading our eager noses that the cooking taking place inside the camper vans and tents was of a very professional level. Stalls of various sizes and budgets were displaying mini or full versions of their chain’s best, most inventive creations to happen within the confines of a bun. All accompanied by a band playing good old-fashioned American music. Oh, and the Proclaimers, of course.

After 60 minutes in a slow-moving line, during which time my stomach seemed to be playing the entirety of Beethoven’s Fifth, we arrived at the front of the queue for Bohemia Bagel. After the initial devastation accompanied with the fact that the cheeseburger soup was not currently available, I plumped for a King burger which simply blows anything concocted by Burger King out of the griddle. It may have been my hunger for any sustenance having not eating all day, but this was probably the quickest I have ever devoured an entire burger, only occasionally coming up to breathe in the delectable waft of melted American cheese.

The next line was thankfully shorter, possibly due to the van’s proximity to the deafening singing of the band’s lead singer. The choices offered here were slightly smaller than a regular sized restaurant burger, but had intriguing options on their menu. I went for the wine, cheese and shallot-smeared meat, and was not disappointed. The patty seemed to melt in my mouth without the need for any effort from chewing. Gorgeous, and needed to be much, much bigger. If you ever visit Prague, the restaurant is called Dish, and is supposed to serve top quality nosh. Based on this sample, I would have to agree.

Of course, some would argue that having two burgers is also a sure-fire way to expand your waistline, so at this juncture we stopped and wandered around parts of the Vinohrady area. Other teachers who have been here for longer than us say that this area is simply the best when it comes to restaurants in Prague. Unfortunately there was no room left in the stomach to try one this time round.We could have gone back the following day for the finale of the competition (my application to be a judge is in the post) but would have had to roll to work on the Monday.

The BurgerFest finishes at eight in the evening. Arriving late on hoping to avoid lines, as we did to get a third burger of the day, is not such a wonderful plan, it transpires. As most customers have disappeared, so have the fires that cook the meat, resulting in cold burgers. Nonetheless, the two burgers we had during the day, even in the rain, still warmed our insides with pleasure.

Czech cuisine will become more important as the temperature drops, but until that moment arrives I will be more than content to eat around the world whilst in Prague. If only there was a custard festival…

Love you all


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