Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Best Steak In Prague

This is it (pommes frites not shown).

If you're a steak lover -- an aficionado of thick, tender, juicy cuts of beef -- the best steak in Prague isn't to be found in Prague.

You must drive a measly 18 kilometers from Prague 6 to the village of Okoř -- 22 minutes away, according to Google Maps -- and sit yourself down at a table at the Family Hotel Okoř & Restaurant, a clunky name for a truly charming establishment that'll make you believe you're sitting at an inn in the French countryside. (If that wasn't enough, it's even a stone's throw from the picturesque ruins of a 14th-century castle.)

Order the beefsteak filet with green pepper sauce and French fries. Medium rare. It'll set you back a reasonable $14, and comes with some of the best French fries around, to boot.

I started with this lovely salad of goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.

Then ask for a bottle of 2007 Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz from South Australia (around $25), a luscious, peppery red full of dark fruits that'll knock your socks off (at least it did mine) and which goes wonderfully with the steak.

For dessert, try the baked pear with a peppercorn crust and caramel ice cream. Also goes good with another bottle of that Shiraz.

Baked pear with a peppercorn crust and caramel ice cream.

The hotel, I am told, uses a local butcher for all their cuts of meat. It's Czech beef, not Argentinian or American, but don't let that deter you. It's quality stuff.

I've never had a bad steak there. Ever.

In fact, I'm hesitant to even talk about the Family Hotel Okoř & Restaurant -- the friendly service, the reasonable prices -- for the usual reason in these situations: I don't want my favorite eatery, unknown to most people, to become a hot spot. But considering its location, I'm betting that is an unlikely scenario.

You can drive, if you don't want to drink, or hop in a taxi, or take the 350 regional bus from Dejvická for a 44-minute ride.

If you're lucky, you'll run into Czech composer and singer Petr Hapka having a meal. He lives in the village. It's rare when we don't see him.

Sure, there's more on the menu in Okoř than steak. (The menu on the website needs to be updated and doesn't reflect the current offerings, however.) But I always seem to order one thing when I go there.

Why mess with success?

The castle ruins in Okoř.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gonna See Kasabian

We're very excited. We're going to get to see one of our favorite bands, Kasabian.

They're one of the headliners at the Open Air Festival on August 14 at Letiště Panenský Týnec, about 50 km north of Prague. From what I gather, it's some old military airport that's been converted into an outdoor concert venue.

I went crazy and bought a VIP ticket but can't seem to find out what that means exactly! Anyone out there know what that entitles us to?!

We're also thinking of camping but also can't find much information about this, either.

Any advice or tips on attending this festival would be appreciated!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pussy Galore

Oscar basking in the warm grass.

Every time I bend down to give old Oscar a scratch behind the ears, I think I ought to give regular Gusto readers an update on all the cats that I've written about over the past couple of years.

You may remember that Oscar is the stray cat that adopted us shortly after we moved into our house out here in Černý Vůl, northwest of Prague. He's been through a lot, that Oscar -- most notably an almost fatal brush with pneumonia last winter. He was so sick that he allowed us to take him to the vet. He lived in our bathroom/toilet for a month while he took his medicine.

He recovered, and while we would have liked for him to have stayed inside permanently, he is a wild one, and he wanted back out, where he's lived ever since.

He survived the harsh winter of 2009-10 and, except for the occasional cough and myriad ticks (which he patiently lets Daisy remove), seems to be in excellent health and spirits.

Oscar likes to lounge in the sun on the covering to our woodpile.

Oscar can be found reliably on our doorstep every morning and every evening, waiting for his wet and dry food, and found sunning himself in various favorite locations around our garden during the day.

He's a tough old cat, but affectionate and loyal.

Most of the time, when we arrive home from work, he scampers in front of us on the sidewalk to our front door and plops himself down and rolls over on his back, hoping for a belly scratch. Of course, most of the time we're happy to. When we're through, we'll walk forward, and he'll jump up and scamper ahead and do the same thing all over again.

More like a dog than a cat, really.

Oscar is always waiting to greet us when we come home from work. Doesn't it look like he's wearing eyeliner?

We really love Oscar and always get a little worried if he doesn't show up right on time to get fed. As they say, we are his hoomans.

Remember Flake? She's the newborn kitten we found in our backyard just an hour or so before we were supposed to catch a plane for Croatia in 2008.

Our landlord was kind enough to take care of Flake, as he named her, for the two weeks we were gone. He and his wife nursed Flake back to health by feeding her milk through an eye-dropper, before passing her along to us once we returned from holiday.

The very lucky, and lovely, Flakey, a few weeks ago at Stewart's house.

As you may remember, my good friend Stewart and his family adopted Flake a month or so later, once she was eating solid food and on the road to recovery.

I’m happy to report that Flake (or Flakey, as she's now known) is doing great in Roztoky, except for a recurring eye infection of some sort. When we found Flake, her eyes were still closed, and I’m afraid we may have actually caused the infection in our efforts to care for her and clean her off.

Flakey was shortly joined in Stewart's household by Flukey, yet another (albeit older) kitten that showed up on our doorstep around the same time. Stewart's kids wanted a second cat, and Flukey fit the bill nicely.

Both are doing well.

A recent picture of Flukey. Says Stewart: "She's a lovely cat, my wee pal. She's also a bit nuts....had a bit of a tough start in life so I think she appreciates a happy homestead. She gets so relaxed she forgets herself and repeatedly falls off couches, beds etc. Very funny."

And then there's Luna.

Luna, as Emma named her, was a gorgeous 8-week-old kitten who showed up on our doorstep last fall. After a few weeks of living inside with us, Luna was adopted by another friend of ours, Venera, where she's been thriving ever since.

Luna in her new home recently.

There are few other cats we've seen eating recently from Oscar's food bowl -- Ghost Cat, Black Kitty, and Orange Cat -- but all seem either to be too skittish or too thuggish to be candidates for adoption.

I'm so glad we found good homes for all these stray kitties, but I'm also glad we haven't had to perform that task again for quite some time.

Perhaps getting Oscar fixed while he was at the vet did the trick!

Our housecat Chicho, gazingly longingly out our front door, no doubt at Oscar frolicking about. We lost our other housecat, the beloved Zhenya, at the end of December.

Chicho curled up inside Daisy's yoga bag.

Oscar likes nothing better than to roll over as we're trying to pass by on the sidewalk and beg for a scratch.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cool Old Tatra Firetruck

I took these photos a few days ago in the nearby village of Nebušice. The local fire station had pulled their vintage Czech-made Tatra firetruck out into the street.

I'm not sure when this truck dates from. Someone out there probably knows better than I do. I'd guess the early '70s.

You can't see it very well, but there's a smallish water nozzle stuck on a swivel in the back that a firefighter would man, sort of like a machine gun.

This is a very cool vehicle, certainly. And they obviously take good care of it.

But I must admit, it doesn't inspire a lot of confidence if this is the only equipment the village has at its disposal with which to fight fires.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Not So Humble Pie

Looks like Daisy's got some competition!

I've posted photos here before of Daisy's intricate lattice-crust pies, such as this amazing creation or the strawberry-rhubarb extravaganza pictured below, which she baked a few weeks ago.

Paul Sindelar, Daisy's father; Alyson Adams, his wife; and Paul's stepdaughter Hannah sent us the above photograph of their incredible Memorial Day-inspired pie.


Alyson said they all contributed to the making, and to the eating. It's another strawberry-rhubarb, with the crust recipe coming from Paul's mother. Alyson says it never fails.

If this pie tasted half as good as it looks ...

Breakfast In America (And Other Delights)

Daisy, Emma and I took a trip home to the United States recently. Of course, food and drink is always a big part of the adventure.

I miss American food, and visiting local diners and neighborhood restaurants is always high on my agenda. There's nothing I enjoy more than sitting down in a booth at an old-fashioned diner, ordering scrambled eggs, sausage, rye toast, and coffee, and reading the local newspaper.

Whenever I'm on vacation, I also end up taking pictures of a lot of the food I eat. (Funny, there was a story in "The New York Times" while we were there about this very practice. Most people think I'm a little strange, but I don't take photos of every meal!)

One of the highlights of our trip to the U.S. was a visit to Holsten's Ice Cream Parlor in Bloomfield, N.J., where they filmed the controversial last scene of "The Sopranos" (below).

Their vanilla malt is to die for (no pun intended).