you don"t need to save the crystal for a special day, even water tastes better in a "Fancy Glass"

Monday, January 12, 2009

Local Joints

I am not done looking back at the wonderful xmas trip 2008... but here's a post about more recent food. Last night we went to one of our favorite little joints in Nakameguro. It is a little, and I mean little, place. about 15 seats, some on a counter right infront of the chef. French country style. Simple food perfectly prepared.

The chef-owner loves what he does and it shows.

Last night was a cold Jan. evening here in the big city. And the two dishes we shared above were a perfect remedy. On the left-- pork and lentils, on the right steak frite. I have decided that I am still not ready to share the location or details of this local place. Keeping it a secret for me and the mr. right now. It is nice to have a little place that hardly anyone knows about.

Friday, January 09, 2009

@ The Kampa in Prague

click pic for lg view.

More musings from our holiday-trip 2008. On 12/19 we spent the day at the Kampa Art Museum in Prague. It was truly amazing. Great collection of modern Czech art -- well displayed in two connected and interesting buildings. The rooms and layout lent themselves wonderfully to a rambling, slow and thoughtful day of art. Wonderful paints, sculptures, outdoor pieces, and even a roof-top installation. Highly recommended. The Kampa sits on Kampa Island just off the Charles bridge and next to the little quater.

It is a quiet part of town during the winter. Probably quite a bit busier in the heat of summer. There is a park just in front and we saw lots of families and dog walkers getting some exercise even in the chill.

I especially enjoyed discovering the works of František Kupka

His abstract work was ground breaking. This famous image (click to view) was the cornerstone of the Kampa collection.

The complex had great outdoor spaces as well. One wall in the Kampa courtyard pictured above says "If a nations culture survives, so too does the nation." After touring the collection we picked up a Prague Street Art book in the museum shop, and wandered out for a sit down in a nice cafe.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Views of Prague

click for bigger image

Our 2008 annual holiday trip started out in Prague. This was my second visit to the city and the first time we took Mom there. What a wonderful time. We were staying in the "Little Quarter" the Mala Strana, and it is a lovely neighborhood. Our hotel was 5 mins from the Charles Bridge, and on a quite side street. Very nice. It was near to the Kampa Modern Art museum which we thoroughly explored. (more on that later.) And it was in a nice mixed neighborhood/ tourist and residential.

We spent a good deal of time on the first day (before mom arrived) exploring, walking around and even went to a local shopping center to get a converter for the wall sockets. I think going to a local mall or grocery store is always an interesting way to get off the tourist track and get a sense of regular folks.

On day one, we had the gorgeous plum tart included in the collage above.

The old city of Prague is completely gorgeous, every corner, ever side street hides old homes, lovely views, and cobbled streets.

We ate breakfast on day 2 in a strange little corner spot. I had local bread, cheese and tea. Mom arrived that evening and we started seeing the sites.

More collage comments clockwise from top left--

A view under the Charles bridge, swans, and a water wheel

Local street side fruit shop chock full of tasty fruit for the holidays

Previously mentioned plum tart

A view of the Charles Bridge towers on the Mala Strana side, near the Kafka museum
(which I did not get to visit this time)

A gorgeous design above a door in the Mala Strana, this one is famous and called the BLUE FOX. there are many such door decorations throughout the city-- hearkening back to a time when addresses were not street numbers but descriptions.

We walked walked walked. Prague is a great city for walking, all the major sites downtown are pretty close together, and for the more distant or uphill spots like Prague castle, the trolley cars do the job. I am eager to return to this lovely city again, so much to see and do. Next year we are considering a return to Germany and Vienna, so Prague may wait till 2010. Depending on what life holds in store for us.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Another Budapest Memory

This was a lovely bottle of Hungarian wine. Pinot Noir from 2005. It was chosen to go with a luscious dinner at Gundel. My hubby and I managed to take of this bottle and some glorious dessert wine (which is sure to get it's own post later.)

This had classic pinot characteristics. A little less fruity perhaps than some of the Oregon and Sonoma pinots, but nice structure and it went perfectly with his duck and my goose liver. It was chosen for us by the Sommelier- a wonderfully on target, and professional fellow.

Some tasting notes; (from their site)
Thummerer Tekenőháti Pinot Noir 2005
Deep coloured red with the typical spice notes of the variety. Elegant at the same time full-bodies, it was aged in second-generation oak barriques.
The duck dish was-- Pink-roasted Duck Breast with Golden Tokaji Raisin, Apple and mashed Potato and my dish was the famous Grilled Slices of Goose Liver on Rösti Pedestal with baked Apple and Wild Cherry-Tea Sauce

Gundel, by the way, is the most famous restaurant in Budapest. more on that later.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Czech's Can Cook Some Pretty Great Duck

I expect to be reliving and writing about my 2008 Christmas holiday trip over the next few weeks as the fancy (glass) strikes me. There was so much fun and food related frivolity it will take some time to get my reflections up on the blog.

The trip this year went like this-- Prague-Vienna-Budapest. So we started out in the lovely city of the Charles Bridge, The Astronomical Clock, and delicious duck. Roasted, grilled, confit(ed), braised, in soup, with dumplings, the Czechs know how to make duck.

On the first night, jetlagged and exhausted, we checked into our gorgeous little hotel, the Alchemist Residence Nosticova in the Little Quarter-- and at the recommendation of the girl at the desk we found ourselves in THE BLUE DUCK, (U Modre Kachnicky) a little old fashioned place around the corner.

I had traditional potato soup, and then the Roasted duck glazed with honey and apple brandy, served with raisins, apples and potato kisses. All shown in the picture above along with a little blue duck in the window sill next to our table.

It was a bit more formal than we had requested from our receptionist, but It was well prepared. The place was pretty old school, down to the casio tunes fella playing old Frank Sinatra tunes and medleys from musicals over in the corner. But it was a delicious first night. They have many different duck dishes on the menu and I imagine they are all good.

Fancy glass review-- (wow haven't done one of these in a long time)

FANCY GLASS RATINGS (on a scale of 1-5)

Decor 4 FGs Very nice, elegant if a little crowded with antiques, still a nice atmosphere.

Food menu 4 FG

Wine Menu --Big Book, but not much help with the deciding-- 3 FG

Service, Friendly, Professional, a bit old fashioned. 3 1/2 FG

Overall impression one of old world elegance, a bit stuffy, a bit over done, but tasty and friendly.

The Bread Woman

This is the "Bread Woman" another little moment from our holiday visit to the central market in Budapest. We rounded a corner and saw a line of serious local shoppers that was at least 20-30 people long. They seemed to be waiting anxiously so we explored ahead to see what folks were lining up for.


Big, huge, round, fresh loaves. Sold whole or quartered as shown here. Obviously of limited quantitiy so there was a certain tension in the line as it was clear that when the bread ran out that was that.

The yeasty smell was fantastic. And the whole scenario lasted about 15 minutes, but you could tell it was a frequent ritual performed in this bustling city market.
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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Budapest Central Market

Central Market Budapest- click for large view.

It is no surprise that I love food markets. This gorgeous shot above is from the Budapest Central Market. We spent the last morning of our trip browsing the stalls, eating tasty treats and thinking about food culture. The basement floor is a pungent area of fresh fish dealers, and the famous pickles (the major form of vegetables in a Hungarian meal) Pickles and all sorts of pickled vegetables and saur kraut.

The main floor pictured above is all fruits, breads, paprika, meat stalls, and a few sweets shots. Plus LOTS of goose liver sellers. Hungary is the 2nd largest producer in the world of Goose Liver just behind France. It is practically a national obsession.

There were also a few great cheese shops and wine stores.

The catwalk type 2nd floor is all handicrafts, a few standing bars and lunch stalls, lots of handmade lace and quite a few tourist stalls with postcards and knick-knacks.

The building itself is gorgeous and HUGE. One thing to watch out for is the little old ladies doing their shopping, if you are in their way you will be manhandled and pushed around a bit. It was almost a part of the charm of the place though one lady got me pretty good with an elbow. I'll be ready for her next time.

There were treasures for the eyes and taste buds in every direction. This will definitely be a place I will visit again when I make it back there.

My purchases included-
a few bottles of deadly UNICUM as gifts
Delicious honey cookies coated with vanilla and cinnamon (ridiculously cheap!)
Some Hungarian paprika for a few chef friends
and a great Goulash (Gulyas) lunch with potatoes and fresh bread.

Good memories to treasure.
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