FOOD AND DRINK

Traditional Czech food is best described as hearty. It's dominated by meat, served with bread, potatoes, or bread and potato dumplings, and slathered in sauce. The influences from neighboring Austria and Hungary are plain to see. Yet Czech cuisine is also delicious, filling and increasingly creative, from the basic but tasty fare of traditional Czech bars to the cultured gastronomy of inner-city restaurants, and there's more authentic international cuisine available in the country than ever before.

Home Made Foods

  • Babovka - A traditional cake, similar to marble cake, fairly dry, and usually served dusted with icing sugar. Known as Gugelhupf in Austria
  • Buchty - traditional buns filled with tvaroh (curd cheese), mak (poppy seeds), or povidla (plum jam)
  • Kolace - rather popular flat tarts topped with various sweet fillings like tvaroh, povidla, mak, fruit jams, chopped apples and nuts. Their size ranges from bite-sized to pizza-sized, which often contain several fillings combined into an elaborate pattern.

Vegetarian Food

Finding a vegetarian meal in the Czech Republic is not as difficult now as it once was. In tourist areas at least, such as Prague and the Bohemian Paradise, most restaurant menus contain a vegetarian meals category with two or three options. People may have their own interpretation of 'vegetarian' though, and it is not uncommon to find dishes such as broccoli bacon or prawns listed under "vegetarian meals". In traditional restaurants the choice in vegetarian food is usually limited to fried cheese , dumplings , omelets, potatoes and sometimes a Greek salad or cooked vegetables. Be advised that vegetables practically always have to be ordered separately, even if they appear to be part of the dish: e.g. the vegetables listed in a menu option called "potato pancakes with vegetables" are most likely a garniture consisting of a few leaves of lettuce and a slice of tomato. Bigger towns have foreign cuisine restaurants, mostly Italian and Chinese, which can serve you meat-free dishes such as vegetarian pasta.

Sweets

Czechs like sweets but consumer patterns are different compared to France, USA or the UK. As everywhere some traditional treats have become a mass-market production for tourists, others are pretty difficult to find.

On the street

  • Lazenske oplatky (spa wafers) - wafers from Marianske Lazne and Karlovy Vary are meant to be eaten while "taking the waters" at a spa, but they're good on their own, too. Other major spas are Karlova Studan, Frantiskovy Lazne, Janske Lazne, Karvina, and Luhacovice. You will find them most easily not only in spa resorts but also in Prague.
  • Trdlo or trdelník - available in dedicated sell-points in the streets of Prague. It is a Central European Medieval-style sweet roll made from eggs and flour.

In restaurants

  • • Jablkovy zavin (apple roll) or strudl (strudel), often served warm with whipped cream.
  • • Medovník - a newcomer having quickly spread in most restaurants. A brown high cake made of gingerbread, honey and walnuts.
  • • Ovocne knedlíky (fruit dumplings) - fruit-stuffed dumplings served either as main course or a filling dessert. The smaller ones come with plum, apple or apricot filling, the bigger ones come with strawberries, blueberries, povidla (plum jam) or other fruits. Knedlíky are served with melted butter, iced with curd and sugar, and topped with whipped cream.
  • • Palacinka - not much in common with French crepes, these pancakes are usually thicker and served with a wide choice of fillings including chocolate, ice-cream, fruit and whipped cream.

Beer Snacks

Also try traditional beer snacks, often the only food served in some pubs, and designed to be washed down by a good beer:

  • Utopenec - a pickled sausage with onion, garlic and other vegetables and spices.
  • Zavinac - a slice of pickled fish, most often herring or mackerel, rolled-up and filled with various pickled vegetables.
  • Tlacenka s cibulí - a slice of haggis-like meat pudding, sprinkled with vinegar and garnished with fresh onion slices. Beware, can be rather acidic due to vinegar.
  • Nakladany Hermelín - pickled Camembert-like cheese, often marinated with garlic and chilli.
  • Romadur - traditional cheese with strong aroma. Aroma is similar to tvaruzky but Romadur is a different type of cheese.
  • • Matesy s cibulí - cold fish served with onions.

If you want a warm, bigger, and more complicated meal which goes excellently with beer, get some of the typical Czech meals based on fatty meat with sauerkraut and knedlíky .Another excellent option is a whole pork knee with horseradish and bread.

Drinks

Beer

The Czech Republic is the country where modern beer was invented. Czechs are the heaviest beer drinkers in the world, drinking about 160 litres of it per capita per year. The best-known export brands are Pilsner Urquell , Budweiser Budvar and Staropramen . Other major brands which are popular domestically include Gambrinus, Kozel , Bernard ,Radegast, and Starobrn. Other fantastic beers worth tasting are Svijany and Dobranska Hvezda. Although many Czechs tend to be very selective about beer brands, tourists usually don't find a significant difference. And remember, real Czech beer is only served on tap – bottled beer is a completely different experience. High-quality beer can almost certainly be found in a hospoda or hostinec, very basic pubs which serve only beer and light snacks. Take a seat and order your drinks when the waiter comes to you - going to the bar to order your drinks is a British custom! But beware, the handling of the beer is even more important than its brand. A bad bartender can completely ruin even excellent beer. Best bet is to ask local beer connoiseurs about a good pub or just join them.

Wine

Wine is another popular drink, particularly wine from Moravia in the south-eastern part of the country where the climate is more suited to vineyards. White wines tend to be the best as the growing conditions are more favorable for them. For white wines, try Veltlínske zelene, Muskat moravsk, Ryzlink, rynsky or Tramin , or red wines such as Frankovka , Modry Portugal , or Svatovavřinecke. Also try ice wine made when the grapes are harvested after they have frozen on the vines, or straw wine , these wines are more expensive and are similar to dessert wines. Bohemia Sekt is also popular with Czechs, and is an inexpensive sweet, fizzy wine, similar to Lambrusco, and drunk at celebrations. The best places for wine are either a wine bar , or a wine shop which sometimes has a small bar area too.

Spirits

For spirits, try Becherovka, slivovice, hruskovice, and so on. Spirits are made out of almost every kind of fruit . Czech unique tuzemsky rum. Be careful as all are about 40% alcohol.

Non-alcoholic

For non-alcoholic drinks, mineral waters are popular, but tend to have a strong mineral taste. Try Mattoni, or Magnesia, both of which taste like normal water and still claim to be good for your health. If you want it non-carbonated, ask for neperliva. Kofola, a coke-like drink is also very popular, and some Czechs say it is the best thing the communists gave them. Many restaurants don't make any difference between "sparkling water" and "sparkling mineral water". Drink is marked on a small slip of paper which is kept on the table in front of you, so you can keep count of what you have had. When you are ready to leave, ask the waiter for the bill – he or she will calculate the bill according to the number of marks on the paper.

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