Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Food Chronicles | 10 Things to Eat & Drink in Prague




I must confess that I didn't knew much about the Bohemian cuisine previous to my visit to Prague, so I went to the city without any preconceptions or specific goals (apart from all the stunning Trdelnick with ice cream that invaded Instagram!). After 6 days of careful study and field research, I'm sharing with you some of the foods and drinks you should give a go when visiting Prague.


ROASTED DUCK




Roasted Duck is a staple of Czech cuisine, and an indispensable part of many Sunday lunches eaten in the family circle.  I love duck and on our visit to Plzenska Restaurant, ordered the Classic Czech Golden Roasted Duck.  The duck confit was scrumptious, juicy and tender and paired perfectly with sauerkraut and bread dumplings that accompanied it. Being a traditional recipe, duck can be found on the menu of many restaurants, you can combine it with fresh Pilsner, balancing the rich, sweet and tangy notes of the plate with the bitter  flavor of the beer.



ROASTED PORK KNUCKLE





The  Pork knuckle from Pork's was our first meal in Prague, and what a meal it was! Golden, crispy outside, melting inside, paired with mustard, horseradish, sauerkraut and chips, it was enough for two and absolutely delicious. For drink we choose dark lager (Kozel Černý) and it tasted like a match made in haven.


BOHEMIAN BEER




Beer brewing in Bohemia dates back to the 1200s, from the city of Pilsen. Czech Republic presents a world-leading annual per capita consumption rate of 160 liters of beer, so you can bet that its not difficult to find a place to have some of the national favorite drink. In Prague, most of the places seem to have mostly the same brands (more commercially known, but very nice nevertheless), but if you are a  connoisseur, you may want to look for more traditional or artisanal breweries.


GOULASH





Goulash is not strictly a Czech recipe, being a staple dish shared all across the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Czech version is kind of a thicker stew, including meat, potatoes and other vegetables, many times served with dumplings and present in many restaurant menus. In a number of places it was served inside a bread what results in quite an appealing idea (a little touristy, though). Spiced and served hot, this rich soup is perfect for colder days and can be a full meal by itself. With a fresh Pilsner, you get the perfect pairing.



SVICKOVA




Svickova, is a classic Czech dish made for weddings or Sunday family lunches and present in numerous restaurant menus. The roasted sliced beef  is surrounded with a creamy vegetable sauce,  and it is served with bread dumplings. Although it may look plain, the meet is tender and the combination of all the flavors is comforting. Had it with beer, but I'm sure it goes well with a nice red wine.



DUPLINGS




Originally was served as a main dish, filled with meat and vegetables. Today, Knedlíky are a staple food of Czech cuisine and are served on the side of many traditional dishes. The Czech dumplings are boiled (not baked) and then sliced. The soft pieces of dumpling are typically used to soak up meat and vegetables sauces and can be found in most restaurants. We loved them!




MORAVIA  WINE




Wine in the Czech Republic is produced mainly in southern Moravia region. Although production centers on local grape varieties, there has been an increase in the production of established international strains such as Cabernet Sauvignon. We had a J. Stavek rosé wine and it did not disappointed us.  In the aroma of this fruity wine we could smell red fruits notes (red currants, raspberry, strawberry and cherries). The taste was fresh, with some  acidity, and with a reminiscent flavor of cherry.



BEEF STEAK TARTARE




Steak tartare is a Czech classic you should not leave Prague without tasting. It’s raw beef that is cut, scraped or minced and served with condiments and either an egg on top, or already mixed. If you wonder how to eat it, with toasted bread and a clove of garlic is the simple answer. The raw meat comes with  a number of spices and sauces and goes perfectly with  beer.


TRDELNICK




Just walk around in Prague and you can find a large number of people eating a characteristic kind of cones (usually with ice cream). It's trdelnick or trdlo. This kind of cake is made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix. These days, the cones get more fancy and are filed with ice cream and toped with all sorts of colored mixtures. My favorite part was actually the crispy caramelized dough, that must be delicious warm with hot coffee in a cold winter day.



PATISSERIE




The patisseries, cafés and tea rooms in Prague owe nothing to the ones in Vienna and you can find there some the most beautiful and mouthwatering cakes, and certainly, much more than you  should dare to eat. I couldn't resist this black forest cake from Kavárna Café, at Obecní dům (Municipal House). Fresh flavors of the red fruits contrast perfectly the chocolate and cream combination. Heaven!








Thursday, 6 June 2019

Chronicles from Lisbon | Jacaranda Season






Spring is perhaps the best time of the year for you to visit Lisbon. The weather is good, with sunny and warm days, but usually far from the burning hot temperatures of Summer, the streets are less crowded (or used to be!), the prices are more friendly, and, if you get here from May to June, you'll be privileged to enjoy the Jacaranda trees blooming season, with some areas of the city covered in purple. Lisbon is home to more than 2,000 jacaranda trees and would be impossible to map every single one. Nevertheless, in this post, I'll lead you to some of my favorite spots for this Jacaranda crush, and if any of you readers can give me some tips, I'll be more than thankful!



A Primavera é talvez a melhor época do ano para se visitar Lisboa. O tempo está ameno, com dias de sol mas, geralmente, longe das altas temperaturas escaldantes do Verão, as ruas estão menos cheias de transeuntes e turistas (ou costumavam estar!), os preços são mais comedidos e, se chegar aqui entre Maio a Junho, terá o privilégio de aproveitar a temporada de floração dos jacarandás, com algumas áreas da cidade sob um manto púrpura. Lisboa tem, nas suas ruas e jardins, mais de 2.000 jacarandás e seria impossível mapear cada um deles. No entanto, neste artigo, vou levar-vos para alguns dos meus lugares favoritos, e se algum dos leitores puder dar sugestões sobre outros locais a acrescentar no meu mapa, eu ficarei mais do que grata!



LARGO DO CORREIO MOR




One of my recently discovered hot spots is Largo do Correio Mor. In front of the palace that once was the headquarters for the post services of Lisbon, one can find a small square with a fountain and Jacaranda trees. The floor is covered with purple flowers that keep falling from the trees above and resting for a while on one of the benches is a treat for the senses.



Um dos Jacarandá hot spots recentemente descobertos é o Largo do Correio Mor. Em frente ao palácio que outrora foi a sede dos correios de Lisboa, encontra-se um pequeno largo com uma fonte e árvores de jacarandá. O chão está coberto com flores lilases que caem continuamente das árvores. Vão até lá e aproveitem para descansar um pouco num dos bancos. É um deleite para os sentidos!







LARGO DO CARMO




Another special place for Jacaranda lovers is Largo do Carmo. This square, loaded with historical significance for Portugal is a must visit in Lisbon and if you came to the city in the Spring, the bonus of a purple canopy while enjoying a drink or a meal in one of the terraces is something that you won't forget. As you are there, go to Elevador de Santa Justa, and from its terrace, take a look at Rossio Square, also lined with these lovely trees.



Outro lugar especial para os amantes dos jacarandás é o Largo do Carmo. Esta praça, carregada de significado histórico para Portugal, é uma visita obrigatória em Lisboa e se chegou à cidade na Primavera, terá de bónus de um dossel roxo enquanto desfruta de uma bebida ou uma refeição num dos terraços. Já que está aí, vá até ao Elevador de Santa Justa, e do seu terraço, aviste a Praça do Rossio, também ela rodeada destas árvores encantadoras. É para lá que iremos a seguir.





ROSSIO




Rossio, once a Roman hippodrome, is a landmark in the city and a focal point of Downtown Lisbon. In the Spring, the purple flowers on the trees lining the square contrast with the black and white patterns of the traditional cobblestone pavements.



O Rossio, outrora um hipódromo romano, é um marco na cidade e um ponto central da Baixa de Lisboa. Na Primavera, as flores roxas nas árvores que cercam a praça contrastam com os padrões a preto e branco da calçada portuguesa.





PARQUE EDUARDO VII




Parque Eduardo VII is not only granting a superb view of the city but is also the house of a large number of Jacaranda trees that in the springtime add to its beauty. Walking along the purple lanes or looking at it from higher grounds can be a truly relaxing experience.



O Parque Eduardo VII não garante apenas uma vista soberba da cidade, mas abriga também um grande número de jacarandás que, na primavera, aumentam sua beleza. Caminhar ao longo das áleas lilases ou olhar o panorama do parque a partir de um ponto mais elevado pode ser uma experiência verdadeiramente relaxante.





These photos were taken from the rooftop terrace of the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, and if you're looking for a place to stay that grants your a total immersion in the purple season, this is it. Not only you can enjoy this stunning view from your room, but the Ritz also provides its guests with some lilac experiences.



Estas fotos foram tiradas do terraço do Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, e se procura um lugar para ficar que lhe dê uma total imersão na temporada lilás de Lisboa, este é o local. Não só pode desfrutar desta vista deslumbrante do seu quarto, mas o Ritz também oferece aos seus hóspedes algumas experiências sob o tema das flores de jacarandá.





The fragrant flowers have served as inspiration for the Hotel’s new Jacaranda Afternoon Tea, which features an artistic array of sweet delicacies created by Executive Pastry Chef Fabian Nguyen. The floral presentation of the Jacaranda Afternoon Tea is a feast for the eyes. There are of course the traditional freshly-baked scones served with the Nguyen’s home-made raspberry jam and zesty lime mascarpone, and also mouthwatering cassis tartelettes, raspberry choux, bite-sized blueberry gâteaux, tiny lilac macarons, mini lilac glazed éclairs infused with the lightest vanilla mousseline, and even edible chocolate branches.



As flores perfumadas serviram de inspiração para o novo Jacaranda Afternoon Tea do hotel, que apresenta uma variedade artística de iguarias doces criadas pelo chef executivo de pastelaria Fabian Nguyen. A apresentação floral do chá da tarde Jacaranda é uma festa para os olhos. Inclui, é claro, os tradicionais scones, acabados de fazer, servidos com a geléia de framboesa caseira e mascarpone de limão picante, além de tartelettes de cassis (de dar água na boca!), choux de framboesa, pequenos gâteaux de blueberry, minúsculos macarons lilás, éclairs recheados com mousseline de baunilha, e até ramos de chocolate comestíveis.




Just across from the Ritz Bar, jacaranda blossoms create a unique purple canopy all along Rua Castilho and Parque Eduardo VII. There you can sit back and enjoy the chromatic spectacle with an 18 3838 cocktail in hand. The name of this floral-themed drink refers to Pantone’s 2018 colour of the year, Ultra Violet - the dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade, as enigmatic as its gin cocktail counterpart, filled with blackberries and blueberries to give it its unique hue and topped with crystalised violets.



Em frente ao Ritz Bar, as flores de jacarandá criam um dossel roxo ao longo da Rua Castilho e do Parque Eduardo VII. Sente-se no bar e aprecie o espetáculo cromático com um coquetel 18 3838 na mão. O nome dessa bebida, com tema floral, refere-se à cor do ano de 2018 da Pantone, a Ultra Violet, a tonalidade roxa dramática e provocativa, e tão enigmática quanto este cocktail de gin, preparado com amoras e mirtilos para conseguir a sua cor única. A completar, violetas cristalizadas. Lindo!




At the Ritz Spa, jacaranda season has inspired a brand new relaxing, floral-scented full body massage that uses Lisbon’s Benamôr enriched butter, the Jacaranda in Bloom. Clients will also be able to enrich their spa treatments with a silky jacaranda-infused hand mask.



No Ritz Spa, a temporada dos jacarandás inspirou ainda uma nova massagem de corpo inteiro - Jacaranda in Bloom - com o aroma floral e relaxante da Jacarandá Manteiga Suprema Corporal da Benamôr. Os clientes também poderão incluir nos seus tratamentos de spa uma máscara de mãos com infusão de jacarandá da mesma marca.








Benamôr was founded in 1925 in Lisbon by a pharmacist who created miraculous ointments. His handmade beauty recipes were based on natural ingredients and packaged in wonderful art deco tubes. If you're looking for something to take home or for a gift for family or friends, one of the Benamôr products will remind you of Lisbon and of the lovely days under the Jacaranda trees.




A Benamôr foi fundada em 1925, em Lisboa, por um farmacêutico que criou pomadas milagrosas procuradas por todas as senhoras. As suas receitas de beleza feitas à mão foram baseadas em ingredientes naturais e embaladas em bonitas bisnagas art déco. Se procura algo para levar para casa ou para presentear a família ou os amigos, um dos produtos Benamôr irá recordar Lisboa e os adoráveis dias passados debaixo das árvores de jacarandá.













Wednesday, 29 May 2019

My 5 Must Go Places in Prague




Prague is undoubtedly an architectural gem and it only takes a look to the city's skyline to feast your eyes in an endless number of dark towers, domed churches and clustered spires. In fact, Prague is dubbed the "city of a thousand spires" for an obvious reason, and the rich and well preserved architectonical examples of Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, and Art Nouveau buildings scattered throughout the city make of it a true open door museum.

That said, getting to this short list of 5 places to visit in Prague was no easy task and only the decision of writing a more complete city guide in the future give me some peace of mind. If you only have a weekend, walk around and catch awesome city views from both sides of the Vltava and try not to miss the next 5 spots.


1. ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK AND OLD TOWN SQUARE





The Old Town (Staré Mesto) is the historic center of Prague, and there you'll find the impressive Old Town Square (Staromestské námestí). As it was close to our hotel, it became sort of ground zero for our daily itineraries. There, you'll find the Church of Our Lady before Týn (in the photo bellow), along with numerous other gorgeous old churches, and superb architecture from different eras.

One of the major attractions in the square is the Old Town Hall (Staromestská radnice), where you can find the spectacular early 15th-century Astronomical Clock (Orloj). If you want to enjoy it calmly its better to pass by in the early hours, as its usual to be surrounded by an expectant crowd, specially when we're close to the hour, to see the 12 Apostles and other figures appear in procession across the clock face. 








2. CHARLES BRIDGE





You can't go to Prague without crossing (several times!) the iconic Charles Bridge (Karluv Most). Built in 1357, the bridge is particularly famous for 32 statues aligned along its over 600 meters of span, being the one of the revered Saint John of Nepomuk the most recognizable. 

To have a more clear view of the bridge and all of these fine statues. its better to be there early in the morning, as it gets quite crowded (subway rush hour crowded, if you get what I mean!). The views from the bridge, over the Vltava river are not to miss and if you have the opportunity, get to the top of the Gothic gates that oversee the bridge from both ends.







3. PRAGUE CASTLE





Located in Hradcany neighborhood, the complex of Prague Castle (Pražský hrad), is one of the city's most visited tourist attractions. Once a walled fortress, the castle has evolved over the centuries and boasts examples of the most leading architectural styles of the last millennium. Within the castle walls you can find St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George's Basilica, the Powder Tower, the Old Royal Palace, and the Golden Lane.

You need no less than half a day to visit all well deserving attractions and must consider that in some cases there will be lines for the entrance. The castle stands on the top of a hill and the views of the city and the river are breathtaking. If you don't have enough time to visit all the monuments, I would urge you not to miss St. Vitus Cathedral.







4. WENCESLAS SQUARE






At the centre of Prague's New Town (Nové Mesto) is the imposing Wenceslas Square (Václavské námestí). Standing in the higher grounds of the enormous rectangular square is the National Museum (unfortunately, didn't have the time to visit it) and along the large avenue you can find numerous other architectural treasures. 

Shoppings, restaurants and hotels can be found in both sides of the street and if you appreciate modernist architecture you will find many examples of the early 20th century buildings there. The square was named after the patron saint of Bohemia, whose statue can be seen in the higher end of the square. If you want to see a different version of the equestrian statue of king Wenceslas, just head to the Lucerna Palace to check the sculpture of the patron riding an upside down horse (photo bellow).







5. MUNICIPAL HOUSE






The Prague Municipal House (Obecní dum) is perhaps one of the finest examples of Art Nouveau in the city. Built in 1912, this splendid building houses one of Prague's most important concert venues, the Smetana Hall, and boasts numerous striking architectural features. Its also an historical landmark as it was from its balcony that the independence of Czechoslovakia was officially proclaimed on October 1918.

The interiors are even more impressive, including many fine stained glass windows, important paintings (one of the rooms decorated by Alfons Mucha). You can visit the interior in a guided tour or opt for a concert, or a meal in one of its restaurants.















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