Random trends from the Prague food scene
Looking for something a bit different for you next dinner party or other special occasion? Why not invite a chef to your home to prepare a special Argentinean meal? Nestar is an Argentinean company, operating in Prague as an importer and distributor of Argentinean wine, beef and other Latin American food. The “chef in your home” concept is a new part of Nestar’s business. They had catered a party for a client, and the guests were so impressed with the food and wine they wanted to learn how to do it themselves. And the response has been good.
“The clients like it a lot,” says Gabriel Ruberto, owner of Nestar. “We are sharing with them our little secrets on how best to prepare Latin dishes and they are having fun with their spouse or friends at the same time.”
A typical Nestar menu is heavy on the meat. “Argentineans have the highest rate of beef consumption because we have the best beef in the world,” boasts Ruberto. The menu may begin with an empanadas appetizer, followed by a light carrot or pumpkin soup. The main course could be Bife de Chorizo, a beef steak served with chimi-curi sauce and to finish it off, flan or a pancake with dulce de leche. And don’t forget the wine.
“The menu has to be served with a glass of excellent Argentinean wine,” insists Ruberto. “Maybe a Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon.”
People choose Nestar’s services for a variety of reasons. “Some people want to learn to cook new dishes,” says Ruberto. “Some people, when they are organizing a dinner party, want to hire a chef to prepare the meal in their home.”
It’s an excellent idea for a dinner party, whether you and your guests help the chef or leave the cooking to him. “We can also arrange for Latin American musicians to play in your home,” adds Ruberto.
Prices are based on a minimum fixed price and then per hour, as well as dependent on the number of people. Ruberto quotes French chef Brillant Savarin as the ultimate reason for indulging your palate: “The pleasure of the table belongs to all ages, to all conditions, to all countries, to all days.”
How’s your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier and lose weight coming along? In the land of smazny syr, knedlik and goulash, finding a fresh veggie, much less something low in fat or carbs is nigh high impossible. Marriott’s Brasserie Praha and Executive Chef ZdenEk Pohlreich are doing something common in the U.S. and elsewhere, but quite rare here. They are targeting certain “diets” and offering items on the menu for people looking for low-carb, low-fat, low-cholesterol or low-salt meals.
“Aspects of healthy eating are well-known,” says Pohlreich. “People know what they shouldn’t eat. We are trying to make it possible for people to have choices.”
Looking for low-carb? How about Carpaccio of beef with olive oil and Parmesan cheese? The Brasserie’s menu also offers a wild salmon with spinach and mashed potatoes for those looking to cut the fat, while people watching their cholesterol can feast on fillet of John Dory and grilled zucchini.
“Healthy food means balance,” believes Pohlreich. “A little bit of butter, a little bit of animal fat. And it needs to be in the right proportion.”
Besides healthy cooking methods, the Brasserie also emphasizes portion size.
“Many restaurants in Prague think a bigger portion is better for their clients, that portion size is more important than quality ingredients,” says Pohlreich. “We believe in human-sized dishes and that the quality of the basic ingredients is more important than size.”
The Brasserie has a variety of ways they are making their menu healthy. “We try to replace butter whenever possible, try to use bio products, use sea salt, use young animals because they have a lower fat content,” says Pohlreich. “You need to know what to look for in certain times of the year and put it on the plate.”
The response seems to be positive. “Customers are very appreciative, especially those with cholesterol problems,” says Pohlreich. “People like not having heavy, fatty meals.”
The menu usually has five or six “low” items, and they are marked so savvy diners know what to look for.
But is this a trend we can hope will spread? “This is a common concept, some hotels and restaurants are aware of these things,” believes Pohlreich. “But the questions mark is will people pay for food that is lighter and of a smaller portion size, but made from quality ingredients?”
Pohlreich thinks it’s also dependent on the quality of the restaurant. “You can cook many dishes with the same ingredients,” he says. “So it doesn’t hurt to have vegetarian or lighter items, if you are creative.”
And maybe that’s what it all comes down to. “If you cook it right, all food is good,” says Pohlreich. “The guy behind the stove needs to know what he is doing.”