Foodie is slang for a person very interested in food, especially in eating or cooking. Whether making it a personal passion or occasional delight - definitely embrace being a foodie when traveling.
The tour guides of Taste of Prague, Jan Valenta and Zuzi Dankova, say it best with their advice, “Arrive hungry! You look skinny, and should eat more.” They agreed to spill some delicious details for the foodies of Western Fraternal Life.
What tips do you have for new foodies? Are there ways to train yourself to be more open to new experiences?
You just have to be open-minded and try new things. And just have trust in the locals. If there is one thing that we’ve learnt doing our food tours and meeting people from all over the world is that, despite the differences, we are pretty much all the same. You have to trust that when you see a place full of locals, you can do what they are doing, because it must be something good and true. Or at least try to. I think people are more appreciative of visitors who genuinely make an effort to try a local experience. Sure, you can make friends with your countrymen in the hotel lobby, chatting about politics back at home, but we think you build memories by doing things with the locals, and eating with them too.
Zuzi Dankova (center) hosting a food tour. Photos are courtesy of Taste of Prague.
What dishes do you think United States Americans are pleasantly surprised with if they try it? Why?
One of the biggest surprises must be steak tartare. It has a bad reputation in the US, but it is a staple of Czech cuisine. It’s made of meat that is controlled and certified every step of the way, and it’s incredibly delicious. We’ve had numerous converts on the tour.
I also think people are surprised by how good the fresh Pilsner we drink is (and how different it is from the Pilsner that is imported in the US) and that we make very nice wines.
It (steak tartare) has a bad reputation in the US, but it a staple of Czech cuisine..We've had numerous converts on the tour.
What is gained from a food tour to help connect Americans to their Czech heritage?
We’ve had many US citizens of Czech heritage on the tour that began to understand many things their grandparents did only when they joined the tour. Something that you may have always found strange in the context of the US can make perfect sense in the Czech Republic. I think that there is no better channel for communication with our grandparents than through food.
How do you recommend your guests enjoy alcohol while on vacation in Prague to best get a taste for it like the locals?
Czechs do have a slight tendency not to include beer among alcoholic drinks. It is quite common to have a beer for lunch and then go back to your office job.
Still, the proper time to drink beer is after work, at a pub. Czech pubs differ from American bars in that they are based on socializing with others. For instance, there’s usually no TVs in Czech pubs. We go to a pub to drink beer and talk to others. And Czechs have a thirst for beer: the bartenders at the very popular local pubs told us that Czechs have, on average, nine beers (one beer is about 16 oz) per person, per night.
Jan Valenta (left, scarf) and Zuzi Dankova (right) enjoy some food conversation.
Can you offer us a tip that you haven't mentioned on your website?
If you find a restaurant online you like, check whether it is listed on scuk.cz. It’s a Czech directory of restaurants and cafes, but only the good ones. Usually if the restaurant is listed, you can rely on it. If the restaurants or coffee shop get a few bad reviews, the algorithm takes them off the site.
Other than enjoying the local food, what else can a tourist do to embrace the culture and have a unique, culturally-rich experience in Prague?
I think seeing a movie with the locals is a good idea. A movie theatre is a very familiar environment, and that only amplifies the differences. Go see a comedy. Are the locals laughing at the same jokes as you? Are they eating the same things? (And don’t worry, most American movies are shown with the original audio and subtitled.)
Another idea not many people know is that Czechs have high school proms between January and March, and unlike in the US, they are open to the public. So, just crash a prom. It is the most fun and the truest thing you can do in Prague during the prom season. Also, Czech proms are different: we don’t go to a prom with a date but with our parents, and it’s about ballroom dancing. So just dance away!
If it's outside of Prague, do you have a tip for finding the best places to eat for travelers?
Finding great places outside of Prague is a bit tougher. If you’re in an area exposed to tourism, we would skip places that try hard to advertise themselves as “Traditional Czech.” They are usually anything but.
We would also skip the plethora of pizzerias and Italian places so abundant around the Czech Republic - we believe you can get better Italian food at home.
Instead, go to a pub and order goulash or schnitzel. These are hard to mess up.
What is Taste of Prague?
Taste of Prague is a group of five locals sharing their love of the great food in Prague. Their small-group food tours are a popular staple of what they offer. On the website, you may purchase the second edition of their Foodie Map, schedule a food tour, or check out their blog. Check it out at www.TasteofPrague.com.
Call 877-935-2467 to speak with a Western Fraternal Life Representative.