Just got back from Southern Moravia and am in the process of putting everyhing together in my head and on the net, but the one of the many standouts was this place in Albeř. Ok, Albeř is a really small town next to Nova Bystřice, just a 3 kilometer ride from the town square.
U Pelzu is husband-wife affair with a small staff, a large secondary room/salon, a small gallery and musical & cultural events taking place a couple of times per week. It is a real treat to come to this place and sit down after a day of riding and eating your typical Czech fare. The cook is constantly making things from scratch, true home-cooking, no additives or ingredients from a packet, bag or can. It’s all fresh. Menu items are dependant upon what is bought or found fresh; for example, while we were sitting down having a beer and talking, the husband said he had to leave to go forage for mushrooms (chanterelles) which then appeared in the next day’s soup. My son suddenly started drinking hot-chocolate every time we popped in because it was so obviously crafted and carefully made.
Care has been taken to keep the place from becoming commercialized, so you will see no advertisements for any comanies on the tables, windows etc. except for the occasional Svijany mug. If you are familiar with the Slavonice Gallery and workshop then you might get a sense of what this place is about. No two tables or soup bowls are alike. Everything is unique and original, colorful and clean.
The above photos show the apricot-blueberry-plum dumplings; the Rumador potatoe pancake; one of the soups; the main room; the outside garden; a beer in which the foam formed a heart shape and just one example of the wall-art.
Just submitted my Guide to Everytrail for review. If accepted that means I’ll continue with more on cycling Czech Canada and then the wine-producing areas & border region around Znojmo in southern Moravia. If it doesn’t work out, then we need to start looking at others for ways to publish handy, portable travel info. for cyclists. Motion X doesn’t fit my idea of a neat, clean way to share my bike trips, it looks great for workouts and personal training but little else. Maybe I need to give it another try, dunno.
Update: Part 1 has been approved.
Dealing with pork fat yet again (see here).
Trying to combine about 4 recipes from both Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn’s book “Charcuterie” to make some Patés and Terrines. I’ve never cooked meat in this manner before (slow cooking in a container of water as opposed to baking) so it’s going to be a bit of a challenge but I’m always willing to try something new. Why am I doing this? I have the ingredients already and I want to make something that we can eat over the course of a week, and this should last just fine in the refrigerator for at least a week. These are some of the concerns you face when you have a family to feed.
Step one, hammer out some back fat to line the loaf pan/”terrine”. How exactly am I to get “thin slices” of this as I’ve been instructed?
Keep it in the fridge. That’s the first thing. But how to cut it? A sharp knife seems to be the best technique, and then pound out the pieces between wax paper, lining them up next to each other, sort of overlapping the sides and joining them together if necessary. They’re easier to cut when the fat is cold, but easier to pound when warmed to room temperature. But it’s back in the fridge to chill again until it’s ready to be used. Again, I’m winging it here. One book says to line your pans with thin slices of lard, another says to use plastic wrap. I go with fat back.
Still have a lot of grinding to do. Recommended fat to meat ratio is 30%. Ground meat is in the fridge, staying cold. Time to prep the pistachios, liver, the panade (in this case: flour, wine, 2 eggs & cream) and fat and mix carefully.
So now I can lay it all out in the pan. Some of the mixture first on the bottom of the “terrine”, then line up a small piece of pork tenderloin and continue with more of the ground mixture on top. In the end this should give us a nice pice of meat in the middle, gently scattered with bits of liver and pistachios which is a nice contrast not only in texture but also visually.
Since I’ve used fat as the pan lining, I thought it would ok to continue in this vein…
Now cook, partly submerged in warm water. Once again the cooking times and temperatures varied between books so I guessed my way through it. I think it was about an hour (maybe a bit more) at 300F/150C. Then this comes out:
I’d already cut a piece of wood I found in the closet and wrapped it in plastic and foil. You can just see it in back. I’ll place it on top and weight it down and let it sit in the fridge until tomorrow. This will hopefully get rid of any air pockets that might be lurking in the meat.
And whammo, one day later:
What it lacks in appearance (definitely homemade and you can see that it’s not perfectly squared off around the edges due to some of the slices of fat pressing in from the side) it more than makes up for in taste and texture, though I think that next time I will leave out the livers, it was overkill. Now if only it were easier to find real Dijon mustard in Prague.
Though the fat has come from a local butcher, all of the meat that will go into it will be from a sustainable, bio/eco etc “grass-farmer” just outside of Prague called Bohemiae Rosa. Good guy, great tours and wonderful food.
Took a trip to the reletively new Bohemiae Rosa farm out in Votice/Otradovice yesterday. I had met the owner once or twice before through a friend who is staying with him at the moment and yesterday was our chance to actually meet him out on the farm and get a tour of the place as it is now (in winter of 2011) and also look forward to the next several years of planned production and improvments. There is a lot going on out there.
I’d already ordered a goose from Mr. Booij for Christmas. Needless to say it was fantastic, and knowing that it had never been given any hormones, wasn’t on any drugs or being regularly vaccinated and ate what it wanted out in the field during the course of its life made it even better.
The farm has a lot of space for the animals to run around and he’s looking to buy even more. There are several ponds for a variety of fish and if you like you can go out and catch your own. Currently, he only slaughters small poultry and all of the larger livestock goes out to a slaughterhouse nearby but in approximatly the next year he should have his own, which will improve things on several levels because the Czech Republic, like many other countries, does not favor the small farmer and it’s current regulations discourage and discriminate against the small farmer.
For example, apparently Czech law says you can only kill a maximum of 10 chickens a week if they are for sale to the public; or, that all livestock should be packaged at the site of slaughter at the slaughterhouse. But some slaughterhouses don’t package, so what’s a farmer to do? So obviously some of this is rather rediculous to anyone trying to make a living as a farmer or trying to improve the food supply by offering up a healthy alternative to the “factory farm” and the mass production of foodstuffs we all know to be unhealthy (but cheap!)
The farm also has a couple of stores where you can buy fruit and veg, wine, honey and other items they produce there. You can also buy on-line all year round.
They also have accomodations, and even accomodation for students who would like to volunteer and/or work there. For example, there is one apartment with bath and kitchen which is big enough to house 10 students comfortably. The idea is that the students who wish to studey or volunteer there work 5 hours a day, get free accomodation and food which is raised/grown on the farm and they cook for themselves while they learn the routines, troubles and techniques of what it takes to produce all of that food.
It was cold and dark and snowy yesterday so I didn’t take any pictures. My wife took some on her iPhone, two of which I’ll post at the bottom. Also, most of the animals were inside due to the cold and there was a lot of construction going on to expand the size of the pens for the pigs and sheep and cattle so photographing something that was temporary seemed silly.
And big daddy here is the stud who sires all of the swine: I’m not certain what kind of pig he is exactly but he is a hybrid, if I heard correctly. He has some of the coloring and hair length of a Czech Improved White, but the black coloring and ears are something other. Dunno.
Here’s the farm location:
Well, for christmas (we celebrated late this year), Gramps gave us this pheasant that he himself shot. It’s been outside in this miserable cold for just over a week now aging and tenderising so it looks like this weekend it’s up to me to gut and clean and figure out how I want to cook it.
Any suggestions are welcome by the way, though this one has some nice advice.