Food and Drink



I will try to cook differently in our kitchen. My cooking is historically recreated urban and some village Russian with French, Austrian, Italian and to a degree Europeanized-American influences. If you go out in Mikulov, you'd encounter two or three types of restaurant food. With time I will make a regional cooking guide.

In our tavern we also serve traditional Moravian or Czech pub fare - roast knuckle of pork (Schweinshaxe, Jambonneau), duck's leg with sauerkraut and flour dumpling or river trout pan-fried in butter.

That's about us or what we are or plan to do and do be but let me say a few words about regional food.

My story consists of four minor sections here: Moravian and Czech cooking, Czech restaurant cooking, Austrian Gasthaus fare, food at Heurige(r) and the multitude of cuisines of Vienna, as well as what's for dinner in Mikulov. Perhaps in not such an exact order. As usual my reviews incorporate a rant or two.

I. The Food

The Czech Side

i. The top: Czech food of inspirational quality in Southern Moravia.

ii. Czech and Moravian Cooking: any differences?

iii. Czech and Moravian Cooking: The Plain Stuff

iv. Czech Restaurant Food - Generic but Good, the Food of New Europe

Austria, Lower Austria

vi.Austrian Gasthaus Fare

vii. the Heurige(r)

viii. Cuisines of Vienna

Very local

ix What's up for dinner in Mikulov

The Drink

x. Wine

xi.Beer

xii. Liquor, the hard stuff

xiiiTea and coffee

xiv The rest

xv. Conclusion

The very top on the Czech or Moravian side of the border. Let me say first that the region immediately adjacent to Mikulov has top quality restaurant which combine genuinely friendly service, warm atmosphere, and absolutely first rate cooking. The Cafe Fara for example, in Klentice, a village (Klentnitz) comes to mind. It features all hallmarks of what I consider excellent cooking or perhaps ideal restaurant cooking.

Here is the bare minimum to be in the top.

1 - a cooking tradition, here Czech (both Bohemian and Moravian), French transformed in what is called international or Continental cuisine of the first rate. By Continental cuisine I don't mean what CIA-operated Wikipedia says (that is nonsense, usually ideologically motivated) but French and Italian menu nationally modified for restaurant table in the countries of Continental Europe, including Russia but excluding England and of course America. A cooking tradition is important because food is identifieable even it belongs to several schools of culinary thought and cultures, and is not a jamboree of bits and ends or pseudo-invention of ignorant people. As an sure sign of the opposite or of what I will consider is going to be bad restaurant cooking - longish invented names for dishes, (frozen) ravioli sold as John F Kennedy (or pick any US president name) ravioli sold in a US themed restaurant say in Warsaw or Kiev.

2 - taste - the dishes are delicious

3 - local ingredients and food in season. The ideal is all food should be grown or obtained within 150km radius of the restaurant location. As an example, the local Cafe Fara would only sell dishes made with organic local meat (lamb) or fish from within 25 km location and vegetables that restaurant grows on its own organically. A mixed salad will only be available on the menu when they physically have it grown. No Frankstein foods. Fresh, local food tastes differently. It tastes better.

4 - the menu is reasonably small. If you enter a restaurant that could seat say 20 customers and there is a lonely waitress who is picking her nose, whom visitors bring back to earth from her slumber and she fetches the menu sized like a volume of Yellow Pages from a major Metropolitan area, then rest assured something is wrong. No way a restaurant, I don't care if it is Chinese or Arabic or German can carry more than say four items on the menu that are freshly cooked. A small, especially an empty restaurant, with a longish menu would likely have all the stuff frozen. The fabulous microwave cuisine.

5 - size of dishes - the food portions served are generous.

6 - availability of water in large bottles or plain clean spring water is served free, napkins are of restaurant size and not cut, no one tries to fleece customers on small items like mustard which is served alongside without extra charge.

7 - with a disclaimer - from the standpoint of a visitor, unless the restaurant is specically foreign and exotic, the food must culturally be local, i.e. preferrably French in Paris, I see no point in me traveling to Paris to try Turkish or Austrian cuisine because Turkey or Austria themselves are far better qualified.

Now, the population of Mikulov is 7000 plus say there is say 1000 odd people living in and around Klentice. It has several restaurants that meet all 1 through 6 criteria of being reasonably good, and pass the exam proudly and with flying colors. I cannot think of a single restaurant in today's Russia and the Baltics, well perhaps I can't speak for entire Russia, but I can for St. Petersburg, Leningrad region, Pskov, Novgorod, entire Estonia and entire Latvia with their respective capitals and Moscow, the capital of the Russian Federation, a continuous stretch of landmass and a population of ... oh let me count... roughly 25 or 26 million souls or rather individuals (as I suspect with this being the former Soviet Union quite a few of them lack souls, like the KGB folks and the apparatchiks in the Russian Federation, the ethno-Nazis in the Baltics), so I cannot name one restaurant in the northwest of Russia, Moscow and Baltics that would meet these criteria. This is quite astonishing. Not a single one. But here in the Czech Republic you can have a few in what to amounts to a rural area hundreds of kilometers away from the capital of Prague.

To tell you honestly in entire Russia (and the Baltics) that I know the majority, probably 90% of restaurants, taverns, fast food joints, those who pretend to be in the slow food trade, do not meet even a single criteria out of those 7 I listed.

Although the cuisine or cooking in this category is plain top, I mean it, the stuff is good and is cooked and served with intend to gain a returning loyal customer, the prices are moderate. The local price range for the top range "gastronomie" style experience runs in the range of 3 to 4 euros for soup unde generally under 10 euros (6 to 8) for the main course (or what pretentious Americans pretentiously and wrongly call the entrée), the actual entrées are also in the 2 to 4 euros range. Naturally all prices are Czech crowns (koruna, with the going plus/minus exchange rate of about 25 korunas to a euro).

Czech and Moravian Cooking

Moravian Cooking. I assume that Moravian cooking used to be somewhat different from Czech - since both countries or lands were in two different states under one (Austrian) empire and differ geographically (almost all Czech rivers flow via Moldau or Vltava to the North Sea, a few flow to the Baltic though whilst Moravian rivers flow via the Danube in opposite direction to the Black Sea) or what, alcohol-wise, people drink - that affects or used to affect the way people cook big time. Czechs are world famous for guzzling (excellent) beer whilst Moravians or Moravans are more (white) wine oriented. But through the years of first Czechoslovakia and perhaps then the last two decades of the Czech Republic, the Czechoslovakia's heir (I don't quite think Slovakia and its inhabitats feel themselves as Czechoslovak heirs, even the appearance of their respective national flags render this obvious), differences subdued and one can talk of just standard Czech cooking. I know someone who insists that Moravians (or Moravans) are not Czech but to me the criteria of stand-aloneless has a culinary dimension. He could not explain any substanial differences between cooking style of the Czech(ia) or more properly Bohemia and Moravia. The only Moravian dish named was the Moravian Sparrow - the Moravský vrabec, which is in the famous or infamous member of the tribe of grossly misnormed though not necessarily gross foods, the Moravian Sparrow belongs in the heady company of such culinary creatures as the Welsh Rabbit and Bombay Duck, there is no sparrow in it but slices of pork cooked as slices and not as entire roast in fat and served under floury though not flowery sauce alongside flour dumplings and stewed cabbage. I for one cannot find any differences but I don't know the Bohemia (or Czech-ia) that well except for the southernmost part, adjacent to Upper Austria, and some things are different (and I find them better in Bohemia, the culture of beer public houses seems to be livelier) but I could not find that many differences or rather any differences in the way food is prepared and served. One difference or rather one extra that one find in Moravia or at least in Southern Morvia is the abundance of Hungarian style sausages,

Mikulov has several venues that serve

Restaurant food in the Czech Republic

Food in

Czech Cooking

Czech Restaurant Cooking

Heurige(r)- if someone who is only familiar with Scandinavian and Finnish collective alcohol-induced paranoias, with their sullen windowless liquor stores and bans on own semi-commercial production of anything stronger than yogurt, he'll find the Heurige(r) scene astonishing. Since the times of the great Empress Maria Theresia peasants in Austria (no deragotory term there, use the word farmers if you don't like it) could sell the wine to the public, virtually tax free, they wine has to be produced from the grapes grown on their own land. They can also distill spirits from their own stuff but that's another story altogether (what about a visit to an award winning home distillery? Drop us a line). The grape growers who are wine makers can also sell wine by the glass in a setting where public house licensing is by passed. There are thousands of Heuriger througout lower Austria plus quite many in Burgendland and Styria (where I think they are called Buschenschank, or Buschenschänke in plural).

When wine is served (at prices that are laughable by US or Scandinavian standards), excellent wine that is, some food to go along is also offered. Some of those accompanying combinations might appear unusual to North-American or conditioned British taste but they are delicious nonetheless. Red pass well with a Schmalzbrot, coarse grey rye and wheat bread thickly cut with a layer of melted salt pork fat spread over it. With some chopped onions on top this transforms itself into the good accompanyment to the white acidic wines like the incomprable Grüner Veltliner. At this point I realised that I will have to write a separate article on the Food and Wine of Weinviertel. I marked it on my to do list. This entry (for our Bed and Breakfast) is just not of the proper format.

Beer -

an idea for a five day beer tour

Good beer serving establishment in the vicinity - Sieben Schläfer in Falkenstein, fashionable, smart, very casual atmosphere, a choice of beers from Belgium and France accompanyed by excellent, first rate food.

xv. Conclusion

Whatever is your orientation foodwise, Southern Moravia and the northern Lower Austria, its Weinviertel, never mind the metropolis of Vienna itself, offers almost unaparalleled culinary choices. One can have a tour