After finding success on the competitive Prague farmers’ market circuit, Meti Kosec and Primož Škerjanec decided to take their love of fresh organic food to the next level. They opened a cozy deli-bistro just over a year ago centered around Mediterranean culinary sensibilities, in hopes of diversifying the Czech obsession with fried cheese, goulash and dumplings.
Most of what’s on sale or prepared at Food Adventure is sourced from small farms in Slovenia and the Czech Republic. The deli offerings range from Alpine cheeses and cured meats to Piran sea salts, pumpkin seed oil and chestnut honey. The kitchen, meanwhile, serves dishes flavored with Adriatic wild white fish and homemade gnocchi and pastas; Slovenian buckwheat and venison fillets with forest mushrooms.
“Slovenia is like a melting pot of different influences.” Kosec explains. “It’s always been very mixed. You have everything in our cuisine – Hungarian, Croatian, Italian, Slovenian. The culinary influence is very strong.”
Self-processed gourmets, Kosec and Škerjanec found the selection at most Prague grocery stores lacking in quality. So when an opportunity to participate at one of the city’s farmers’ markets presented itself, the couple didn’t need much coaxing. Their stand of meats, cheeses, oils and honey was an instant hit.
“We were always well accepted,” says Kosec. “The Czechs know Slovenia. They trust Slovenia as a source of good food.”
They spent a year building up their reputation, rotating between the markets at Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, Vitězné náměsti (known as “Kulaťák”) and the Vltava riverbank (“Náplavka”), where their stands can still be found on Friday and Saturday mornings. Once a month, they make the trek down to Slovenia to restock their pantries. Their fish is delivered from Croatia.
In December 2012, they debuted Food Adventure, a modest two-room space 10 minutes by foot from the Hradčanská metro station. The basic idea was to keep things simple. Škerjanec, who studied cooking in Slovenia, is in charge of the kitchen; his dishes revolve around cultural recipes and what’s currently in season.
“We can’t work with Czech chefs, because they don’t have the Mediterranean background,” he says. “You need to have the cultural experience in order to make the food correctly. This is how you realize the rules of the cuisine. You need to start with the basics.”
The dominant feature of the deli-bistro is a long wooden table that seats up to 12 people. (There is a smaller table for four in the back.) The deli counter spans the right side of the main room.
The setup startled me on my first visit. I had been hoping to do some leisurely browsing only to discover that most of what I wanted to check out was behind glass or perched on an out-of-reach shelf. The dining table was already half full with lunch patrons, and I was hovering by the front door, feeling like I had just crashed a private house party.
“Can I offer you some cheese?” The man behind the counter was smiling, extending a wedge of goat cheese in my direction. And just like that, I decided to join the party.
It wasn’t a private party, of course, but the intimacy of the space gives Food Adventure a cheerful homey quality not often seen in restaurants here. After working my way through several different cheese samples – including the deli’s prize champion, Emmental (100g for CZK 80) – I was quickly talked into staying for a meal. The menu that week featured Adriatic octopus goulash with homemade gnocchi (250 CZK) and Adriatic fish soup (120 CZK). The lunch special was 150 CZK and included a small salad and homemade bread. The chilled table water was free.
“Let me get you the salt,” my waiter said, promptly placing a small sack of salt on the table. “We don’t put many spices into our food. We let the taste work for itself.”
Therein lies Food Adventure’s motto. But as much as I was taken with the food, I was equally astounded by the service, which I found to be attentive, friendly and knowledgeable. Imagine my surprise at being asked, not just once but twice if I needed anything else; did I perhaps want to see the wine list?
Oh, the wine list. It is lengthy and features reds and whites from primarily three different Slovenian wineries. On a second visit, I indulged in multiple vintages along with a platter of air-dried Slovenian meats and Alpine cheeses (180 CZK). Bottles opened in-house cost around 100 CZK more than if purchased for home.
My favorites were a red, Veliko Rdeče (200 CZK per deciliter; 1,000 CZK takeaway), and a dry white, Malvazija (60 CZK per deciliter). I took a bottle of that home for 290 CZK. Wine tastings paired with a six-course dinner are held once a month at Food Adventure, costing between 1,000 CZK to 1,500 CZK per person.
When I ask about competition, Škerjanec shakes his head. “We don’t have any competition,” he tells me. “What we are doing is really different from what is out there.”
But surely they must have some kind of marketing strategy? Škerjanec smiles: “Word-of-mouth. It’s the best kind of marketing, really.”
½ liter chestnut honey (200 CZK)
100g cow cheese (80 CZK)
100g organic goat cheese (100 CZK)
½ kg salt (120 CZK)
¼ liter olive oil (250 CZK)
100g prosciutto (120 CZK)
Where do you find farm-fresh goodies in Prague?
Photos by Michael Heitmann / http://mheitmann.ch/
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