The Million-Heiress(es) & I
Three stunning beauties from Fox TV's "The Next Joe Millionaire" are in Prague after experiencing some of the most romantic dates the American network could dream up. Then Prague Compass dreamed up one of their own: have each girl choose her favorite romantic restaurant and go there on a dinner date with Dan Levine, a handsome, Prague-based jet setting mileage-millionaire. Here's what happened next
at Hergetová Cihelna
We meet downstairs and kiss three times because she's Dutch. That's one of the reasons I love the Dutch. And we hit it off right away because, when we walk out onto the restaurant's riverside terrace, both of us prefer to forgo a traditional table in favor of one of their white plastic couches secreted behind a potted palm at the far end.
Anique has beautiful long blond hair and green eyes that can pierce right through you. She's wearing ripped Diesel jeans with a pink belt, black sneakers and a shoulderless white top. God, she looks hot, even though she's complaining that she woke up at 3 p.m. with a hangover and that she's had one every day for the past week. We study the menu and make small talk as tourist boats glide by. A distant accordion player can be heard entertaining the sailors. The spires and domes of Old Town are beautifully lit behind Charles Bridge and a sliver of moon reflects off the water, occasionally dipping behind the clouds.
As we chat, several "friends" pop by to air kiss and pay their respects. Anique has only been in Prague for a couple of months - she came to visit her Joe Millionaire sisters - and she already seems to know everyone. Tomá and Eva settle in and order food with us, along with a bottle of Chateau Pampelone (905 CZK), a fruity French rosé.
Anique tugs on a Marlboro and claims that she didn't even try to win Joe Millionaire but just have fun, which, it turns out is exactly what happened. She seems genuine and straightforward in that quintessentially Dutch way. And she doesn't seem to be shy about anything - even drinking from my glass. Then I wonder, where does she find jeans to fit such long legs?
The meals arrive and are set on the coffee table in front of us. Anique has seared pacific pompano. It's a nice piece of fish presented on a large white plate with Provencal vegetables, rosemary potatoes, and ginger-garlic beurre blanc (395 CZK). I chose twin appetizers: sashimi "pizza" with slices of raw yellow fin tuna, wasabi cream and scallions layered on a warm round crust (325 CZK), and sheep's cheese baked in filo pastry with dates and a sweet walnut dressing (295 CZK). Both are delicious and perfect for grazing. Tomá goes with spaghetti Sorrento, tossed with mozzarella, tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil (245 CZK) and Eva gets the chicken Caesar salad (245 CZK), which is tasty, but is topped with bacon, lacks anchovies, and looks nothing like a Caesar is supposed to look. Of course we order a second bottle of rosé.
The conversation is lively and I feel very comfortable in this place with these people. Why is Cihelna Anique's favorite restaurant? Meals here are always delicious, prices are reasonable, and the view is unparalleled. That's good enough for me. We order a third bottle of wine - but who's counting?
Too bad Anique is leaving for Holland in a few days. She claims she'll be back in a few months and I believe her. This city has claws, after all. Deep into the night we say goodbye and kiss thrice as I head out the door.
at Pravda Ushered to a banquette beside
an unusually smiley French couple in the midst of what appears to be a
tryst, Karolína Chudá and I struggle a bit to find our conversational
groove as I prattle on about a myriad of stupid things, hoping something
I say will catch her interest.
Ushered to a banquette beside an unusually smiley French couple in the midst of what appears to be a tryst, Karolína Chudá and I struggle a bit to find our conversational groove as I prattle on about a myriad of stupid things, hoping something I say will catch her interest.
The atmosphere at Pravda feels upscale and buzzy, with floor-to-ceiling windows, herringbone floors, crystal chandeliers, vaulted ceilings and high-back chairs sheathed with starched white covers. There's a funky chill out soundtrack, and it's a good sign that the restaurant is full on a Monday night. But the international menu fills me with skepticism, wondering how any kitchen can produce meals from places as divergent as Japan, India, Sweden and Spain without insulting several cuisines at once.
Karolína is beautiful. She has straight blond hair with an ultra-modern angled cut that compliments her tightly angled features. Blue eyes, pink lipstick and a neon green handbag offset a completely black ensemble comprised of a tight-fitting scoop neck top with long sleeves and a black bra strap poking out, acrylic pants and sexy, strappy open-toe shoes.
Looking to grease the banter with alcohol I reaching for the wine list, flag a waitress, and summon a bottle of 2001 Baron Philippe de Rothschild St. Emilion (1,400 CZK).
Karolína says she's been to this restaurant four times, including one particularly memorable meal with the actor Kevin Costner, who was in town recording music for his film "Open Ranch". "Joe Millionaire" was definitely a positive and enjoyable experience for her, especially making friends with the other girls. But Karolína was one of the first to be bumped off the show so it didn't last quite as long as she might have wished it had.
Even before eying the menu my date knew to order, tom yam goong (350 CZK), a Thai-inspired soup that's chunked out with fish and vegetables. Evidently it's also so spicy that Karolína is sweating. Or maybe that's just because of me.
I order sashimi "Pravda Style" (440 CZK) and the waitress warns that it's a small portion. When it's delivered she jokingly pronounces it "micro" sashimi, and rightly so: the plate is arranged with five slivers of whitefish, each with a dollop of spicy sauce.
I fare much better with the main course, a winning entrée of seared tuna rolled in sesame seeds (450 CZK). Four healthy chunks of fish are presented on a half-meter-long plate interspersed by maki rolls and sided with a dish of ponzu sauce. Karolína's main dish choice is caramelized monkfish (475 CZK), a meaty "poor man's lobster" beautifully presented on a triangular plate.
As we get to know each other I see that Karolína is intellectual, sophisticated and street-smart. She is also single as, she claims, are most of her girlfriends. She is hard-working (as a waitress at Radost in the upstairs cafe), well-traveled (including Asia and America on numerous occasions) well-read (currently "It's My Life" by Bill Clinton), and she loves to cook (Italian).
We both have room for dessert, which for her means a chocolate ice terrine (275 CZK) and for me the cheese plate (325 CZK) and a glass of Sauternes (175 CZK). The terrine turns out to be chilled white and dark chocolate layered in a pyramid. The cheese is French, in four types and generously portioned, paired with grapes and walnuts. With our last bites our conversation warms but Karolína still maintains her reserve to the end.
As we're lead to our table - on the balcony in the front row with a fantastic view over Malá Strana below and the entire city beyond - Linda gushes that she hasn't been to such a nice place in a year. But can that really be true coming from such a beautiful girl whose recent modeling credits read like a list of Fortune 500 companies? Who cares I think, as diners crank their necks to get a look at her. God, I hope I bump into someone I know.
Apéritif? Why not? We sip Campari with orange and Linda tells me that on her way to meet me she was stopped by a star-struck American lady who insisted on having her photo taken with her. She is so sweet and down-to-earth that she posed patiently with the admiring tourists before waving goodbye and continuing on her journey to meet me.
As the garlic rolls arrive, I ask Linda why she chose to eat at Bazaar? Because this place has the most romantic outdoor terrace in Prague, she sighs, looking at me straight in the eyes. And fun, I add, pointing to the white-and-blue-striped chaises-longues that are set on a patch of sand along with colorful beach umbrellas.
Linda is looking like a million, with a strappy blue sequin top, faded jeans and open shoes revealing well-manicured toenails glossed with pink polish. But she's keenly aware of the limitations of a career in modeling over which she has little control. She's currently in school studying international business and would eventually like to end up working in marketing or advertising.
For starters Linda vacillates between asparagus salad "mimosa" with Dijon mustard vinaigrette (295 CZK), and langoustines with thin slices of beetroot and balsamic vinegar (345 CZK). She has an equally difficult time choosing from mains, eying both the steak with red wine sauce (545 CZK) and pan-fried monkfish with risotto and garlic foam (585 CZK). She chooses fish for both courses. I play along and get seared scallops with cauliflower and caper sauce (435 CZK) and a whole lemon sole with beurre noisette (495 CZK). We pair it all with a bottle of Rosemount Estate Australian White (1,240 CZK).
Then she tells me she has a twin sister who lives in San Francisco and I get lost in a momentary fantasy...
Linda ended up winning the "Joe Millionaire" show, and took home a quarter of a million dollars for the humiliation. And I can honestly understand why she won. Linda is a gem, but did she really fall in love with the poor cowboy as she so earnestly claims? Truthfully it's hard to believe, but I suppose she has 250 thousand reasons to stick to the script.
Our three-hour meal finishes with an unusual Banana and coconut with curry ice cream (195 CZK) and Chocolate fondant with raspberry sorbet (245 CZK). Romantically, we share both. The next day I receive a text message from Linda: "Thank you for a wonderful time. Your girl next door."