All posts by vedranobucina

Pri izviru Hublja – On the Spring of Homemade Tastes

If you follow the road from the centre of Ajdovščina into the mountains, you will pass the Youth House and end up in front of an impressive waterfall of the river Hubelj. In the ancient times, Romans called it the Cold Water and it was the source of life in the valley. Next to this rock surface is the lowest mountaineer hut in whole Slovenia (only 210 metres above sea level) that is named exactly after the river: restaurant “At the Hubelj’s Spring” (Pri izviru Hublja).

The Pižent family runs the restaurant since 1992 over the weekends and from 2007 until today it is open as a standard restaurant. It is favourite getaway for the citizens of Ajdovščina, especially in warm summers when the touch of mountain gives so desired shadow. The whole family greeted us warmly and presented their cuisine that boasts with local tastes and aromas, together with the beloved wine sorts of the Vipava Valley.

In fact, it is precisely these traditional and good tastes that invites locals to Hubelj. The kitchen often prepares dishes that may be partly forgotten or are not so usual in the everyday life. In cold winter nights people still remember to warm up their organism with bacon spread over the baked bread. Full white fat melts in mouth and brings the scent of pork that is clearly very local. As a very pleasing introduction, this appetizer was given to us together with Pinela Tomas, from the Tomažič Household. Fresh white wine with accentuated acidity is a rewarding start of our culinary voyage to the classic Vipava table.

It was spring when we have arrived at Hubelj and the asparagus season. That is why we were surprised by the home-grown asparagus with homemade sheep cheese over which the local olive oil is spread. It is a mild combination where cheese dominates with its salty flavour, while the olive oil is a significant reminder that we are not so far away from the sea. The asparagus can be found also in soup, and we did refresh ourselves with an excellent soup made of asparagus, carrots, and potatoes.

Another fine example of Mediterranean influence came with gnocchi made with the bear leek sauce and ten other herbs, with addition of pancetta. The chef plays with us, the dish comes in a shape of wine cluster. Gnocchi are soft and full of potato flavour, while bear leek and pancetta give tremendous interplay of tastes. Pižents suggested us cleverly Zelen Vipavska dolina, a table wine from Zelen sort in the neighbouring villages of St Martin and Brje. Its freshness and mild aroma greatly support the culinary experience.

The same is with herb rakija (brandy) made from the herbs growing just next to the restaurant itself. We also visit the waterfall and learn more about the place that once was a mountaineering resting place near the old hydro-energy plant. It is peaceful place, excellent for body and soul. The jolly and ever-smiling family Pižent says cleverly: “If you are ashamed to eat, you are ashamed to live” and it is indeed a slogan we stand with. Their philosophy is very simple; cook as you do it at home, and put meat in the beef soup! No wonder this family, father Stane and mother Zdravka, together with daughter Sonja and brother Tomi, were cooking for the Slovene Olympics representation in 2000 in Sydney.

The reason why exactly Hubelj’s staff was invited hides in the simplicity and honesty of its dishes. Such a clear reason is the lamb with baked potatoes and onion. It is a classic meal in the Adriatic region, but every lamb has its significant touch. Mild lamb still brings its distinguished taste, it is tender, and served with caramelised onion, rosemary, and a touch of garlic. Everyone appreciates good lamb, but there are significant varieties. Vipava’s lamb is more fatty than Adriatic island lamb, and it leaves that great and unique lamb aftertaste. But, word of advice: don’t even consider to eat lamb ribs with fork and knife, it is the fingers that should feel the essence of why we love lamb so much!

The same goes for pork ribs with asparagus and fennel, an interesting combination of beautifully baked pork with strong fennel, which gives to this dish a specific taste. It is served with dumplings and salted mildly.

A beautiful dinner at Hubelj concluded with classic desserts made by Mrs Zdravka (the mother) whose knowledge and brightness transforms dough into the walnut strudel and cherry strudel. Rich in substance, it opens way to the family’s soul: giving the best of home cooking in the relaxed and enjoyable natural environment!

Gostilna pri izviru Hublja, d. o. o.
IV. Prekomorska 75, 5270 Ajdovščina
00385 5 366 37 88, 00 386 41 201 924
http://www.gostilna-izvir-hublja.si

 

 

 

The Vipava Wine and Cuisine Festival

Grape wines have been grown in the Vipava Valley since the Roman times. Local wines and vineyards were already described by Janez Vajkard Valvasor in his book from 1689. In 1844 Vinoreja, the famous first book on winegrowing was published in the Vipava Valley, whilst 120 years ago the valley witnessed the foundation of the first winegrowing co-operative in the Carniola (Kranjska) region.

Wherever we look we see vineyards, especially on the south-west side of the valley. The unique mixture of Mediterranean and Continental climate with bura wind, with warm soil and particular terroir, produce some 25 sorts of wine here. Among the white wines are: Rebula (Ribolla Gialla), Sauvignon Blanc, Malvasia, Welsh Riesling, and Chardonnay, while the reds include Merlot, Barbera, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

But, we didn’t come to Vipava for that. Instead, we’ve embarked on an oenology journey to the domestic varieties like Zelen, Pinela, Klarnica, Poljšakica, Glera, Pergulin, Vitovska Grganja, and Pikolit.  Zelen and Pinela are considered to be unique to the Vipava Valley, which were almost forgotten in the past. Fortunately, in recent years, local people have started to again appreciate the heritage of their ancestors and there are many who grow both varieties.

The producers of Zelen of the Upper Vipava Valley founded the commercial interest Association of Konzorcij Zelen in 2003. In 2006 the Pinela’s producers also joined this association whose purpose is to protect the quality of local and unique varieties. All of these wines can be tasted at the local wine road or in the restaurants.

The Vipava Valley Wine Road is one of twenty such roads in Slovenia and one of four in the Primorska region. With 30 wine villages and its farmers it is also one of the biggest of its kind, and is well-marked by the signposts. The basic offer is high quality wines, but guests can also taste local products, foods, and drinks. Together with natural and historical sights, it can be an excellent day-out or more, depending on your love for wine. Many paths are also made for cyclists, so cyclotourism combined with wine is very popular here.

Each year in May, the Zemono Manor hosts the traditional Flavours of the Vipava Valley wine and culinary festival. Our visit to the festival was a highpoint of our tour, as all the important wine makers were there. We were focused on producers of Zelen and Pinela, but also other sorts, whose combined characteristics were floral scents, rich bouquet, and often barriqued wines.

Another excellent thing in this Festival is the opportunity to try local traditional products. One of these is prosciutto, named after the Kras region. Despite numerous technological innovations locals have retained the traditional manner of producing this speciality. Just salt, fresh air, the northern wind we call the burja, and careful watching and waiting ensure that after 12-16 months maturing you’ll be able to slice with pleasure into a truly tasty, ruby red and succulent dry-cured ham with and irresistible aroma.

The region is also famous for its cow, sheep, and goat cheese products, excellent fruits, and many other gastronomy delights. All of these can be tasted in the restaurants, inns, and agritourisms of Vipava.

Vipava Valley – Uniquely Different

The road takes us from Koper into the mountains. We are driving without a single clue where are we heading exactly. Yes, we’ve heard about Vipava and its gastronomy, but we’ve never been in any of its places. The cliffs of Mount Nanos, however, gives us a familiar look. It is a mountain with wind scars: north-east wind bura is as famous here as it is all along the Adriatic coast. Beneath it starts a magnificent valley, full of history, sun, wind, wine, and cuisine, surrounded by mountains from three sides, hidden as a gem above the Italian coastline between Gorizia and Trieste.

We are passing sleepy towns and houses, whose roof-tiles are often weighed down with rocks as the strong bura wind frequently unroofs buildings in the valley. Despite it, the valley has a pleasant atmosphere, evidences since the Roman times, when the hedonistic ancient Romans planted first vine here. Another example of mild climate are the fruits, including cherries, apricots, pears, chestnuts, olives, and kakis, especially in the village of Budanje.

A short drive brings us to Ajdovščina, today the administrative centre of the Vipava valley. It is another old town, as the present buildings are built on the foundations of a Roman castrum. The military camp was erected in 270 and many artefacts can be seen in the Ajdovščina City Museum. It is also the birthplace and working place of famous Slovenian artist and expressionist Veno Pilon, whose gallery is one of the foremost places of interest in Ajdovščina.

Photo: TIC Ajdovščina

But the city itself was not judicial, administrative, and cultural centre since centuries ago. It was Vipavski Križ (Vipava Cross), which acquired town privileges as early as 1532. The whole town is formed as a castle with two distinctive churches. Within the walls is the Capuchin monastery with a rich library and the friar’s cells, of which the most famous was the preacher Janez Svetokriški.

Apart from Vipavski Križ, whose beauty is enchanting, its views beautiful, and its cosy and quiet alleys almost saint, everyone visiting Vipava Valley should also go to the place of Vipava itself. Vipava is in fact a river flowing slowly through the valley, and the town is built on its spring. Because Vipava is crisscrossed with footbridges, bridges, and the wonderful deltoid spring of the Vipava Rover, spreading out behind the magnificent Lanthieri Manor, the place is also referred to as the Slovene Venice.

We came to this picturesque valley for the Taste of Vipava, the Festival of wine and gastronomy that gathers important wine makers in the valley and presents the gastronomy offer of Vipava.

Our visit to the Vipava Valley could not be possible without the help of the Development Agency of Vipava that provided us with free accommodation at the Youth House in Ajdovščina.

Razvojna agencija ROD Ajdovščina
+386 5 365 3600
www.ra-rod.si
ra.rod@siol.net
Okusi Vipavske

Mladinski center in hotel Ajdovščina
Cesta IV. Prekomorske 61 A
5270 Ajdovščina
http://www.mc-hisamladih.si
e:info@mc-hisamladih.sit:+386 (0)5 368 93 83g:+386 (0)41 945 392

 

Vinistra 2017: Olive Oils

Together with the wine, Vinistra is place where the best Istrian olive oil is being chosen. Remnants of diverse ancient oil manufactories along the entire western coast of Istria, particularly on the Brijuni archipelago, in the towns of Barbariga, Poreč and Červar Porat, show the long heritage of olive groves in Istria.

The Istrians say: “Close to these, real industrial areas intended for the amphora manufacture had been set up. It is only natural that large olive-groves were planted aside, namely the indigenous local sorts (bjelica, karbonera, buža, etc.). Nowadays, it seems like we have to start all over again. We dispose of unrivalled legacy, apparently excellent climate conditions and soil structure, favourable geographic position, skills handed down from our ancestors, knowledge and properly qualified personnel; nevertheless, we seem to lag behind the latest worldwide trends and attainments in the field. We need to take a step forward and face the challenge of planting olive-groves consisting of selected, autochthonous sorts, producing top-quality olive-oil, accepting new growing technologies, as well as of constructing up-to-date oil plants.”

The hard-working Istrian olive growers are fit for the job, at least according to the huge push in the international olive oil ratings. At Vinistra, a dozen olive growers achieved medals: OPG Marko Radola (Barban, golden medal for buža); Azrri (Pazin, golden medal for karbonaca&buža blend); OPG Gržinić Marko (Vižinada, golden medal for istarska bjelica, leccino & pendolino blend); Dolija 08 (Krnica, golden medal for istarska bjelica); Zigante (Kostanjica, golden medal for Istrian special selection); OPG Gambaletta (Vodnjan, golden medal for istarska bjelica, buža & karbonaca blend); Monte Rosso (Umag, golden medal for leccino, istarska bjelica, pendolino/Maurino/ascolana & picholine blend); Dešković (Grožnjan, silver medal for leccino); OPG Nela Popović (Poreč, silver medal for mixed olive oil); Laguna Novigrad (Novigrad, silver medal for frantoio and pendolino blend); OPG Damir Vižintin (Oprtalj, silver medal for leccino and istarska bjelica blend); Laguna Novigrad (Novigrad, silver medal for leccino and pendolino blend); and OPG Beaković Mauricio (Kaštelir, bronze medal for leccino, frantoio, pendolino, buža & rošinjola blend).

And while we did try some of the best olive oils, our attention was given to the municipality of Tar-Vabriga. The olive oil from this Istrian municipality has a continuation of use and production since antiquity. In first six centuries after Christ, the Laron Bay was used as primary harbour for transferring olive oil on whole Adriatic. In the Middle Ages, olive oil from Tar-Vabriga was used on the tables of European rulers, and in 1970-ies FAO designated the region as best for the northernmost olive oil production. The local authorities plan to open soon an eco-museum of olive oil as a testimony to the values and traditions in Tar-Vabriga.

Everything is connected to the olive growers themselves. Their efforts and knowledge combine with heritage and love. They have preserved the dry stone walls surrounding the centuries old olive groves; they have opened their cellars for visitors to taste and buy olive oil; and combined this offer with local foods and wine for a perfect and durable experience throughout the year.

 

Vinistra 2017

Existing for years now, Vinistra has become a major wine and olive oil event for the Istrian Peninsula. This year it is 24th Vinistra, with always excellent workshops and presenters. Last two decades saw a great dedication of Istrian wine makers in making the largest Croatian peninsula also a major wine destination. They’ve succeeded in it lovely, and there is still much work to be done.

Vinistra 2017: Malvasia

Today it is almost a rule for Istrian tourism to combine sea pleasures with wine treasures, and splendid gastronomy. Known as Croatian Tuscany, Istrian cuisine is diverse and interesting to explore, and everyone is working with a holistic approach.

Vinistra 2017: Teran

The event is famous for Malvasia and Teran awards, two signature wines of Istria, but also has many other categories, including the olive oil contest.

Vinistra 2017: Olive Oils

Champion wines are always awarded for best fresh and mature Malvasia and Teran, and for Refošk, which is Teran’s close cousin. Heavy job of the jury is understandable, but huge number of medals is still a bit strange. We appreciate there are just minor differences among the wines, and would encourage outstanding wines to receive golden medals. Otherwise, there is a major confusion over what really makes a golden-award wine.

 

Vinistra 2017: Malvasia

Every year Vinistra gives IQ brands to the fresh Malvasia 2016. This year the winners of IQ brand are Benvenuti, Brčić, Capo, Cattunar, Damjanić, Dešković, Fakin, Geržinić, Kozlović, Legović, Matošević, Medea, Novacco, Peršurić M.,Pilato, Ravalico, Sirotić, Terzolo, Tomaz, Trapan, Vina Zigante, Vivoda, Zigante d.o.o., and the IQ for best matured Malvasia 2015 is Bruno Trapan.

Istrian Malvasia is kin to the more famous Italian Malvasias (Malvasia bianca del Chianti, Malvasia del Lazio, Lamvasia delle Lipari, Malvasia di Candia, Malvasia di Sardegna). It is a recognisable Mediterranean white sort which ripens well every year and is very prone to the agro-mechanical efforts. The same goes for the Istrian Malvasia, the signature Istrian white wine. The wine is mid-strong to strong, with alcohols from 11,5 up to 13,5 vol %.

Oenologists tend to classify Malvasia as a semi-aromatic sort with rich floral and fruity aromatic potentials. Specific Malvasia reminds on the acacia flower scent, especially if the grapes are cultivated on higher and sunny terrains. Fruity aromas are predominant with apples, plums, and apricots, while the fresh Malvasia may contain slightly bitter almond flavour. Its colour usually is hay yellow with golden traits. It is very old sort in Istria, but due to different local names its first documented stories came only in the 1890-ies.

The best young Istrian Malvasia went this year to OPG Privitelio Nino. The 2016 Malvasia from Vrsar arrives directly from the barrel, as Mr Privitelio never bottled his wine, which includes besides Malvasia also Merlot and Teran. This young and fresh Malvasia is usually sold as house wine in his restaurant Speranza in village of Flengi near Vrsar, or to the wondering tourists who cherish his wine as something truly local. Mr Nino did promise, however, to start bottling his wine which is made in very classic Istrian way. Champion young Malvasia is light yellow-green in colour, but the scent is completely unusual – it contains forest berries! Its 13,4 per cent alcohol is universal Istrian recipe for the seafoods.

OPG Nino Privitelio
Flengi 31, Vrsar

The best matured Malvasia comes from the Poreč’s wine and olive oil corporation Agrolaguna. Malvasia Festigia 2013 is among top Agrolaguna’s wines, which already was awarded with the golden medal in 2014 in the category of fresh Malvasias. Stemming from the Kaštelir vineyards, this Malvasia was an instant hit and unfortunately exists only in a few hundred archived bottles. A point well taken, as it teaches wine makers to go slow with this sort as it may turn out to be a champion wine. Partly macerated overnight, later mixed, and aged in the Inox barrels, the 2013 Malvasia was bottled already in May 2014 and instantly sold in big quantities. This was really a mistake but those lucky ones certainly did enjoy in it, especially if they ate seafood.

Agrolaguna – Tasting Room Festigia
Mate Vlašića 34, Poreč
+385 91 441 9998
sanela.coga@agrolaguna.hr
www.agrolaguna.hr

We’ve also tried other Malvasias awarded with the IQ label. Benvenuti brought his Malvasia 2016 which is exceptionally fresh and mineral, fruity and very drinkable. The white Istrian soil of this famous wine maker from Kaldir and the micro-climate in this valley near Motovun produce many excellent wines of which Malvasia San Salvatore 2013 stands out. But those looking for dessert wines should definitely taste Benvenuti’s Corona Grande 2015, harmonic sweet wine with aromas of acacia honey and raisins, which we also tried at the superb Peteani restaurant.

Benvenuti Vina (Z.T.O. Benvenuti)
Kaldir 7, 52424 Motovun
fax: (0)52 691 322, m: (0)98 197 56 51, m: (0)91 583 87 56
E-mail: info@benvenutivina.com
www.benvenutivina.com

Malvasia 2016 of the Poreč’s wine maker Damjanić is another straw-yellow masterpiece of Istrian terroir. This Malvasia has a typical scent which is fruity and floral, reminds us on acacia flower, elderflower and grapefruit. It has dry, fresh, round, balanced, and harmonious taste, with a hint of bitterness. The dedication to the red soil brings with itself a tremendous efforts and love for wine making, which is rewarded this year with one golden, four silver, and one bronze medal. It is a continuation of great wines coming from the cellar of Mr Ivan Damjanić.

Ivan Damjanić,
+385 91 202 0495
info@damjanic.eu
www.damjanic.eu

A great new bottle style comes from Giancarlo Zigante who also got IQ brand for his Malvasia 2015. The whole line of wines is now bottled in a very pleasing form, which contains great wine macerated and fermented before ripening in the Inox barrels for seven months. Of course, the master of the truffle production in Istria will suggest you drink it with white truffle dishes, poultry, and mild cheese, but it pairs great with seafood too.

Another great example of Poreč region is Ritoša, whose wines are firmly becoming top quality in Istria. The job done by father and daughter, whose oenological education brings knowledge and passion together, translates in beautiful wines, of which Malvasia is just one part. We’ve tried beautiful Yellow Muscat which boasts characteristic and elegant floral scent and is ideal drink for desserts. Ritoša is also known for very good red wines, of which Cabernet Sauvignon deserves a special remark.

Ritoša Vina
Ive Lole Ribara 3, Poreč
00385(0)98 195 71 24 – VILI RITOŠA
00385(0)92 176 78 18 – ANA RITOŠA
TEL: 00385(0)52 432 069
FAX: 00385(0)52 432 106
info@vina-ritosa.hr
www.vina-ritosa.hr

Vinistra 2017: Teran

Teran is the most famous Istrian red wine, the main Istrian sort in the past. For quite long time people identified Teran with Refošk, but it is not the same vine. Teran has a characteristic ruby-red colour, with purple tones. Distinctive aroma is typically fruity, with dominant raspberry scent. Relatively high acidity and somewhat sour note gives to this wine a characteristically full, strong, robust wine which blends excellent with red meat and hearty foods, especially with Istrian prosciutto, cheese, and wild. Teran is also very old wine – it is mentioned some 600 years ago.


Photo by Vinistra

Thus, „All Faces of Teran“ workshop was indeed among the best events of this year’s Vinistra. The masterclass workshop was run by the wine master Oz Clarke, one of the chief international drinks communicator. This year’s best young Teran is Fuga 2016 by Rovinj’s Dobravac winery. The fact that last year Dobravac was awarded also for the young Teran is a proof of excellence but in a very unusual way: both his fresh Terans have been given to the selection commission to check the future potentials of these wines.

Mr Damir Dobravac knows his wine should rest for a few years, but the awards have pushed him to make a new wine brand: instead of Fuga, now he will introduce Gaspar, a line of fresh Teran. The wine from Valalta terroir was macerated for three weeks and then matured in local Istrian oak barrel called tinac or bajadur. Young Fuga has all major characteristics of good Teran: it has purple-red colour, clear and dense, with berries and cherries in scent, with a particular oak sense in the background. Fresh, strong, and enduring taste of this dry wine and its 13 per cent alcohol makes it great companion to the Istrian pork dishes.

Mr Dobravac also suggests making the famous Istrian wine soup exactly with this kind of wine. The Dobravac wine stand on Vinistra was crowdy as one can expect, and it was really nice to see young people working at the winery. The music of Dobravac winery continues with Suita (Malvasia macerated for six hours), Sonata (somewhat complex Malvasia macerated for two days), Simfonija (orange wine with 80 per cent Malvasia and 20 per cent Chardonnay, macerated for two weeks and three years in oak barrel), Toccata (cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot blend), Fuga, and Allegro (dried Yellow Muscatto).

Villa Dobravac
Karmelo 1, Rovinj
00385 52 813 006, 00385 95 90 59 215
www.villa-dobravac.com
info@villa-dobravac.com

The Winery Dešković received the best award for the mature Teran 2012. The champion comes from Kostanjica near Grožnjan and it is his third champion title: first came in 2013 for the 2009 Teran, and second in 2014 for Malvasia.


Photo by Dešković

Mr Franco Dešković remembers successful year 2012 when the teran grape was harvested quite late, in the very beginning of October. Macerated for 12 days, it spent half year in the Inox barrels before being put into the barrique for two years. After additional two months in Inox, the wine was bottled in July 2015 and won last year the golden medal at Vinistra and IQ (Istrian Quality) brand. The wine should be decanted for at least half an hour to release its beautiful berries scents and strong and deep taste. Despite its years, it is still quite fresh, with a particular pomegranate taste. Dešković’s Teran pairs excellent with red and fatty meat and invites for a visit at his vineyard.

Photo by: Vinarija Dešković

Kostanjica 58, Grožnjan
Mob. 00385 (0)98 / 197 7985
E-mail. info@vina-deskovic.hr
http://www.vina-deskovic.hr

Younger generations of wine makers continue dedication of Istrian viticulture to this noble sort of wine. One such wine maker comes from the Deklić winery which has the family wine lineage since 1920. The wines come from the area of Vižinada, which has always been a wine-growing district, with the combination of an excellent climate, a fertile red soil, and a pleasant altitude. No wonder even the medieval Knights Templar have been harvesting grapes right at this location.

Deklić’s Teran 2015 has been awarded by the Golden Medal at Vinistra; it is a balanced dry wine of beautiful and characteristic ruby colour. A fruity scent brings forest berries to the mind, while the taste is harmonious and enduring. Paired with venison, red meat, truffles, and Istrian Prosciutto, this Teran is indeed a part of a truly Istrian gastronomic experience!


Photo by: Vinarija Deklić
Deklić
Ferenci 47, Vižinada
info@vina-deklic.com
www.vina-deklic.com

Krk Stew in the Konoba Ulikva, Omišalj

If you stroll through the narrow streets of Omišalj, you will end up in front of the parish church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary. Right next to the church, on an old town square, is Tavern Ulikva (Konoba Ulikva), a primary spot for traditional Krk cuisine. The place is not too big, but it has a distinctive atmosphere of gone-by ages of hard work and maritime adventures. Ulikva is local pronunciation of a particular kind of olives, which adorn the tavern’s outdoor terrace.

We are greeted by the chef and owner Željko Toić and his staff, for the Festival of Krk Lamb and Cheese. Somewhat mysterious smile and easy-going work is known characteristic of islanders everywhere, and this includes Krk too. Hard working people deliver the very best to their old-time guests and every newcomer.

Primarily, we came for lamb and cheese, but the tavern boasts other Krk delicacies. The menu is rich in seafoods and meat, and boasts with many local dishes.

We are instantly presented with the pride of the house: homemade Krk sheep cheese and wine of the house. The cheese gives familiar and aromatic scent while its crust shines beneath the lantern. The family Toić makes these cheeses in their own production and only for the purposes of the Ulikva tavern.

The wines are reminiscent of Omišalj’s history. Red and white, they are bottled with special labels. The white Malvasia is named „Rozeta“ and has an emblem of famous Omišalj’s Rosetta on the parish church. The red one, Cabernet Sauvignon, is called Beduč and its label is row of old houses in the Beduč area of Omišalj, the old quarter where once the heart of the town was.

While we discuss the cheese production, an elder member of family brings in fresh made sheep curd (skuta) and wild asparagus, the flavour of spring in many Adriatic plates. Spotless white curd and freshly picked asparagus make excellent colours and we immediately take photos, while at the same time we look at the old photographs and ship items hanging on the walls of the tavern.

And there comes the lamb stew, centrepiece of our arrival to Ulikva! Don’t expect fatty meat here; the island lamb is all about beautiful chunks of meat, with a sense of aromatic herbs that sheep eat on every corner of this island. Soft and tender lamb suits well with rightly made stew and homemade macaroni. Those in favour of stronger tastes should use a bit of grated cheese spread over the stew. Ulikva’s chef indeed knows his job!

In Ulikva we can indeed imagine old locals who sip their wine or rakija while playing cards and talking about past times, as well as gatherings of families and friends surrounded by the stone historical buildings of old Omišalj. Both can count in excellent and homemade cooking without much fuss or new imagination – it is good, traditional, and tasty!

Konoba Ulikva
Put Dubca 20, Omišalj
00385 51 841 004

 

DAYS OF KRK LAMB AND CHEESE

Krk is known as the Golden Island. This name comes from Ancient Greeks, who cultivated olives on the biggest Croatian Adriatic island (although neighbouring Cres claims the surface of both islands is exactly the same). But the olive oil’s golden drops are not the only exquisite gastronomy of Krk. It also includes lamb and sheep cheese, that blend perfectly with Žlahtina wine. And some of the exquisitely Krk meals you can find in the very heart of Malinska, in the restaurant Mulino:

Restaurant Mulino

Krk is famous for its lamb, which is different in taste from the nearby island lamb and other lamb varieties in Croatia. It is somewhat a competition among the islands whose lamb is the best, but Krk lamb made its success due to the famous Kvarner žgvacet, a tasty stew with pasta. Kvarner žgvacet has its linguistic counterpart in Istria, but Istrian žgvacet is made from chicken, not from lamb. One variety of Krk lamb stew we have tried in tavern Ulikva in Omišalj:

Krk Stew in the Konoba Ulikva, Omišalj

Abundance of lamb on the island did not make it cheaper or usual meal in the Krk households. Throughout Croatia, lamb is a festive and special occasion dish, always prepared in the best way. Šurlice with lamb stew uses tasty and fatty chunks of lamb, making the dish hearty and with aromatic lamb taste. Such dish you can try in the House of Krk Prosciutto:

House of Krk Prosciutto

Krk Cheese is autochthonous island cheese which is manufactured exclusively on the Krk’s family run homesteads. Its quality and specific taste are famous outside Croatian borders and is served at the beginning or at the end of a meal, often together with Krk Prosciutto.

 

HERITAGE – FIRST STOP FOR CROATIAN TRADITIONAL FLAVOURS

Anyone even remotely familiar with Croatian gastronomy knows how difficult it is to say what is the signature dish of Croatia. Three cultural circles (Central European, Balkan, and Mediterranean) make up very diverse culinary traditions and indeed rich and various tastes in every corner of this rather small European country. Thus, it is an interesting concept to present a single place with all the major flavours of Croatia. It is the Heritage shop in the very heart of Croatian capital Zagreb.

Šime, Nikola, and Silvije, three friends and geographers, were thinking of opening a small street food shop with homemade Croatian products. Although geographers, Šime Sušić is also a former winner of MasterChef Croatia and all three are evidently knowledgeable of Croatian traditional cuisine. But instead of having large restaurant with loads of products, the Heritage is based on toasted sandwiches, salads, cheeses, salamis, marinated olives, and fish; finger food and quick bites that are kept simple and true to its original taste.

We’ve met Silvije in the Heritage shop, which is simple and rather narrow place in the very vicinity of the Ban Jelačić Square, but modern and open to passer-by. One can take away the delicacies or one may try it in the shop itself, while talking to the guys who will always recommend several wines on display. The wine list is quite small, but what is present is of high quality. White wines feature the Istrian Malvasia from Višnjan and Pinot Grigio, the eco-wine made by Enjingi in Kutjevo. Reds are Dingač Skaramuča from Pelješac and we have tried barrique Plavac „Mali Morkan“ from the island of Korčula. Out of all these wines, Mali Morkan might be the best choice for foods present; it is surprisingly mild and easy to drink, entirely suitable for pairings with the Heritage’s foods. Those in favour of sweeter tastes may opt for an excellent blackberry wine.

And the menu is indeed covering whole Croatia. A line of small starters is called „Crobites“ (coming from Croatian bites), and you can choose here among marinated anchovies with caramelised red onion and dill and salted anchovies with sour capers and wild oregano, the bites specific for the Adriatic region. Wild oregano paste is especially interesting, as is the combination of tastes and ingredients. Central Croatia is presented by cottage cheese (so Zagreb-ish!) with pumpkin seed pesto and crunchy pancetta; in Heritage shop you may also buy pumpkin seed oil, a rich comeback from the past times and rediscovered again in the north-western Croatia.

Every visitor will be astonished with traditional Slavonian spicy sausage Kulen, which may be served with cream cheese and grilled sour red pepper; visitors can see whole kulen presented before them, in classic smoked shape which turns into characteristic shamrock shape when sliced. Who knows, you might just get lucky! We were for sure, as the smell of kulen is enchanting!

We opted for prosciutto, another specific Croatian appetizer. The Heritage offers a Dalmatian prosciutto, from the Nira production in Pakovo Selo, in the Šibenik’s hinterland. This is a special Drniš prosciutto, made with exclusively Croatian meat, smoked and then dried on bura wind. Its taste combines the Drniš region’s characteristics, including sea salt, Drniš herbs, and oak, beech, and hornbeam smoke. It is served with marinated olives and homemade bread, making the Dalmatian appetizer a very joyful event.

Olives themselves are very represented in Heritage. Green olives, black olives, olives with almond, toasted in olive oil and wild oregano, or served with cheese, everything makes up an olive-lovers’ paradise. The olive oil comes predominantly from the island of Korčula, known for its golden drops since the ancient Greeks. And they fit great with aged cheese from Žigljen on the island of Pag.

Another regional taste is that of Istrian truffles. The family Prodan’s collection of truffles, truffle paste and tartufattas, olive oil with truffles, cheese with truffles, and prosciutto with black truffle paste will be just enough to fell in love with these authentic mushrooms, or to reconsider using them for a long time in your kitchen, as truffles are love or hate on first sight!

Sweet-tooths are not forgotten too! On display are traditional handmade pralines from the island of Hvar: Karobeli (chocolate filled with carob cream), Figolini (chocolate filled with fig cream), and Levonda (chocolate filled with lavender cream). Also, there is Šibenik rhapsody, i.e. chops of sweet pastry, seasonal fruit, cottage cheese, walnut, honey, and lavender. The northern part of the Adriatic coast is proudly presented with fig cake and fig products made in the Kali Tavern in Medveja.

Small CroBites are just perfect with small sips of Croatian favourite drink rakija. Varities included in the Heritage include Velebit Pelinkovac, Velebit Herb Brandy, Fig brandy from Istria, mistletoe brandy (Biska) from istria, and Zadar’s Maraschino. And if you are just plain beer lover, do not despair. Apart from the unfiltered light and dark Velebitsko beer, visitors can try Zmajsko ale, Pulfer, Red Baron, and Bura ale.

Small producers and inclination for ecologically grown foods is excellent way to present Croatia to newcomers and Heritage is well suited to become Zagreb’s introduction to the culinary riches of Croatia.

Heritage Croatian Food
Petrinjska 14, Zagreb
+385 97 684 2306
http://www.facebook.com/heritagecroatianfood
info@foodheritage.hr