All posts by vedranobucina

Punat – Place of a Proud Food Heritage

A specific Krk pasta – šurlice – became a signature dish of this northern Adriatic island, the biggest one in Croatia. Many local restaurants and taverns have šurlice on their menus, preserving it as one of the highlights of the Krk gastronomy.

To make šurlice, you just need flour, oil, and water. Some add salt, some don’t. Easy, isn’t it? Well, quite the contrary. The form of šurlice is made with very skilful hands, coiling on the small wooden stick. Some say šurlice is home dish of the town Vrbnik, others claim it should be fair to say it was eaten all over Krk. Today, for sure, šurlice is island’s pride, and it is fair to say it goes perfectly with the Vrbnik Žlahtina, prime wine of the island.

The same goes for Punat, a small town situated on the east coast of Puntarska draga (Puntar Bay) only 8 km from the town of Krk. This place is famous for its marina, home port for all those enjoying the beauties of the Croatian sea and islands. Logic goes, where there are sailors, there is good foods; it is summer and we’ve decided to visit Punat exactly to try the famous šurlice in the tavern Sidro.

Konoba Sidro – Keeper of Punat’s Gastronomy Tradition

Punat was in history a renowned shipyard for wooden boats and headquarter to a powerful steamship company. Quite early, already in the beginning of the 19th century, tourism developed here, associated with the Franciscan monastery on the islet of Košljun. Also, the royalties came here to enjoy picturesque and serene seaside nature and seek a spiritual refuge with the friars. Now, hordes of modern yachting tourists come, along with those preferring camping.

In fact, right in the camp we met Mr Branko Karabaić, the director of the Punat Tourist Board and Cultural-Artistic Society Punat (KUD Punat) that cherish local folk dances and customs. KUD Punat is certainly among the best such associations in Croatia, only one of the three such KUDs licenced to present whole Croatian heritage. It is a special recognition for Punat which is a rather small place.

Especially praised is their choreography of traditional Krk dance, Krčki tanac. It is a specific island dance which cannot be played without sopile, a traditional instrument made of olive wood and of a specific sound, played as duo. Everywhere on this island people play these dances for centuries, although the melody is sometimes inapprehensible for tourists.

KUD Punat regularly plays this dance all over Croatia and the world; some of the last sopile makers (sopac) are from Punat. Among these, Marijan Orlić is particularly known to produce it, repairs it, and plays it; all arts not known to be found in one person for decades! How it sounds you can see on the following Youtube clip. Mind that two women from Vrbnik make šurlice at the spot!

Šurlice is a festive meal. Usually, it was made for weddings and sometimes for holidays. Mr Karabaić points out that šurlice are warm appetizer at weddings but very important ones and they are coming to the table followed by sopile music! Otherwise, the glory of šurlice and its deep rootedness in Krk culture cannot be experienced.

Puntari (the Punat inhabitants) keep their heritage well, which is especially stressed in cuisine. The place itself survived through the centuries relying on agriculture, olive growing, fishing, sheep breeding and wooden shipbuilding. When one enters Punat, one can see vast olive orchards, a testimony to this noble and Biblical tree, whose golden drops made Romans name Krk the Golden island. In fact, Punat hosts one of the most cherished festival of olive oils in Croatia!

Among the olive trees roam sheep, the true treasure of the island and traditional addition to šurlice. Krk lamb is delicious and often a topic of discussion among different sheep-herding regions of Croatia about whose lamb is the best. Olives and sheep are stone drop away from the nearest beaches and resorts.

In older days, Punat’s balconies and stone terraces were adorned with octopus arms. People used to dry octopus on sun and wind in a manner followed for centuries. It was used later for beautiful and rich dishes, especially stews and brodettos. Fish and seafood specialties are still signature dishes in Punat taverns, always spiced with original extra-virgin olive oil.

A quite special and original Punat dish is autumn soup kiselica. Cabbage is drowned in warm water and is marinated with marc, the over-fermented grape skins left after pressing grapes for wine. As the red grape is used, the marinade gets purple colour and dries. After several weeks it is cut, cooked as a soup with a mix of garlic, parsley and pancetta, with addition of dried meat. Excellent autumn soup is also healthy as it keeps your body sour and defendable against the viruses in cold weather. Some of you might also bless if for curing hangover! Such a dish can be ordered in autumn in tavern Ladići.

No visit to Punat can go without a visit to the islet of Košljun. It is known for the Franciscan monastery where the monks have collected and preserved numerous valuable items for centuries. The islet has a museum with an ethnographic collection containing numerous items produced by Krk fishermen and farmers, as well as folk costumes from across the Island of Krk. The monastery also owns a rich zoological collection consisting of a large seashell collection and unique animal specimens, such as the one-eyed lamb.

The monastery also has a rich library with around 30,000 titles. It includes the Ptolemy’s atlas printed in Venice in 1511 (one of the three preserved copies). The monastery is a zero category monument. There are two churches on the islet – the Church of Blessed Virgin Mary’s Annunciation and the Church of St. Bernard.

For more information contact the Tourist Board of Punat:

Pod topol 2, 51521 Punat
Tel: +385 (0)51 854 – 860
Fax: +385 (0)51 854 – 970
E-mail: info@tzpunat.hr
www.tzpunat.hr

Photos by: TZ Punat & KUD Punat

Konoba Sidro – Keeper of Punat’s Gastronomy Tradition

Nestled between other restaurants and bars is tavern Sidro, which in Croatian means anchor. Indeed, one can feel anchored in this traditional tavern, surrounded by maritime items and preserved utensils that remind guests of the famous Punat’s maritime and shipbuilding history. Old pictures on the walls bring to the past times and faces of today’s owners’ parents and grandparents disclose years of experience and wisdom in a more natural world.

Scorching noon heat brought us inside, under the stone vaults, and with an instant glass of local Žlahtina wine we embarked to the pleasures of šurlice. Dedicated and ever smiling staff was happy to serve us, especially because we arrived just moments after the tavern opened its doors. Mr Kornel Mihajić and his family cherish a long restaurateur tradition, and his mother is famous in whole town for handmade šurlice, macaroons, and other pasta.

Sidro is home to original Punat cuisine, and one can start its gastro-journey with sheep cheese and homemade prosciutto, but also octopus, a tradition preserved in its authenticity in Punat. Various salads are also part of the cold appetizers, featuring fish and frutti di mare. The warm appetizers follow the same logic, accentuating pasta and various stews, so typical of Krk.

We talk with a young but experienced waiter about the life in tourist season when everything here is packed, while he brings us another glass of Žlahtina. Fortunately, taverns such as these, with simple yet beautiful local dishes are packed with tourists wanting to explore authentic tastes next to burgers and grilled meat. The logic of Sidro is the same, but understandably (and regrettably) offers grilled meat as well (not that it is not tasteful). An important fact is that every seafood comes from local fishermen, guaranteeing fresh fish from Krk sea waters.

The heat still persists while we take a photo of waiter and deliciously looking šurlice on two plates, but we do think of winter here and enjoyment of fire in an old fireplace adorned with historical items. At the same place guests can order in spring the young Krk lamb, baked under the lid. But soon after that we are ready for a more nuanced job of tasting the queen of Krk’s pasta.  To detect real šurlice, they must be thinner, and not so soft as other pasta. If you come across this kind of šurlice, you know it is the real thing; such is šurlice in Sidro!

First, we tried šurlice with cuttlefish brodetto. A sense of sea in this dish tells us that cuttlefish is fresh. This rewarding seafood comes in two varieties, with or without its ink, and šurlice has to come without it. A classic combination of olive oil, onions, garlic, and tomatoes make up a tasteful brodetto with herbs and beautifully soft cuttlefish. Nicely done dish deserves a praise to the kitchen staff.

Another dish was more faithful to the original, šurlice with beef stew. Aroma of this dish gives instantly the impression of chef’s expertise in treating usually hard meat. A scent of carrots and herbs, cooked slowly with meat for hours, blends great with šurlice. And while the first seafood pasta was more refreshing and mild, the beef pasta gives a sense of hearty everyday meal. None of those, however, could be done without knowledge of making šurlice, obviously transferred through generations.

Punat seems to care for the culinary heritage and Sidro is for sure a place of such dedication!

Konoba Sidro
Obala 18, 51521 Punat
Telephone: +385 (0)51 854 235
E-mail: kornel.mihajic@ri.t-com.hr
http://konoba-sidro.incroatia.info

100 leading Croatian restaurants and their recipes

It is 22nd year that Mrs Karin Mimica, owner and director of Gastronaut.hr company, issues the prestigious award to the 100 leading Croatian restaurants. This remarkable job is filled with love, joy, praise, and knowledge of finest Croatian gastronomy and the best testimony to the hard work of Croatian restaurateurs and families working in the gastronomy business.

As in many years before, the award ceremony was held at the Restaurant Trsatika in Rijeka, accompanied with laureates and journalists, wine producers and products from family farms. Last year Karin Mimica’s team covered 2,508 restaurants which the guests supported through the web portal www.gastronaut.hr.

The restaurant owners evaluated the restaurants in a questionnaire that was sent to them by mail, once a year. This is really a special thing, as other restaurants were evaluated by their colleagues, who know exactly where the quality lies. In the end, the final judgment was given by the Honourable Committee. Another criterion was that the restaurants is open all year round. The book is published in Croatian and English, and has its online version too. All restaurants are presented with their specialties and their natural and cultural surroundings.

The project gave birth to the Club Gastronaut 18 years ago. It organises various gastronomy educations for hospitality professionals and supported a number of other gastronomic and oenological events. In the past year, members could travel to Međimurje, Pecs, Vilany, Rijeka, and Rogoznica. There is a close cooperation with the media following gastronomy in tourism (FIJET and Council of Tourist Journalists of Croatian Journalists’ Association), which also contributed to the successful year full of synergy of gastronomy lovers.

While we applaud excellent work done by Mrs Mimica, we also congratulate those famous restaurants that have been on the list in every 22 issues: Restaurant Bevanda from Opatija; Milan from Pula; Nada from Vrbnik; Nautika from Dubrovnik; Okrugljak from Zagreb; Rivica from Njivice; Stari Puntijar from Zagreb; Villa Neretva from Metković; and Zlatna ribica from Brodarica.

We also congratulate to those who are first time ever on the list of the 100 best restaurants: Bianco & Nero from Opatija; Roko from Opatija; Oštarija Fortica from Kastav; Mulino from Malinska; Boba from Murter; Zrno soli from Split; Mirjana & Rastoke from Donji Nikšić; Bistro Apetit from Zagreb; Bedem from Varaždin.

Fužine – place of lakes and magnificent cuisine

Anyone driving through the Rijeka-Zagreb motorway gives a thorough look on Fužine. The road suddenly exits the wooden and hilly teritorry just to give a glimpse of the Lake Bajer and the town of Fužine, stretching up and down the hilltop. This image invites everyone to Fužine, to enjoy the shades and cool mountain air in summer, try the fruits of the forests in autumn, celebrate the New Year at noon in winter, and hike on the numerous walking paths in spring. And while the motoway gives faster way to reach the Croatian coast from the capital Zagreb, Fužine is not new to the major transit route. It is precisely here that Karolina was built, a road that used to connect the interior with the littoral, named after the Karl III, the Habsburg king and emperor.

Bitoraj – A Temple of Game Dishes

The road was built in 1728 and was a vital heartbeat between Karlovac and the port of Bakar. it passed Fužine, a village made in 17th century when the Croatian noblemen Zrinski started to mine the iron ore. It turned out this work was not profitable, but Fužine retained its name. It comes from the Italian “fucina” or German “fusionieren”, a term denoting the mining and manufacturing the iron ore. In 1873 a railroad was made, effectively transforming and developing a wood industry here. Exactly one year later Fužine turned to be a tourism destination.

Lič – place of religion and heritage

Long ago, in 1898 travel writer Dragutin Hirc wrote: „There is no other area in the homeland where there would be so many interesting things in such a small space, as there is around Fužine. There are few areas even in foreign countries, where beauty is laid before you as in a palm of the hand. The surroundings of Fužine are magnificent, it is a true alpine region. Encircled by high hills covered in evergreen woods, there are fir groves. There are mountain ports and beaches, meadows with most luxuriant mountain and alpine flowers, there are streams, streamlets, little springs, valleys, plains, there are landscapes that elate your soul completely, there are many, many things and the attire that Fužine wears is adorned and of which it is proud.” When a famous Croatian historian Tadija Smičiklas wrote about Franjo Rački, the first president of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, he noted that he was born in the Magical Fužine!

At the time, there was no lakes around Fužine, but the area is extremely rich in water. The place has the highest annual rainfall in Croatia, and this fact was important to capture this enormous amount of water in three accumulation lakes. The oldest of these is Bajer, built in the 1950s, and a major natural tourist attraction in Fužine. One could not imagine this settlement without Bajer today. It is suitable for boat rides, canoeing, kayaking, even wind surfing. Although less known, Lake Lepenica actually has more amount of water and larger surface. Both lakes invite many anglers. People from Fužine often go to Potkos, small artificial lake on the foot of Bitoraj mountain.

Goranska borovnica – in the highland paradise of forest berries

Guests don’t roam just the countryside, they go beneath it. The area is rich with caves, from Fužine up to the neighbouring municipality of Lokve. While constructing the Lake Bajer, workers accidentally discovered the cave Vrelo. It is only 300m long, but its beauty is exceptional and it is rich with cave formations. There are walking trails and lighting inside and guests can see a beautiful mountain spring, lake, and chasm.

Because of its natural beauty, Fužine is popular for sportsmen and nature goers. There are numerous bicycle and hiking trails on Viševica (1482m), Bitoraj (1386m), Tuhobić (1109m), while less adventurous can simply climb Preradović hill, which gives a spectacular view of Fužine and its surroundings. Angling is also very popular, while those who know how to ride can experience almost unspoiled nature on a horseback. Romantics may warm up with blankets while riding a snow sledge with horse in winter, and those preferring conflicts can easily do it in the Paintball park Vrata.

Fužine Tourist Board

Phone: +385 51 835 163
info@tz-fuzine.hr
www.tz-fuzine.hr

Goranska borovnica – in the highland paradise of forest berries

We are sitting beneath a vast oak tree and enjoy splendid elder flower juice. It is made by Nataša Kozlica, owner of the family farm Goranska Borovnica (Highlander Blueberry) and it just suits great in already warm end of spring. She is accompanied by three generations of her family, a dog, and a cat. Oh yes, also a wooden bear looks at us, as part of the education garden where school kids come to learn more about self-grown herbs and students have their practical work.

But the basis of this family farm is in traditional Gorski kotar favourite fruits and sweets, the forest berries. The gift of the mountains and woodlands, berries were unavoidable part of the locals’ diet for generations. Today, they are essential part of every highlander menu, and not only in its sweet part. Local game dishes, such as bear or venison, regularly come with blueberry sauce or cranberry jelly, giving a perfect blend of pure meat and sweetness of berries.

Throughout summer people go into the forest to pick berries and make grandma-style jams and juices. At Goranska Borovnica, they plant it. One can find here strawberries, raspberries, currants, American blueberries, elder, and blackberries. A mix of forest berries is a basis for Kozlica’s refreshing liqueur, which we readily enjoyed at the estate.

It seems idyllic but there is a great deal of effort and risks behind this work. Everything is done beneath open sky, and fruits can ripe at different times, thus adding to the unpredictability of the whole process. But the end result is pure taste in various products that can be found in the farm’s souvenir shop.

Here guests can find authentic highland souvenirs, like wooden and ceramic products, homemade teas, soaps, candles, postcards. Especially appealing is the Fužine basket, rich with the fruits from the farm. And if you feel tired, why not spending a night or two here? Apartment Polić is just next to the farm, and is run by the oldest members of the family. Their piercing blue eyes keep the wisdom of the rural life in the mountains, while the agricultural knowledge of Mrs Kozlica makes this farm one of the best in the whole Gorski kotar region.

The family also prepared us cake with their fruits and guided us through the farm, where also a forest log cabin is situated for any guests seeking peace and quiet of woods. Information tables can be seen all around, giving interesting information about plants, animals, waters, and forest; indeed, a tour many of us should take in order to bring back memories of childhood visits to the woodlands.

Obrt Borovnica
Belo selo, Fužine 51322
mob: 00385915124712
pero.kozlica@ri.t-com.hr
http://www.goranska-borovnica.com

Lič – place of religion and heritage

In 1733 inhabitants of Lič, now a small place near Fužine, were renovating the dilapidates St. John the Baptist Church which kept collapsing. On August 5th, in middle of summer, snow fell and covered the little chapel in which Mother of God appeared. Since then people make pilgrimages to this small chapel, now dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Snow.

The chapel stands in midst of green mountain meadow, surrounded by evergreen hills. Peacefulness of the place is only sometimes broken by birds and wind, and one can indeed feel the holiness of the site. Don’t expect some big sanctuary with lots of pilgrims. This is a small chapel, close to the St. John’s Hill, where another chapel is situated. We strongly suggest you to take a walk from Fužine or Lič and feel the pilgrimage path itself.

The church itself has a beautiful main altar with a picture of Blessed Virgin Mary of Rosary with St. Catherine of Siena and St. Dominic. These pictures were saved before the church was ruined in the Second World War, together with a cross made from white marble made in 1929. Side altars consist of St. Joseph and St. Catherine. There is also a statue of Blessed Virgin Mary with a child and statue of Holy Heart of Jesus.

In the back there is a large painting “Miracle of our Lady of Snow”, donated by Anton Hriberšek whose mother is from Lič. The painting shows the miracle itself, the moment when snow flocks came down from the starry sky.

The parish church in the village itself is dedicated to Saint George, built in 1662. It is situated above the centre of the place where the Ethnographic society “Sveti Juraj” (St. George) runs the Lič cultural-historical collection. It opened its doors to the public in 1994, the year in which Lič celebrated 150 years of schooling.

Mr Dražen Starčević, fatally in love with Lič and its surroundings, shows us the collection that preserves items that were used in these areas and that tell a story about the life and habits of the people who lived here. Lič is way older than Fužine; the settlement itself was first mentioned in 1364. In 1603 first Vlach/Bunjevci inhabitants settled here, giving it a distinctive ethnographic character.

The ethnographic department consists of ethnographic artefacts and tools used by locals in their daily lives, remains of the past hands full of blisters on the legacy passed on to the present. One can find many things here, from the working tools in the fields to the express pots and irons for the kitchen work. All of these items were used in Lič and stem from the ancestors of local people.

Next to it is a room filled with archive documents, writings, and photographs. A window to locals’ past, it shows the richness and troubles of life throughout past times. Among others, one can also see the costumes which people wore, as well as the official documents regarding the state and municipality.

Upstairs is a history department consisting of sacral treasury and the civil room. The latter is an insight in the life of a well standing civil family Kauzlarić, from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. It is a very attractive display of antique furniture, art paintings, old tableware, ornaments, and old documents and books.

A small sacral treasury is placed in the same room, containing a significant number of sacral objects, valuable old church vestments that date from the Venetian times. and flags that need a special airtight chest.  It is a solid look into the history of the Catholic church and parish of Lič.

An unique exhibition in Gorski kotar is also a collection of ethnographic and artistic items of the peoples from Africa, Asia, and America. It is a result of a valuable donation by a vacation home owner in Lic. Physicist Guy Paic PhD who works in New Mexico, USA, following a wish of his late wife, famous television journalist Arlette Ambrozic-Paic, donated valuable art works collected on their numerous travels to the Collection. Contained mostly are objects from Africa and South America, therefore the Ethnographic association members have formed a separated display room with exhibits of non-European peoples.

By forming several display areas, the Ethnographic collection in Lic became a very respectable museum.  Today it contains more than 500 exhibits in the permanent display, and it is continuously enlarged with new objects. Indeed, the ethnographic association should be well proud of their achievments.

Lič St. George Association
etnoudrugalic@gmail.com
+385 98 448 145 (Dražen Starčević)

Bitoraj – A Temple of Game Dishes

Entering the Fužine’s hotel Bitoraj gives you almost an impression of what’s on the menu. First greeting may well be with a stuffed bear and other forest wild animals that are traditionally part of the Gorski kotar cuisine. But very soon you will find out that you are in excellent hands of Mr Andrej Kauzlarić, a descendent of the long family tradition in running this hotel and restaurant, that was opened in 1933 as the tourist house Neda.

This historical site is totally refurbished in 2007 and in its new glory welcomes tourists from all over the globe. It has 18 double rooms, special Aphrodite’s room, and all the necessities needed in a four-star hotel. But the hotel is far more famous for its offer of the autochthonic meals of Gorski kotar, often followed by live music (Andrej plays as well). Its cuisine? Well, in one word: amazing!

Nothing of meals we’ve tried – and we did try a lot – came from a shop. Every single thing in this restaurant is carefully chosen, mostly bought from the local producers in this Croatian mountain region or the interior. This includes drinks as well, and the first surprising taste was of brinjevac, a brandy made from juniper, also known in Croatia as šmrika, klek, or borovica. Used as a folk medicine, this herby brandy contains 60% alcohol! A solid aperitif evokes ideas of friendly gathering in some mountain hut in the vicinity; one bottle would do the trick! Almost all other hard drinks come from the Fužine’s neighbour Vid Arbanas, whose brandies and liqueurs rest upon the generational knowledge of making drinks from the nature.

In order to show us what kind of small bites are possible in Bitoraj, Mr Kauzlarić welcomed us with Highlander’s plate, consisting of deer prosciutto, boar salami, homemade pancetta, deep-fried frog legs, oyster mushrooms filled with prosciutto and cheese, and four kinds of škripavac cheese. Flavours abound on this forest menu, showing the basis of fine dining in the Gorski kotar region. Prosciutto and salami are dark, rich in taste and a bit spicy, as one would expect from the game. If eaten alone, be sure to drink a lot of water – or beer.

Yes, beer. No, it is not a crazy idea and gastronomic horror of combining prosciutto with beer, as the heavy food was traditionally eaten with beer. The owners are very careful of having draft beer in house, and recall of brewery working across the street. Memories of the old times didn’t break our solid will to continue our lunch with Agrolaguna and Palinkaš wines. And if you think beer is not a good option – you are always left with brinjevac!

Most foreigners would be surprised with frog legs. Both in Lokve and in Fužine, this was a traditional dish for locals, as the edible frogs abound in the area full of water. Once someone told me that all amphibians and crocodiles taste like chicken. Frogs are not an exception, but still it can have a distinctive watery flavour in the background. And you can always be a hero when you come home as you’ve eaten a frog without kissing it!

Personal choice for the best thing on the plate is cheese. Škripavac is well known cheese of Croatian mountain regions of Gorski kotar and Lika, and its name stems from the sound it makes when biting it. The cheese served in Bitoraj comes from Josipdol’s excellent cheese dairy farm Miščević and it comes in four varieties: plain, with homemade herbs, with peppers, and deep-fried. It is absolutely amazing how solid it remains when deep-fried, which is due to its instant shocking on -50 degrees. When prepared, the cheese is put frozen on the hot oil. Tremendously good and very milky.

Fužine is a place where continental and maritime climate collide. The result is much rain, winds from all sides of the world, but also a tasteful combination of influences on the table. We were presented with Highland risotto and Mushroom pasta. The highland risotto is made with deer prosciutto and apple, a great combination and meaty-sour blend, a solid choice for warm appetizer if you like strong tastes. The mushroom pasta is simple token of woodlands in combination with classic Istrian fuži pasta.

Another appetizer was frog legs’ brodetto, with polenta and pumpkin seed oil. Mild brodetto gives plenty of taste to frogs; indeed, more restaurants serving frog legs should keep in mind there is a lot more to the deep-fried frog legs. And while the frogs are really good, the pumpkin seed oil gives a finishing touch. In combination with polenta it is a rare example of using this oil in near-coastal area of Croatia. Pumpkins are more continental brand, starting from Vrbovsko, also in Gorski kotar, but without much influence in the traditional foods. Thus, bravo for the idea!

A refreshing retreat was two kinds of soup: an ordinary mushroom soup (always replenishing and hearty) and horseradish soup. Horseradish is popular sidedish, either fresh or as a sauce. But to make a soup from it? The taste is far from your imagination. It is a bit spicy but very refreshing and calls for more.

If you think we’ve done most of the work in Bitoraj, you are heading to a surprise, just as we did. Grand main meal consisted of three signature dishes of this restaurant, and no wonder Bitoraj is on the list of 100 best Croatian restaurants for the 20th time! It might be difficult to choose where to start from these main dishes, but maybe the Highlander’s lunch is typical of the area.

It is the most traditional and most sold dish in Bitoraj, consisting of pork ribs, homemade sausage, baked pancetta, sauerkraut, and potatoes. A fatty bomb for more colder days was a normal diet for many decades now, showing a tremendous need for energy in an area known for harsh winters and rather short summers. There’s no particular suggestion for this meal, only be hungry enough to eat lavishly. And do you remember that beer we’ve mentioned in the beginning?

Then came baby boar, baked under the iron lid with potatoes. Soft and salty, it melts in mouth. Baked piglet is a standard offer of the house and excellent choice for anyone into the glorious cousin of our domesticated pig. They weigh some 10 kilos and can be found in continental Croatia, feeding in a special hunting areas where they feed with quality foods from the nature. The fact that piglets are not at all scared of human is their death-warrant: they are simply taken by hands and later prepared for the juicy and tasty meal. Don’t be shocked, that’s circle of nature!

And what would a highlander’s menu be without a bear? All praise should go to chef for making such soft bear steaks, with cranberries and deep-fried dumplings. Even for Croats, bear is not an everyday dish nor can be eaten in every region of Croatia. Mr Kauzlarić testifies his hard work in preparing bear meat, with constant controls of quality, but is too humble to admit it takes a real knowledge to master the hard and dark bear meat. Those who succeed can proudly be called a temple of the game dishes. And Bitoraj is exactly that!

Yes, we did have a dessert. It wasn’t a surprise any more that we had three kinds of berry strudels and gigantic kremšnita cakes. Blueberry strudel is so typical for Gorski kotar that Mr Kauzlarić tends to protect it as an industrial heritage. Local producers of forest berries, such as family homestead Borovnica, contribute to the widely shared recipe for this most beloved highlanders’ dessert.

Unavoidable point for every true gourmet lover, with dedicated staff and very kind owners, in a picturesque environment and pleasant climate, Bitoraj is pure happiness, fine dining, and homemade cuisine turned into a masterpiece. We toast a glass of brinjevac to that!

Hotel Bitoraj
Sveti križ 1, 51322 Fužine
Phone: 0038551835019, 0038551830005
E-mail: info@bitoraj.hr
Web: www.bitoraj.hr

 

Classy Dining in the Hotel Kontinental

Hotel Continental is the oldest still working hotel in Rijeka, opened in 1888, at the time in town of Sušak which is now eastern part of the city. When opened, it gained much popularity for its interior, many activities, and excellent position on the bank of the Rječina River, after which Rijeka got its name. Among the other things, this hotel was famous for its old-style coffeehouse and a restaurant.

Photo by Hotel Kontinental

Still today, the hotel is one of the most recognisable buildings in Rijeka and the square in front of it, the Kont, is popular gathering point for youth in summer. Some things stayed without much change, others seized to exist, but every generation of Rijeka citizens knows by heart the summer evenings on the terrace and the splendid restaurant and café offering refreshments and combination of classic Kvarner and continental foods. It continues somewhat the tradition: in 1914, an invitation to the hotel emphasised the restaurant with beautiful garden, excellent homemade and German cuisine, good wines and always fresh Budweiser beer.

Our arrival at the hotel coincided with the festival “Sardines are IN”, and we enjoyed exciting sardine meals in various combinations. The friendliness of the staff and their easy-going attitude make a particular Rijeka atmosphere, while the terrace provided us with cosiness although the rain was falling (which is quite often in this indeed rainy city).

The old facades of the hotel and the pictures inside the restaurant evoke the memories of the past and days when this city was the glorious harbour of the Austro-Hungary, and when the town’s elite gathered in this very spot to chat and conspire.

The chef “conspired” with fruits and fish, giving us indeed an unusual starter, marinated anchovies with marinated orange fillets. Soft and fresh anchovies, marinated in lemon, sits on a basis of ricola, fennel, and onion rings, while the orange slices and cherry tomatoes give a festival of colours on plate. It is a refreshing and joyful combination, where tastes combine and blend in a unique late spring starter. A few drops of Blato Amfora extra virgin olive oil makes it even better.

How about deep-fried sardines with cabbage and potatoes? One would say there is nothing special in this very traditional and classic dish. But, the surprise comes after first bite – the sardines are filled with mild sheep cheese! It was another example how much this small fish can give. More than that, it regained its status as the feeder of the islanders. For a long time, sardine was completely underestimated in the gastronomy, given banally only as a salty fried starter or as a snack in summer fishermen nights. The young chef in Hotel Kontinental showed yet again that sardine is a small fish with big opportunities.

As the Days of Cherries and sardine week combine, the cook also gave us such combination, consisting of fillets of fried sardines, polenta with olives and Mediterranean herbs, and cherry sauce. Again, very specific dish, which is predominantly mild and gives lots of flavour within the aromatised polenta. The cherry addition is very ingenious and playful, which is always a sign of a confident cook. Everything blends greatly with wine of the house, red blend named Namori, containing a ruby colour and full taste with fruity background.

Cherries were the basis of our dessert too. We tried the cherry pie with maracuya or passion fruit sauce, excellent finish for anyone into not-so-sweet desserts. Whole experience in Kontinental shows simple but imaginative approach to the combination of fish and fruits, which resembles in a way the history of Croatian biggest port. For decades, it has been fisheries’ harbour but also entry point for southern fruits and citrus fruits, giving colourfulness and enjoyment to the elites.

Hotel Kontinental – Jadran Hoteli
Šetalište Andrije Kačića Miošića 1, 51000 Rijeka
(T) +385 51 372 008 (F) +385 51 372 009 
continental@jadran-hoteli.hr

http://www.jadran-hoteli.hr/

Conca d’Oro – the sardine masterpieces in the oldest restaurant of Rijeka

Just a few steps hidden away from the Rijeka’s main pedestrian zone Korzo there is the oldest still working restaurant in the centre of this biggest Croatian sea port. Many generations of citizens of Rijeka and their guests loyally were coming for decades to this place to enjoy the classic Kvarner cuisine.

Hospitable and jolly staff of this restaurant will offer you rustic dishes with a modern twist, and we experienced it during the days of sardines. The meals somehow resemble the restaurant’s interior itself – undoubtedly emerged into the tradition of the area, there is a significant modern atmosphere included, while the old legend still survives.

The rich tradition of this place goes back to the first half of the 19th century, when brothers Ostrogović kept an inn which name got lost, but it was present on the same spot. For a short time, it was a hotel named “K zlatnoj zvijezdi” or “Albergo alla stella d’oro” (At Golden Star). In 1885 the legend was born when Leopold Zwetti opened the restaurant and only one year later it was included on the prestige list of the best restaurants in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During its past, it changed many owners but the “golden” name stayed.

Robert Whitehead, the owner of the first torpedo factory in the world based in Rijeka, owned also the houses around the inn, but the restaurateurs complained because of the noise and transportation of building material. Thus, they positioned three stones in the small alley where the restaurant still is, so that the workers don’t disturb the guests. Whitehead did win the court suit, but the stones remained until today.

The restaurant got its present name in the beginning of 20th century, with the new owner Edoardo Budicin from Pula. It served local cuisine and brunches, while enriching the offer with the prestigious Italian wines from the regions of Piedmont and Emilia Romagna. Even today, you can find the traces of this tradition in the corners of the restaurant, especially in the emblem of the place, resembling the fatty, greasy, and utmost hedonistic region of Italia (mind the Bologna Grassa – The Fat Bologna!).

But, back to the sardines. This small, yet compact fish nourished generations of islanders and coast dwellers, and there are numerous ways how to prepare it. The chef of the Conca d’Oro presented us with three rustic-styled sardine dishes with very common ingredients.

We’ve started with marinated sardines, nested with ricola and cherry tomatoes in a classic glass jar, with topped bruschetta aside. Refreshing start gives a boost to explore more opportunities of this fish.

And it succeeded greatly with sardine dumplings, made of mixed sardines and sesame, with addition of pine nuts and served on brodetto sauce with Kalamata olives. Full flavour of sardines blends perfectly with quickly fried ricola and with polenta aromatised with olives and Mediterranean herbs. One just wonders how much is possible with a simple sardine!

The classic sardine meal in the Adriatic is, without doubt, fried sardines with Swiss chard and potatoes. One cannot go more traditional than this, and the fish served in the Conca d’Oro evokes the memories of grandfathers in the way they are prepared.

But no grandparent can serve the sardines in such posh way as they do it in this restaurant, making almost a construction of sardines and a richness of old flavours. In every way, staff wants us to feel the rustic history blended with modern lifestyle. Possibly, that is why they surprised us with a delicious cherry pie, a true testimony to the spring and the Kvarner cherry.

Conca d’Oro is rich with top quality wines and whiskeys, but we tended to try the very basic Istrian Malvasia. And we were indeed surprised by the Terzolo Malvasia, originating from Nova Vas near Poreč. The red soil terroir gave the champion status for the young Malvasia at Vinistra competition 2013, done by the family Tercolo known also for a very good olive oil that we’ve enjoyed immensely.

Every gastronomad should know by its instinct that the best places can be found off the beaten track. Conca d’Oro is exactly few steps away these beaten tracks of Rijeka and indeed well worth of a visit.

Conca d’Oro
Kružna ulica 12, Rijeka
phone: 00 385 51 213 782
text and photos by: Vedran Obućina & Bruno Vignjević

Srdela is In – Botel Marina, Hotel Kontinental, and Conca d’Oro

According to legend, the first sardine was eaten by the Greek God Dionysius, who offered it eternal life, if it were to substitute the sea with the wine from his goblet. The sardine refused by responding: the sea is my abode, and I belong to the fishermen and sea folk from all shores, islands and ports, thus I am obliged to assuage the hunger of fish and men alike! And so it was.

Botel Marina – Ship of Gastronomy Delights

The sardine is the fishermen’s favourite, it has been dubbed the queen of the sea because it was the primary food source for many generations. Healthy food does not have to be expensive and the often underestimated sardine is living proof of this.

Classy Dining in the Hotel Kontinental

Sardines are oily fish, although they mostly contain unsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 being the most common). The human body requires them to remain healthy because it cannot produce them on its own and pelagic fish contain more unsaturated fatty acids than farmed-raised fish.

Conca d’Oro – the sardine masterpieces in the oldest restaurant of Rijeka

Sardines (lat. Sardina pilchardus) are small, oily fish within the herring family. The largest sardine fishing grounds are located in the western Mediterranean and the Adriatic where the sardines are the primary fish species of exploitation. Sardines are fished throughout the year on nights where the new moon hangs in the sky, but those fished in May and June are supposedly of the best quality, especially if used for salting. Sardines are regular fixtures on traditional menus and despite their reputation for being the food of the poor, salted sardines were held in high esteem by wealthy gourmands and were used as food additives instead of salt.

Rijeka Tourist Information Centre

Korzo 14 / 51000 Rijeka
tel. + 385 51 335 882, fax. +385 51 315 720
e-mail: info@visitRijeka.hr

http://www.visitrijeka.eu