Category Archives: Restaurant

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

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

Enter the Big Doors – Maritime and Fishery Tradition of Kvarner

FARNET – the European Fisheries Areas Network – is the community of people implementing Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). This network brings together Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs), managing authorities, citizens and experts from across the EU.

CLLD funding is delegated to local partnerships that bring together the private sector, local authorities and civil society organizations. Known as Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs), these partnerships fund local projects within the framework of a strategy, developed in response to specific needs and opportunities identified locally.

Taste the Sea

Such FLAG is Vela Vrata (the Big Door, named after the maritime passage between the island of Cres and the mainland in the Bay of Rijeka) which brings together islands of Cres and Lošinj, and their respective towns and municipalities, and the city of Opatija, municipalities of Lovran and Mošćenička Draga on the coast.

Feel the Sea

Its vision is to develop a sustainable fishery in this area, encourage diversification of products and services outside the fishing itself, and promote fishing and maritime tradition and heritage, create new jobs, use innovations, and develop whole life education.

The FLAG Vela Vrata and their volunteers, comprised of people who very successfully run the LAG Terra Liburna led by Mrs. Anđela Cvjetković, invited us on a two-day journey to learn more about the touristic potentials of such heritage. For that reason, several video clips have been made, which we present here.

Texts by: Vedran Obućina
Photos by: Bruno Vignjević & Vedran Obućina

Harmony of sea and imagination at Zijavica

On a picturesque and widely popular beach of Mošćenička Draga, amongst various cafes and bars, there is a special restaurant Zijavica, a destination for imaginative and elaborative kinds of seafood.

The owner Stiven Vunić welcomes us on his terrace with a spectacular view, while his staff gives a final touch to the small and enchanting bites waiting for us. In Zijavica they say: “Extremely harmonious blend of romantic past and exciting challenges of today – that is the feeling when entering the interior of small and cozy tavern “Zijavica”. The discreet touch of wood and stone bathed in pastel colors creates the impression of domestic and very pleasant atmosphere. Terrace, situated just a few inches above one of the most beautiful beaches of Kvarner, is really a special place – perfect for experiencing small masterpieces of the Kvarner and Istrian cuisine.“

While sitting at the table, we indeed feel these impressions, guaranteed by the 40-year tradition of fishing and especially scampi catching in the Vunić family. This experience is upgraded to cooking and serving fresh food in this tavern.

The tavern’s name sounds somewhat like a joke. It contains two basic meanings: either woman that shouts, or a cave that howls. Indeed, there is a cave in the nearby mountains, but you should not joke with Mr. Stiven: he is a member of the Croatian adventure team Ad Natura that travels the world for extreme sports and adventure tourism.

When he is not running through Patagonia or climbing the Andes, he makes magic with food. Scampi tempura with self-grown herbs (of which marinated samphire is especially noticeable) is one such example. The tempura itself is quite tasty, but the way you eat it is a superb example of imagination: it is served on a flat sea stone! To eat it, you need to slurp it into your mouth. Excellent experience!

We’ve tried deep-fried cod; evidently, it is a major hit nowadays in the Northern Adriatic to deep-fry all the unusual fish and seafood (Croats can think only of deep-fried hake). But, it comes handy to refresh the taste for scampi mousse, served with a net made from olive oil and salad. Another feast of flavours makes you think twice about the boringness of seafood.

Apart from standard salted anchovies (ever heard of a better cure for a hangover?) and octopus carpaccio, the menu is a mix of Istrian-styled dishes such as scampi risotto, homemade fuži pasta with Istrian truffle, or gnocchi with smoked bacon and fresh garden vegetables. For more detailed experience, you should order oven-baked octopus, mussels in buzara sauce, monkfish in Istrian Malvasia wine and caper sauce, or for those who just cannot be pescatarians all the time, beef in a green pepper sauce.

Zijavica is a fairly new way of culinary enjoyment and spectacular scenery, and it is well worth to come and sip some sparkling wine with local Lovran cherries inside, just as we did. Cheers!

Zijavica
Šetalište 25. travnja 2, Mošćenička Draga
mob.: +385 (51) 737 243
mail: stiven.lavita@gmail.com
http://konoba-zijavica.com

Za Kantuni – Great Seafood round the Corner

Locally caught fish around the islands of Cres and Lošinj is the basis of fish restaurant “Za kantuni” menu. This place, owned by the tourist company of shipping firm Lošinjska plovidba, is situated as its name says “round the corner” from Lošinj’s main coast road. It looks old, and the look is truthful, as this was in 1903 Bierhalle Dreher, a beer house for Austrian tourists led by a Slovenian Franc Jakobič. At the time, Lošinj was known as a fragrant island, perfect for a winter getaway and summer paradise. It stayed like that, and the place was a restaurant up to the present day.

Today, Za Kantuni offers authentic island foods, made according to the recipes of old grannies and adapted to the modern times. The restaurant also offers adapted ancient menus, based on the Greek and Roman artefacts. All ingredients used by Chef stem from the Kvarner region and wine predominantly from Istria.

We came (a bit) late, but the staff was very pleasant, and the restaurant’s manager was eager to tell us more about the history of this place for fine dining. For us, it was indeed a fine dining, a combination of seafood so fresh that you can really taste the scent of the sea.

Marinated anchovies with Pepe-Fish tomatoes, pasta with scampi, tuna steak, shrimps, bonito pate, and octopus salad was an introductory meal, somewhat as a menu and greeting from the chef. Even a bit of this fish plate shouldn’t be wasted, as the fresh aroma gives impulses for more. Do not be afraid of dipping the bread into olive oil afterwards, as Za Kantuni bakes its own bread.

We’ve also tried the homemade pljukanci pasta with shrimps. It is a solid combination of Kvarner and Istria, as pljukanci originate from this biggest Croatian peninsula. Pljukanci are becoming more and more favourite among locals and tourists as it brings back old styles of pasta making. It is hand-rolled and specific to Istria. Chewy and perfect for seafood, in Za Kantuni they make pljukanci with a variety of toppings.

Our main course was sea bass filet that came from the fish farm in Cres we have visited earlier, and combined in an old recipe from Lošinj, served with mint and artichoke sauce. It is a really old recipe, discovered partly through the records in the restaurant itself, but more than that it resembles Lošinj as a fragrant island, full of Mediterranean scent.

Evidence for that may also be found in desserts, such as the lemon cake. Lošinj is the northernmost island in the Adriatic that is rich in citrus fruits. Due to its mild climate, Lošinj boasts with oranges, mandarins, lemons, and all other fruits that usually grow in more southern places. Given this fact, the lemon cake in Za Kantuni is superb, as well as the mild wine from Istria, featuring Pilato Malvasia from Vižinada, from where also come Cabernet Sauvignon and Borgogna. For more nuanced tastes, there is Žlahtina Toljanić, a respect to the nearby island of Krk.

Anyone visiting Lošinj should definitively try sea richness in Za Kantuni, and learn a bit more about the island’s history of food.

Za Kantuni
Vladimira Gortana 25, 51550 Mali Lošinj
+385 51 231 840
restorani@losinia.hr
http://www.losinia.hr/

 

Fish’n’Sheep – Gastronomy tradition of Cres in tavern Mareta

Martinšćica is a small fishing village turned into one of the most beloved tourist vacation places on the island of Cres, and Mareta is its prime gastronomy point. It is owned by the family Saganić, and the owner Alfred Saganić is professional fisherman. Of course, the question about the freshness of the menu is quite obsolete here.

Bright smiles of immaculately dressed waitresses and friendly owners welcomed us to the restaurant’s terrace, surrounded by lush olive groves and dry stone walls. It reminds us on several very important features of Cres, one of the most beautiful islands in the Adriatic: its people lived here since prehistory, using the stone to build forts and houses, while fish and olive oil were staples so important that Cres even today rests upon these ingredients for the basis of island’s culinary experiences. Quite literary, fish on plate here connects you through centuries with same tastes that once dominated on Cres.

After sipping mild homemade chestnut brandy, fish plates came on our table. Pleasing arrangement was intact for just few seconds before the desire for taste rushed us to seek aromas of octopus salad, marinated anchovies, marinated bonito (palamida), spider crab salad. One can indeed taste the freshness of sea. The octopus is soft and tender, and one cannot decide which part of this plate is more fresh and tasty. Another great addition is olive oil, made by the family itself, and it is just a short moment of time before people start dipping bread into the golden drops of Mediterranean heritage.

Some curious looking tools came afterwards, scaring us with possible existence of dentist nearby, but the fear vanishes instantly after Adriatic scampi arrived. Served with polenta and tremendously good sauce, tools come handy if you don’t want to have red dots all over your clothes. After few trials and errors, people mostly use fingers to extract those mouthful pieces of meat hiding beneath cooked and red scampi’s shell.

In meantime, owner’s father Vitomir Saganić calls us to walk behind the house and enjoy in the opening of peka or čripnja, a classic Adriatic iron baking lid. Beneath is octopus with potatoes and Mediterranean herbs, old-fashioned and traditional dish favourite among the gastronomads. The precision in making it is based on years of experiences, constant care for the fire, and the balance between octopus, potatoes, their weight and time. It is helpful if you’ve finished catering school in Mali Lošinj and culinary school in Opatija, and if you’re secretary of the sport fishermen association Crab, as in the case of Mr Vitomir.

Her majesty octopus came with a scent of rosemary and tender taste, rich and plentiful, even delicate. For generations was octopus feeding substance of the island’s life, as much as was the lamb. Cres is famous for its lamb, which is also present on the Mareta’s menu. Rich herbal diet makes Cres lamb aromatic and with less fat, and prime example we saw running through the restaurant’s terrace. It is the family’s darling, still suckling lamb who found refuge from photographs behind the owners who were playing cards. It was almost mythical and primordial sight of old men playing card games and a lamb hiding between them, everything surrounded by olives and dry stone walls. Indeed, a picture that tells thousands of words!

Lamb was also the basis for our dessert. Do not wonder, as we did more than you can imagine! It is tradition on Cres to use every bit of lamb and so it is with lamb’s stomach to make “olito nadenjeno” or filled stomach. The sheep stomach is dried for a few days and then filled with a mix of flour, water, orange peel, sugar, raisins, and dried fig juice. It contains the sheep fat, and is cooked for four hours to become jelly from inside. Before serving, it is sliced and slightly fried in a pan. It has a specific taste and specific scent, and for every lamb fan this is heavenly dessert. Very old dish has jelly structure and is not too sweet.

In Mareta you can also enjoy other old-style cuisine containing lamb. Almost every family had a sheep and people use to make sheep soup, dried sheep meat, and excellent tripe. Thus, Mareta is indeed a place where you can taste the fishermen’s and shepherd’s tradition of Cres at its finest.

Mareta
Miholašćica 1c, Martinšćica
Tel +385 51 574 325

 

Majerija – Enchanting Place of Exquisite Gastronomy

Outstanding experience of dining in the Restaurant Majerija is a fine example of local and traditional recipes turned into culinary masterpieces with a special twist. At the first glance, one would assume it is yet another hipster story of refurbishing an old house and inventing unusual gastronomy styles with Asian spices and tropical fruits. Not at Majerija, as almost everything you can get on the table is produces in the Vipava Valley.

The Majerija is in fact an old estate nestled right in the centre of the Vipava vineyards. It was built around the year 1700 for the maintenance of the property owned by the family Lanthieri. This family was kind of local mafia bosses in the old times, owning everything and everyone in the valley, but at the same time these counts were crucial for the development and agriculture of Vipava.

Today is Majerija home of Matej and NatašaTomažič but others can stay here as well. The house has guest rooms, ideal for all those who seek quietness, nature, and a pristine rustic environment. Every room is unique in colour and name of plants and herbs growing in the garden which is exactly above the rooms. The garden is quite spacious and brings fresh ingredients to the chef.

Refreshed with sparkling wine made from the local sorts, we have entered the dining hall full of old details. Though the stone vault visitors can admire the wine cellar, where all the local favourite wines found its place.

As it turned out, Mr Tomažič excellently combined the Vipava wine scene with the imagination of his own kitchen staff.

They’ve greeted us with the asparagus cigars, a dough with asparagus and few drops of Hrvatin olive oil. Another item on the plate is stone brought from the Croatian island of Hvar – a testimony that Tomažič family likes to spend holidays on another gastronomy spot in the Adriatic!

Another appetizer was a solid proof that meal in Majerija is a sort of culinary adventure. Take a dandelion, crystallise it with salt, and eat with yoghurt mixed with honey and you will have a pleasant and inspiring starter. Crunchy dandelion is bitter in its body and excellent balance to the yoghurt. And while we were knocking our head how would one think of mixing dandelion with yoghurt in a fascinating combination, we were introduced to the Zelen Burja 2015, a prime example of local zelen wine whose smoothness is great wine for contemplation. Made by Primož Lavrenčić, Burja 2015 is soft and floral wine, it is also organic wine produces on Lavrenčič’s bio-dynamically farmed estate.

Majerija cares for everything that is fresh and good in any given moment. That is why in mid-spring beef carpaccio comes with very young sheep cheese and olive oil but also with raspberries, blueberries, and pine nuts. The carpaccio is mild, but the forest berries are strong; in an aesthetical manner, it is a curious combination that may resemble the nature.

After some try outs we realised that the chef is playing with us, making the guest to make efforts and think about the meal. If so, this is seldom seen and great idea. Our own try-outs included raspberry-carpaccio (strong fruit) and blueberry and pine nuts with carpaccio (excellent combination of freshness and salty flavours). Together with this meal we tried the Hedele Malvasia 2015, a matured work of Andrea Pittana from a homestead in the place of Goče. Another organic wine, it has a strong scent and rich flavours.

The Vipava Valley is a micro-world of the wider area and its influences. Here the culinary traditions of Mediterranean and the Central Europe combine with a unique Slavic touch and produce rich meals. Unavoidable part of it is pasta in its numerous variations. Such is homemade corn pasta (trganci) with duck breasts and courgettes.  Trganci itself was regarded to be simple and peasant pasta, but rich in substance in order to feed the poor families in the past. Majerija brought this pasta back and added duck breasts and courgettes in another somewhat challenging combination. To bring some freshness, we are offered with Pinela Avin 2015, local sort with a pleasant acidity and great combination for pasta.

Spinach pie with black sesame, nettle, and tomato brought us back into the flavours of our mothers, a reminiscence of spinach meals we hated but whose flavour indescribably stays with us and becomes beloved search for the same aroma to come back. By this time Majerija is packed with people having lunch, including an American family who’s offspring delicately runs between the friendly staff carrying more and more plates of gastronomical desires.

We overheard people sitting behind us are going to the same wine event later that day. No wonder, we are told, they are Petrič family, Zmago and Zorica, the owners of Guerilla wine estate. Recognisable name comes from the fact that every day is another fight in the wine world, but their fight ends with beautiful wines such as Guerrila Tabu 2007, a barrique blend of pinela, rebula, and sauvignon. It has heartbreakingly beautiful orange colour and rich aftertaste, making it love at first sight.

Refreshing pause with mint sorbet, dried fruit, and basil returned us to lively atmosphere and bright smiles of our hosts before venturing to the main and indeed special dish: mouflon fillet with elder flower! Sweet and meaty chunks of mouflon, juicy and tender, is by itself a taste we cannot see so often on the table. But elder in the sauce and bits of flower round the plate is such a surprising addition that we had to pause and rethink the whole concept.

We almost forgot to open the dough package with excellent and rich curd inside. Innovative and challenging, Majerija indeed showed its best! And to be very clear, this wasn’t a menu set for the visiting journalists: all guests could try it. Krapež Merlot 2011 follows us to the essence of mouflon meat, with its ruby colour and oily texture, fruity yet strong and rich wine that needs still time to reach its finest potentials.

The curd is made by the grandma of the house and it goes not only in the dough but also as a basis for dessert with strawberries and poppy seeds, a gentle and balanced sweet ending of the gastronomy tour in Majerija. Dessert sweet Guerilla Nika accompanied us to the finish with yet another quite specific story. This wine is made with grapes dried on the bura wind, thus closing the chapter of bura and Vipava Valley and all the scents and flavours experienced in Majerija.

A pleasing experience will be cherished by anyone visiting this place and will evoke a danger of desire for coming back for more!

Majerija
Slap 18, SI-5271 Vipava, Slovenia
Phone:
 +386 (0)5 368 50 10, Mobile: +386 (0)41 405 903
E-mail:
 info@majerija.si
www.majerija.si