Awards for Belica Wine confirm the Kastav Brand

For twelfth year in a row, the town of Kastav chose its best Belica wine, and also other wines of Kastav region. Out of 80 samples, presented by 42 wine makers and members of the Belica Association, 12 were Belica wines, which is final testimony to the hard work over the years to revitalise viticulture and wine making in the Kastav region. The grand celebration will be held on Sunday, April 23rd at 3 pm in the centre of Kastav.

The efforts to preserve this unique wine were presented at the press conference in the tasting room of Mr Dejan Rubeša, led by the director of the Kastav Tourist Board Dolores Kukurin. She announced the manifestation and congratulated the Belica Association on their hard work and dedication. The vice-mayor of the Town of Kastav Dejan Jurčić stressed that Belica was ten years ago almost extinct, but today, thanks to the Association, it became a new Kastav brand. This wine makes remarkable comeback and brings attention of sommeliers and experts, foremost Nenad Kukurin, the chairman of the international commission in the competition 2017. Other members included renown sommeliers and oenologists from Istria, Kastav region, Italy, and France.

Everything about Belica we learned from Radenko Srdoč, president of the Belica Association, and the secretary of the same organisation, Bojan Frlan. Old testimonies written by the local chronologist Ivo Jardas show that Belica was once present all over the Kastav region, where up to 10,000 litres of wine were produced. It is a unique blend, which cannot be find anywhere in the world. Among the basic wine sorts is divjaka (autochthonic wine sort), together with verdić, and mejski. After some 600 years of cultivation, due to the hard terrains and urbanisation, this wine seized to exist.

Only in the recent years did Belica made its glorious return, with some 5000 vines. It cannot really go beyond this number in a very specific microregion, which is situated on some 300-400 metres above sea level. Still, many wine makers care for this sort, as it can easily become a recognisable wine of Kastav. On regional level, this wine story fits great with the Bakarska vodica and Žlahtina in Vinodol, which makes a content-rich wine road stretching from Crikvenica and Novi Vinodolski riviera, through Bakar and Rijeka, all the way to Kastav and Opatija Riviera.

The competion was categorised in: (1) Belica; (2) homemade white wine; (3) white wine; (4) homemade red wine; (5) red wine; (6) special wines, mostly aromatic wines. The competitors won 5 golden medals, 44 silver medals, and 23 bronze medals, with additional six recognitions. The competition’s champion and golden medal award for Belica is Ivica Rubeša, followed closely with Alen Frlan, who won also a gold medal for Belica. Ivica’s borther Dejan Rubeša won third place and silver medal for his Belica which we have tried in his tasting room.

His Belica is refreshing wine with a distinctive acidity and aroma of green apples. This might be a classic idea of Belica, an easy drinking wine for pleasurable moments in warmer months. Lots of efforts should be put in making this wine, though. The vines need up to five years to deliver first good grapes. The Belica of Ivica Rubeša is substantially different than his brother’s, and the reason is that Ivica harvested his grapes just a week later, leaving more sugars inside. His Belica is complex, with less acidity, and rich in flavour. The Rubeša tasting room will become a major point for Belica degustation, and the wine is already being served in the Kastav Restaurants, foremost in Fortica and Hotel Kukuriku.

Among other golden medals are Arsen Jardas for his Chardonnay, Ivica Rubeša for Malvasia Retro, and Ivan Rubeša for Merlot.

For more info about Belica, visit the Association’s website: http://www.udrugabelica.hr

 

Asparagus delights in the Lovran’s Knezgrad Restaurant

The sun is shining, scent of spring is all around us, and the Asparagus days are in full sway in a picturesque town of Lovran on the western coast of Kvarner Bay. It is the biggest spring festival in Lovran, present already 17 years. The Asparagus Days begin with a big egg omelette with asparagus (fritaja sa šparogama), and continues in several Lovran’s restaurants. One of these is Knezgrad, situated right in the centre of the town, in a beautiful park next to the town’s only cinema hall.

At the same time, Knezgrad is among the best restaurants on Opatija Riviera, because this is the place of traditional regional cuisine prepared with finest ingredients. More than 40 years of family tradition translates into fresh seafood, asparagus, cherry, and chestnut days, and more nuanced Istrian cuisine. And while the interior resembles old tavern, many come here to enjoy sunny terrace. Its name (translated the town of counts) is in fact a nearby mountain peak on the Učka mountain. Although relatively low with its 612 metres above sea level, Knezgrad is a favourite destination for hikers, as it has beautiful view of Lovran and Kvarner Bay.

Slopes of the Učka Mountain are rich with asparagus and this is precisely why we came to Knezgrad. After sip of excellent biska brandy (made of mistletoe and Muscat wine), we indulged into classic asparagus appetizer consisting of cheese spread with asparagus and ham, asparagus omelette, and asparagus salad with boiled eggs. You cannot go more classic than these. The mild and fresh cottage cheese blends perfectly with the bitter asparagus taste, while the salad with boiled eggs shows indeed the freshness of spring.

Every part of asparagus is used, told us Mr Hlanuda Jr, son of the owner Luciano Hlanuda. The asparagus root is excellent for various broths, the stem is perfect for soups, while the top is necessary for sauces or added fresh to blend with different ingredients. The basic rule is to make asparagus less bitter, which is done by boiling it: as much as you boil it, asparagus tends to lose its bitterness. In that way, chefs can easily adjust the asparagus taste to the meal. And probably the least bitter is the asparagus soup, which we had together with toast bread and sour cream. Refreshing cream soup is rich with mild asparagus, while finely mixed stems give the soup a characteristic green colour.

Main course consisted of grilled medallions with asparagus sauce and gnocchi, beefsteak tagliatelle with Grand Padano cheese, and ravioli filled with cheese and asparagus. Many who visit Knezgrad praise the grilled medallions, with fine scent of smoke and grill; they are truly soft and juicy, which makes Knezgrad a meat master in a predominantly fish restaurant! As usual on the Opatija Riviera, gnocchi are homemade, soft and with distinctive aroma of spinach in green gnocchi. Both blend with small tomatoes and mild asparagus sauce that gives just enough bitter addition.

Also, mild beefsteak puts more accent on asparagus sauce and excellent Grand Padano cheese. The beefsteak itself is juicy and rightly redish from inside, and while the meat-lovers will enjoy its pure and not-spiced taste, we would focus this dish to elegant and ingenious asparagus dip that comes along. If you’d rather go for stronger asparagus taste, then ravioli are better, cooked with cottage cheese and filled in soft dough.

Possibly the biggest surprise comes in dessert, as rarely would one expect asparagus and cheese cake or asparagus sorbet. How is it done? We asked the lady of the house, but got only a satisfied smile from her. The cake is just great for anyone who doesn’t worship very sweet things, and sorbet is more sour-sweet end to this asparagus adventure in Knezgrad.

Because of the delicate taste of asparagus, mild white wine is recommended, and you shouldn’t venture too far here. Open Istrian Malvasia, coming from Višnjan in Central Istria, is easy to drink, with fruity and flowery bouquet and very adjustable to the asparagus menu.

Knezgrad can really satisfy any expectation from classic and homemade littoral cuisine of Northern Adriatic. The place is famous for fish, risotto, scampi and clams stew (buzara), homemade squids filled with Istrian prosciutto, cheese and scampi, fish brodetto, pasta with seafood. In various seasons you can also taste great sausages, veal shanks, rich minestrone. The restaurant follows annual Lovran gastronomy events focused on asparagus, cherries, and chestnuts. Highly recommendable place which is very open and simple, but with great taste and excellent value for money!

Restaurant Knezgrad
Trg slobode 12, 51415 Lovran
tel:+385(0)51291838
fax:+385(0)51291838
mob:+385(0)98240737
mail: luciano.hlanuda@ri.t-com.hr;hlanuda@gmail.com

https://restoranknezgrad.fullbusiness.com/

 

Asparagus Cooking School in Stancija Kovačići

It is a rare treat to pick behind the kitchen’s door in a splendid restaurant. We tend to enjoy fine dining in a peaceful setting of a rural gastronomy point, enjoying the tastes and aromas of culinary heritage, and thanking the chef that has just arrived from kitchen with a quite clean apron. Seldom do we think of the kitchen place and food preparing, those nitty-gritty stuff that makes a cook’s everyday business. But when one enters this realm, one cannot separate creative chaos of a kitchen with cosiness of the dining place.

So did we enter the Stancija Kovačići’s kitchen through the School of Cooking with a topic of Asparagus. We have visited Stancija before, and wrote extensively on superb winter cuisine for which this region of Kvarner is famous. The elegant culinary philosophy of chef Vinko Frlan transforms into imaginative dishes reflecting the traditional meals of the coastal region and its hinterland.

The basis for all cooking in Stancija Kovačići is at the same time simple and very rooted in tradition. All meals are cooked on olive oil, of course that one suitable for easier cooking. For hearty meals, Mr Frlan uses the homemade pork lard. Both were easily accessible in the past in the Northern Adriatic and one cannot imagine meals without it. Extra virgin high quality olive oil, of course, is used only for salads and dipping, a favourite appetizer of Croats. Various herbs and Mediterranean spices are very local too.

Three-course dinner cooking gathered some 12 disciples who focused on Mr Frlan’s expertise and tried to learn from it. Some, including our team, focused more on wine resting on the table nearby, but nevertheless we did experience and learned a lot.

Appetizer was the mullet carpaccio, where we learned how thinly make fish fillets. Mullet is a rather small fish and indeed it needs a careful hand and a very sharp knife. The mullet fillets are places on a plate, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and few drops of lemon and olive oil.

While chef filleted the fish, others picked the tops of asparagus, which were later shortly cooked, cooled, and seasoned. From orange juice and olive oil an emulsion is made, that were added to mullets together with avocado and asparagus. The cook also quickly baked mullet skin (without oil) and added to this beautifully balanced dish with excellent freshness.

Already waiting for us was cooked octopus, to which some bay leaves, pepper and salt was added. Freshly caught, winter and spring octopus are much more cherished in the gastronomy. Cooled octopus is very, very thinly cut, seasoned with parsley and garlic. We also added olive oil and egg’s white. Some breadcrumbs were also put just to have a homogenic burger.

While cooling, good students of Mr Frlan stewed finely cut onion and celery to which asparagus tops were added, and cooked in broth. The final point is baking the octopus’s burgers on light fire. This meal is just perfect, as the fresh, juicy, and mild octopus blends perfectly with the strong flavour of asparagus.

Finishing masterpiece is veal shank a la brodetto with asparagus. The chef used his knowledge to show us how neatly the meat can be separated from strong shank bones. The meat is salted and peppered, then shortly baked on olive oil, and then taken out. On same oil onion, carrots, and fennel are fried.

Then, garlic and meat is added, together with some white wine and rosemary. This shank is then cooked on medium fire for at least hour and half. When done, the sauce is reduced, and asparagus tops are added together with small olives. As a side dish, Mr Frlan chose polenta, to which self-growing Mediterranean herbs are added.

It is indeed excellent (and rare) idea for a chef to invite culinary enthusiast to his kitchen. Easy-going atmosphere, relaxed attitude, a glass of wine and superb cuisine, it is a memory that is going to be cherished by anyone visiting the Stancija Kovačići in Rukavac, just a short drive away from famous Opatija.

Stancija Kovačići
Rukavac 51, 51211, Matulji
+ 385 51 272 106
stancija.kovacici@gmail.com
http://www.stancija-kovacici.hr

DAYS OF ASPARAGUS

Asparagus is one of the most appreciated plant varieties growing in the Adriatic, and it is high season now. From mid-March to late April the homes and restaurants of Croatian coast will make omelettes, soups, homemade pastas and risottos, as well as the ingenious combinations with meat and fish.

This wild plant grows in less accessible places, often within thorny bushes, rocks, and macchia, and requires expertise, an eye of a hawk, lots of scratches on hands, and iron will under already hot Adriatic sun. But everything is worth of, as asparagus keeps health and is very balanced both in taste and in nutrition. It brings vitamin E into our organism, known as the fertility vitamin.

Asparagus was a sacred plant to the ancient Egyptians so they would put it, along with the celery, in tombs as a gift for the dead. Asparagus originated in the East, and it was used in China back in 3000 BC as a cough, ulcer and anti-swelling medicine. It was believed to ease the feet pain, and it was used in baths. On French courts it was popular as a diuretic, and it was also used as an aphrodisiac.

Taste of Adriatic team ventures round the Northern Adriatic, where asparagus makes indispensable part of the spring’s cuisine. Click on the stories below for more:

Asparagus delights in the Lovran’s Knezgrad Restaurant

Asparagus Cooking School in Stancija Kovačići

Scent of Spring

 

ZADAR WINE FESTIVAL

Zadar is one of the fastest growing wine regions in Croatia. Ever greater number of wine makers, international prizes, and large investments in wineries are a solid proof that a wine festival is much needed in this antique Adriatic town. And it happened for the first time in Zadar’s Arsenal, a medieval building in the heart of Zadar’s ancient peninsula.

More than eighty wine makers, liqueur producers and gastronomy exhibitors were present in Zadar. It shows immense possibilities to have such focused festivals the year round. The guests had several opportunities to enjoy and learn more about viticulture and oenology. Among the presentations particularly interesting for public were degustation and presentation of Istrian Malvasia, then of Graševina, and generally an introductory sommelier course.

But we came to Zadar to learn more about the subregion of Northern Dalmatia, where Zadar is situated. From many different aspects, Northern Dalmatia gives great opportunities to travel and taste local products. As most of the Croatian coast, it is separated in the islands, coastline, and hinterland. But the specific of Northern Dalmatia is Ravni Kotari. Instead of high mountains that picturesquely adorn the Croatian coastline, Zadar is surrounded by flat field known for excellent fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural products. This is also one of the regions for wine.

Basically, the wine region is divided among the coast and islands on the one side (Zadar-Biograd-Šibenik line) and the Dalmatian Zagora or hinterland. The criteria for this difference is ratio between soil and stone. It is a region where almost forgotten wine sorts thrive: maraštin, debit and pošip of white wines, and karinjanka and new imported sorts from the red ones. We’ve tried several of them.

First wine is also first Zadar’s sparkling wine that comes from small Degarra winery. This boutique winery situated in Zadar is a vision of two friends Dane Šulentić and Mate Pestić who had an idea of contributing to the growing Zadar’s wine scene. In nearby Zaton they made Primo – First Zadar Sparkling Wine, which is made using the traditional fermentation method in Pošip bottle.

Maraština is one of the biggest sorts of Northern Dalmatia – and one of the oldest. It is a rare type, indigenous to Dalmatia, golden, but forgotten until recently. It is an organic wine, rediscovered by Jokić Winery, situated in Ravni kotari, and brought back to the world as a light wine. It is also called “rukatac” because the cluster resembles a body with two arms. Maraština ripens late, so the grapes are quite sweet. Due to its flowery smell and lower alcohol percentage it is called a ladies’ wine. We tasted Jokić Maraština 2015, a white, dry, mineral and refreshing wine, with wonderful acid and fresh fruit contents.

A gracious Pošip comes from Kraljevski vinogradi – Royal vineyards in Petrčane. Director Mr Zoran Pantalon gave this name because the Croatian King Petar Krešimir IV gave the vienyards at this post in 1066 to the new established St Mary’s Benedictine Monastery in Zadar, which was run by his sister and nun Čika. They Pošip, an excellent and elegant wine with pronouced freshness, bouquet of southern fruits and elder flower, and harmonic taste, which somewhat resembles the purity of the eccesiastical orders.

From Biogad na Moru winery comes Rosé Syrah Grenache 2015. Rather new wine story is part of a bit older Sklad Group from royal Croatian town of Biograd. They do not have their own vineyards but buy the best grapes to produce excellent wine. Mr Branko Bungur started this new project in a former bakery and has large capacities.

Winery Škaulj from Nadin is yet another example of potentials and eco-production in Ravni Kotari. Among many satisfied guests in this winery was also Swedish King and Queen! We have tried its Moscato Giallo (Muškat Žuti), a clear semi-sweet wine with gentle yellow colour and very aromatic. Its bouquet boasts with fresh fruit, candid fruit, rose, and some tropical fruit. Sweet and balanced taste round up this great wine.

Figurica Winery is located in Smilčić and is one of the most modern wineries in the area. Here in complete peace and quiet mature wines made by the family Anić. But they hide a real treat – svrdlovina. This red wine with strong tanines and very young wine is like stepping to the everyday life in the past times. A mystic wine was completely forgotten and this festival returned it to life. Many older generations remember svrdlovina from their youth, but Ravni kotari didn’t see this wine for a very long time.

Another winery from Nadin, Vrsaljko, brings blend of Merlot and Syrah Nadinska rana 2015.The red wine with deep ruby colour is excellent dry wine with rich extracts. It shows well how imported red wines blissfully succeed in the Zadar area and with the inherited knowledge of Zadar’s wine makers.

Last but not least, there is red Crljenak from awarded winery Mas-Vin in Polača. Another fine example of Ravni kotari agricultural endevour, Mas-Vin is proud on its Crljenak/Zinfandel 2013 with a fantastic 15,5 per cent of alcohol. Producers remind this is the wine of our ancestors, with rich fruity bouquet and soft taste, excellent blended with the mild Mediterranean foods.

Probably the most missing representative of Northern Dalmatia is Babić. But, as this is indeed Zadar’s wine festival it should be noted that Babić is more Šibenik’s sort of red wine. Missing are also the islands, but this was a golden opportunity for Ravni kotari to shine. And this region truly deserves such an attention, as the wine is treated here as „gift from heaven, tear of Mother Earth, and source of life“. To visit the area and not see famous vineyards makes your trip utterly wasted.

Text and Photos by: Josip Paškov