Tag Archives: Asparagus

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
mail: luciano.hlanuda@ri.t-com.hr;hlanuda@gmail.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


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


Scent of Spring

As a Mediterranean island, Krk is rich in herbs and Mediterranean spices. It is especially felt in spring, when lots of herbs are ready to be used in various dishes. Asparagus is definitely one of them.


It is a vegetable fit for a king, a treasure trove of health, food, medicine, and an aphrodisiac all in one…. These are just some of the epithets used by asparagus aficionados worldwide to describe their fascination with the plant that has been considered a symbol of life and nature awakening from their respective slumbers since time immemorial.

Šurlice with asparagus in Tavern Pod Prevolt, @Andrea Seifert

Pod Prevolt

Although it is common in Croatia, asparagus season lasts the longest in the northern Adriatic. It is a mainstay of Kvarner cuisine, especially during Easter, when it signals the blossoming of life and the return to the outside world. The Christian iconography is best exemplified in the gastronomical blend of asparagus and eggs, the fritaje, which is a common way of preparing asparagus in the region. It is an excellent complement to sea food, especially the sweet Kvarner prawn with sheep’s curd, a natural symbiosis of Kvarner right there on your plate!

Šurlice with asparagus and Krk prosciutto, House of Krk Pršut
Photo @Andrea Seifert

House of Krk Prosciutto


Our own experience with asparagus blended with šurlice was also divine, especially in the Tavern Pod Prevolt, and as part of dish in the restaurant Mulino. Ideal for vegetarians, it features this healthy wild and green vegetable that rises naturally in the Mediterranean climate. On the other hand, the House of Krk Prosciutto welcomed us with beautiful šurlice with prosciutto and rocket.

Photos by: Andrea Seifert, www.mint-media.com

9th Traditional Nova Vas Spring Omelette

Nova Vas-Villanova (Brtonigla-Verteneglio), May 1

Gourmet & fun event dedicated to asparagus

Event dedicated to a spring delicacy – asparagus, this year organised for the 9th time by the Luciana tavern from Nova Vas. The programme includes a rich wine and gastronomic offer, as well as an offer of local products. The event also brings the tournaments in the card games briškula and trešeta as well as the longest asparagus contest.

Konoba Luciana
+385 98 1779 813, +385 (0)52 774 295


Rijeka, April 5-12

A vegetable fit for a king, a treasure trove of health, food, medicine, and an aphrodisiac all in one…. are just some of the epithets used by asparagus aficionados worldwide to describe their fascination with the plant that has been considered a symbol of life and nature awakening from their respective slumbers since time immemorial.


Asparagus (lat. Asparagus officinalis) is one of the oldest self-seeding plants in the Mediterranean with records of its medicinal benefits existing for thousands of years. Its strong detoxifying effect is the result of the amino acid asparagine that cleanses the body of the toxins that accumulate during the winter and strengthens the immune system.In the rest of the word asparagus is usually grown, but Croatian cuisine favours the wild asparagus found in forests that has an intense and bitter aroma and is supposedly laden with minerals and vitamins, which are good grounds for addition to a healthy spring menu. Asparagus or šparuge, which is the local sobriquet, is a part of folk tradition, as the locals spend the entire season harvesting it on steep and unapproachable slopes.

sparoga_v44Although it is common in Croatia, asparagus season lasts the longest in the northern Adriatic. It is a mainstay of Kvarner cuisine, especially during Easter, when it signals the blossoming of life and the return to the outside world. The Christian iconography is best exemplified in the gastronomical blend of asparagus and eggs, the fritaje, which is a common way of preparing asparagus in the region. It is an excellent complement to sea food, especially the sweet Kvarner prawn with sheep’s curd, a natural symbiosis of Kvarner right there on your plate!

Day of Asparagus in Istria


Asparagus lovers don’t miss the Days of Istrian Asparagus! The scent of asparagus and the warmth of Istrian hospitality will pervade the restaurants of north-western Istria between March 21 and May 15. During March, April and May the ninth Days of Istrian Asparagus will give true “asparagus lovers” an opportunity to relish in imaginative, delicious and fragrant delicacies made from Istrian wild asparagus, ranging from the renowned “fritaja” (omelettes), soups, homemade pastas and risottos to ingenious combinations with meat and fish and scrumptious desserts.


Asparagus is one of the most appreciated wild plant varieties growing in Istria, picked from mid March to late April. Since it grows in less accessible places, often protected by thorny bushes, its picking requires eye of a hawk, iron will and not being afraid of an occasional scratch. Asparagus is a well-known keeper of health and in terms of nutrition, an excellently balanced foodstuff. We needn’t neglect the fact that this wonderful plant has been considered an aphrodisiac from times immemorial due to its high vitamin E content, often spoken of as the fertility vitamin.


Since wild asparagus contain all the fullness of bitterish flavour, paired with fresh indigenous Istrian foodstuffs they will delight the palate of true connoisseurs with a virtual explosion of aromas.Food, medicine, aphrodisiac….It’s no wonder that we dedicated an entire manifestation to this plant. After only one visit, you will want to try everything from the prestigious list of restaurants and taverns hosting the Days of Istrian Asparagus


Tourist Boards of the cities of Umag-Novigrad-Brtonigla-Buje
Email: gourmet@coloursofistria.com
Phone: +385 52 757 075

Croatian Aphrodisiac Foods

Pag Cheese

There is an old proverb on island of Pag: “In tavern more cheese, in house more peace” (U konobi više sira, u kući više mira”. The famous Pag cheese, apart from gastronomical value, brings many other enjoyments. Pag cheese is made from sheep milk, and sheep primarily eat the island’s grass and herbs. Large part of this Mediterranean greenery is healthy, and some herbalists say it has aphrodisiac power as well. Namely, Pag cheese boasts zink, powerful and essential mineral controling the sexual functions. It is the primary stimulance for men.


Pag island also remembers a story about one “seagull” (name for middle-age man who is sharing sympaties to foreign female tourists) who was eating Pag cheese every day in large quantities. He was popular with German, Czech and Polish female tourists, and spent many day – rather nights – with them.

Blue lake water


People of southern Croatian town of Imotski are enchanted by the Blue lake. It lies in a deep sinkhole near the city and is possibly formed by the collapse of an enormous underground cave. People living around it call it Penkur (because it makes the “thing” rising). According to a legend, Austrian emperor and king Franz Joseph visited Imotski in the end of 19th century. Local people convinced him the lake water has aphrodisiac powers, so the emperor brought in Vienna 1000 litres of Blue lake water.



Famous product from Istria, black diamond, has worldwide fascination for its smell, taste, and aphodisiac qualities. This belief stems from old Roman Empire, when the emperors ate truffles, giving them remarkable descriptions. Truffles indeed have feromon, chemical content responsible for the sexual activity, while others think this belief comes from the fact that truffles make people happier and destroys melancholy.



In the old days wild asparagus was primary Mediterranean aphrodisiac. Unavoidable in diet, they contain large amounts of vitamin E, also called fertility vitamin. Arabs thought asparahus have aphrodisiac potentials, and was given as a stimulance. Wild asparagus grow naturally in the Croatian coast. They are rich with vitamines, minerals, and fiber. People pick them from March until June, and are famous for omelette dishes.