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Vinistra 2017

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

Vinistra 2017: Malvasia

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

Vinistra 2017: Teran

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

Vinistra 2017: Olive Oils

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

 

DAYS OF KRK LAMB AND CHEESE

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

Restaurant Mulino

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

Krk Stew in the Konoba Ulikva, Omišalj

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

House of Krk Prosciutto

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

 

HERITAGE – FIRST STOP FOR CROATIAN TRADITIONAL FLAVOURS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

PETEANI – TEMPLE OF GASTRONOMY IN LABIN

You cannot miss the Peteani boutique hotel. It lies exactly on the main road to the Labin Old Town and its elegance is visible already from the street itself. It can easily be among the finest gastronomy experiences in Labin, which is the main destination of the eastern Istrian coast. This picturesque medieval town of long history is also the birthplace of Matthias Flacius Illyricus, the reformer and collaborator of Martin Luther, which might be interesting in 2017, when 500th anniversary of Reformism takes place.

But our place in Labin was dedicated to excellent time with Serđo Peteani, an experienced restaurateur and hotelier of this region. Mr Peteani took us to every corner of his new hotel, made within the belle époque villa from the turn of the century. Modest and self-effacing, Mr Peteani shows us spacious and unique rooms for stylish holiday. Nevertheless, it shows how much experience he has and how much love all of his family and staff give to this new project which already turns to be a blissful success.

There is something basic and earthy in this hotel. Its white-and-dark colours, its feeling of elegance but without much fuss, stone and wood, and of course some iron… all of these remind guests they are in Labin, town of miners whose time has faded away. This feeling was made on purpose and it fits great, as the details are really small and they do not change the overall atmosphere of relaxed place for fine dining.

Meeting the chefs and kitchen staff showed us something else – Peteani gives lots of space and innovation to the young people. Very young staff is ready to combine traditional Istrian cuisine with a touch of modernity, just as they themselves have chosen to live in Labin just to engage more into the tastes of the northern Adriatic. They are headed by Peteani Junior, who is running the everyday business of the hotel and the restaurant. And its food… it is really splendid!

Peteanis were kind enough to invite us to lunch although they had a dinner party for over 50 people and were preparing for major event. Luckily, this event was intended to show more of the Peteani cuisine and we came just in moment to try some things from the elaborate menu. Classic fish and meat menu is too humble to describe ideas stemming from the kitchen one floor below.

After a strong Muscat rakija (brandy) a line of five meals were introduced to us, beginning with marinated cuttlefish and shrimps with wild garlic (marinirana sipa i gamberi s medvjeđim lukom). Sea is felt all around this appetizer consisting of indeed fresh ingredients that come every day from verifiably trusted fishermen. Surprisingly mild wild garlic gives flavours to the seafood, with additional carrot dough. We enjoy the gold-awarded Medea Chardonnay 2015, dry and fruity wine with strong floral scents of acacia and lemon. Fresh, rich, and very drinkable, this wine fits great with seafood served in Peteani Restaurant.

Salted cake with pancetta and sheep curd (slana tortica od pancete i skute) is an exciting combination of salty and smoked Istrian pancetta with elegant and mild sheep curd, together with celery, root vegetables, and wild garlic paste. By itself, this meal shows essence of Istrian husbandry; pigs and sheep or rather goats are somewhat a symbol of Istrian countryside.

First main course is stewed octopus with pasta (šufigana hobotnica s pasuticama), so tender and sweet, it almost melts in mouth. Homemade pasutice is traditional Istrian pasta as it was done in past times by hard working Istrian women. It is best to add some drops of olive oil inside and when we speak of olive oil then it must be locals’ favourite Negri, made from the olive groves situated just south of Labin. William and Anessa Negri are descendants of old Labin noble family and their olive oil was part of the best extra virgin olive oils in the world by Flos Olei 2011 guide. Local Negri oil and locally caught octopus, with masterly done pasta combine in a very Mediterranean meal.

And to add a bit more of Mediterranean, we drink Chardonnay Epicuria 2013 and red blend Nomade 2013 by Koquelicot production from Central Istria. This is a very specific wine story which shows arrival of foreign wine makers to Istria, recognising its global potentials. In Gračišće, on road from Labin to Pazin, a French-Croatian marital connection brought the French style burgundy type wines in the Istrian peninsula. Perfect blend of two quite different styles contributes to the restaurants all around the peninsula, giving it a chance for more nuanced pairing of wine and foods. In our case Epicuria balances the octopus with wine vinified in French burgundy oak barriques for ten months, while Nomade is a delicate blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Teran also vinified in same barriques for two years.

Second main course is tranche of flounder fish on aromatised potatoes. Immediately when I have tried the potatoes I stated: this is potato of flounder! Such is the intensity of this very rewarding fish which is baked together with potatoes. Skill and knowledge of Peteani kitchen staff in preparing fish is immaculate, and when one sees how neatly the potato is cut then one cannot wonder where on earth did Peteani find his people!

When in Labin, one must also try krafi. Without it, the visit to Labin would be a waste of time. It is indeed curious that krafi cannot be found anywhere else in Istria in same fashion. Krafi is kind of big ravioli stuffed with cow curd or cow’s grated cheese, raisins, and lemon zest. They may be served with salty or sweet sauces and Mr Peteani opted for sweet version. The sauce is magnificent. It is made of reduced Muscat wine and dry figs, thus giving a bit of acidity and natural sugar of figs. This very local dessert, of which Labin people are especially proud (in nearby Kršan they even have Krafifest!), is also best eaten with some sweet wine. We are indeed honoured to be offered by Benvenuti Corona Grande, a blend of Istrian Malvasia and Muscat made in the cellars of Istrian family Benvenuti. This sweet wine goes perfectly with Peteani’s krafi as it is aromatic, harmonic, with acacia honey and raisins aromas.

Truly magnificent food is a new must-see place in Istria, which also revives the Labin Old Town in the most splendid way.

Hotel & Restaurant Peteani
Aldo Negri 9, 52220 Labin
+385 52 863 404
info@hotel-peteani.hr
www.hotel-peteani.hr

Choco & Wine Festival in Brtonigla

Who is not in favour of chocolate? How about wine? In Brtonigla, a gastronomy paradise near Umag in Northwest Istria, you can easily pair both. For already five years, Tourist Board of Brtonigla prepares Choco&Wine Fest, a unique gastronomy festival in Croatia. New trends in chocolate world and local sweet delicacies have been presented together with wine champions of this Istrian municipality.

Same weekend hosted Seventh Brtonigla Adventure Trek, which gathered some 300 trekkers from several countries. Three trails, of various length and intensity, led many to appreciate the beautiful nature of this part of Istria. All of them could later come to the Brtonigla’s main square in the chocolate tent.

Sweet sense of chocolate tears the air inside, where many chocolate masters showed their expertise. Especially interesting program of cake decoration by Dragica Lukin from Vila Soši in Umag was indeed a delight. Dragica and her son Igor Lukin showed how the chocolate is rightly tempered and decorated. Vila Soši is somewhat a legendary sweet centre of Umag, dedicated to the preservation of traditional sweets and heritage of Croatian delicacies.

Choco art & show of Italian sculptor Stefano Comelli featured the chocolate jewellery, especially chocolate rings, favourite among kids and adults. As the carnival season is high, Vili Radonić from Pula made chocolate masks.

Wine was in no shortage either. Sunny weather gathered also many wine enthusiasts who indulged in wine tastings of renown Brtonigla wine makers Novacco, Veralda, and Ravalico. Istrian Malvasia and Muscat are among the best wine sorts coming from these wine cellars and go excellent with various chocolates.

The tent in Brtonigla was too small for all the guests arriving to this first gastronomy festival in the year in Istria.

Photos by: Elvis Horozović