It is a sheer pleasure to sit at the roofed terrace of the Butina household in centre of Kuterevo, a Velebit mountain village known for superb wood craftsmen and the Bear Orphanage. We are here to learn more about the mountains that surround Gacka Valley. This dichotomy is extremely important, as the Valley cannot be comprehended without visiting mountains that surround it.
The place is very popular among the many volunteers in the Bear Orphanage, but among the visitorts from all around the world. We are sitting around the vast table, in midst of old household items, surrounded by not so far Velebit peaks. The owners bring us rakija as a traditional welcome sign, and this is Lika as everyone knows it!
The family decided to leave the life in town and settled in the village of their ancestors, keeping the long time family tradition in catering for guests in this beautiful and picturesque Velebit village. Except enjoyment in the gastronomy, Butina household offers the accommodation, inner hall with 55 seats, terrace built in authentic rural style for 80 persons, but also a tour of traditional artisan and craftsmen stores, mountain trekking, and various workshops, such as making the hay, producing jams and juices, etc. The family uses almost all products from the village itself, making its cuisine as local as it gets.
While we talk about the estate, we are tempted with a usual appetizer for the guests, homemade cheese with garlic and parsley on toast. After several sips of rakija, the taste of it is heavenly. The crusty toast features excellent cheese, soft and with relaxed texture, which easily melts in mouth. The village is situated in milk-producing region, where cows and sheep roam freely in the narrow mountain valleys, giving rich milk.
Although in high summer, we enjoyed soup with homemade noodles, also a long tradition of Croatian cuisine. In the opinion of our grandmas it seems you cannot have a lunch without a soup. During the meal, we drink elder juice, which is so refreshing and rich in flavour, handpicked by the lady of the house. Elder juice is excellent decision for your summer non-alcoholic drink!
And then, a miracle struck us. On the table comes homemade baked white bread. The sight of it brings everyone to the childhood, looking, tasting and smelling the breads of our grandparents. Magnificent crust crunches when it is cut, naturally with hand, and the texture of freshly baked bread makes everyone feel homely. Traditionally, the bread is coated in the cabbage leaves.
The place is famous for its grilled meat. Pork’s rack and chicken fillet is offered with homemade potato, grilled zucchini and peppers, with lettuce and tomatoes. The family owns sheep and goats, and the ram was watching us carefully from nearby while we were eating. Given the proximity of the mountain and the forest, the mountain game stew is also favourite dish here.
Many visitors ask for the lamb or veal under the baking lid, which is traditional Croatian dish, but we urge you to try kid (goat) on the spit or kid stew. In colder months, it is great to try Lika Kalja, a think soup with cooked lamb, potatoes and other cooked vegetables.
We were talking about our experiences in the Gacka Valley and kept to mention masnica, traditional Gacka dessert meal, lamenting we couldn’t find any. No problem, in a matter of half an hour we were presented with masnica in three styles – with cumin, with cheese, and with apple. Masnica is a Lika dessert with many local varieties, usually baked for the Three Kings, after Christmas and the New Year. It is made by mixing the eggs, cheese (or other ingredients) and a bit of sugar in dough and is baked and the homemade fat is spilled over. Indeed, spectacular way to finish our visit to Butina homesteads!