The search for traditional Liburnian gastronomy in times of carnival led us to a homestead located in the less familiar place Rukavac, near Matulji. A rural estate has found its place among family homes. It was built in 1880s and since then has remained in the same family, who converted the estate into a refined experience of gastronomy pleasures, with quite unique view of Lisina Mountain. It is a gorgeous wood park at a foot of mountain chain Ćićarija, which provides numerous short and long walkways thought it as well as hiking paths.
Former house for labourers in the field, for whom homesteads were intended, heirs to the Ružić and Frlan family now turned it into a holiday home for gastronomads. They enjoy the rich variety of tastes among which are Grobnik cheese and curd, Istrian prosciutto, truffles, all aroma and flavour with the addition of olive oil and seasoning with herbs growing around the restaurant, which the chef and owner, Vinko Frlan, carefully chooses when creates his exquisite meals.
His father still makes excellent brandies based on herbs and fruits in the region. Rukavac herb brandy (rukavačka travarica) is of his making, as he handpicks Mediterranean herbs and makes indeed great brandy. We also tried fig brandy, which has excellent aroma and even better taste. It is great aperitif for imaginative winter menu we have tried in Stancija.
Elaborative start began with smoked beef carpaccio with Grobnik cheese and olives. Slightly smoky carpaccio reminds on the meat freshness and enchants with its red colour, while grated Grobnik cheese is usually salty but also young and without strong taste. It comes from another famous carnival region of Grobnik. Everyone here is connected by bell ringers’ tradition and indeed Mr Frlan is also Halubje bell ringer. The cheese saltiness is additionally eased with extra virgin olive oil from Nino Činić in Krasica near Buje. He cultivates leccino sort; young olive oil with an aroma of mowed grass fits well with black olives and rucola on the carpaccio.
We enjoy homemade bread, small round bites of traditional perfectness, still warm from the oven. Home wine, cabernet blend and Malvasia would go well with all Stancija meals, but more elaborative wine list is available, mostly of Istrian wines.
Main course consisted of crisp pastry, bacon and boškarin sausage, leek, prosciutto and curd. Boškarin is popular name for authentic Istrian beef and its sausage is finely baked; more and more flavours open up when you chew the sausage and enjoy its mild and meaty taste. The sausage lays on basis of crisp pastry and curd, which gives specific milky aroma and balanced essence of leek. On top comes rich and salty prosciutto.
Almost as a surprise comes poached egg inside this dish, and it completely changes the flavour, giving an impression of two dishes inside one. Very balanced combination emerges as arty expressions of winter and carnival traditions of this region between sea and mountains. Sausages are unavoidable feature of carnival food, while its origin gives local authenticity. And everyone knows what kind of combination eggs and bacon give!
Second main course was again pleasure for senses; in a basket made of dough beef Bolognese with mushrooms and béchamel sauce is served. First comes the strong essence of boletus, picked often in neighbouring woodlands. The dish is rich, layered, and meaty, with big chunks of mushrooms.
Dessert of this winterish gastronomic journey is chestnut tiramisu, with caramel and cream dressing, excellent finish for anyone who likes less sweet desserts. In special occasions one can also try rukavački presnac here, which is gastronomic heritage of this place.
In the restaurant of the homestead Kovačići you can always taste homemade pasta and fresh baked bread. These culinary challenges and delights are not hidden away from the guests. Homestead offers many cooking schools, which combines Croatian traditional culinary delicacies in a memorable, interactive and imaginative way. We surely did experience it in the beautiful, cosy and warm dining room.
A complete offer if fulfilled with four spacious double bedrooms and one single bedroom, equipped with all the necessary modern day appliances. Although the rooms do not reflect a traditional style, they are tastefully decorated in accordance with the view from the window. Guests also have access to bikes with which you could explore the whole surrounding area of Matulji, and for those looking for more adrenaline there are mountain bikes, hiking and tennis courts.
Photos by Stancija Kovačići and Taste of Adriatic