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.