Imagine yourself driving through the lush green country, with hilltop castle ruins and small rivers, picturesque villages and old towns. Indeed, you might be anywhere in Europe, but you cannot find everywhere a lamb or suckling pig roasted on a spit. And this is what Karlovac region is very famous for. Sometimes a shock for our tourists from the northern side of the Alps, it is a scene particular for the gastronomy of Lika, Kordun, and Banija. Along the magistral ways, one can notice numerous restaurants with a roasting oven in open, almost as a culinary invitation to the inn. Nowadays, there are less and less such places, as the highway took most of the tourists quick to the seaside. Still, for the true gastro-nomads, a visit to these glorious enterprises, deemed as the highway of roasted lamb and pork, is the real adventure!
In fact, without knowing it, we have stumbled upon such place in Novigrad na Dobri, a small place near Karlovac. We were hunting for the various strudels, as it was the Week of Strudel in the Karlovac County, and had a vague idea of visiting some not yet seen place and have a lunch. Our first unintended pleasant surprise was the Novigrad Castle. Standing perched on a hill above the peaceful Dobra River, it is a testimony of power and glory of the Croatian noble family Frankopan. And just opposite the river is the hotel Amarilis, the place of our gastronomy journey.
Immediately upon arrival, we had a glorious view of two large sucklings roasted on a spit. The skin was already crunchy and with nice colour. We didn't say it, but it went through all our heads, this will be our main course today. it couldn't be better, we thought. But yes, it can be better, as we didn't count on the traditional meaty and cheesy appetizer and excellent soup. Not to mention the strudel, which was our main idea of coming to Karlovac, but we almost forgot on that.
And everything in a beautiful surrounding of the Amarilis Hotel and Novigrad na Dobri. The owners, family Lorković, comes from this place. Lorković is a famous surname from this area, as it was historically an influential family nationwide. These Lorkovićs have always cared for the rural life and tradition of the local nutrition. In past, but also today, Novigrad na Dobri is known to cultivate sauerkraut and turnip, beans, and German turnip or koraba. These were staple foods of the old generations, served mostly with polenta, and as with everything good, it comes back on the tables. We didn't find out this from some books or leaflets, but from the waitress serving us in the Amarilis hotel, which is a beautiful hotel situated in a picturesque village environment and with a splendid view of the castle ruins. A very pleasant interior with 20 rooms is only superseded by equally pleasant staff.
People used to breed cows, pigs, chickens, and this is the foundation of meat menus in homesteads and inns. The woodlands are rich with boars, deer, rabbits, and they do come as a specialty in some areas and seasons. Our taste of tradition begun with the cold plate featuring the homemade sausages, prosciutto, smoked salami, followed by homemade cheese with dill, and cottage cheese with paprika and garlic as very typical serving in the continental Croatia. A mix to begin or just to enjoy in the afternoon, with a glass of Graševina or gemišt.
While we were cleaning the last bits from our plates, we also chatted with the roasting master. He gives us some insights in turning the spit and taking care of the fire. We nodded our heads, pretending we understand all the little fact concerning the ash and fire that produce crispy pork skin, but indeed we were just impatiently looking at the roast. Before that moment, we had a homemade soup, refreshing as if it came from the grandma's kitchen.
And there it came, beautiful chunks of fatty, crispy and full-flavoured roasted pork! A bliss for carnal pleasures and supporters of good and fresh pork! The masters of roasting are indeed skillful as many are fighting for the crispy skin. The cunning ones will take the chunks combining meat and skin, and thus have a tremendous experience. Some onion and tomato aside, and the meat journey ends at the desserts if you have a place for it. We were surprised by excellent strudel with homemade cheese and another with a mix of forest berries and cheese. One would only wish to spend a night here to learn more about various dishes coming every day for brunch! And many indeed do. If you'd like to experience this place, we surely welcome you to do so: