Raise your glass and raise your fork to Croatia’s fertile and prolific vineyards and farms.
Raise Your Glass!
Many travelers think of Croatia as a smaller version of Italy, right across the Adriatic. To be sure, this makes for similarly dreamy landscapes. It also means that the climate and earth of Croatia produce similarly dreamy vintages. Not to be left behind its vinicultural neighbor across the sea, Croatia boasts more than 300 demarcated wine districts.
Central and South Dalmatia. The hugely popular Zinfandel is descended from a grape grown here, the Plavac Mali.
North Dalmatia. This region is famous for the Babić grape, a native Croatian varietal that produces inky red wine of considerable tannin and strength. The grape is also found on the island of Korcula.
Istria. In the hillsides and valleys of Istria, Moscato, Trebbiano and Verduzzo grapes flourish.
Slavonia. This is the epicenter of Croatia’s most widely planted vine, the native Grasevina. This fresh, lightly aromatic white wine – sometimes aged in oak casks carved from native oak forests – is reminiscent of a Chardonnay.
Plesivica. On the steep, rocky slopes of this area, native vines produce Riesling and Chardonnay grapes.
Raise Your Fork!
We said earlier that Italy lies west across the Adriatic Sea from Croatia. Indeed, they share a lot in common, including a homegrown mix of agriculture, mari-culture, and viniculture that combine into a fresh farm-to-table cuisine. On land, fertile farms never stop yielding their bounty … by sea, the country’s fishing villages have long hauled in a generous and delicious catch. Here are some of our favorite Croatian dishes.
Gridele. The “straight off the gridele” preparation of oily Adriatic fish is simply divine. The fish is grilled with olive oil and fresh Mediterranean herbs over the wood from old grapevines or olive trees, for a deeply flavored dish.
Brodet. This light Croatian fish soup imparts the flavors of whichever catch of the day is used to make it – perhaps a whitefish like flounder, John Dory or red scorpionfish, or crab and shrimp. Polenta is often served on the side.
Pasticada. This Dalmatian specialty beef stew is seasoned with bacon and a sauce of herbs and vegetables. Potatoes, gnocchi, pasta, or rice and Swiss chard are often served on the side.
Fuži. Truffles are native to the Istrian peninsula, a luxurious addition to many Croatian dishes. They add a deep earthy flavor to pasta dishes and are wonderfully complemented by local parmigiano cheese.
Zganci. This polenta-like side dish is made from maize, wheat or buckwheat flour. Cooked zganci is crumbled on a plate and served with milk, yogurt, honey, or even the cracklings from bacon.
Scampi Buzara. This common dish from the north Adriatic is simple to cook and messy to eat. Unshelled shrimps are tossed in a light tomato sauce with shallots, garlic, wine and parsley. Grilled bread sops up any leftover sauce.
Prsut. This air-cured ham in Croatia is similar to Italian prosciutto. It makes for a light appetizer or a flavorful enhancement to main dishes.
Istarska Jota. Also known as Istrian stew, this dish gets its heartiness from beans and sauerkraut and showcases the surprising influence of Austria on Croatia’s cuisine.
Pod Pekom. Sometimes referred to as “under the bell” cooking, this traditional method of slow-roasting meat is used in many homes. Poultry, lamb, veal, or octopus is placed atop chopped potatoes and drizzled with various Mediterranean spices and olive oil. Then a sacz, or steel dome lid, is placed over it all so that the ingredients cook in their own juices. It makes for an incredibly tender and flavorful meal.
Zelena Menestra. Dubrovnik’s traditional green stew is mentioned in writings as far back as 1480. This rich and hearty dish is prepared with lots of bacon, sausage, ham hock, potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables.
Palacinke. These thin pancakes are stuffed with different sweet fillings.
Fritule. These donut-like fried pastries are a popular sweet, flavored with brandy, raisins, and citrus zest, and dusted with powdered sugar.