Trogir is a tiny pedestrian only island (with the exception one outer street that connects it to the mainland). It is a medieval walled town with cobblestone alleys and walkways with a beautiful wide boardwalk with a gorgeous views. We stopped off in Trogir to do a bit of exploring and grab lunch before heading to Split. The boardwalk was full of restaurants that took advantage of the views. I actually don’t remember the restaurant name however, I do remember our meal. We ordered a few dishes to share because we wanted a bit of everything and because we were on the coast, we decided to go with freshly grilled prawns. You could taste the smoky char on them but I must warn you, they were definitely a lot of work to peel them so I don’t recommend if you don’t like to work for your food or are short of time. The squid ink risotto was a unique dish – I’m used to seeing homemade squid in pasta but in a risotto was a first for me. Although it doesn’t look all that appealing, it was pretty tasty. But the cevapi sandwich was the best dish and not because of the cevapi (even though they were flavourful) – it was the bread! Crusty on the outside and soft/moist on the inside, I don’t know how they make it but everywhere we went the bread and pastry was just delicious!
For some reason, everywhere I went in Croatia and no matter which bakery I was in, taking photos was forbidden. A lot of these bakeries don’t have an online presence so perhaps its a way to fight off the competition, I don’t know but its really too bad because I loved the bakeries in Croatia. A bit different from the traditional bakeries that tend to offer sweeter pastries, in Croatia, I found more savoury pastries dominating the shelves. In Zadar, we popped into Pekarna Dalmatinka just located inside the Land Gate on the main strip. My favourite pastries were the ones stuffed with sir (Croatian cheese), there’s a sourness and tanginess in their cheese that just made it so addictive. And the pastry itself, looked like phyllo but the texture was very different especially in the baklava. Although I liked the flavour in the baklava, filled with lots of walnut and honey, the texture was definitely too soft for my liking – however, for $1 CAD for a sizeable slice it was a great deal :)
Right from night one in Croatia, I was curious with what locals turned to if they wanted a beer. While travelling across the country there were brands that I would see everywhere like Ozujsko, Pan, Karlovacko and Union. I gathered these were national brands and most were available as a pale or dark lager. But what I didn’t expect was the popularity of radlers – every beer brand was also available in a radler and in multiple flavours…..lemon, lime, grapefruit and blood orange. Radlers are great, especially if you want something with the carbonation of a beer but don’t like the taste. We also discovered some micro-beers, most being brewed in the Istria region of Croatia like Favorit and San Servolo. The best part of all was the price of beer in Croatia, with the exception of Dubrovnik, on average the cost of a 500ml bottle of beer was $2 Canadian dollars – at that price, any beer would taste great!
If you were to ask me what my most memorable meal was in Croatia, it would be this one. After what seemed like hours (it really only took 90 minutes) of driving through dense forests and windy roads we finally arrived at Plitvice Miric Inn. Walking into the first house, we stepped right into the evening dining room full of guests enjoying their evening. We were hungry and tired, and since we were in the middle of Plitvice Lakes National Park we were happy and relieved that the inn keepers offered us a full 3 course meal prepared with local produce (all for 20 euros). The meal started with a traditional shot of Croatian schnapps and then the salad and soup course were served. Although every course in this meal was great, right from the fresh salad to the wonderful (and not too sweet) homemade strudel, what really stood out for me were the grilled vegetables. And I know what you’re going to say, grilled vegetables? Yes, the zucchini, red peppers, onions, carrots, broccoli, potatoes and cauliflower all grilled and seasoned to perfection. Maybe its the olive oil or the salt or how the fact that the vegetables come from local farmers…..or perhaps it was my hunger being satisfied but for once, I reached for more veggies rather than the protein. Don’t get me wrong, the cevapi and trout were delicious, especially the trout but at the end of the night it was the veggies that were all eaten :)
Early Sunday morning after exploring the beautiful Roman Amphitheatre, we stumbled upon a market located just outside the entrance to the amphitheatre and you know me, I had to check it out. Well, it was a total score! We discovered locally made turkish delight, soft and delicious in flavours like rose water, pistachio and chestnut. And my favourite, homemade almond nougat! We found a booth with a constant stream of customers all waiting for freshly made fritule, Croatian pastry that looks very much like Tim Horton’s timbits (if you’re Canadian, you know what these are :)) except these are light, fluffy and not coated in sugar but a dollop of milk chocolate sauce. Walking through the market you get a real sense that Croatians really love their pork and cheese. There were cured meats, lots of large mortadella sausages, tubs of chicharron and wheels of Croatian sir (cheese) everywhere. We definitely made some purchases and sampled plenty, a perfect way to end our brief visit to Pula.
One of the most memorable experiences of my trip to Croatia was my visit to Karlic Tartufi in the town of Paladini, in the northern region of Istria, Croatia (Thanks to my friend S who visited Karlic Tartufi last year). It was our second stop on our 10 day journey through the country. To be honest, I cannot believe we actually found this place – there were minimal signs directing us and it was located on top of hill that is accessed by a one lane gravel road in the middle of endless rolling green hills (such beautiful place). Once we arrived, we were greeted by the Karlic family members (the daughter, mother and grandmother) and were introduced to the history of truffles, both black and rare white truffles and then a wonderful spread of truffle hors d’ouvres and dishes. We enjoyed breakfast in their open air dining room, tasting and savouring every way one can have truffles – mixed with cream cheese, mixed in scrambled eggs, truffle flavoured hard cheeses and my new found favourite, black truffles in honey! The touch of truffle honey paired with a slice of the cow’s milk cheese was to die for I just had to bring home a jar :) Then to top off the entire experience, we were taken on a hunt in the nearby forests with three of their dogs and although never a guarantee, we happened to visit Croatia at the start of the white truffle season. And low and behold, the dogs found a sizeable white truffle! What an awesome way to experience a part of Croatia that most visitors never do!
You all are going to think I’m crazy but what I failed to mention in my previous post about the true reason for starting the Croatian road trip in Samobor is because of my hunt to find this: the kremsnite. It’s a traditional Samobor dessert with a substantial layer of vanilla custard sandwiched between a puff pastry base and top coated in powdered sugar. And I found it at U Prolazu, a caffe/bar located just a few doors down from where we had dinner at Samoborska klet in the main town square of Samobor. Open late with two main rooms full of locals, it looked like a very popular spot for late night get togethers with friends. As this was my first taste of kremsnite, I really went in with no expectations and was pleasantly surprised at how light and airy the vanilla custard was in the kremsnite. It tasted like it was made with whipped cream which made it light and subtle in vanilla flavour – a great dessert to follow a heavier dinner. Well worth the detour!