Food of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast

August 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

I spent my first week of August in what seemed to be a sun-soaked dream – sailing, swimming, eating and drinking along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. My co-workers, Alice and Meredith, two chill and super nice Canadian girls we met via an online forum called crewfinder, Brooke and Shay, and our awesome (and cute) skipper, Ivan, spent 7 days living on our boat, the beautiful Violeta, as part of The Yacht Week, an organized event that took us to various locations, from busier ports to smaller fishing villages, and held huge parties at designated beach clubs or venues each night. We got to meet awesome people from all over the world and somewhere in between all the heavy alcohol consumption and dancing, we took in the natural beauty, culture and of course, food, that Croatia had to offer. I took so many photos during the trip but this post is just on the food, which for the most part was very simply prepared but because of the higher quality of produce/ingredient compared to what we get in the States, tasted absolutely phenomenal. Even the locally produced wines were on point and paired perfectly with the food.

A good number of the restaurants we visited during our trip were recommended by Ivan, who took such great care of us and made sure we never went hungry (which was super hard to do despite us being five girls!), so I actually don’t know some of the names but from what I could tell, most of the restaurants in the places where we stopped were mom-and-pop run eateries that focused on local specialties.

First stop – Split, Croatia. Meredith, Alice and I had dinner at a spot right by our hotel called Poseidon and dug into some local cheeses, olives and fruit to start. For our main, we split an enormous “Poseidon” platter that featured shrimp, large langoustine (think almost miniature lobsters), mussels, whole grilled fish, the whole shebang. Drizzle over a bunch of peppery olive oil, fleck with some extra salt and we were in seafood heaven.

The daily catch, we soon discovered was a normal thing. Typically, in NYC, being able to order a fish that just came off the boat that day is pretty rare but in Croatia, it’s totally expected for the server to bring you to a cooler full of sea critters caught just a couple hours ago and for you to pick whatever looks best to you. I absolutely loved it. We had these two grilled fish as part of our first official crew dinner in Milna.

I was also completely addicted to the langoustine, which are nosebleed expensive and usually offered by the piece at restaurants in NYC. The version below was at a restaurant in Hvar and came in some ridiculously tasty garlic, boozy sauce. Don’t be grossed out but it was so much fun to suck the innards out of the heads (as Mark Bittman of New York Times calls it, “god’s soup”).

My favorite stop by far though was Vis and the dinner we had the first night there was spectacular. We started with this enormous platter of cheese, tuna prosciutto (almost like smoked salmon), mussels and roasted vegetables and then moved on to the freshly grilled sea bream with roasted peppers, french fries and salsa verde. Again, so simple but so good (especially with copious amounts of EVOO drizzled all over). Something about the potatoes in Croatia made us keep ordering them – somehow they tasted so much more spud-y than those in the U.S.

My favorite dinner took place at Konoba Magic, a hidden gem in Vis that also had a vineyard on the premises. Per usual, we had dinner late at night so I would’ve loved to have seen the property during the day but one thing we noticed immediately when we arrived were these giant clay pots sitting right by a hot, hot fire.

We started our meal with the usual – cheese with homemade marmalade,  tuna prosciutto with arugula, anchovies with capers in (you guessed it) more olive oil. Is it possible to ever get bored of this kind of food? I don’t think so.

Ivan also recommended these insane fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with farmer’s cheese and anchovies, which was probably my favorite bite of the entire meal. They came with something very similar to tartar sauce and there was a collective moan of delight as we all bit into these clouds of awesomeness.

But turns out the real showstopper was being hidden in those large clay pots all along – behold peka, a local specialty of stewed veal shank, the creamiest potatoes and sweetest carrots you’ll ever have in your ENTIRE LIFE. Those damn potatoes, man. Oh yeah, and we finally managed to get a photo of our crew, about five days into the trip…

After Yacht Week ended (tears), Alice and I stayed an extra day in Split to decompress and take in some of the sights that we might have missed the first day, including the fresh market filled with beautiful looking fruit and vegetables. Loved seeing old ladies haggle for produce.

The second half of the afternoon was admittedly spent with me either passed out in one of the world’s most comfortable beds or under the giant shower head in our beautiful room at Palace Judita, one of the prettiest hotels I’ve had the pleasure to stay at (the receptionist was a frikkin’ hoot as well). Seven days of sleeping (or not) in a stuffy, tiny cabin and showering either off the side of a boat or in a public marina rest room with a queue of women waiting impatiently behind you will take inevitably take its toll after all. And they had AC! Such a luxury.

Luckily, even though Yacht Week was over, we were able to meet Shay and Brooke for one final (albeit incomplete) crew dinner at local restaurant Apetit before they departed for Italy and we headed back to the U.S. We pulled out all the stops and ordered grilled langoustine, grilled lamb with roasted potatoes, homemade tagliatelle with black truffle (apparently a big thing in Croatia) and small prawns and octopus carpaccio. A perfect meal with a little bit of everything to end one of the best vacations of my life.

Needless to say, I was kind of a wreck inside when it finally came for us to leave this beautiful country the next morning. Alice and I had a layover in Frankfurt and were feeling pretty glum, but a surprise and complimentary upgrade to business class certainly brightened things up a bit! Here’s one last shot of me almost fully reclined while eating some smoked duck salad with a glass of Bordeaux and watching Carey Mulligan being ridiculously gorgeous in Far from the Madding Crowd before dozing off for the next four hours (and I can never fall asleep on flights).

All I can really say now is thank you to everyone – Ivan, our awesome crew of Alice, Meredith, Shay and Brooke, all the super fun people we met on Yacht Week, the staff at Hotel Slavija and Palace Judita, Lufthansa, the locals, Croatia itself for being so goddamn beautiful, the universe for giving us all those free upgrades – for making it a trip to remember forever. I can’t wait to go back!

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