Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Samobor: From A Royal Free City to Kremšnita (Part 1)

Kremšnita, Bermet & Muštarda! A delicious triad of specialities from the town of Samobor

The town of Samobor is located about 20 kilometers west of Zagreb, and only about 5 kilometers from the border of Slovenia. As it's only a short distance from Zagreb, it makes for an excellent day trip, to visit this historic and fascinating town. We spent several hours exploring Samobor, and it would have been easy to spend an entire day there, checking out all of its interesting history, food and drink. 

In 1242, King Béla IV of Hungary, established Samobor as a royal free city, which he also did for Zagreb, Jastrebarsko, and Krizevci. At that time, the nobility of the region was battling against the king, seeking to take power from him. To prevent this problem, the King acted, creating these royal free cities and hoping to revive the local economies. These four cities acquired the right to elect judges, administer the law for their citizens, and to stage fairs and markets. For a number of years, Samobor was even more of an important mercantile center than Zagreb. 

We began our own exploration of this town at the Samobor Museum, which is located in the former house of Ferdo Livadic, an early 19th-century Croatian composer who was also important in the Illyrian movement, which sought to unite Croatians. It's also where the famed song, Još Hrvatska nij’ propala ("Croatia has not yet fallen") was first performed. The museum contains a variety of exhibits concerning the history of the Samobor region, starting during the prehistoric times. There are ancient fossils, artifacts from the ancient Romans, and plenty of medieval artifacts, artwork, books, and more. It was a fascinating museum, providing insights into Croatian history, and not just the region of Samobor.

We stopped for lunch at the Restoran Samoborska Klet, which is known for its Croatian specialties. It's located just off the main square, and seemed to be a very popular destination. 

I opted for the Pork with Bermet sauce and "dumpling like bread." The pork was tender, the sauce flavorful, and the "bread" was interesting and tasty, easily sopping up the sauce. 

Some of my dining companions ordered the Venison Stew with dumplings, and I tasted this dish too. The venison was excellent, also tender and very flavorful. Both were hearty dishes, fine comfort food, although I might have enjoyed the venison a bit more than the pork. 


We didn't have dessert at the restaurant as we had other plans, to try one of the local specialities, Samoborska kremšnita. We stopped at a cafe in the Kavana Livadić, a hotel located in a 150-year old building. The cafe sells a variety of sweet treats, but we were there for the kremšnita. The origins of this dessert are unknown, although it's likely that it was first created in Austria-Hungary and it is now known across Eastern Europe and the Balkans, under a variety of different names, such as cremeschnitte, cremșnit, kremna rezina, krémes, and napoleonka

Although it's made differently in all of these countries, its common base is a puff pastry and custard cream. In Croatia, there are two main types, the Samoborska kremšnita and the Zagrebačka kremšnita. Samoborska kremšnita has a puff pastry top (and bottom), topped with powdered sugar, and filled with custard cream. It's believed that this kremšnita recipe was created in the 1920s by confectioner Đuro Lukačić, who previously worked in Vienna and Budapest. In January 2021, Samoborska kremšnita received the status of "intangible cultural property" and was entered into the Register of Cultural Goods of the Republic of Croatia.

I received a good-sized piece of Samoborska kremšnita (16 kuna/about $2.25), and it was absolutely delectable. The puff pastry was flaky and crisp, while the custard filling was rich and flavorful, as well as only mildly sweet. It was a lighter dessert than expected, and I easily understand its popularity.   

There are plenty of other places in Samobor which also make kremšnita, and I'm sure people have their personal favorites. I'd like to return to Samobor some day and do a kremšnita crawl, tasting it at various cafes, bakeries, and such, to ascertain the differences and find my own personal favorite. I'd also like to try Zagrebačka kremšnita, a different version which is topped with whipped cream and a chocolate glaze.

We made one other stop in Samobor, at the Podrum Filipec, where we learned about and tasted Bermet, Muštarda, and more, but that is a tale for another article.

(Please note: Photos #1-3, 5, & 9 are courtesy of Todd Godbout)

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Pink Day: A Celebration of Croatian Rosé & Olive Oil

Pink Day is a celebration of pink wines, but also spring, optimism, joy of life and positive energy.“ Such a great sentiment!

Pink Day! A fun festival of Croatian Rosé, both still and sparkling, with over 50 Croatian wines available for sampling, as well as wines from other regions. As I love Rosé, I was excited to attend this event during my recent trip to Croatia, and it didn't disappoint. I found plenty of delicious wines, it wasn't too crowded, and there were other items of interest as well, such as olive oil. 

Pink Day was founded in March 2013, created by Sanja Muzaferija, the president of Women on Wine (WOW),  WOW, which was established in 2011, helps connect women and wine. "The aim is to enhance visibility of women in the wine sector, and to connect women wine professionals and wine enthusiasts. All women who have some sort of direct or indirect relationship with wine. Wine merchants, women winemakers, women enterpreneurs , winemakers’ wives, sommeliers, oenologists, wine journalists or just simply – winelovers!"

According to their website, a few of the objectives of Pink Day include:
• The popularization and promotion of Croatian Rosé still and sparkling wines.
• Educating a wider audience on the benefits of wine, especially on women’s health.
• The promotion of female entrepreneurs in the wine business.

WOW has organized numerous wine events, and Pink Day is one of their highlights each year. Previously, the event had been held on International Women’s Day at the Mimara Museum, but the 2020 Zagreb earthquake damaged that building so the event needed to be moved. Thus, on May 21 & 22, 2022, Pink Day was held at the Lauba – House for People and Art,



Lauba is a unique spot, a combination of art gallery, restaurant, and meeting space. I was taken with the feline-like statute outside the Lauba, peering into the window. I'll also note that I enjoyed some tasty Sweet Potato French Fries at their restaurant, which sold a few snacks during the event. Sometimes those fries can be limp and soggy, but these were nicely crisp, with a fine sweet taste. 

The event, open to the public, hosted numerous Croatian producers of Rosé, as well as a small number of producers from several other countries, including Austria, Slovenia, Serbia, Czech Preublic and more. Although I was primarily there to taste Croatian wines, I samples a few wines from the other countries, especially Serbia. 

Besides the Rosé tables, the event also had a special section, Green in Pink, which showcased local olive oil which you also could sample. Croatian olive oil is highly regarded and has won numerous international awards over the years. Plus, there were several tables of spirits producers, many offering pink-inspired cocktails. Finally, there were also seminars on both Rosé and olive oil. So much to experience at this fascinating event, and one I'd highly recommend you attend next year. 

There's also a fun tradition that attendees should wear pink, or at least dress with some element of pink. I made sure to wear a dress shirt with pink in it. In addition, Pink Day engages in a variety of charitable endeavors, from women's health issues to helping impoverished families. 

After tasting about 50 Rosé wines, I came to a few conclusions about Croatian Rosé, and all were positive. First, the general quality of all the Rosé was generally excellent, including the Sparkling wines. Second, the Rosés were primarily dry, often reminding me more of French-style Rosé. Third, the Rosés produced from Frankovka (aka Blaufränkisch) were impressive. That was surprising as I wasn't aware that Frankovka was so popular in the Slavonian region of Croatia. 

I want to highlight a dozen Rosés that I tasted, although I'll note that there were numerous other Rosés that I enjoyed as well. 

2020 Ilocki Podrumi Frankova Rosé:
Made from 100% Frankovka. Fresh and fruity, including strawberry and raspberry flavors. A little herbal accent, good acidity, and a refreshing taste. Great summer wine, and good friendly as well. 

Ilocki Podrumi Princeps Sparkling Rosé: Also made from 100% Frankovka, in the classic method. Very dry, crisp, with subtle red fruit flavors and a pronounced minerality. Excellent wine!

2021 Vina Poletti Rosella: Made from Red Rose Muscat, an indigenous grape in Istria. On the nose, there were sweet fruit aromas and spice notes, but on the palate it was crisp and dry, with typical Muscat notes, bright red fruit flavors, and a subtle floral element. A more unique and complex flavor profile.

2021 Vinarija Pinkert Rosé:
 Made from 100% Frankovka. An easy drinking Rosé but one that isn't simple. Bright and fresh, crisp and dry, with flavors of strawberry and stone fruit, and a hint of herbal notes. 

Vina Zigante Vero Brut Sparkling Rosé: Produced from indigenous Teran and made by the classic method, this bubbly was crisp and dry, with excellent acidity, tiny bubbles and complex flavors, including red fruits, peach, herbal elements, and a touch of brioche. An excellent wine.

2020 Vina Zigante Aurora Rosé: Produced from Teran, this wine was interesting and delicious, with subtle flavors of strawberry and raspberry, with some herbal notes, and a touch of earthiness. Crisp, dry and well balanced.

2021 Opus Rosé: From the Komarna region, this wine is made from the indigenous Plavac Mali, and is easy drinking, crispy, dry and tasty, with pleasing red fruit flavors and a touch of stone fruit. 

2021 Kutjevo Rosé Premium: Made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Zweigelt, this wine was easy drinking and complex, with delicious red fruit flavors, good acidity, a touch of minerality, and a lengthy finish. 

Sipun Trojiscina Rosé: This wine is made from Trojiscina, an ancient indigenous grape in the Kvarner region, especially on a few islands, including Susak, Cres, and Losinj. Sipun is currently the only winery producing wine from this grape. The Rosé was interesting, dry and crisp, with flavors of raspberry, grapefruit and peach. Subtle, complex and refreshing. A definite winner.

PZ Vrbnik Valomet Extra Brut Sparkling Rosé: Produced from indigenous grapes on the island of Krk, this bubble is clean, dry and delicious with tiny bubbles, mineral notes, red fruit flavors, and a touch of brioche. There was some intriguing complexity with hints of herbs and a pleasing, long finish. 

2021 Vina Tomic Opolo Nobile: Made from Plavac Mali, from the island of Hvar, this wine was easy drinking with red fruit flavors, floral notes, and a touch of brininess. Bring on some oysters!  

2021 Cuj Rose: Made from a blend of 70% Teran, 20% Merlot, and 5% Hvartica, this wine was fresh and crisp, fruity and herbal.

And as for olive oil, my personal favorite was from Oleum Morisunder the brand of Oio Vivo. It is located in south Istria in the largest olive oil region. They have about 15,000 olive trees, growing 7 different olives, and they produce 6 different olive oils. I was especially impressed with their Zizolera, an indigenous olive that is nearly extinct and now grows only in a tiny area. It is made in a lighter style yet it has a medium intensity; rich fruit flavors, a bit of green pepper and tomato, and a spicy kick on the finish. Complex and intriguing, this is an excellent example of the quality of olive oil from Istria.

Win BurkeTodd Godbout, and I relaxing after our Rosé tasting marathon. Overall, Pink Day was a fun event, with plenty of excellent Rosés, delicious olive oils, and more. I was very happy that I attended, and it earns a hearty recommendation from me. It should return next year so you have plenty of time to make plans to attend. Kudos to Sanja Muzaferija and Women on Wine for hosting such a compelling wine tasting event. 


(Please Note: Photos #2, 8, 9, 12, 14-17 are courtesy of Todd Godbout.)

Monday, June 27, 2022

Recent Culinary Highlights: Iron Town Diner, Prince Pizzeria, A Tavola & the Clam Box

There's no Rant today as there's been enough bad news recently, so I just want to highlight some of the tasty delights I've recently enjoyed, giving some attention to excellent restaurants which are worthy of praise and your patronage.


Last week, I posted about the delicious French Toast Cheeseburger at Iron Town Diner in Saugus. It was a special request, and I returned to Iron Town with another special request, this time for a French Toast sandwich with a Fried Chicken Cutlet and cheese. Again, this was a very tasty sandwich, enhanced by the eggy taste and texture of the French Toast. The fried chicken worked well as the filling, and the French Toast didn't get soggy. Like the French Toast Cheeseburger, this was another winner of a sandwich. I'd definitely order this again, although I'm still not done trying out different fillings for a French Toast sandwich. Maybe next time, I'll try Pastrami & Swiss.


Last week, Prince Pizzeria also brought back their Pizza Buffet, all-you-can-eat pizza for only $12 per person. This is available only during lunch, from Monday to Friday, 11:30am-2pm. I was their first customer last Monday, as I was a huge fan of their pre-pandemic buffet and love their pizza. This buffet is slightly different from before, as it includes only pizza, not pasta or garlic bread, and the price is a few dollars more. It's still a very good bargain, and includes a variety of different pizzas, from cheese to mushroom, pepperoni to sausage, and more. 

A server now places the pizza slices on a plate for you, and you just have to tell them which slices, and how many, you wish. This new process seemed to work well, efficiently, and is more hygienic than an open buffet. You can go back and get more pizza, as much as you want. The restaurant was fairly busy last Monday and I suspect it will be popular all summer. With rising costs so evident in the food industry, it's great to still find a bargain for all-you-can-eat pizza. I know I'll be returning again soon.

Last week, I also thoroughly enjoyed a fantastic dinner at A Tavola in Winchester. It's one of my favorite Italian restaurants, and Chef Joe Carli is a talented and creative chef. I've written raves about this restaurant before as well. Our dinner last week began with Burrata with Honey & Thyme Roasted Peaches, a summery dish with creamy burrata, sweet peaches, and the herbal sweet of the honey. 

Chef Carli creates some amazing pasta dishes, and they are available as half-portions, so you can order them as an appetizer. With the burrata, we also had a half-portion of the Gnocchi, with saffron creamed corn & shaved Parmesan. The pillowy gnocchi went well with the subtly-spiced creamed corn and the sharp flavors of the parmesan. A killer dish! 

As an entree, I opted for another pasta dish, the Ravioli with a gorgonzola crema, Parmesan, and lemon.  Perfectly cooked pasta, in a delicious sauce, with a nice gorgonzola tang and subtle lemon notes. The Parmesan crumbles atop the ravioli added a nice texture and taste to the dish. And the sauce was great for dipping some of their freshly made bread. Another killer dish. 

A Special that evening was Seared Scallops with garlic scapes and tomatoes, and each of the large scallops was tender, slightly charred, and sweet, enhanced by the acidity of the tomatoes and the subtle flavors of the scapes. Another tasty summery dish. 

I highly recommend A Tavola and note that it also has a large patio so you can dine outside this summer. 

The Clam Box of Ipswich never disappoints, and this 3-Way Combo of Fried Clams, Fried Scallops and Fried Shrimp was a large mound of seafood, with French fries and onion rings. Everything was delicious, especially the tender, sweet scallops and the large native clams. It's my favorite clam shack, although I know others have their own preferences. I love their clean, crisp fried seafood, and their service is excellent as well. They are very customer-driven and have impressed me multiple times in the past. On many Fridays, they also offer Fried Lobster Tails, which are hard to find elsewhere. This summer, I highly recommend you dine here, for lunch or dinner. 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food and drink events. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
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1) After being forced to shutter following a fire that caused extensive damage in 2019, Pasta Beach Rowes Wharf – stylistically Pasta Beach RW - will reopen their doors at Rowes Wharf in Boston on Saturday, June 25. The new Pasta Beach RW is a completely redesigned and reimagined restaurant and bar featuring authentic Italian cuisine, as produced by a team of chefs hailing directly from Italy..

Pasta Beach’s ambiance invites guests to relax while enjoying life’s simpler things like great food, company, and warm hospitality. The family-owned and operated business – led by an MD from Torino, Italy, Gianni Ropolo, his wife, Susie, and their sons, Eldredge and Tyler – was inspired from Susie’s travels abroad and Gianni’s home country. Susie Ropolo (née Lachapelle), a former Elite agency model born and raised in New England, discovered her first love while visiting Milan over 30 years ago: a simple dish of pasta al pomodoro, lightly sprinkled with parmesan. She later would meet her second love and future husband, Gianni. In 2002, the concept of Pasta Beach was born in Newport, RI, where the family has a summer residence.

On the culinary side, Pasta Beach is proud to welcome executive chef, Andrea Congiusta, who has spent most of his time in the kitchens of two- and three-Michelin Star restaurants in Italy – as well as Massimo Cascone, who for the past 20 years has been a lead chef in Torino, Italy. The duo of chefs – who have just relocated to Boston to join the Pasta Beach family – bring with them the heritage and history behind authentic, simple and natural Italian cuisine. 

With the mentality of “less is more,” the chefs will artfully produce handmade pastas and proteins using the fewest and simplest ingredients, letting each element shine on its own. They will introduce pinsa to Boston, a healthier, airy Roman-style pizza crust made with four different flours. Other highlights include appetizers ranging from classic Roman supplì to scallop carpaccio; homemade pastas covering the original Roman carbonara with guanciale to artisanal-made cappelletti ai funghi; and entrees like a pan-roasted duck with marinated rhubarb and cherries as well as a classic brasato al Barolo. Additionally, all desserts are made in-house to order.

Upon its reopening, Pasta Beach RW’s operating hours will be Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 4:30pm. Pasta Beach RW later will expand its hours. 

2) In celebration of the Tour de France's kick-off (or "grand depart") next Friday, and Chef Michael Serpa's passion for cycling, Serpa's French bistro and cycling-inspired Grand Tour will be kicking off a special Tour de France-themed menu, Le Grand Depart Tour de France, this weekend.

The 2022 Tour de France , the 109th edition of the race, will take place July 1 to July 24. The Grand Depart will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark. Chef Serpa will be attending and cycling one of the French stages recreationally before the race starts.

Available through next Thursday, June 30th, the four-course menu will feature dishes inspired by the race's different stages- all the way from the race's start in Copenhagen to the finish line in Paris. The menu costs $75 per person with proceeds from each prix fixe menu purchased going towards Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry.

The menu features:
Course 1 (Inspired by Stage 1: Copenhagen)
Smørrebrød with smoked bluefish, butter toasted rye, quick pickled cucumbers, spring peas, dill
Course 2 (Inspired by Stage 4: Dunkerque to Calais)
Endive & Jambon Gratin with braised endive, french ham gruyere, chives, nutmeg
Course 3 (Inspired by Stage 12: Briancon to Alpe d' Huez)
Savenor’s Bavette Steak with chilled asparagus salad, caramelized onion ragoût, red wine demi
Course 4 (Inspired by Stage 21: Paris la Defensa Arena to Paris Champs-Élysées
Dark Chocolate with roasted pistachio & whipped cream

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Zagreb: A Return To Agava Restaurant

During my short time in Zagreb on my recent visit to Croatia, I decided to dine once again at the Agava Restaurant, located at 39 Tkalčićeva Street. Check out my prior article about Agava, for more info and background about the restaurant. Tkalčićev. a Street is a fine pedestrian street, with lots of restaurants, bars and cafes. Since I was in the area, and had enjoyed my dinner there so much before, I decided to eat there again. 

My dinner began with some complimentary treats, and I unfortunately didn't write down what they were, but they were all tasty bites. 

I also started my dinner with a glass of Sparkling Wine, the Petrač Bregh Blanc de Blancs (35 kuna/.10 liter). The winery is located in the Zagorje region, in northern Croatia. They own a 10 hectare vineyard, known as Hršak breg. The Bregh is made from 100% Chardonnay, produced in the classical method. It ages for about 24 months on the lees, and has a 12.5% ABV. Fresh, crisp and medium-bodied, with a nice light creaminess, and flavors of apple and citrus. Plenty of tiny bubbles, with a hint of brioche and a pleasing finish. 


For an appetizer, I opted for the Red Angus Beef Tartare (110 kuna), with Stilton cheese, butter, and crostini. It was creamy and rich, with a tasty beef flavor enhanced by its other ingredients. 

With the tartare, I chose a glass of the 2016 Boskinac Cuvee (60 kuna), from a winery located on the island of Pag. The winery was founded in 2000, although the family's history with wine extends back many generations. The Cuvee is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, aged for two years in the barrel, and with a 13.5% ABV. It was bold yet soft, with flavors of black cherry and ripe plum, with restrained tannins, good acidity, and a lengthy finish. 

For my entree, I went back to the island of Pag, choosing the Risotto (120 kuna) with sheep cheese from Pag, thyme and pear. Such a delectable dish, with perfectly cooked rice, an intriguing, slightly briny taste of cheese, and a little sweetness from the pear. Well balanced and delicious, this was such a satisfying dish. Highly recommended!

For my final wine of the dinner, I selected the 2021 Saint Hills Mala Nevina (32 kuna), from the Istria region. It is a blend of Malvazija Istarska and Chardonnay, aged in small barrique barrels for three months, and with a 13% ABV.  Fresh and fruity, with hints of herbal notes, this was a pleasant and easy drinking wine, that went well with the risotto. 

While walking down Tkalčićeva Street in Zagreb, and feeling overwhelmed by all the restaurant choices, Id' recommend you dine at Agava Restaurant