Thursday, November 28, 2019

Giving Thanks On Thanksgiving

Today, all across America, many of us will gather together with family, friends and others, savoring a lavish feast of food and drink. We might also attend local football games, watch it on TV, or check out the Macy's Day Parade. We will talk and laugh, toast and cheer, savoring all the goodness of the day, reveling in the joy of the holiday. However, amidst all this merriment, we should not forget the deeper meaning of the day. It is about far more than turkey and wine, stuffing and football, pecan pie and naps.

Thanksgiving is a day for reflection upon our lives, to ponder and be thankful for all of the positive things in our lives. We need to appreciate the goodness in our lives, to be happy with everything we have (and I don't mean in a material sense). No matter what troubles or adversities we might face in our lives, I am absolutely sure there is also much to bring us joy.

Our focus today, and actually how it should be every day, should be on the positive aspects of our lives. Savoring the positive in our lives can brighten the darker parts of our lives, and place everything in perspective. Complaining and criticizing often accomplish little and instead we should concentrate on solutions. We can make our lives better if we truly desire to do so. It may take time and effort, but we can accomplish much with a positive mindset.

I'm thankful for many things in my life, including family, friends, health, and much more. I'm thankful for all my blog readers. I'm thankful for all the great food and drink I've enjoyed this year. I'm thankful for all the opportunities that have arisen during the past year. It would take too long to list every single thing I am thankful for here, but I will take the time to reflect upon all of them today. I will try not to dwell on the negative elements in my life. It will hopefully be a day of appreciation and reflection, of hope and a brighter future.

I fervently hope that everyone else can embrace the positive, rather than dwelling on the negative. Share your positive feelings with your family and friends. Tell them that you love them, thank them for being in your life. It may be corny, but a hug and kind words can mean so very much. And you'll never regret it.

I'm going to enjoy plenty of tasty food and drink today, but I'll remember that today is about more than the feasting. It is primarily a time for thanks, for all the good that is in our lives, and for being with the people we care about and love.

(This is a reprint of an article, with a few revisions, from November 2015 which remains as relevant now as it did then.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Croatia: Always More To Learn

I've essentially wrapped up my coverage of my September trip to Croatia, and you can find all of my articles at All About Croatia. I'll certainly write more about Croatia, and have a few ideas percolating in the back of my mind, but my current 20+ articles should give you an excellent overview of this fascinating country, especially its food and wine. It's a country you should learn more about, and you should sample its wines if you get the opportunity. And if you're considering traveling to Croatia, I'd give it a hearty recommendation.

I only spent ten days in Croatia, so I captured more of a surface understanding of the country, which I enhanced with additional reading and research. I engaged in a deeper dive into the Komarna appellation, giving me a better insight into this new region and wine production. I explored some of Croatian's best known food dishes, visiting several excellent restaurants, checked out some of the country's historical sites, toured some museums, and visited a number of different towns and cities. Despite all I did while I was in Croatia, there is certainly plenty more for me to learn about and experience, and hopefully I will return to Croatia one day.

Here is some of what I'd love to learn about, to expand my understanding of this compelling country:

1) Cuisine: 
I'd like to experience more examples of some of the dishes I've already tried, to experience their diversity, from the Peka to Brudet, Buzara Mussels to Crni Rižot. These are iconic dishes, yet they can be made differently, dependent upon the ingredients which are used. I want to taste the range of Croatian cheeses, to ascertain their differences, to experience the types available from various parts of the country. I also would like to know more about Croatian olive oil, which is said to be some of the best in the world. And it would be interesting to experience more of the different cuisines available in regions of Croatia I didn't visit, like Istria. Plus, I'd love to enjoy more Ston Oysters!

2) Wine:
There is so much Croatian wine that I'd still love to experience or investigate more fully. During my trip, I tasted a single wine from some wineries, yet I'd like to taste more selections from those wineries, to better ascertain the quality of those wineries. There are other wineries I've read about, which have intrigued me, but which I haven't sampled their wines yet. I'd like to taste wines made from other indigenous grapes that I haven't yet experienced. I'd also like to taste deeper into wines made some other grapes, from Rukatac to Plavac Mali. In addition, I'd also like to try more Sparkling Wines and more Skin-Contact wines.

3) Prošek:
I haven't yet tasted Prošek and I'd like to remedy that. Prošek is a traditional sweet dessert wine from the southern area of Dalmatia, Croatia. It is made using dried wine grapes in a manner similar to passito. It has a lengthy history but was mired in controversy when the EU decided the name was too similar to Italian Prosecco and prohibited the use of the term "Prošek." It seems like a silly decision as the two wines are quite different, and Prošek can point to a 2000 year old history.

4) Bikla:
I'm very curious about this oddity, though I suspect it might be something I'd only like to experience once. Bikla is a traditional mixture of red wine and goat milk, mostly common to the Vrgorac region of inland Dalmatia. It's usually made after the harvest, is even given to small children, and there's an annual Bikla festival. It doesn't sound appealing but there must be some reason for its popularity. And I'm game to try it.

5) Rakija:
Though I tasted several Rakija, brandy spirits, during my time in Croatia, I'd like to learn more about them, and taste more of the range of flavors available. It almost seems like Croatians make Rakija from every type of fruit available. They also add numerous other ingredients, herbs, spices, money and more. There is so much diversity, plus many people still make Rakija at home. I had enough during my trip to whet my curiosity, and now I'd like to better sate that curiosity.

6) Other Regions:
There are plenty of regions and islands in Croatia that I didn't visit, but which I'd love to see. For example, I'd like to explore Istria, a region that has some Italian influence and which is known for its truffles and olive oil. Plus, Istria is known for vampires!  There are plenty of wineries there too. In addition, I like to travel to some of the Croatian islands in the Adriatic, such as Vis, Brac Island, and Hvar, which commonly have wineries, and sometimes indigenous grapes that only grow on those islands. Plus, these islands often have lengthy histories, extending back at least to the ancient Greeks.

7) Culture:
With Croatia's long and rich history, there are more historical sites and museums that I'd like to visit. For example, I'd love to see the Pula Arena, one of the best preserved Roman amphitheater's in the world. There are a number of medieval castles which can be explored, and museums showcasing the intriguing history of Croatia. I'd even like to check out the newly opened Museum of Chocolate in Zagreb!

And Croatia is also simply beautiful. Who wouldn't want to return?

Monday, November 25, 2019

Croatian Wines Now Available Online!

During the past two months, I've written over 20 articles about Croatia and its food and wine. It's a fascinating country with plenty of diverse and delicious wines, some of which have been available in the Boston area for the past year. And new Croatian wines will become available here in the coming Spring.

As only about 7200 cases of Croatian wine are exported to the U.S., that's meant that Boston has been fortunate to have Mirena Bagur and Win Burke (pictured above) of Croatian Premium Wine Imports, bringing these wines to our local market. You can find out which local wine shops and restaurants carry these wines here. Mirena and Win have recently taken the next step, making their Croatian wine portfolio available to other parts of the country.

Over the weekend, Croatian Premium Wine Imports announced the soft opening of their new Online Shop, which can ship wines to 16 states, including: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Washington, DC. In time, additional states will be added to this list once more state laws are revised. So, many more people around the country can now experience the wonders of Croatian wine, and taste wines made from indigenous grapes like Pošip, Plavac Mali, and Tribidag.

Croatian Premium Wine Imports is having an opening special too, with a 15% discount on any order of 12 or more bottles. Buy some Croatian wines as holiday gifts for family and friends, buy some for your holiday feasts, or just buy some to drink on a Wednesday night.

For more information about the wines they sell, and the Komarna wine region in Croatia, check out my articles in All About Croatia.

Peninsula Wine Bar: Dingač, Postup & The Bura-Mrgudić Winery

The Pelješac peninsula, in southern Dalmatia and jutting out into the Adriatic Sea, has been known by several other names throughout history, such as Stonski Rat and Puncti Stagni. It is the home of the famed Walls of Ston, and the waters of the Bay of Mali Ston, which are the source of the delectable Ston Oysters (of which I enjoyed plenty while I was in Croatia).

This region, where 80% of their wines are red, is also famed as one of the best regions to grow Plavac Mali, the most commonly grown red grape in Croatia. Back in 1961, Plavac Mali was the first Croatian grape to have its own appellation, Dingač, located on the Pelješac peninsula. A Dingač  wine must be 100% Plavac Mali, from vineyards the winery owns, and the wines must be submitted to the controlling authority for approval. The vineyards in Dingač are generally on steep, south-facing slopes. Also on Pelješac, Postup was its second appellation, created in 1967, and it too concentrates on Plavac Mali.

While we visited Pelješac, we stopped by the Peninsula Wine Bar, owned by the Bura-Mrgudić Winery and located in Donja Banda, to taste some of the local wines. Open to the public, you can taste over 60 different wines from Pelješac and the island of Korčula, as well as olive oil, homemade liqueurs and spirits, Croatian cheeses and meats. The participating wineries are generally, small, family-owned operations. The wine bar is a small and comfy spot, but with plenty of intriguing wines, and we enjoyed a number of diverse wines during our tasting. It's a fine spot to sample some of the best of the region.

Bura-Mrgudić Winery is run by siblings, Mare Mrgudić (pictured above) and Niko Bura, and the family's history with wine extends back at least five generations. They own vineyards on some of the best spots in the Dingač and Postup regions, though they are usually on very steep slopes, making harvest tough. In some spots, they have to use safety ties for their workers to ensure they don't fall down the slopes. In the first of the two pictures above, you can see one of their very steep slopes. Mare took us out to one of their vineyards, and she is said to be extremely knowledge about wine making. She was certainly very personable, and it's clear she has a strong passion for wine.

To accompany our tasting, there were cheeses, meats and olives, and I really loved the different cheeses. I need to learn more about the various kinds of Croatian cheese.

The 2018 Bura Rukatac was a fantastic value at the wine bar, at the equivalent of $6 U.S., and has been exported to the U.S. in the past, though its price here was probably closer to $20. It still would be a very good value even at that price. Made from 100% Rukatac grape, known as Marastina on  Pelješac, the grapes are grown mainly in the valley of the peninsula. This wine was made in a more traditional manner, fermented with wild yeasts and spending four days on the skins. At 12% ABV, this wine has an alluring nose of savory aromas, and on the palate it is wonderfully complex and intriguing. Herbs and spaces, briny notes, a taste of apples and dried fruit, and even some subtle mineral notes. So much going on in this wine and most of us seemed enamored with this wine. Highly recommended! My only regret is that the wine bar was sold out of this wine so I wasn't able to buy any to take home.

The 2018 Bura Plavac Mali, also priced at $6 U.S., was also a killer value. At 13% ABV, the nose of this wine was also compelling, fruity with spice notes. On the palate, it was light and fresh, with delicious notes of cherry and plum, plenty of acidity, and a pleasing finish. This was probably one of the lightest Plavac Mali wines I tasted in Croatia, helping to show the diversity of this grape. I bought some of this wine to take home, and would easily have bought a case but they only had a limited supply. It's easy to understand why these two wines are so popular.

The 2018 Antunovic Rukatac is produced by a winery which was founded in 1994, though the family has a multigenerational history of winemaking. They currently own about 7 hectares of vineyards, growing Plavac Mali, Rukatac, and Pošip. With a 12% ABV, this wine had a pleasing nose of melon and white flowers. On the palate, it was fresh and crisp, with a tasty blend of citrus flavors, especially lemon and lime. It was an easy-drinking wine that would be perfect for the summer or with seafood. I've really come to enjoy the Rukatac grape.

The 2017 Boris M Violic Plavac Mali is produced by a winery that was founded in 2010, and currently owns about 4.5 hectares of vineyards, growing grapes such as Plavac Mali, Rukatac, Chardonnay and Tribidag. This wine is made in a more traditional style, spending more days upon the  skins, and it is a bold but still elegant red wine. The black fruit flavors are dominant, rich plum and blackberry, with strong, but well-integrated tannins, mild spice notes, and a subtle herbal hint.

Also from the Bura-Mrgudić winery, the 2017 Marica Plavac Mali is considered part of their midrange, and it's made in a traditional fashion. Aged partially in oak, and at 14% ABV, it is a softer, elegant Plavac Mali with delicious black and blue fruit flavors, dark spice notes, and a lingering, satisfying finish. This would make for an excellent pizza or burger wine, an easy drinking red sure to please.

The 2016 Donja Banda Postup Plavac Mali was aged mostly in used French oak and has a 14.5% ABV. With rich black cherry and plum flavors accented by a spicy backbone, the wine is smooth will well-integrated tannins. It's a wine for steaks and hearty dishes, perfect for winter dishes.

The 2016 Vicelic Plavac Mali is produced by a small winery, with about 4.5 hectares of vineyards, mostly in the Dingač region. The family history extends back though to 1935, when their great-grandfather used to produce Plavac Mali, and his operation was the lasted in Pelješac at that time. This wine was aged partially in oak and had an aroma of dusty spice and subtle black fruit. On the palate, it was elegant and tasty, with plum and blackberry flavors, a touch of bitterness, spicy accents, and a lengthy finish. Another wine that would be best with beef and hearty dishes.

The 2016 Vicelic Dingač, made from 100% Plavac Mali, is produced more in an international style, spending about 14 months aging in new oak. At 14% ABV, the wine is rich with ripe plum and blackberry flavors, a strong spicy element, moderate tannins and a pleasing, lengthy finish. It is smooth and powerful, fine with a thick steak, though some might not care as much for its prominent spice notes.

In 2006, Robert H. Benmosche began planting vineyards, of Plavac Mali and Tribidag, in Pelješac, and has produced small amounts of these wines. Only 1500 bottles were made of the 2015 Benmosche Family Dingač, which has a 15% ABV, and is a big, bold wine, yet not overpowering. It has deep flavors of black fruit, with notes of raisins and black pepper, hints of herbs and a subtle earthiness. Such a compelling complex melange of flavors. A lingering finish, good acidity, and absolutely delicious. Highly recommended.

For the 2015 Benmosche Family Zinfandel, Benmosche imported some vines from a California nursery, but also had some very old vines of Croatian Zinfandel, aka Tribidag. At 15% ABV, this was a less bold wine, more elegant, with tasty plum and black cherry notes, mild spice hints, and well restrained tannins. Complex and interesting, there is also a freshness to this wine.

The wines of the Bura-Mrgudić Winery are definitely worth seeking out. And if you enjoy Plavac Mali, then you should explore the wines being made in Dingač and Postup. I'd like to explore the wines from this region in more depth, to gain a better sense of the differences in these two appellations, as well as to better understand Plavac Mali.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
1) On Sunday, December 8, from 5pm-8pm, Island Creek Oyster Bar is celebrating the 3rd Annual Feast of the Seven Fishes. Chef and Owner Jeremy Sewall and his friend Barton Seaver will host this event. Seaver has been a successful Chef and is now a seafood activist, educator, speaker, and author. I've had the pleasure of hearing Seaver speak on multiple occasions and it's always fun and informative. These are both people who really understand and love seafood, so this should be an excellent event. Highly recommended!

A half-hour reception will be followed by a family-style meal. Some of the dishes for the seafood feast include: Smoked Salmon Crepes with avocado, creme fraiche, and caviar; Hand-Harvested Scallops with blue crab risotto, blood orange, and chervil; and Grilled Swordfish, with broccoli rabe, roasted fingerling potatoes, and anchovy butter.

Tickets cost $150 and are available on Eventbrite. The ticket price includes the seafood feast, beverage pairings, dessert, a signed copy of Barton Seaver's newest book, The Joy of Seafood, and gratuity.

2) This Friday, November 22, Executive Chef Peter Agostinelli is bringing a decadent Caviar Menu to Grill 23 & Bar. The delicacy, sourced from Island Creek Oysters, will adorn Grill 23’s seafood, steak and signature dishes. The limited time menu will feature a Caviar Crème Fraiche supplement for fresh oysters, a Caviar-Topped Steak Tartare, Caviar Lobster Mac & Cheese, and any of the premium steak cuts accompanied by Caviar Butter. The menu will begin on Friday and run as supplies last.

Please call 617-542-2255 for Reservations

3) On Saturday, November 23, Bistro du Midi is excited and honored to commemorate their 10th Anniversary. To celebrate, Executive Chef Robert Sisca is recreating iconic menu items from throughout the years in an extravagant tasting menu.

Bistro du Midi opened in November of 2009 with a Nantucket Bay Scallop Crudo and the tasting menu will feature the Scallops with persimmon, parsnip, blood orange and Osetra caviar. A Monkfish with eggplant, artichoke, olive tapenade and preserved lemon combines two of the most popular dishes from 2010: Fried Artichokes and Monkfish. Bistro’s reputation for truffles began in 2011 and quickly became a popular dish. Chef Robert is making a Saffron Tagilatelle with truffle buratta, hen of wood mushrooms and fresh white truffles. Each dish on the Tasting Menu will be representative of popular dishes from the past 10 years with new inspirations and offers an optional wine pairing.

The menu will run from Saturday, November 23, through February 2020. Please call 617-426-7878 for Reservations.

4) Whether celebrating at home or looking to dine out, Rochambeau has several options to ease the stress of Thanksgiving dinner. The restaurant and bar will be open from 12:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and will serve a prix fixe Thanksgiving dinner menu. The menu is $65 per person, and $20 per child age 12 and under. The menu includes choice of soup or salad, choice of entrée, and choice of dessert. Full menu can be found here. The café will also be open on Thanksgiving from 7:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Please call 617-247-0400 for Reservations.

Rochambeau’s pastry team, led by Executive Pastry Chef Michele Fadden, is baking pies to order that will be available for pick up November 24-28. Choices include apple, pecan, and pumpkin. Each pie is $25. Orders must be placed by November 21 and orders can be placed by visiting here. Orders can be picked up in the café on November 24-27 during regular business hours, and on November 28 until 12:00 p.m.

5) On Monday, December 9, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes with Chef Dan Billo and Sommelier Shanley Snydeman of Atlantic Fish. They invite guests to savor a five course holiday feast inspired by the Italian Christas Eve tradition and paired with wines from Kobrand Wine & Spirits. For just $99 a person (excluding tax and gratuity), guests will enjoy the following courses of the freshest catches prepared by Chef Dan and his culinary team and paired with selection from the restaurant's top somm:

First Course: Cured White Anchovy Pinxto with Manchego cheese and red pepper coulis and Smoked Bluefish rillettes with sustainable Polish caviar
Second Course: Seafood Ravioli in squid ink pasta with fish consume and leeks
Third Course: Grilled Octopus with Arugula and rice noodle salad
Fourth Course: Brown butter poached Baccala and butterbean raguot topped with spicy putanesca sauce.
Fifth Course: Chocolate and Raspberry caviar

For Reservations, please call  617-267-4000.

6) Rebel’s Guild invites families and friends to celebrate the holidays with a “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” themed Tea Party every Saturday and Sunday in December. Adults can choose from an array of loose-leaf teas and spice up tea time with an additional Tea Spike like Apple-Infused Teelings or Grey Goose Vanilla. ‘Adult Feast’ selections include bites like Mini Lobster RollsBlueberry Scones, and Coconut Cream Puffs. The ‘Little Who’ menu features a variety of Grinchy hot chocolate flavors such as Max’s Candy Cane Dreams made with house-made hot chocolate, peppermint candy cane, simple and whipped cream with snacks like a Chocolate Chip SconeCheeseburger Slider or Grilled Cheese. The full menu and tickets are available on Eventbrite.

Little Whos will also have to opportunity to decorate gingerbread houses and take a photo with a very special guest.

WHEN: Sunday, December 1, 8, 15, 22, & 29; Saturday, December 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
Reservations are available from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Reserve your tickets, priced $25-$56, to this magical holiday event on Eventbrite.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Zagreb: Bornstein Wine Bar & Shop (Part 5)

On my first day in Croatia, in the city of Zagreb. after strolling down Tkalčićeva Street and dining at Agava Restaurant, I ended my evening at the Bornstein Wine Bar & Shop, which was just down the street, on Kaptol, from my Bed & Breakfast. I wasn't planning on staying too long here, just long enough to check out the place and peruse their wine selections, but I ended up at the wine bar for hours, having lots of fun, meeting new people, and sampling some excellent Croatian wines. And I returned there the next day too, for a #Winelover tasting event.

The Bornstein Wine Bar & Shop is the oldest wine store in Croatia, currently owned by Ivan and Doris Srpek, both who I met on my visits to this shop. Ivan, who I had the most interaction with, is from Australia and is very personable, helpful and knowledgeable. He even sought out a wine I was interested in from his colleagues at other shops and elsewhere. Ivan is certainly an important reason why I chose to hang out at the wine bar for several hours on my first night. Doris was very personable as well and they seemed to work well together as a team.

One of the attractions of the wine bar & shop is its 200 year-old arched basement, giving it a sense of history and a charming ambiance. In 2015, Ivan and Doris transformed over half of the basement into a wine bar. At the wine bar, you can sample wines, accompanied by snacks, if you so desire, choosing specific wines or one of their wine flights. They can also organize private tasting events for you, including wine dinners. It's a versatile area, and while I sat at the wine bar, I met a few people who also were tasting there, surprisingly meeting a couple people also from the U.S. We laughed and drank, and it was a great way to spend a Friday evening.

The wine shop is stocked with plenty of Croatian wines, from all different regions, and includes lots of fascinating choices. As you look around, you never know what you might find, but you're sure to find something that appeals to your preferences. If you're adventurous, there is much to experience and intrigue you. For example, the Vina Belje Grasevina wines above are from 1959, maybe some of the oldest Croatian wines available! A bottle will cost you roughly $750-$900 US.

Most of the Croatian wines are separated by region, such as Dalmatia and Slavonia.

More Croatian wines!

The wine shop also sells wine from other countries and regions around the world, though their primary focus is Croatian wine.

Besides wine, there's a variety of gourmet foods, including local cheeses, truffles, truffle oil, meats, and more. You can buy a bottle of wine and some food to take home and enjoy at your leisure.

And they also sell local Olive Oil, such as the famed Chiavalon Olive Oil. I actually bought home some of this olive oil and it's an excellent product.

During my time at the Bornstein wine bar on Friday evening, I tasted a number of diverse wines, and all were delicious and interesting. Ivan made all of the selections and he chose extremely well. The evening began with the NV Šember Pjenušac Brut, produced by a family-owned winery with about 6 hectares of vineyards in the Plešivica region, which I previously noted is an area famous for their Sparkling Wines. Pjenušac means "sparkling wine." The Šember winery first began making bubbly in 1997, using the Méthode Champenoise. They make at least three different Sparkling Wines, and this Brut is produced from a blend of Chardonnay, Welschriesling, and Plavec Žuti. The wine spent about three years aging on the lees.

At 12.5% ABV, this wine has a fine golden color, with plenty of tiny bubbles, and an appealing nose of toast, citrus, and peach. On the palate, it is crisp and fresh, with a beautiful elegance and a complex blend of flavors, including green apple, peach, and brioche. With a lingering and pleasant finish, this is another fine example of the quality Sparkling Wines being made in the Plešivica region.

From another family winery, located in the Istria region, the 2018 Cossetto Prima Luce is produced from 100% Malvazija Istarska, an indigenous grape that is the second most planted white grape in Croatia. With a 13% ABV, this was a fascinating, complex and delicious wine, with plenty of acidity and intriguing herbal flavors. There were bright, though more subtle, citrus notes, an extremely lengthy finish, and a touch of spice. Its unique and appealing taste made it a stand out.

Next up were two wines from Ahearne Vino, owned by Jo Ahearne, a Master of Wine and winemaker, and the winery is located on the Croatian island of Hvar. Ahearne has worked at wineries across the globe, and started producing wines in Croatia with the 2014 vintage, moving herself to Hvar in 2016. Her Croatian wines have been receiving many raves, and now I understand the reasons why.

The Ahearne Wild Skins is made from a blend of three indigenous grapes Kuč, Bogdanuša, and Pošip. The Bogdanuša and Kuč are harvested from vineyards in the cooler northern part of Hvar while the Pošip is from a vineyard on the southern side. Only ambient yeast is used, and there is extended skin contact. This was a "wow" wine, an impressive and complex wine which has ended up as one of my favorite wines during my entire time in Croatia. Its intriguing melange of flavors included notes of candied orange, honey, apricot, and a savory herbal element. This is something to slowly savor, to enjoy each fascinating taste and all that can be found within it. Each sip brings something different to your palate. Highly recommended!

The 2014 Ahearne Plavac Mali South Side, made from 100% Plavac Mali, uses only grapes from the best sites on southern hills. The wine has aged for about 18 months in used French oak with a little Slavonian oak. With a 14% ABV, the nose is appealing with aromas of black fruits and herbs. On the palate, the wine also presented with a complex melange of flavors, including ripe plum, black berry, intriguing herbal notes, and a hint of chocolate. The tannins were silky, the finish lingered and lingered, and the wine was well balanced. Another winner from Jo Ahearne.

The 2013 Kairos Cuvee is produced by a winery near the coastal town of Trogir in Dalmatia. The wine is a blend of 40% Plavac Mali, 30% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, with 10% Syrah and Tempranillo. The wine was aged for 24 months in Croatian and French barrique, 50% new & 50% old.  It is then further aged for another 1 year in stainless steel tanks and then six months more in the bottle. This is a big and bold wine, yet with restraint, and nicely integrated tannins. It's full bodied and rich, with lots of black fruit flavors, some red fruit notes, touches of vanilla and plenty of spice. Though it contains plenty of international grapes, it still had its feet strongly in Croatia.

If you visit Zagreb and love wine, then you need to make a stop at the Bornstein Wine Bar & Shop. It's a cool place to buy Croatian wine, and you'll find a huge selection here, including numerous rarities, and Ivan and Doris can help you navigate the choices. It's also a cool place to stop by to taste wine, to experience delicious Croatian wines. You can easily sit at the wine bar for a few hours, and never realize how long you've actually been there. Such a jovial and friendly ambiance, and it earns a hearty recommendation from me.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Rant: Don't Forget The Less Fortunate

It's mid-November and many of us are probably thinking about our upcoming plans for Thanksgiving. Plus, you might also be thinking about Christmas, Hanukkah, or other holiday celebrations. You might already be considering which food and drink you'll enjoy, or thinking about what gifts to present to your loved ones. Your thoughts will likely be directed to how you can maximize your own enjoyment of these upcoming holidays.

However, please stop and ponder another significant thought: Don't forget those less fortunate.

Let us work together to help those who need some assistance this holiday season, even if it requires a little sacrifice on our part. Make this a meaningful holiday season, rather than a selfish one. Though many of us love and enjoy the holiday season, it can be a very sad and disappointing time for those with little or nothing. Every community has some people who find it difficult merely to pay for basic essentials, let alone to buy holiday gifts or prepare a special holiday feast. We can help though, and try to bring some joy to the less fortunate. Share your largess with others, helping those who truly need it.

Even though these are tough economic times for many of us, we all probably can help out others, even if only in little ways. If you cannot spare money, then donate your time, maybe spending it at a food bank or shelter. Or make something to give to others, such as baking a pie, cookies or casserole. Donate old clothes or other durable items which you no longer use. There are many different ways to help out others besides just monetary donations.

During this season, there will be numerous restaurants, chefs, shops and others which will hold special charitable events. Talk about these events, promote them on social media, and spread the word far and wide. Attend those events, encouraging others to do the same. Give to your favorite charities, whatever they might be. I want to hear about your charitable efforts to help those less fortunate. Be creative in your efforts, even if your own finances are tight.

I will do my own part to help the less fortunate, to share what I possess. Year round, I promote numerous food and wine-related charitable events and probably will promote even more this season. I will give to several charities as well, even if I only can give small amounts, to those which are personally close to my heart. I will try to help in a number of different ways and I strongly encourage everyone to do the same this season.

Let us share with all during this upcoming holiday season, bringing together everyone in a more united community. There are enough divisions in our world right now and we need more unity, especially at this time. Don't just think of yourself but think of others, think about what you can do to make this world a better place.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Restaurant Kadena: My Last Dinner In Croatia

It was my final evening in Croatia, and I was in the city of Split, site of the famed Diocletian's Palace. Where should I dine? How could I cap off such an amazing trip? Before I departed for Croatia, I did plenty of research and targeted one specific restaurant in Split which seemed like it would be a fitting ending, Restaurant Kadena

Located atop a hill, the restaurant overlooks the Zenta marina and beach, as well as some of the islands in the Adriatic, such as Brač and Hvar. It was one of a small number of Croatian restaurants that were included in the Michelin Guide, and has a relatively new chef and wine manager/sommelier. The chef, Damir Sertić, recently won an award for Best Artistic Chef in an international culinary competition in China, defeating about 500 other chefs. The wine manager/sommelier, Marko Rudez, worked for ten years in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, and now is at Kadena, helping to help promote Croatian wines.

This is the view from the dining room, and on a sunny day it would be spectacular. It is an elegant restaurant, though doesn't feel pretentious or stuffy. Though the view was a partial reason for wanting to dine here, the Menu and Wine list were the most compelling reasons for my final choice.

The Menu is large, with plenty of choices whether you prefer meat or seafood, although vegetarians won't find too many options. You'll find Starters (13 options from 45-120 kuna), such as Deer Prosciutto and Salmon Mousse; Soups & Essences (7 options from 25-45 kuna), such as John Dory Soup and Essence of Corn Soup; Salads & Bruschettas (7 options from 25-70 kuna), such as Prosciutto Bruschetta and Rocket SaladPasta & Risotto (6 options from 90-130 kuna), such as Seafood Risotto and Gnocchi with Beefsteak; Japanese Style (6 options from 15-150), such as Vietnamese-Style Tuna and Tataki Beef; Fish (14 options from 60-800 kuna), such as Smoked Seabass Fillet and Adriatic Calamari; and Meat (18 options from 115-850 kuna), such as Steak of Black Slavonian Pig, Smoked Lamb Steak, and Beefsteak in Truffle Sauce.

As a kuna is roughly equivalent to $0.15 U.S., most of these restaurant prices are very reasonable, especially considering the quality of the food. For example, most of the meat dishes would cost less than $35, except items like the Waygu beef. The Pasta & Risotto dishes are less than $15. Nigiri Sushi, Tuna and Salmon, costs $2.25 per piece, less expensive than most sushi spots in the U.S. The Seafood dishes tend to be the most expensive, though about half of the dishes cost under $30, and Lobster is the most expensive dish, costing about $120. So, you can certainly splurge at this restaurant if you so desire, but if you're on a budget, you'll find plenty of options too.

The Wine List is extensive, with mostly Croatian options, but you'll find a scattering of international wines as well, from countries such as France, Germany, Spain, New England, and Italy. You'll find about 10 wines by the glass (22-68 kuna), and even 1 Sake by the glass! The restaurant carries three Sakes, all from the same brewery, which of course appeals to me. However, if you're a tourist in Croatia and dine at Kadena, I strongly suggest you order Croatian wine, exploring its diversity.

I ordered a bottle of Vina Sladić Maraština (210 kuna), as I had acquired a taste for the Maraština/Rukatac grape. Sladić is a family winery, founded in 2000, located in North Dalmatia and focusing on indigenous grapes. I found this wine to be fresh and crisp, with bright citrus and pear notes, some minerality and a touch of herbs, especially on the finish. It was easy drinking, yet still possessed some complexity, and was definitely a good choice for seafood.

I began my dinner with the Black Cake (60 kuna), which is made with powder of homemade bacon, cuttlefish ink, olive oil, and mixed pepper, and is served with regular butter and butter with truffles. When I ordered it, I wasn't exactly sure what I'd receive and it ended up being like a couple of black bread rolls. It was soft on the inside, with a fascinating blend of savoriness, a hint of bacon and a touch of the sea, enhanced by the earthy truffle butter.

Next up, was the Scampi & Saffron Soup (45 kuna), a light bodied soup with a powerful shrimp scampi taste, with lots of garlic notes, and delightful notes of saffron. Each spoonful was bursting with rich flavors and I very much enjoyed this dish.

I tried a few pieces of Nigiri Sushi, Tuna & Salmon (15 kuna per piece), even though it's not traditional Croatia cuisine. The sushi was fresh, tender and quite large although the rice didn't hold together well.

The Spaghetti with Shrimps, Truffles & Hard Cheese Flambeed (100 kuna) possessed a heavy, flavorful and cheesy sauce accented by the earthy truffles. The tiny shrimp were tasty and the pasta was cooked just right, with a fine al dente texture to them.

The star of the dinner was the Buzara-style Mussels (1 kg/150 kuna). In Croatian, "buzara" basically translates as "stew" but it simple refers to a cooking style, for shellfish or crustaceans, that involves olive oil, wine, garlic, breadcrumbs and herbs. It is similar in many respects to the usual French steamed preparation for mussels. However, this was one of the best mussel preparations I've ever tasted, with such a rich and flavorful broth, enhancing the tender mussels. Each bite was pure gustatory pleasure, and I didn't want the dish to end. Fortunately, there were an ample supply of mussels.

Overall, this was an excellent way to end my time in Croatia. Service was professional and attentive, the cuisine was inventive and delicious, and the wine was delicious. Essentially, I got a five-course meal and a bottle of wine, and it cost (without tip) under $100 US, which I consider a good value based on the quality and quantity of the food and wine. The next morning, at around 6am, I flew out of the Split airport, headed back to Boston, loaded with so many great memories of my time in Croatia. And if I ever return to Split, I want Kadena's Buzara-style Mussels again!