Monday, December 23, 2019

2019: My Top Five Croatian Dining Experiences

What were my Top Five Croatian Dining Experiences of the past year?

Let me continue the lists of my favorites and top best recommendations of 2019. I've already posted four Favorite Wine lists, and now I want to start on my Food-Related Favorites. In September 2019, I spent ten days traveling through Croatia, experiencing plenty of delicious wine and food. You can find links to my 25+ articles about this trip in All About Croatia.

While in Croatia, I dined at various restaurants and homes, experiencing a diversity of Croatian cuisine, including the fruits of the Adriatic Sea. Some of the restaurants I chose on my own, after doing plenty of research before my trip. Overall, I was impressed with the quality of food in Croatia and it certainly is an excellent culinary destination. There is so much more that I'm certain I missed, but that just means I need to return to taste more this fine country has to offer.

It wasn't easy to select just five dining experiences for this list but I made some hard choices. Please note that this is purely a subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" of anything. This list is also not in any particular order and each choice is linked to my more detailed prior review.

1) Seafood Extravaganza at Ficovic Restaurant
One afternoon, we stopped in the village of Hodilje, and enjoyed an amazing seafood lunch at the Ficovic Restaurant, right on the water. With wines from Vina Deak, we gorged ourselves on the bounty of the sea, including Fish Pâté, Marinated White Anchovies, Salted Sardines, Marinated Shrimp, Octopus Salad, the famed Ston Oysters, Grilled Oysters, Mussels, Clams, Noah's Ark Shells, Sea Bream, Sole, and Squid. So much absolutely delicious seafood and I made sure none of the shellfish went to waste. A great location, excellent wines, and compelling, fresh seafood. Highly recommended!

2) Home-Made Octopus Peka
The Peka is a domed metal "bell" or lid that that covers a large metal pan, and which can be used to slow cook meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and plenty of other ingredients, dependent on your preferences. This is a traditional dish in the Dalmatian region of Croatia, and we enjoyed an Octopus Peka at the home of Ante Bagur. The Octopus was one of the most tender I've even eaten, just melting in my mouth. The rice, potatoes, apples and more were intensely flavorful, having taken in the amazing sauce within the pan. Even though my initial plate was quite large, I still went back for more.

3) Seafood Paradise at Proto Restaurant
In Dubrovnik, the Proto Restaurant is said to be one of the best restaurants in the city, and I'd agree that it was a top notch spot, with superb seafood. Their Ston Oysters were so fresh and pristine, while the Fish Tartare and Snails, Prepared Pelješac-Style, were also fantastic and delicious. The Gambero Rosso Shrimps Tails, accompanied by plump, homemade ravioli with ricotta in a sweet wine sauce, were scrumptious. The wines were killer, some of the best wines I tasted while in Croatia. Highly recommended!

4) Agava Restaurant, A Zagreb Treasure
I selected this restaurant based on my own research and it turned out to be wonderful, both its cuisine and wines. It's seafood was fresh, such as the silky Wild Fish (Sea Bass) Tartare and the St. Jacque's Shell, extremely tender scallops. Each dish was perfectly composed, with a nice balance of textures and flavors. The Pasta "Fuži" with Black Truffles, a traditional Istrian dish, was superb, with rich, earthy truffles and light pasta tubes in a delightfully creamy sauce. The wines I selected to accompany the dinner were excellent as well, helping to showcase the diversity of Croatian wines. Highly recommended!

5) Frogs & Eels at Volarević Winery
At the Volarević Winery, we first enjoyed an excellent wine tasting and then were hosted to a traditional lunch of the region, including frog legs and eels. There was a plate of Sautéed Frog Legs as well as Fried & Breaded Frog Legs, each with tender and flavorful meat. The centerpiece of the lunch was Brudet, a traditional Croatian, tomato-based seafood stew. It is commonly made with tomatoes, olive oil, onions, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. In the Neretva Valley region, eels and frog legs are very common, and that is what we were served, atop polenta. A rich and hearty stew, the meaty eel was a nice addition to the lighter meat of the frog legs. It was spiced well, with rich garlic notes, and was an excellent pairing with Plavac Mali.

If you've dined in Croatia, what were some of your most memorable dining experiences?

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