Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Montanara Style Pizza & Evviva Trattoria

Have you ever sampled a Montanara Style Pizza, aka Fried Pizza?

Fried pizza sounds like a clearly American invention, as we seem to fry everything, from Twinkies to butter. However, the origins of Montanara pizza extend back to the mountains around Naples, Italy (and "montanara" translates as "mountain"). It's not an easy style to find in the Boston area, but it can be found at all of the six locations of Evviva Trattoria, and that's where I enjoyed this pizza style. 

To create this pizza, the pizza dough (which isn't battered) is first fried in hot oil for about a minute. Then, the fried dough is topped with sauce, cheese and other ingredients, and popped into an oven for another minute, primarily to melt the cheese and lightly char the crust. The pizza crust ends up with more of a golden color and possesses a crunchy and light, airy texture. 

The photo above is a Pepperoni Montanara Pizza and it looks beautiful, as well as possessing a delicious and intriguing taste. The crust was crunchy but light, with a nice, toasty flavor, and I was thoroughly impressed with the taste. The cheese and pepperoni enhanced the overall taste, and we ensured we ate the entire pizza. Why don't more restaurants serve this style of scrumptious pizza style? 

Evviva Trattoria offers both Neopolitan and Montanara style pizzas, although the Montanara is only available as a 9 inch pie ($14.50-$15.50). The Neopolitan can be ordered as a 9 ($14.50-$15.50) or 16 inch pie ($21.50-$23). There are 13 different pizzas available, both white and red, and you can also create your own pizza, selecting your sauce, cheese, protein, and vegetables.

Evviva Trattoria is owned by the 110 Grill, and currently there are six locations, including Stoneham, Malden, Marlborough, Maynard, Westford, and Wrentham. Their website states, "Evviva Trattoria features modern Italian food served in a comfortable and casual atmosphere. Our chefs have taken beloved Italian and American classics and added their culinary flair." 

The Stoneham location opened recently, so I stopped there for dinner one evening. Overall, I was pleased with my dinner, service was excellent, and the Montanara pizza excelled. I definitely will return here, to check out more of their menu. Here are some of the dishes I tasted during my recent dinner.

These are Crispy Lasagna Fritters ($14), lasagna wedges, marinara sauce, pesto ranch, whipped ricotta, arrabbiata aioli and microgreens. Fried lasagna? Yes, it was crunchy and creamy, cheesy and tasty. 

The Steak & Gorgonzola Salad ($21) contains grilled beef tips, arugula, romaine, tomatoes, pickled shallots, balsamic glaze, avocado and a creamy gorgonzola dressing. The tips were tender and flavorful, enhanced by the gorgonzola. The veggies were fresh and it was a fairly large dish as well.

The classic Chicken Parmigiana ($24) comes with a scoop of whipped ricotta, which is almost hiding behind the chicken. This is the type of iconic dish which can give you a good idea of the quality of the food at the restaurant. If the chicken parm isn't any good, then the rest of their food probably won't measure up either. However, this chicken dish was very good, with a pleasing crunchy coating, thick and tender chicken, and a very nice red sauce. The whipped ricotta was a nice addition. 

The Montanara Style Pizza was the clear winner of the dinner, but the rest of the food was pleasing as well. After I dine there again a couple times, I'll be back to write a full review of this restaurant.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Rant: The Best Food in Brookline?

Where can you find the best food in Brookline?

If you ask ten people that question, you're likely to get ten different answers. The answers will vary by type of cuisine, price point, and more. It's a subjective question, without any universal standard to assess  the term "best."

My friend, Patrick Maguire, sent me the above photo. A restaurant claiming to have "The Best Food in Town for Over 30 Years"???? When I've spoken to people about their favorite restaurants in Brookline, this restaurant doesn't come up in those conversations. If the food has been the best for so long, then why isn't it mentioned much more often by those talking about the best restaurants in Brookline?

On their website, they also claim to have the "best Hummus in ALL of New England." However, there's nothing on their website that actually supports either claim. There's a single "testimonial" on their website, yet even that person didn't claim it was the "best food" and doesn't mention the hummus.

Their website also alleges that the restaurant opened in 1989, and that "we were the first people to introduce Shawarma to the people of Boston." However, a quick search reveals Shawarma was available at restaurants in the Boston area as far back as 1976, so they definitely were not the first. 

These claims are basically puffery, exaggerations intended to persuade people to dine there. However, does anyone actually believe these claims? Do these exaggerated claims actually persuade you to dine at such a restaurant? For myself, I definitely don't give credence to these types of claims. It doesn't make me more likely to dine at such a restaurant. It may actually have an opposite effect. 

This is certainly not the only restaurant to engage in such puffery. So, there are a number of restaurant owners who feel it helps their business. Are diners so gullible to believe these exaggerated claims? These restaurants are counting on that gullibility to draw in customers. I wonder how many people get turned off by such exaggerated claims and thus don't patronize such restaurants. 

I'd like to see such puffery vanish from restaurant advertising. What are your thoughts on such puffery?

Thursday, March 23, 2023

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.
1) Check out these two special events at Zuma Boston, a Japanese restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel.

Easter Brunch: Zuma is celebrating Easter all weekend long with Easter-inspired brunch offerings, and a host of holiday activities for the whole family. The restaurant, which will be decked out in balloons and oversized chic eggs, will feature Easter bunny photo opps for kids and their families; a build-your-own Easter basket station; and specialty brunch add-ons, including complimentary two-piece oysters for every adult guest, a deluxe oyster special, a prawn cocktail special, and an Easter-inspired dessert platter with a breakable egg. Zuma’s Easter brunch package starts at $95pp (adults) and $45pp (kids), and is available April 8 – 9 from 11:30 am – 2:30pm.

Boston Marathon: In celebration of the famed Boston Marathon, Zuma is unveiling a specialty protein-packed omakase menu perfect for runners looking to fuel up or recover after their race. Available only through race weekend, Zuma’s “marathon omakase”, features four courses with dozens of protein options to choose from including prawn and black cod dumplings with spicy ponzu, rock shrimp tempura with chili tofu, chef’s selection of nigiri, spicy beef tenderloin with sesame and red chili sweet soy, and more. End the night on a sweet note with Zuma’s famed deluxe dessert platter that features freshly cut fruit, Zuma’s beloved molten lava cake, and a host of other sweet treats. Zuma’s marathon omakase starts at $145pp and is available from April 15-17th.

2) For other Easter options, consider the following:

Bistro du Midi, is treating guests to a three-course, prix fixe brunch menu this Easter from 10:30 a.m to 3 p.m. for $80 per person. Known for its French cuisine inspired by New England’s coastal region, the restaurant will be offering guests a choice of menu options including duck confit foie gras waffles, Spanish octopus au poivre, Eggs Benedict, cured ora king salmon, croque madame, vanilla bean crème brûlée, and more. During the evening the regular dinner menu will be available from 5 to 8 p.m. Reservations can be made HERE (and you can check out the full brunch menu too).

Chef Robert Sisca and The Banks Fish House team will be offering guests two opportunities to share an Easter meal with them- with additional a la carte menu specials during Easter brunch and dinner service. The Banks’ brunch service will be available from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Easter dinner will be available from 5 to 9 p.m. A la carte specials available at both services include, Squid Ink Chitarra with maine uni, jumbo lump crab, cherry tomatoes, and mint; Bluefin Tuna Crudo with Osetra caviar, crème fraîche, and crispy rice; and Steak, Eggs & Fried Oysters with 8oz flat iron steak, fried island creek oysters, sunny side up eggs, and grilled toast. To make a reservation, please visit HERE (and you can check out the full menu too).   

Chef Will Gilson’s Puritan & Co., located in Cambridge’s Inman Square, will be bringing back its Sunday brunch service specially for Easter Sunday. Available at 10:30 a.m. for $65 per person, the three-course brunch menu will include options like phyllo-wrapped cod with lobster stew, grilled skirt steak & eggs with potato mille feuille, wild mushroom & kale scramble with focaccia, and potato-leek soup with seared scallops. An a la carte children’s menu will also be available. Reservations can be made HERE.

Chef Will Gilson’s Italian destination Geppetto will be offering a special, four-course Easter dinner for $65 per person. The menu will include choices like saffron arancini with black garlic aioli, kampachi crudo with salsa verde, linguini with clams, and chicken milanese. An a la carte children’s menu will also be available. Please visit HERE for more details and to make a reservation.

Chef Will Gilson and his team at The Lexington will be offering a special, three-course Easter brunch for $50 per person. The menu will include choices like crab cake, pastrami smoked salmon with potato waffle, steak and eggs, and wild mushroom scramble. An a la carte children’s menu will also be available. Please visit HERE for more details and to make a reservation.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Rant: My Blog Has Returned!

Last weekend, I was shocked to learn that my blog had been shut down by Google, allegedly for violating their Community Guidelines. No specifics were provided to me so I didn't know what specific guideline I had allegedly violated. I soon after learned that their bots had analyzed my blog and flagged it as potential spam. Google was thus very quick, without any warning, to shut down my blog.

I immediately replied to them, contesting that my blog, which has been in existence for nearly 16 years, was NOT spam. It took them an entire week to finally reinstate my blog. So, I'm very pleased today that my blog is finally back, although I'm not happy with how long it took to reinstate it. 

There is much I plan to write about in the near future, such as restaurant reviews of Surf Seafood (in Woburn), Magia (in Danvers), and Evviva Trattoria (in Stoneham). This week, I'll also attend a preview of the upcoming Bar Vlaha, a new Greek restaurant in Brookline (as well as one of my most anticipated new restaurants of 2023).

The Boston Wine Expo is being held this upcoming weekend, and I look forward to see how it has changed under its new ownership and at a different location. In April, there will be an exciting trade tasting of the wines of Alsace. Also in April, I may be speaking at a Croatian Wine Tasting event at the Moldova restaurant in Newton. I also have some wine, sake, and spirit reviews forthcoming, as well as a couple book reviews. 

I'm also working on new historical articles, conducting deep dives into newspapers archives and elsewhere. And as usual, if you have an idea for a historical article, such as the origins of a specific type of food, please let me know. Maybe I will cover that topic. 

So, it's time for me to get back to writing, and thanks to all of my readers. Please feel free to send me any feedback. Cheers! Kanpai! Živjeli!

Thursday, March 9, 2023

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.
1) Get ready to shake things up at Rosa Mexicano’s First Day of Spring Cocktail Class. Guests can sign up for a hands-on experience and learn how to craft four of Rosa Mexicano’s signature cocktails, including the Traditional Margarita, Josefina's Margarita, Spicy-Cucumber, and Mango-Chile. Classes kick off Monday, March 20, from 6-8 PM, and are priced at $65 a person.

Led by expert mixologists, this interactive cocktail class will teach guests everything they need to know to make the perfect cocktail. Plus, they’ll get to enjoy their creations along with some delicious bites from the kitchen – including Rosa’s guacamole.

Tickets for Boston location can be purchased HERE.
Tickets for Burlington location can be purchased HERE.

2) Martha’s Vineyard Back Door Donuts will be opening a late-night pop-up in partnership with Loretta’s Last Call on Wednesday, March 15. Located at 1 Lansdowne Street, the pop-up will serve late-night donuts out of a space adjacent to Loretta’s Last Call from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. nightly.

Originally named Walmsley's, then Martha's Vineyard Gourmet Cafe & Bakery, and now The Front Bakery Cafe - Home of Back Door Donuts, the bakers at 5 Post Office Square on in Oak Bluffs have been handing out donuts to in-the-know locals during overnight prep shifts since its 1948. Today, The Front Bakery Cafe continues the longstanding tradition with Back Door Donuts- a speakeasy-style operation that serves fresh donuts to its loyal customer base via its “back door,” and eyes its first expansion into Boston.

The bakery’s eagerly anticipated expansion, hatched by Back Door Donuts partner and Lyons Group President Patrick Lyons, will bring the flavors of the Vineyard to hungry Bostonians prowling Lansdowne for a bite to eat in the evening and early morning hours. The new location will sling donuts out of the side door at Loretta's Last Call, which is directly next to Lucky Strike and will be marked with a "Donuts After Dark" neon sign. Patrons will be able to order in advance online or in-person at the window.

The Donuts After Dark menu will feature its signature apple fritter alongside a variety of donut flavors including Boston Cream, Buttercrunch, Buttermilk Glazed, Chocolate Coconut, Chocolate Frosted, Chocolate Glazed, Cinnamon Sugar, Coconut Donut, Double Chocolate, Honey Dipped, Lemon Jelly, Maple Bacon, Mini Fritter, Old Fashioned, Party Donut, and Raspberry Jelly.

Our team has been working hard behind the scenes over the past couple of years to bring a little piece of everyone's favorite island donut shop to the great city of Boston,” said Back Door Donuts General Manager Tyler Heineman. “We're thrilled to bring the "Donuts After Dark" tradition to Fenway's historic Lansdowne Street, and we look forward to crossing paths with longtime fans and newcomers alike.

To sweeten its grand opening celebration on Wednesday, March 15, the first 100 guests in line will receive one free donut for their next visit. The pop-up will operate indefinitely on 1 Lansdowne Street from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. nightly.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Rant: The Horror of Powdered Sugar

Once again I have to say, "Powdered sugar? Argh!!!"

A year ago this month, I Ranted about this issue and it's time to Rant about it once more. Twice this past week, I've encountered dishes using powdered sugar and I didn't think either dish needed it. One dish was a pancake and the other was a chocolate mousse. 

Also known as confectioner's sugar, it's simply a finely powdered sugar and cooks and chefs dust it upon various dishes, from pancakes to cookies. It's partially used as a decoration but also adds some sweetness to the dish. However, I feel that it's vastly over used and often unnecessary. I don't want a blanket of white covering an otherwise delicious breakfast or dessert. 

It often starts at breakfast, where powdered sugar may be dusted atop pancakes, French toast or waffles, and I'm especially peeved when the menu doesn't mention that fact. You should have to ask for the addition of powdered sugar rather than the restaurant making it a standard addition to the dish. 

I don't want that added sweetness to my pancakes, French toast or waffles. Isn't maple syrup a sweet enough addition? Why would you also need the sweetness of powdered sugar? Add chocolate chips, Lucky Charms, or something similar if you want more sweetness to these breakfast treats. That white powder doesn't make pancakes, French toast or waffles look any more appealing. If anything, the white powder conceals the beautiful golden colors of these dishes. 

Adding powdered sugar to many dessert items also seems superfluous. It adds more sweetness than is needed for many of these desserts. Being too heavy handed with powdered sugar seems a cop out, the easiest fix to make your dessert sweeter. If your dessert was perfectly sweetened when first prepared, then there shouldn't be a need for powdered sugar.

Your dessert, just like your breakfast items, should be able to stand on their own. Plus, all that plain white powdered sugar hides the natural colors of the dessert, which are often far more beautiful than a field of white. I'd rather see the dark chocolate colors of a brownie than that dusting of white. Be more creative than simply dusting powdered sugar on everything. 

This past week, both the pancake and chocolate mousse were excellent dishes, except for the addition of the powdered sugar. They stood well on their own and the powdered sugar added absolutely nothing of value. The pancake was thick, but still quite fluffy and light. The chocolate mousse dessert was delicious, with a light chocolate cake base, a silky mousse, creamy whipped cream and more. When will chefs stop relying so much on powdered sugar, rather than allowing their dishes to stand on their own?

So what are your thoughts on powdered sugar?

Thursday, March 2, 2023

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.
1) Chef Evan Deluty has announced the opening of Stella, a 2023 version of his iconic South End restaurant which closed during the pandemic. The new restaurant will be located at 549 Commonwealth Avenue in Newton— a few blocks from Newton Center. Deluty is aiming for an early Spring 2023 opening. 

I’m excited to bring a taste of Stella along with new menu items to Newton. Since closing the South End location during the pandemic, I’ve been thinking about doing a smaller more intimate version. We are fortunate to have many loyal customers from over the years, it’s going to be awesome to reconnect and see many of them soon.

The new Stella will be a "2023 more casual version" of the former location offering some of Deluty's classic dishes including Pasta Bolognese, Pizzas, Stella's Meatballs, and Arancini, along with new items such as Matzo Ball Soup, Potato Pancakes, Chicken Parmesan Sandwich, and a Crispy Pork Sandwich.  Stella will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and will offer takeout and delivery.

2) CLINK. Executive Chef Daniel Kenney alongside Chef Dave White from BRAVO’s Below Deck and Oriana Schneps invite Below Deck fans to join them for a four-course dinner, in partnership with Grey Goose. The event will be held Sunday, March 9,  with a Reception and Meet & Greet Hour from 6pm-7pm, and Dinner service at 7pm. 

At the reception and meet & greet with the chefs and Oriana Schneps from Below Deck Adventure, guests will enjoy an oyster bar with Grey Goose mignonette, house cocktail sauce and hot sauce, served alongside fresh-baked ciabatta rolls with whipped winter truffle butter.

Guests will then move onto dinner where they’ll enjoy a Grey Goose gazpacho shooter with basil mousse and parmesan tuile, followed by smoked steelhead trout tartar with yuzu, sea grapes and sesame. The chefs will then serve short ribs of beef from Maine Family Farms, paired with winter truffles, parsnips, leeks and natural jus. The meal will conclude with a decadent dark chocolate 14k gold dome, served with blackberry mousse, cocoa butter and Genoise cocoa nib soil. The meal will be paired with three signature cocktails from Grey Goose Vodka.

Tickets are $170 per person and are available via Eventbrite HERE.

3) On Monday, March 13, from 6pm-9pm, Chef Jason Santos and the Buttermilk & Bourbon team invite guests to join them for a specially paired Teeling Irish Whiskey in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Kicking off at 6 p.m., guests will enjoy passed apps and a welcome cocktail followed by a seated three-course meal paired with Teeling’s selection of Irish whiskeys.

Tickets cost $75 and can be purchased HERE

4) On Friday, March 17, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the Rebel’s Guild, at The Revere Hotel, will be serving a la carte food and drink specials. Festive menu specials include Irish Soda Bread Butter Board withIrish soda bread, orange marmalade, fennel, kumquat; Guinness Poutine with curried fries, Guinness-cheese sauce; Braised Corned Beef & Cabbage with red potatoes, heritage carrots. Drink specials include Leprechaun Leap (Ketel One Vdka, Ginger Liqueur, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup); Roe Necessities (Roe & Co Irish Whiskey, Italian Digestif, Fig Jam, Simple Syrup, Lime Juice); and Irish Coffee.

Additionally, Revere will be hosting a cocktail class with Roe & Co. Irish Whiskey in the Revere Lobby Lounge on Saturday, March 18 from 5 to 6 p.m. For $25 per person, guests will enjoy a welcome cocktail, an Irish Soda Bread snack from Chef Sunny Chopra, and will make two whiskey-based cocktails with a Roe & Co national ambassador.

5) Kristin Canty and her team at Woods Hill Table are hosting the Winderlea Wine Tasting Experience on Wednesday, March 8, at 6pm. Winemaker Donna Morris will be visiting from the Winderlea Vineyards in Oregon and showcasing their biodynamic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wine, alongside a four course tasting menu from Chef Charlie Foster. Sommelier Cat Silierie will also be part of this very special event, presenting wine pairings from one of the most highly regarded vineyards in Oregon.

First Course

Grilled Cuttyhunk Oysters, apple and sorrel
Cured Fluke, kanzuri, meyer lemon
Smoked Eggplant Crostini, goat cheese, chimichurri
2018 Winderlea Chardonnay
Second Course
Sweet Potato Gnocchi, maitake mushrooms, shaved woods hill farm pancetta, ricotta
2020 Winderlea Pinot Noir "Bounteous"
Third Course
Dry Aged Woods Hill Farm Duck Breast, hay smoked parsnip, mustard greens, black olive jus
2019 Winderlea Pinot Noir "Dundee Hills Vineyard"
2018 Winderlea Pinot Noir "Winderlea Estate Vineyard"
Fourth Course
Mini Lemon Tart, Italian meringue & thyme
Mini Vanilla Cheesecake, chocolate crust & fresh raspberries
Chocolate & Coconut Layer Bar 

Tickets are $135 all inclusive and are available HERE

6) Over the past 30 years, Parish Café has worked with top chefs in the Greater Boston area to create over 60 chef-inspired sandwiches for their menus. In celebration of Women’s History Month this March, Parish is highlighting 14 sandwiches from the female chefs that have graced their menu over the past three decades. This will be the first time that Parish’s menu will feature only female chefs. This menu will be available from March 1 – March 31, 2023, and will be available for dine-in and take out ordering. 

It’s been amazing to work with so many extraordinarily talented female chefs to create their sandwiches over the past 30 years,” said owner Gordon Wilcox. “This month, we honor and acknowledge their efforts and fearlessness in an industry that is male-dominated. These women continually pave the way for future generations, and Parish stands behind that every step of the way.” 

Featured on Parish’s Women’s History Month menu will be:
“The Bravas” by Chef Cassie Piuma of Sarma
“The Hot and Dirty Pig Burger” by Chef Tiffani Faison of Sweet Cheeks and Tiger Mama
“The Pudding Portobello” by Chef Debra Hughes of Upstair on the Square
“The Steak and Blue” by Chef Lydia Shire of Scampo
“The Regal Regis” by Chef Susan Regis
“The Flour BLT” by Chef Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery
“The Rialto” by Chef Jodi Adams of Rialto
“The Zuni Roll” by Chef Norma Gillespie
“The Fox” by Chef Karen Akunowicz of The Fox and the Knife
“The Nebo” by the Pallotta Sisters of Nebo
“Rachel's Hot Sister” by Chef Sarah Wade of Stillwater
“The B&G Lobster Roll” by Chef Barbara Lynch of B&G Oysters, Menton, and #9 Park
“The Daily Grind” by Chef Jessica Biederman of the Bristol Lounge
“The Nightshade Po Boy” by Chef Rachel Miller of Nightshade Noodle Bar

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Rossi Teranino: A Fine Istrian Liqueur

As I previously mentioned, while I was in Zagreb, during my two week tour of Croatia, I stopped at L'Erotic Fruit & Spices Shop, and purchased a couple Istrian liqueurs. One of those was the Rossi Teranino (about $20), which was produced by the Rossi Winery & Distillery, located in the village of Vižinada in Istria, a short distance west of Motovun.

The history of Rossi extends back to 1885, when Federico Rossi, who was born in Friuli, bought some land, planting Teran and Malvazija. His son, Marco, continued to plant vineyards, as well as other fruits and vegetables. In addition to making wine, Federico also produced brandy. When Italy took control of Istria after World War I, they prohibited the production of brandy and other strong alcoholic beverages, but that didn't stop Federico, who continued to make it covertly. Today, the family continues to make wine and liqueurs, although now it is all legal. 

Teranino is a traditional liqueur made in Istria, usually produced from pomace or fruit brandy, as well as red wine made from the indigenous Teran grape. Teranino is also usually sweetened and flavored with various botanicals, each producer using their own unique blend. With a 18-22% ABV, it is commonly served chilled, as either an aperitif or digestive, although it may also go well with chocolate or berry desserts. 

The Rossi Teranino is made with an unknown combination of botanicals, although you might be able to identify some of them from the taste. On the nose, there are elements of blueberry and black cherry, with a hint of spice notes. On the palate, it is smooth and sweet, although well balanced with good acidity, with a complex blend of flavors, including blueberry, black cherry, vanilla, cinnamon, and a touch of clove. There is a mild earthiness as well, especially on the finish. Quite delicious, it would pair well with a variety of desserts, or make for a nice after-dinner drink. 

Don't just explore Croatian wines, but also check out their liqueurs and spirits.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Rant: No More Hard Butter!

During this past weekend, I was irritated by a restaurant where I ate breakfast on several days. The restaurant set off one of my pet peeves, and although it may be a relatively minor issue, it still adversely affected the enjoyment of my breakfast.

With my eggs and sausage, I had some toast, and I generally butter my bread rather than spread jelly or jam. The restaurant had the small, foil-like wrapped butter pats kept in a refrigerated case. However, the butter was extremely hard, overly chilled, and it triggered my pet peeve.

When the butter is that hard, you can't easily spread it on your toast, or whatever other item you want to apply such butter, from muffins to pancakes. If you try, you'll usually tear up the toast, and you don't want that to happen. If you place some hard butter on the toast, and hope the warm toast will melt the butter, it can take some time, and you probably don't want to wait that long. You can try to slice the butter real thin so it is more easily spread but that takes time, while the rest of your breakfast gets colder.

It aggravates me and it's unnecessary. Plenty of other restaurants find a way to keep their butter cool but not rock hard. Others present soft, spreadable butter which is even better. Although it may seem a minor matter, it is those small things which can adversely affect how a restaurant is viewed. It may be the tipping point which causes someone to eat elsewhere, where the butter doesn't seem frozen.

During these times, restaurants still have economic difficulties, so they need to please as many customers as possible. Tending toward even these small problems can make a significant difference, so restaurants should pay attention. The fix should be relatively easy, and can help your bottom line.

What are your thoughts on hard butter?

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Kontozisis A-Grafo Roditis Amber Wine: Another Greek Winner

I'm an ardent fan of Greek wines, and previously wrote an article, Ten Reasons To Drink Greek Wine. We are fortunate in the Boston area to have Greek restaurants with excellent Greek wine lists, such as Krasi, which actually has the largest Greek wine list in the country. We also have a number of wine stores which sell a good variety of interesting and tasty Greek wines.

Recently, I was impressed with the 2020 Kontozisis A-Grafo Roditis Amber Wine ($25). The Kontozisis Organic Vineyards, founded in 1991, is located in the town of Karditsa, in the region of Thessaly, at the foothills of the Agrafa ("Uncharted") Mountain range. Their 11 hectares of vineyards are certified organic and wine production is very low intervention, using only free run juice,  natural yeasts and without any added sulfur. Winemaker Andreas Kontozisis and his partner Aphrodite Tousia are truly dedicated to organics, sustainability, and more natural winemaking. 

The 2020 Kontozisis A-Grafo Roditis Amber Wine, with a 13.5% ABV, is made from 100% Roditis, a pink-skinned berry, which is also the most widely planted white grape in Greece and may be about 2000 years old. It is made in a Ramato style, an old Italian tradition in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region which made such wines from Pinot Grigio, which also has a pink (sometimes called grey) skin. Ramato wines are made with lengthy skin contact, essentially similar to amber/orange wines. 

For the A-Grafo, about 70% of the wine spent 3 months with skin contact, and another 30% spent 6 months. It also spent about 7-8 months on the lees in stainless steel tanks. The wine possessed an alluring and complex nose, a blend of fruit and savory notes, and on the palate, that complexity also came through. Citrus, dried fruit and savory notes, with a hint of earthiness. Excellent acidity, smooth and clean, with a lingering and pleasing finish. Each sip brought something new to the palate. It could easily be enjoyed on its own, but would pair well with food as well, such as spicy chorizo and four-cheese ravioli. A very good value and highly recommended!

Monday, February 20, 2023

Imada Shuzo Fukucho "Forgotten Fortune" Junmai

While enjoying a wonderful dinner at Yakitori Totto, at Assembly Row in Somerville, we ordered a bottle of Sake, the Imada Shuzo Fukucho "Forgotten Fortune" Junmai ($75/restaurant, $35-$40/retail) to pair with our appetizers and grilled skewers. And the Sake was so delicious, we eventually ordered a second bottle as well. 

The Imada Shuzo, which was founded in 1868, is located in the port town of Akitsu in the Hiroshima Prefecture. Akitsu once had seven Sake breweries, but now there are currently only about three. The current brewery owner and Toji, master brewer, is Miho Imada, whose great-grandfather started the brewery. Interestingly, Miura Sanzaburo, a legend in the Sake brewing industry in that region, provided the brand name, Fukucho ("Forever fortune") for the brewery. 

It is rare for a brewery owner to also be the toji, and it is even rarer for a woman to not only own a Sake brewery, but also to act as its toji. Her brewery is small, producing only a relatively tiny amount each year. They specialize in Ginjo Sake, in small batches, and very traditionally and naturally made. It was also unique to see her photo on the back label of the Sake bottle. I don't recall ever having seen any other brewery owner or toji on such a label. 

The Imada Shuzo Fukucho "Forgotten Fortune" Junmai is produced from Hattanso sake rice, an heirloom breed which was nearly extinct before Miho Imada chose to help resurrect it. About a hundred or so years ago, Hattanso was popular, especially as it absorbed water well. However, its long stalks made it more vulnerable to adverse weather and other issues and its grains broke too often during the brewing process. Thus, it fell out of favor, although its seeds were fortunately preserved by an Agricultural Research Station

Sometime during the early 2000s, the seed bank had a surplus of Hattanso seeds, and asked the Sake brewers in Hiroshima if anyone wanted to try to grow the rice for their Sake. Imada was willing, and spent over ten years dedicated to growing and working with this heirloom rice. Currently, they are the only sake brewery that uses this rice. It's not the easiest rice to grow, but Imada has embraced its unique character, producing excellent Sake from it. 

The rice in this "Forgotten Fortune" Junmai has been polished down to 70%, which is less than some other Junmai Sake as Imada believes this is best for this Sake, providing more complexity and a better expression of the flavor of the rice. It also has a 15% ABV, a SMV +3, and the label states it is best served slightly chilled. It is said to pair very well with oysters, as the Hiroshima Prefecture has the most amount of oyster beds in Japan. In addition, it is supposed to pair very well with wild green vegetables. 

I found this Sake to be complex and pure delicious, with tasty flavors of melon and pear, a dominant earthiness and good acidity. Silky smooth, with a fuller body, and a lengthy, satisfying finish. It paired very well with a variety of foods, from raw octopus to grilled chicken skin. I've had other amazing Sake from this brewery and this one is just as amazing. Highly recommended!

Thursday, February 16, 2023

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.
1) For Mardi Gras fun next week, check out these specials.

Inspired by the spirit of "N'Awlins," Chef Jason Santos' Buttermilk & Bourbon is a go-to-spot for some Big Easy-style fun. On Tuesday, February 21st, Buttermilk & Bourbon's Back Bay and Arsenal Yards. locations will celebrate Fat Tuesday with Mardi Gras decor; beads and masquerade masks for guests; food specials; and specialty cocktails including The King Cake Shot (Grey Goose, vanilla, cinnamon, cream soda, simple, chantilly cream) and Masquerade Mojito (Bacardi, lime, mint, butterfly tea, spritz ). Additionally, The Black Eagle Jazz Band will be entertaining guests with its fun, jazzy tunes from 6 to 9 p.m. at Buttermilk & Bourbon, Arsenal Yards. 

Chef Nick Deutmeyer and the Harvest team will be celebrating Mardi Gras with brunch specials the weekend of February 18 to 19. New Orleans-inspired specials will include a brown paper bag of powdered sugar-dusted beignets and individual King’s Cakes. Additionally, whoever finds a plastic baby in their cake will receive a free Harvest hat and blanket! 

Boston's first country bar, Loretta's Last Call will bring the Southern country fun of New Orleans to life on Fat Tuesday with free-to-attend, Mardi Gras-themed line dancing from 8 to 11 p.m. on Tuesday, February 21. Cocktail specials, like Hurricanes, will also be available for guests to quench their thirsts after working up a sweat on the dance floor.

2) Want to experience Croatian wines paired with a multi-course dinner? Then come join us on Saturday, March 4, from 6pm-9pm, at Fin Point Oyster Bar & Grille. I'll be joining the good people at Croatian Premium Wine Imports to discuss Croatian wines, and the Komarna appellation (a region I've previously visited). The Chef at Fin Point has created a Six-Course Menu to pair with the Croatian wines, and will introduce each new dish.

The Menu includes:
Paired with 2021 Terra Madre Pošip 
Paired with 2021 Volarević Rose 
Paired with 2016 Terra Madre Plavac Mali Premium
Paired with 2015 Rizman Plavac Mali 
Paired with 2016 Rizman Tribidrag 
Paired with 2016 Volarević Plavac Mali Gold Edition 

Tickets cost $120 per person and you can purchase tickets HERE

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Heiwa Shuzou "Kid" Junmai Ginjo Hiyaoroshi: A Sake For The Autumn

With the importance of seasonal cuisine and drink in Japan, it's natural that seasonal Sake would be produced as well. Hiyaoroshi is a type of Sake made specifically for the Autumn and its history extends back to the Edo period. September 9 is the official first date for the release of this style of Sake. Hiyaoroshi is pasteurized once, in the winter or spring, and then aged over the summer before being released in the autumn, without a second pasteurization. 

Although it's now winter, I opened a bottle of the Heiwa Shuzou "Kid" Junmai Ginjo Hiyaoroshi ($39), to accompany a dinner of salmon. Heiwa Shuzofounded in 1928, is located in a valley outside Kainan City in Wakayama Prefecture. The brewery is situated on a spot where a temple once stood for over 500 years. The brewery was renamed after the end of World War 2, and "Heiwa" basically translates as “peace” or “harmony.” Heiwa was awarded Brewer of the Year at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) in 2019 and 2020, a back-to-back win that had never been accomplished by any other Sake brewery. 

Their "Kid" brand is relatively new, a bit over ten years old, and the name is an abbreviation of two words, "kishu" and "fudo." Kishu is the former name of the Wakayama Prefecture, and Fudo means the "environment." It is also said that the name refers to the sake's "playful, bright, energetic profile." It was intended to appeal to the younger generations, those who previously saw Sake as only a drink for older people. 

The Heiwa Shuzou "Kid" Junmai Ginjo Hiyaoroshi is made with Gohyakumangoku rice that was polished down to 55%. They use a natural water source, the Koyasan Nansui, which is said to be "soft and luscious." It also has a 15% ABV, a Sake Meter Value (SMV) of +1.5, and an Acidity of 1.7 (making it more acidic than average). The label states that it can be served chilled, warmed or at room temperature. 

It was a delicious Sake, with a soft and rich mouth feel, but crisp acidity balancing the richness. It was fruity, with tastes of banana, citrus, apple, and hints of raspberry, and also had some steamed rice flavors. It was rich in umami, especially on the finish, and made for an excellent pairing with the fatty salmon. Definitely a heartier Sake for the cooler Autumn weather, although it would work well in the Winter as well. Next time, maybe I'll warm it up, especially this winter. 

Monday, February 13, 2023

My Top Ten Dishes From My Croatian Journey

During my two week tour of Croatia, I enjoyed plenty of delicious food, in every region that I visited, from regional specialties to exquisite seafood. I created this top ten list to include dishes which I not only enjoyed immensely, but which I also found to be particularly compelling for various reasons. They might be especially delicious or something more unique, but all stand out for some particular reason. These are the type of dishes I would order again and again, and which I would highly recommend.

This is certainly not a complete list of all the delicious food I ate in Croatia but it's more a sampling of memorable dishes I experienced. It is also a purely subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" of anything. However, all of the items here earn my hearty recommendation. Please also note that this list is not in any order of preference, so all the dishes receive equal accolades. 

At the Bota Šare restaurant in Zagreb, we enjoyed some excellent seafood, including three dishes with the famed Mali Ston Oysters, which are special all on their own. I was especially impressed with their Tempura Oysters, which had a delightfully light and crispy batter, encasing the delicious oysters. I'm very picky about Tempura, and this was an excellent version.

Also while I was in Zagreb, I dined once again at the Agava Restaurant, and was enamored with their Risotto, made with sheep cheese from the island of Pag, thyme and pear. It was 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. 

The city of Samobor is located about 20 kilometers west of Zagreb, and one of its claim to fame is a local dessert, Samoborska kremšnita. It has a puff pastry top (and bottom), is 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. At a cafe in the Kavana Livadić, I enjoyed a good-sized piece of Samoborska kremšnita 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. The next time I visit Croatia, I want to sample more examples of this delicious dessert.

In the region of Slavonia, one of their regional specialties is Fiš Paprika, a spicy seafood stew made with paprika. At the Josić Winery & Restaurant, I first saw and smelled the aromatic stew cooking at an outside fire. Fortunately, we were able to sample some of the stew as well, which was made with a fish they called smudge, which may be a nickname for some other type of fish, possibly a type of river trout. The broth was amazing, complex, flavorful and spicy. The tender home-made pasta went well with the broth and the fish was tender and delicious. 

The Istrian region is well known for Truffles, so while we visited that region, we enjoyed several dishes with added truffles. One of my favorites was at the Konoba Fakin, a Risotto with boletus, black truffles, and Istrian prosciutto chips. What an amazing dish, with perfectly cooked risotto, creamy and flavorful, with earthy notes from the mushrooms and the compelling aromas of the truffles. And those prosciutto chips were crispy, meaty and salty. A well balanced and compelling dish.

In the region of Slavonia, we visited Vina Antunović for a wine tasting. On the table were plates of home-made Fish Pâté, made with fish from the Danube, and it was delicious, especially smeared on some fresh bread. It was flavorful, spiced well, and with a pleasing taste of the river. It was just a small snack to accompany the wine tasting, but it certainly made an impression. 

Also at the Josić Winery & Restaurant, I have to give special kudos to one of the desserts we enjoyed,  a traditional Slavonian dish known as Tačkrle. These are Ravioli, filled with jam, in a walnut sauce with hibiscus. Pasta for dessert? This was such a unique and delicious dessert, with all of the flavors and textures working so well together. We need more dessert ravioli. 

In Istria, we spent a little time in the town of Poreč, and I stopped for a bite at Fora Le Parte. In Istria, you'll find Boškarin, an ancient breed of cattle that originated in Istria. Like Waygu, Boškarin began as draft animals, but when tractors eventually took over, there was little need for Boškarin. The breed nearly died out until some dedicated breeders brought the population back from extinction. Now, it's a gourmet delicacy. I sampled the restaurant's Boškarin Carpaccio, which was exquisite, silky and flavorful, with a rich, beefy taste. And the cheese was a nice addition. 

In the town of Skradin, in the region of Dalmatia, we dined at the Zlatne Skoljke Restaurant and our first course was Skampi, Mussels and Noah's Ark Clams, in a scrumptious white wine and garlic broth. The seafood was fresh and delicious, and the broth was excellent, as well as the perfect place to dip bread. I could have been satisfied with simply enjoying lots of this shellfish. 

Finally, in the city of Pula in Istria, I had lunch at Piazza Nova, delighted by the Šiš Ćevap, spicy minced beef with French fries. Ćevapi are common in southeast Europe, and the type of meat used varies from country to country. I received three larger skewers of meat, which were moist, tender and flavorful. A hearty lunch for meat lovers. And the French fries were almost flat, but nicely crisp, a fine addition to the dish.

Do you have any favorite Croatian dishes?

Thursday, February 9, 2023

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.
1) Bonde Fine Wine Shop will be hosting a wine tasting featuring special guest Derek Baljeu, Winemaker of Sonoma’s Knights Bridge Winery, during the month of February in honor of Black History Month. The class will take place Tuesday, February 21, at 7:00 pm and will include a variety of Knights Bridge’ flights of wines and light food.

This series is designed to allow enthusiasts to sample a range of wines, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The course aims to learn about sustainable American wines and to enjoy a unique, intimate eight-person tasting experience. Bonde Fine Wine Shop and Winemaker Derek Baljeu from Knights Bridge Winery are guided by a deep respect for nature, a passion for fine wines, a focus on sustainable wines for the planet's future, and a dedication to family, friends, and consumers.

Derek Baljeu was born and raised in Huntington Beach, CA. Wine was always in his house growing up, but food was the primary focus at the table, and he started cooking for himself and his family from a very young age. During his time in college there was a ’96 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a tomahawk ribeye that ignited his love of wine. He began making regular weekend trips to Napa Valley to get a sense of the region and to develop his palate. 

While in school, he interned at Jessie’s Grove Winery in Lodi and followed up with roles in Napa researching phenolic development in the To Kalon Vineyard, and as Assistant Viticulturist at Silverado Farming. Next, he served as enologist for the luxury portfolio at Trinchero, working with seven different winemakers across ten brands. In 2019, Derek joined Knights Bridge Winery as Assistant Winemaker. He was promoted to Winemaker in 2021. While he has a variety of specific duties, he sees them all as pieces of one larger job: to maintain wine quality.

Tickets are on sale for $120 per person. For more information and to purchase a ticket, go HERE.  

2) For Valentine's Day, check out Karma Asian Fusion, Burlington. They offer sushi platters that are specifically designed for two. Chef’s choice of assorted maki and sashimi makes for a pressure free and original experience for each party. In addition to their wide selection of alcohol and handcrafted drinks, this February brings a limited-time special cocktail to toast with, The Bésame! It’s a blend of silver tequila, heavy cream, egg whites, yuzu, and sparkling rose. The upscale cocktail is crafted with tangerine, raspberry, and chocolate bitters to top it off and end your night on a sweet note.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Korak Family Estate: A Return to Plešivica ("Croatia's Champagne")

Near the start of my two-week tour of Croatia, we spent some time exploring the wine region of Plešivica, which is located less than an hour from the city of Zagreb. Plešivica is a very small, continental wine region comprised of about 2,300 hectares of vineyards and around 35-40 wineries. Most of the wineries in this region are small, family-owned, almost all possessing less than 10 hectares of vineyards. 

Plešivica is sometimes referred to as "Croatia's Champagne," as the region is famed for its sparkling wines and its calcareous soils resembling those found in the Champagne region. The vineyards are mostly planted with international varieties, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah. About 70% of their vineyards are planted with white grapes, and the grapes commonly have high acidity. 

We made a stop at the Korak Winery, which is well known for its quality Sparkling Wines. Back in 2019, on my first trip to Croatia, I visited this winery, so you should check out my prior article, Korak Family Estate: Plešivica, Sparkling Wine & Riesling, for more information and background about this winery. 

As we started our tour, we enjoyed a glass of the Korak Sparkling Rosé Nature, made from 100% Pinot Noir, which I loved back in 2019 and I was equally as enamored this time. This wine was aged on the lees for 3 years and has no dosage. I previously referred to it as a "hedonistic pleasure" and I'll stand by that characterization. Highly recommended!

We sat inside at their tasting bar, sampling a number of their wines and enjoying some home-made snacks. There was sausage with garlic, speck, and smoked pork shoulder, all of the meats having been made on the premises by the father. There was also homemade cultured butter, 2 goat cheeses (1 year and 2 years old), and fresh sourdough bread. Everything was quite delicious. 

The 2016 Korak Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine was produced from 100% Chardonnay, which underwent a quick pressing and fermentation, and spent about 4.5 years on the less, without any dosage. It was very dry, with crisp acidity, fresh flavors of apple, a yeasty element and a backbone of minerality. Delicious, with tiny bubbles, a lengthy finish, and a refreshing taste. This is serious sparkling wine.

The 2021 Korak Sauvignon Blanc Klemenka, at 12.5% ABV, spent about six months in the barrel. It was very similar to my previous tasting of the 2017 vintage, being fresh and dry, with bright citrus and grapefruit flavors, and a minerality backbone. The style was more akin to French rather than New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. 

The 2020 Korak Laškorec Rajnski Riezling ("Rhine Riesling), from an organic vineyard, spent about six months in large barrels of Slavonian oak. I previously tasted the 2018 vintage, and believe this vintage is even better. The nose was very aromatic, and on the palate it was dry, complex and intriguing, with spice notes, flavors of citrus, a strong minerality, and a lingering finish. This vintage was more complex than the 2018, and an example of how Croatian wineries can produce excellent Riesling.

The 2019 Korak Laškorec Chardonnay Sur Lie was fermented in small French barrels, sat on the lees for a year, and then was aged in large oak barrels. I previously enjoyed the 2017 vintage, and once again the wine presented citrus and apple flavors, with a hint of smoke, and a pleasant richness. Definitely one of the better Chardonnays I tasted while in Croatia. 

The 2019 Korak Križevac & Cimbuščak Pinot Crni, with a 13.5% ABV, is made from 100% Pinot Noir. Most of their Pinot is used to make Sparkling Wines but we were told it has great potential for still wines as well. They have two vineyards of Pinot, from 1998 and 2003. This wines was aged for 1 year in small French oak and then 1 year in Slovenian oak. I previously tasted the 2017 vintage, and found the 2019 vintage to be even better. It was elegant and delicious, light-bodied and with a complex melange of cherry, raspberry, subtle spices, and a hint of earth. Well balanced, good acidity, and a lengthy finish. Highly recommended. 

The final wine was unique, a 2018 Amber wine inspired by "In Search of Lost Time" by Marcel Proust. The wine was an intriguing field blend of grapes, many old vines, including Šipelj, Belina, Plavac Zuti, Rizvanac, Grasevina, Veltliner, Silvanac, and Traminac. The grapes were macerated for about 60 days, natural yeasts were used, and there was no added sulfur. Only 500 bottles were produced. This was an amazing wine, complex and well balanced, with such a depth of flavor. Tannic, herbal notes, subtle spices, dried fruits, minerality, and much more. Great acidity and a long, lingering finish. Each sip delights the palate, bringing something new with each taste. One of the more unique wines I tasted in Croatia. Highly recommended!

My return visit to Korak was as impressive as my prior trip, and some of their wines were even better this time. Their Sparkling Wines are excellent, quality bubbly which would please any wine lover. And their Amber wine was amazing. This winery should definitely be one of your destinations if you visit Croatia. 

(Please Note: All of these Photos are courtesy of Todd Godbout.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Ten Reasons To Drink Croatian Wine (Updated)

"The wines of Croatia...are very good and justly prized."
--The Evening Sun (MD), August 19, 1965

Wine is integral to the culture of Croatia, and they consume much of what they produce, exporting only about 6% of their total production. In addition, they import about four times as much wine as they export, as they obviously desire even more wine to drink. Indicative of their great love for wine, Croatians drink about 22 liters of wine per capita, making them the third largest consumer in the world.

The history of wine in the region of Croatia extends back about 2500 years, even before the time of the ancient Greeks colonists, but its modern wine industry is relatively young, still recovering from when they achieved their independence from Yugoslavia in 1995. The Croatian wine industry has accomplished much in the past approximately 25 years, and they are currently producing plenty of excellent wines, and have much potential. Although Croatia has become a hugely popular tourist destination, its wines still need much more recognition around the world.

Croatian wines, primarily Dalmatian wines, were first exported to the U.S. over 140 years ago. Currently, based on some of the latest statistics I have seen, Croatian wine exports to the U.S. are small, generally under 10,000 cases annually, but that is slowly changing. Thus, it's likely difficult for many people to find Croatian wines at their local wine store, but you should ask them to carry some. 

There are some positive changes that have been occurring. In the Boston area, we're fortunate to have Croatian Premium Wine Imports (CPWI), a company which in the last several years has been bringing numerous Croatian wines to local wine shops and restaurants. There are over 80 Croatian wines available on their website and they also ship to most states across the U.S. Thus, even if your local shop doesn't carry Croatian wine, you can still acquire their wines from CPWI. There are also a couple smaller U.S. importers of Croatian wine. 

Prior to my first journey to the Republic of Croatia, to the region of Dalmatia, in September 2019, I had little familiarity with Croatian wines, having previously tasted only a couple, though I enjoyed those I did. During my visit, I had the opportunity to taste close to 150 Croatian wines, and I found many reasons to enjoy these fascinating, diverse and delicious wines. After that trip, I continued to taste other Croatian wines as well. 

In May/June 2022, I made my second visit to Croatia, exploring Dalmatia, Slavonia and Istria, touring 28 wineries and tasting about 350 wines, as well as some Croatian spirits and liqueurs. Overall, I've now tasted approximately 600 different Croatian wines, so I have a very good foundation for understanding these wines. It's clear to me that all wine lovers, no matter what their preferences, will find something to love in Croatian wines.

Let me provide you a list of Ten Reasons (actually Eleven) why you should experience and drink Croatian wines, why you should seek out these compelling wines. I often encourage people to be adventurous with their palates and I'm doing so again, asking you to sample Croatian wines, to give them a chance. Once you taste them, I strongly suspect you'll understand why I find them to be so compelling and you will become a convert as well.

In addition, if you desire more information about Croatia and their wines, if you want specific wine reviews, check out my compilation page, All About Croatia. That page has links to over 80 articles I've written about Croatia, covering wine to travel, food to history. And if you have any specific questions about Croatian wines, feel free to email or message me. 

Now, onto the Ten Reasons To Drink Croatian Wine.....

First, Croatian wine has a lengthy and fascinating history.
Wine making in Croatia extends back at least 2,500 years, prior to even Greek colonization, and wine was an integral element of ancient Croatian civilization. Agatharchides of Cnidus, a Greek historian and geographer from the 2nd century BC, claimed that the best wine in the world was from Vis, a Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea that had been settled by the Greeks. The Stari Grad Plain, on the island of Hvar, was colonized by Greeks during the 4th century B.C. Vineyards have been continuously planted here for over 2400 consecutive years and it's now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Ancient Romans contributed significantly to wine production in Croatia. 

Over the centuries, Croatia has also been invaded numerous times, by various conquering nations, yet they have somehow always found a way to continue their traditions of viniculture. In addition, some of the 130 or so indigenous grapes of Croatia may have even been around since the days of ancient Greece. Thus, each sip of Croatian wine brings with it a sense of history, a connection to the ancient past. Their modern wine industry may be young, but its roots extend back over two millennia.

Second, Croatia has many unique, indigenous grapes.
There are over 130 indigenous grapes in Croatia, though only about 40 are used regularly on a commercial basis. White grapes such as Bogdanuša, Debit, Graševina, Grk, Malvazija Istarska, Malvasia Dubrovačk, Maraština, Pošip, and Vugava. Red grapes like Babić, Dobričić, Plavac Mali, Teran, and Tribidag. They present unique flavors and aromas, though commonly offering some familiarity. Different regions showcase different grapes, such as Dalmatia (the home of Plavac Mali and Pošip), Slavonia (where Graševina dominates), and Istria (the home of Malvazija Istarska and Teran)

I've had the opportunity to taste many of their indigenous grapes, and have been impressed. Any wine lover seeking to broaden their palate, to experience something new, should seek out such unusual grapes which are often found only in Croatian wines. You never know when you might find a new favorite grape. I love exploring unusual grapes and Croatian wines allow me to further enhance my experiences. 

Third, Croatian grows international grapes as well.
Besides their native grapes, Croatia grows a wide variety of other grapes as well, including the most popular international grapes (from Cabernet Sauvignon to Chardonnay). Many regions grow these international grapes to appeal to a certain consumer segment who prefers to drink only what they know. Although I prefer Croatian wines produced from native grapes, I found numerous examples of excellent wines made from non-native grapes, especially Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Riesling. 

In addition, in Croatia you can find some less common grapes from Italy, Austria, and elsewhere. For example, in Slavonia, Blaufränkisch is known as Frankovka, and produces delicious Rosé and Red wines. At Pink Day, a large Rosé tasting event, The Frankovka Rosé really impressed me. You can also find Austrian grapes in Croatia such as Rotgipfler (known as Zelenac) and Roter Veltliner. You can even find Italian Nebbiolo in Croatia! A number of winemakers have been experimenting with a variety of grapes from other countries, seeking which ones perform best in Croatian soil.

Fourth, you're probably already familiar with one important Croatian grape.
In Croatia, where the grape originated, it's known as Crljenak Kaštelanski, Pribidrag, and Tribidag. However, the grape has traveled from its place of origin, and in Italy it became known as Primitivo while in California it became known as Zinfandel. Yes, Zinfandel which is often seen as an "All American" grape, actually originated in Croatia!

It wasn't until 2001 that DNA testing confirmed these facts, though many had long suspected a Croatian connection. Within Croatia, Tribidag, which derives from Greek words meaning "early ripening," was first mentioned as early as the 15th century. Tribidag has been seeing a renewed renaissance within Croatia, especially in Dalmatia, and more and more wineries are starting to produce wines from this grape. Wouldn't you love to try a wine made from the original "Zinfandel?"

Fifth, Croatian wines are diverse.
Croatian wineries produce a myriad of different types of wines, including Sparkling, White, Skin-Contact Whites, Rosé, Red, Amphora, Amarone-Style, Dessert wines and more. These wines come in a wide variety of flavor profiles and styles so there is something available to appeal to any personal preference. You'll find plenty of easy drinking wines as well as more serious and complex wines, and so much more between these two. You'll also find some ultra-geeky and experimental wines, which will tantalize your mind and palate. 

In addition, there are a number of different terroirs in Croatia which further leads to the diversity in their wines. I had the opportunity to sample so many of these different styles of wine, and they were comparable in quality to wines from all over the world. For example, some of their Sparkling Wines will remind you of Champagne while some of their Amber wines are as good as any found in Georgia or elsewhere. Croatian wines are multi-dimensional and there is much to discover in that multitude. No matter what kind of wine you enjoy, you'll find a Croatian wine that will satisfy you and might even become a new favorite.  

Sixth, Croatian wines can age well
Most wine, from anywhere in the world, is not produced to be aged, and most consumers drink their wine within days of its purchase. However, some wines can age quite well, sitting in your cellar for years, slowly evolving over time. That aging potential is one of the reasons that certain grapes, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Nebbiolo, are so revered. Such wines evolve over time, acquiring different aromas and flavors from when they are first bottled. It can be an amazing experience to taste a wine at different aspects in its evolution, over the course of a number of years.  

In Croatia, some of their native grapes possess that potential as well, such as red grapes like Plavac Mali, Teran, Tribidag, and Babić, and white grapes like Graševina, Malvazija Istarska, and Pošip. I've tasted stellar examples of these wines, including some older vintages, which were created to be age-worthy. Some wineries had wines in their cellar that were produced in the 1940s, and which were still drinkable. Croatia can make serious, age-worthy wines which will impress. 

Seventh, Croatian wines are made for food.

As Croatian wine is such an integral aspect of their culture, it is obviously a natural pairing for food, possessing a versatility that extends into many cuisines. Croatians commonly drink wine with food so it is produced specifically to be accompanied by food. At basically every wine tasting I went to in Croatia, food was offered with the wine. If you purchase a Croatian wine, you can be almost assured that it will pair well with some type of food. Dependent on the type of food, there is also probably a type of Croatian wine which will work well with that dish, from seafood to steak, pasta to chicken. 

For example, you could enjoy an easy drinking Plavac Mali or Teran with a burger or pizza, or a more powerful Plavac Mali or Teran with a ribeye steak. You could enjoy a Pošip or Graševina, with raw oysters or fried haddock. Croatian cuisine is diverse, from pasta and truffles in Istria to fresh seafood in Dalmatia, and so is their need for diverse wines to accompany their different foods. The wines of each region pair wonderfully with the local cuisine. 

Eighth, buying Croatian wines improves lives. 
As I've written previously, it can be important to be a Wine Activist. Peter Weltman, a sommelier and writer in San Francisco, summed it up well by writing, "With our wine purchases, I believe, we can help advance regional peace, provide support for farmers in war-torn regions, have a voice in geopolitics, and aid in economic recoveries." In addition, he stated, "Wine transcends borders and bridges cultures, and it can be used to improve lives if we make the right purchases." 

It's only been about 25 years since Croatia prevailed in a terrible war, and attained its independence. Its young wine industry certainly needs support, as does the entire country, and buying Croatian wines is one way to help them. It's probably not something you normally think about when buying a bottle of wine. but maybe you should consider it more often. Buy Croatian wine, give your support to Croatia and drink some excellent wine. Everyone wins.

Ninth, nearly everyone will enjoy Croatian wines.
There is no reason why anyone couldn't find a Croatian wine that they enjoy. Many of their wines are often easy drinking, absent of strange and off-putting flavors. They will seem familiar in some respects, with just enough pleasant differences to make them intriguing. The main reason Croatian wines don't sell as well as they should is due to lack of availability and unfamiliarity. Most consumers, and many wine shop owners, know little about Croatian wines so they gravitate instead to what they already know. That can be overcome with greater education and more tastings. People need to be shown they are missing out on Croatian wines.

Tenth, and most importantly, Croatian wines are delicious.
It's a simple thought but sometimes gets forgotten amidst everything else. In the end, the most significant aspect of wine is that it tastes good. No matter what else a wine has going for it, if it does not taste good then it has failed. I have tasted many well-produced Croatian wines, of all types, and at the root of it all, they are delicious. I may appreciate Croatian wines for many different reasons, but first and foremost, taste remains the most compelling reason to drink Croatian wines. No matter what your level of wine knowledge, I think we can all agree that first and foremost, a wine needs to taste good. On that level, Croatian wines deliver.

And here's a bonus reason to embrace Croatian wine! 

Eleventh, Croatian wines are also used to make intriguing spirits and liqueurs.
Croatian has a lengthy history of Rakija (Croatian brandy) production, which is made from a wide variety of different wines, fruits, herbs, and botanicals. Home production used to be very common, and some Croatians still make their own at home. When a guest comes to a Croatia home, it's a tradition to offer them Rakija. Rakija can be delicious, and the wide variety of different flavors make it a versatile product as well. 

There are a number of other intriguing wine-based drinks in Croatia. For example, Bermet is an interesting and tasty aromatized wine, flavored with wormwood and other ingredients. It is reminiscent in some ways to Vermouth. but is its own special alcohol. Istrian Epulon is another wine and wormwood flavored liqueur, while Istrian Teranino is a liqueur made from Teran wine. All of these are even harder to find in the U.S. rather than Croatian wine, but are well worth seeking out.

So, are you convinced to give Croatian wines a try? I hope so. However, if not, why not?

(Note: This is a revised and expanded version, based on additional Croatian wine experiences, of a prior article.)