Every world traveler’s first impressions in each country are the most frequently related to gastronomy. By this point Croatia, having in mind the unique variety of its regions, offers many opportunities to enjoy the original food, wines and delicacies, based on naturally planted vegetables and fruits, high quality meat and fish, growing winery potentials, as well as the well proven traditional, but permanently and originally modernized styles of preparing food.
Croatia, regardless its territorial area, is distinguished by very notable natural resources (many of them under the UNESCO or national protection), which reflects on the Croatian gastronomy, from famous Adriatic Sea area to the uncovered continental Croatian regions (linked by very modern highways).
This short presentation of Croatian gastronomy will show to any world’s traveler the very best of traditional regional food and wines, but the best way to be convinced is to come and taste. Bon apetit!
The Croatian south Adriatic area, historical Dalmatia, is a region distinguished by a very reputable cultural heritage, recognized by UNESCO’s care on the old cities of Dubrovnik, Split, Trogir and Šibenik, as well as the Croatian national parks as the island of Mljet, Kornati archipelago and Krka river.
The unique Dalmatian landscape, consisting of the ancient towns and villages, high mountains over green rivers and the picturesque islands floating on the blue sea, is also the area offering good reasons for any hedonist to come and stay.
Of course, the first choice could be the incomparable Adriatic fish, prepared on many ways, preferably roasted. There is also a variety of shells, the best ones being oysters from Mali Ston.
It is to be noted the interesting offer of the river Neretva mouth (eels, frogs).
Concerning the meat dishes, the lamb is particularly recommended, best being prepared traditionally on a roasting spit.
Among many other meat foods, the Pašticada (beef a la wild) is maybe the most reputable one.
Northern Dalmatia is also a country of the best European smoked ham (Pršut) and sheep cheese (island of Pag), both products being perfect due to specific local characteristics (rocky soil, sparing vegetations, dry winds).
Dalmatia has also preserved the old recipes for numerous home-made cakes and sweets, made of walnuts, almonds, carobs, lavender etc.
Finally, Dalmatia is a country of the famous wines, primarily the red ones, based on very widened grape sort Plavac, known also as Dingač and Postup (Pelješac peninsula) or Babić (Šibenik area). It is recently confirmed that Croatian Plavac is a father of the famous Californian Zinfandel red wine.
Among the white wines in this region, the most reputable ones are Pošip (island of Korčula), Bogdanuša (island of Hvar) and Vugava (island of Vis).
The Istrian peninsula, firstly (but not only) due to the vicinity of the West European tourist market, is the most visited Croatian region.
The ancient coastal cities, like Pula (famous Roman amphitheater), Poreč (cathedral under UNESCO protection), Rovinj and others, as well as the particularly growing interest for many picturesque inland villages, have made Istria being called the Croatian Toscana, but in distinction from famous Italian region, our Toscana incorporates nearby clean blue sea, including the famous residential (from Romans to the present days) Brijuni archipelago.
Istria is also the most growing Croatian region in olive oil manufacturing as well as the traditionally and modern winery (olive and wine roads). The best Istrian white wine is the old famous Malvazija, the best red wines being Teran and Merlot. Istria is a homeland of the traditional brandies such as Medica (honey brandy) or unique Biska (made of mistletoe!).
The Istrian gastronomy is famous by very balanced sea food (including oysters from Limski kanal) and meat dishes offer, including home-made sausages, smoked ham etc, as well as domestic pasta (Fuži).
The most delicious meat food is based on the old-sort Istrian ox, famous Boškarin.
But, without any doubt, the most famous Istrian gastronomy delicacy is Tartuf, the most reputable mushroom worldwide. The Istrian Tartuf, white and black, found (digged) by dogs (and pigs!) the most frequently in the Motovun forest, is a base of dishes with pasta, or as patties etc.
The North Adriatic includes also Kvarner area, namely islands Krk, Rab, Cres, Lošinj and others. The area is distinguished also by a high quality fish, lamb, cheese and wine, particularly Žlahtina (white wine) from island of Krk.
The afforested hinterland of city of Rijeka, named Gorski Kotar, being very close to the sea, is offering specific food, in accordance with natural environment (wildlife game, creek crabs, fogs, forest fruit etc).
Besides the Croatian Adriatic coast, as the most popular worldwide tourist destination, the continental Croatia offers quite different but also a very interesting gastronomy. The term continental Croatia means a very large region, from city of Zagreb with its environment on the West to the wide historical region of Slavonia on the East.
Zagreb is the capital of Republic of Croatia, government centre with many historical monuments, large parks etc. It is interesting that the foreign tourists have found one of their very favorite places to visit and contemplate – Mirogoj, one of the most attractive European graveyards.
Of course, Zagreb offers very distinguished Croatian and international cuisine. For such an occasion, only two traditional and popular dishes of Zagreb (and its environment) to be recommended here are the home-made purica z mlincima (turkey with special paste) and famous štrukli (salt or sweet paste with soft cheese, baked or boiled).
The Zagreb environment (firstly Plešivica mountain) offers a variety of quality vines, particularly Portugizac (preferably served with sweets of chestnut), a very early red wine, similar to the French Beaujolais.
The Zagreb area, known as Hrvatsko Zagorje, is reach in many old castles, which gastronomy, particularly during their Medieval Days, besides the knights fighting, offers the original food and drinks, prepared according to the ancient recipes.
Among many villages and towns to be visited around Zagreb, two places are the particular ones.
Samobor, a charming little town very close to Zagreb, is among other things very popular by the Napoleon era heritage Bermet (the sweet aperitive wine) and Muštarda (French mustard).
Beautiful city of Varaždin, as the centre of the Croatian baroque, is the very interesting place for the foreign travelers, particularly during the world known Špancirfest (end of August), the unique festival of ancient and modern attractions, including original local cuisine.
The historical region of Slavonia (bordered by rivers of Drava, Danube and Sava) is still relatively uncovered Croatian area, but offers many attractions, including Kopački Rit, one of the largest European swamps, being rich in wildlife, not only the birds, fishes etc. but also deer, fawns and wild boars, all available for hunting.
Slavonia is the country of the numerous archeological finds, from prehistoric (famous dove of Vukovar) to the Roman era. Their towns, from city of Osijek to Slavonski Brod, have been particularly fortified during wars against Turks, their urban area being permanently and strictly conserved.
Slavonia is a home of very original food, based on the beef and pork, wild game, river fish etc. The most popular Slavonic smoked product is Kulen, smoked sausage stuffed with pork and various spices.
Slavonia is a country of the very reputable winery tradition, first vineyards being planted by Romans. The most famous Slavonic white wines are old sorts like Graševina (Riesling) and Traminac (demi-sweet wine), particularly from the medieval city of Ilok, one of the preferable wines of the English Court.