Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Croatian Cuisine

The diverse flavors of Croatian cuisine reflect the varied history of the country itself. National dishes and cooking techniques encompass traditions from Italy, Bosnia, Austria, Hungary, and Turkey. Zagreb and the northwest offer hearty meat dishes that you might find in Vienna or Budapest. As you travel from Zagreb to the coast you can see the food become lighter as Mediterranean influences take hold. The cuisine of the northern coastal area of Istria is borrowed from neighboring Italy with lots of pasta dishes and the famous wild white and black truffle. The cuisine of the Dalmatian coast in the south is also influenced by Italian cooking, but is mostly concerned with fresh fish, seafood, and fabulous olive oil. The following is a list of dishes that you might find on menus in Croatia:

Gulas - A Hungarian influenced stew with meat and vegetables, mostly found in Zagreb and northwest parts of the country.

Kulen - A paprika flavored sausage served cold from the Eastern Slavonia region of Croatia.

Fresh fish - A staple on menus from Split to Dubrovnik usually prepared simply: grilled whole with olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs. It can be quite expensive and is usually priced by the kg.

Dalmatian ham - Smoked ham similar to an Italian Prosciutto or an Iberian jamon, usually served sliced very thin and sometimes with melon. This is popular in Istria and in Dalmatia.

Octopus salad - Another dish that you will find on almost every menu in Dalmatia; it is generally good and sometimes great depending on the freshness of the octopus and how it is prepared. Usual ingredients include red onion, capers, olive oil, & vinegar.

Pasticada - A Dalmatian beef dish which is stuffed with lard and roasted in wine and spices; it is generally served with gnocchi...not for those watching their calorie intake.

Meat “under the iron bell” – Pork, veal, or lamb slow roasted with potatoes under an iron “bell” covered in embers for 3 or 4 hours. This is a very traditional method of cooking and is one of Croatia’s most-prized culinary traditions.

Cevapcici - A Bosnian dish of meat sausages (with no casing) or meatballs, usually served in a pita with raw onion and red pepper sauce. The spices give this a unique flavor and it is a must try for meat-eaters.

Raznjici - Shish kebab of pork, beef, lamb, or fish. This dish can be found at many restaurants, but is best at Bosnian restaurants.

Burek - A heavy pastry stuffed with meat or cheese and often eaten on-the-go from a bakery.

Seafood Bouzara - Shellfish cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, herbs, white wine, and breadcrumbs.

Blitva - A side dish served with most fish and seafood dishes in Dalmatia; it's swiss chard served boiled with potatoes, olive oil, and garlic.

Black Risotto - A traditional Italian style rice dish made with squid and cuttlefish; it's black color comes from the addition of squid ink.

Palacinka - Thin dessert pancakes (like crepes) filled with jam or chocolate and sometimes topped with ice cream. These are of Hungarian origin but are found throughout Croatia today.

Krempita - A cake or pie filled with custard and topped with cream; it is sweet and caloric but for those with a sweet tooth, it should not be missed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

No Smoking in Dubrovnik Bars this Summer

On April 9th a new smoking ban will come into effect in Croatia. It applies to cafes and bars with indoor seating. Bars greater than 50 square meters in size will be required to have a non-smoking section and to install a new ventilation system. Bars smaller than 50 square meters can choose to be smoking or non-smoking. Those that choose to allow smoking will need permission from the Ministry of Health and will need to install an adequate ventilation system. Smoking will still be permitted at all bars when outside on the street or terrace. A similar law was in force last summer, but it was repealed just 6 months later under pressure from bar owners who claimed that the prohibition was bad for business. It is yet to be seen how well the new law will be enforced and if it will last longer than the 2009 ban.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Small Plates, Big Flavors

The opening of Lucin Kantun brings tapas, Croatian style, to Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Despite its small space, the restaurant feels refreshingly airy owing to the extensive use of white in the décor: white walls, white wooden tables, and bleached wooden beams on the ceiling. Diners get the feeling that they are dining in the owner’s home as they watch their food being prepared in the open kitchen, a beautiful addition to the décor itself. Dishes are served tapas style, and include starters (ranging from 12 to 20 Kuna per plate) such as hummus, roasted eggplant spread, tsaziki, octopus salad, and a selection of Croatian cheeses from throughout the country. Mains (also served tapas style, about 25 Kuna per plate) include lamb kebabs with lavender and honey, veal medallions with walnuts, shrimp with lentils, and delicate white fish wrapped in bacon. Portions are small and are made to share, so expect to order about 4 or 5 plates per person. But be sure to leave room for the homemade desserts (about 25 Kuna each); a refreshing lemon infused cheesecake and a chocolate cream cake were on offer the night we were there.

Lucin Kantun is located on Od Sigurate in the Old Town, just next to the Hotel Stari Grad.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Slasticarna Gabi open in Gruz

Slasticarna Gabi, home of the best cakes in Dubrovnik, has recently opened a small shop on the ground floor of the Tommy building in Gruz. The shop is just behind the bus station, making it easy for patrons to stop in for a piece of cake on their way home. Gabi’s homemade creations include cheesecake, carrot cake, apple cake, and several varieties of chocolate cake. She also serves cookies and muffins for those in need of a quick sugar fix. Whole cakes can be ordered for a special occasion, with her wedding and birthday cakes quickly becoming a favorite among locals in Dubrovnik.

Slasticarna Gabi can be found in the Shopping Center TOMMY at Vukovarska 36. Gabi’s cakes can also be ordered wholesale at her bakery at Od Batale 25 or by calling +385 (0)91 761 9550. For more information, see Gabi’s website.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Laundry in Dubrovnik

One of the most common questions we get from visitors to Dubrovnik is “Where can I do laundry?” For those not staying at a private apartment or villa with a washing machine, there are three options. There is one Laundromat just a couple of minutes walking distance from the Pile Gate (on Od Tabakarije) and another near the Hotel Bellevue (on Pera Cingrije) in Gorica. Both offer full laundry service (wash & dry in about 24 hours), but neither have coin-operated machines. For those who prefer to do their own laundry, Sanja & Rosie's Launderette is the best (and only) option in town. It is located just outside of the Ploce Gate entrance to Old Town and has several professional washing machines and dryers available everyday from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm. You can see the locations of each Laundromat on the following map:

View Laundromats in Dubrovnik in a larger map

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Visa Requirements Lifted Again

The Croatian government will once again temporarily lift the visa requirements for some visitors to Croatia this summer. Last year the requirements were lifted for visitors from Ukraine and Russia and it drastically increased the number of visitors from these countries. This summer, they will add China, Jordan, Qatar, Oman, and United Arab Emirates to the list. The temporary lift will be in effect from 1 April to 31 October 2010. It is expected that the lifting of the visa requirements will improve tourism from these nations.