- [Blank stare as they try to figure out where Croatia is]
- “Isn’t that in California?”
To me, it was a no-brainer. The coastline looks like the Amalfi Coast. Beaches abound with crystal clear blue water. When there isn’t a beach, people will just pull off the road and dive in the water wherever they can find a spot. There was not a suit in sight, just families and friends enjoying the sunshine and cool water, work be damned.
In between the beaches are hoards of family-run restaurants, or “konobas”, serving up local delicacies, beer and some of the best wine you’ll ever have all served up on open-air terraces that are always overlooking something spectacular, whether it be a Roman castle, a vineyard or the Adriatic sea. Take your pick.
So, why pick Croatia? Why the hell not!
This place changed our life, and it all started in Zagreb, the capital. It was here that we first discovered the Croatian obsession with pizza. Everywhere we looked, pizza was being served, Italian-style. We have eaten so much pizza in the last 10 days I still fear we may turn into pizzas.
Some of the best was at Spaghetteria Nocturno, a cafe uniquely situated on a steep slope leading up to Zagreb’s central farmer’s market. Layered with mozzarella and porcini mushrooms and crisp from a stone oven, Italy didn’t seem like it was a sea away.
The pizza came alongside some incredible gnocchi tossed with spinach, Dalmatian ham, cheese and cream. Gnocchi is another Croatian staple that may also be served doused in a homemade tomato sauce or alongside goulash. The gnocchi is not dainty or petite, but elephant-sized and meaty yet still light as a feather.
After a long afternoon of exploring Mirogoj Cemetery, we were in need of a hearty dinner. We heard rumblings that the best Bosnian food outside of Bosnia could be found in a residential neighborhood a short car ride away from the city center. So we hopped a taxi and within minutes we were at Sofra. Our waiter led us to a large patio with dark wooden booths accented with grandma’s embroidered linens.
We started with a bottle of Bosnian red wine (excellent), which led to a cold plate of housemade cheeses and salumi. The kajmak, a soft tangy cheese similar to clotted cream, was so incredible that scooping it up with a fork for a bite seemed like the natural thing to do.
The cold plate was followed by a warm veal burek and a roasted red pepper salad marinated with vinegar, garlic and parsley. Burek is a thin pastry common in Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries, with their filling of minced mean, cheese or vegetables varying by culture.
The main dish was chicken schnitzel stuffed with cheese and Dalmatian ham covered in a mushroom cream sauce.
Our meal was finished with espressos. The Croatians are coffee fanatics, as so every cup you get is never anything less than perfect whether it be from a restaurant, cafe or kiosk on the ferry. Fragrant with a thin layer of crema, it jolts you back into reality from your food coma.
Next, we’ll explore Split on the Adriatic Coast.