There’s always a tipping point, isn’t there? The Accidental Locavore is hoping this was it—a dinner celebrating the food and wines of Croatia at Delmonico’s—that would finally get us to pull the trigger and visit a country that has been on our list for ages.
You may wonder why Delmonico’s, one of those New York/Wall Street institutions, but it makes perfect sense when you learn that the owners hailed from that part of the world. It was a boisterous group (too many cases of cabin fever?), invited to explore the incredible variety of Croatian cuisine with a seven-course dinner with wines (and the winemakers).
When we sat down, there was a beautiful platter of charcuterie—meats, cheeses and olives. One of the many outstanding sausages on the plate was Kulen, which is also the first Croatian food product with protected origin. It’s got a wonderful, slightly coarse texture and a little bit of spice from hot paprika. I could have eaten nothing but that and gone home happy, but I paced myself and even restrained from popping a few extra slices in my pocket. According to the Croatian Eno-Gastronomy magazine we were given, “the sausage is always accompanied by excellent wines,” and the first of several white wines, a Grasevina Galić, certainly fit the bill.
Distracting us from the charcuterie was a lovely bowl of mussels cooked in white wine with roast garlic, lemon, butter and herbs – delicious! Where the first wine was closer to a Riesling, this one was a Chardonnay from Vina Laguna.
Next up, one of my favorite dishes of the evening – fuži, a homemade pasta (think of a diamond shape rolled into a tube) with wild mushrooms, truffles and Parmesan. Earthy with the mushrooms and truffles, it was just a wonderful simple pasta and if I had known Croatia had truffles (both black and white), we might have gone there long ago. With the pasta – a Malvazij from Kozlovic Winery, which we were fortunate to be given a bottle of. According to the label, “it is the perfect wine to serve with truffle pasta,” and it was!
I don’t know if it was just because I was so in love with the fuži, but the lemon sole that was the following course was my least favorite of the evening. Hard to do something that delicate for a large group, but it did show off the Istrian olive oil nicely. The wine, a Pošip from Stina Vineyards, has a stunning label (check it out here on their site) and went well with the fish.
Switching to red wines, the first one was a Plavac from Miloš and it was paired with what they referred to as scampi (but we probably consider it a prawn) in a buzara sauce. The scampi was sweet and tender and the sauce had tomatoes, garlic and breadcrumbs, which went well with the prawns and stood up to the red wine.
Yes, we’re still eating…. Last on the savory side was a huge broiled lamb chop with potatoes and a few carefully plated green beans. It was a fabulous piece of Croatian lamb, perfectly cooked and just delicious. Unfortunately, by this point most of us were pretty full, but we managed to do justice to a great piece of meat. There were a couple of reds that they poured with the lamb, a Dingač Bura and a red from Kozlovic, their Santa Lucia. Maybe I’d just had enough (ok, more than enough) by then, but both of the reds had a nose like anchovies which made them a little tough to enjoy.
Finally, on to dessert – a warm apple strudel with ice cream. It was just the right bite of something sweet to end on, and the dessert wine (yes, we’re still drinking), Bibich Ambra, had strong notes of butterscotch, making it a perfect match to the apples.
And have we booked a trip? Not yet, and now that I have all the great information from the Croatian National Tourist Board , there are so many places that look amazing it may take us some time to narrow down where and what we want to see. Or, we may just do what we usually do and simply hit the road and see where it takes us.