In part two of this three-part post, prominent food blogger Lada Radin serves us some info on what to expect on dinner plates in Istria. After touching upon why it’s so hard to answer the title quesion – what is “typically Croatian” food? – she left us feeling fat and happy, albeit vicariously, with mental images of fuzi and pljukanci, to name a few of the local specialties introduced. Next item on the menu? Truffles.
Another item not to be missed are truffles. The most popular area for hunting is the area of the Motovun forest. Be suspicious if you’re offered white truffles out of the season, which lasts from September through January, and if the price is rather low. Black truffles, on the other hand, are picked and available throughout most of the year, but you will only be sure you didn’t get a cheap replacement when they grate them before you.
There are many places to enjoy truffles. If you are near Motovun, you can go to the exclusive restaurant Zigante in Livade. If you’re looking for a more modest variation, look for agrotourism Toncic near Zrenj and Pod Voltom in the heart of Motovun. Specialties like truffles cannot pass without a premium olive oil that Istria (checked and recorded in the world’s Flos Olei Guide) abounds in.
Of the many top manufacturers that are worth visiting, a special mention is reserved for the Ipsa family near Livade, the tasting room of the Chiavalon family in Vodnjan, and a tasting tour with Nino Cinic in Krasica near Buje, the centre of olive-growing spring events.
Finally, although some like it at the beginning – we have local drinks. Along with wines, Istrians cherish the tradition of producing domestic brandies. The most famous are certainly medica (honey brandy) and biska (brandy from mistletoe leaf). They’re offered almost everywhere, vary in sweetness, sharpness and quality, and you should try more of them in order to find the one that suits you the best. Agrotourism offers a whole range of spirits, and be sure to try various types, like those made from wild herbs, fruits, olives and wild berries, especially if the owners are convincingly proud of them.
And as a treat for the end that you shouldn’t miss, unless you have to drive, demand “Istrian soup” even if you can’t find it on the menu. A piece of bread is grilled and served in a bukaleta (a carafe from which you drink the soup). Sugar, pepper and olive oil are added, along with a healthy dose of hot wine. Drink as served and enjoy.
Special mention: on the way out of Istria you should stop in Volosko, a small village near Opatija, the epicenter of culinary creativity in Croatia. In the Skalinada and Tramerka taverns you will try the best traditional dishes, presented in a modern guise, unpretentiously. A relaxed atmosphere, wonderful hosts, and all for more than a decent amount of money.
Written by: Lada Radin
Be sure to check in with us next week to read the final installment of this post, where Lada moves on to eating in Dalmatia.