This small European country is a big surprise for first time visitors. Located in the Balkan region and on the Adriatic Sea shore, it is impossible not to be amazed by its landscapes, history, culture and of course, its gastronomy.
Croatia was part of the Roman Empire, of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and more recently, of Yugoslavia. It is considered a young country since it became independent 28 years ago, however, it has a history that expands thousands of years, and a culture, which is a reflection of that history.
Every day we hear more and more about Croatia. Moreover, in recent years its cities and beaches have become “trendy” destinations within Europe. Despite being a small country, there are many places to see and explore; including its islands that in total are over a thousand, but only about 50 are inhabited. Among its main cities is Zagreb, the capital and the most populous city in the country. The most popular is Dubrovnik, known as the “jewel of the Adriatic”, an incredibly beautiful city where it’s highly recommended to walk the famous city walls and explore the alley ways of the old town.
Another must-see destination is undoubtedly Split. Located on the Dalmatian coast, the city essentially connects to the rest of the country which in turn allows you to visit most of the islands by taking a ferry or a catamaran.
Split is a beautiful city full of history and where its main attraction is the Diocletian’s Palace. It was founded in the fourth century by Emperor Diocletian, a native of this area, who had a castle built for his retirement. Today it’s one of the most well-preserved Roman palaces and Split’s historic center, whose ruins intermingle with houses, hotels, churches, restaurants and all kinds of shops. You must explore this palace; walking through its narrow-cobbled streets that will transport you several centuries in history. Its architecture is also worth highlighting as it combines different periods and styles.
In addition to its historic center and walls, Split is famous for its beaches. Most of them are pebbled beaches and are far-removed from the city, but in the heart of the city is Bacvice, a very popular dark sand beach, where there are several restaurants and bars to enjoy exquisite Croatian dishes.
Croatian cuisine is marked by its history and some influence from neighboring countries such as Italy, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Turkey. Each of its regions offers its own culinary traditions. This time around we will showcase the most recognized eats of Split and Dalmatia, which nowadays is very popular throughout the country.
In Dalmatia and the islands, the cuisine mainly consists of meat, fish, seafood, vegetables, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, parsley, among other ingredients – a very Mediterranean fare.
Pasticada is one of the most famous dishes in Croatian cuisine, although it is most traditional in the Split area. It is a slow-cooked beef stew with vegetables, spices and wine, served with homemade gnocchi. For this traditional and representative dish, we recommend pairing it with Marques De Casa Concha Carmenere, a wine that goes very well with red meat and gnocchi.
Grilled Dalmatian style fish is another must-try Croatian dish. The recipe is very simple but the end result is incredible: it is cooked over a wood flame and seasoned with olive oil and rosemary. For this dish, Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect companion.
The gastronomy influence from neighboring Italy reaches the Dalmatian coast. It’s common to find within local menus pizzas, pasta and risotto. Black risotto (Crni rizot) is a specialty of the area and is simply exquisite. Its color is obtained from squid ink and can also have other seafood such as mussels and clams. An excellent option to pair with it is Trio Chardonnay.
In Dalmatia, octopus is one of the pillars of its cuisine, and one of its greatest creations is the octopus’ salad (salata od hobotnice). It sounds simple, and it is, but once you try it, it will become one of your favorite dishes. It is prepared by boiling and chopping the octopus, then seasoning it with olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and lemon. Mix well and garnish with fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, olives, onion and parsley. For this dish we recommend Marques de Casa Concha Rosé.
Lastly, don’t forget to try the Cevapcici. A grilled dish of minced meat in kebab-form is not native to this area, but it is very popular and you find it in any Dalmatian restaurant. Skewers of ground beef, pork and lamb, seasoned with spices, chopped onion and garlic. It is accompanied with ajvar, a roasted red bell pepper and eggplant sauce. A good wine option pairing is Casillero Del Diablo Shiraz.