Hey Out Adventurers!
It’s me, Meg, your friendly queer travel aficionado. I’m so excited to talk about two of my favourite topics today—travel and food.
This July we’re cruising the Dalmatian Coast on our first tour of Croatia.
One of the things I’m most looking forward to is eating my way through the Adriatic destination. Croatian food can not be summed up in a single dish. It can’t even be understood or truly appreciated by visiting just one city. When you’re narrowing down the best Croatian foods to try, keep in mind different parts of the country have been influenced by climate and neighbouring nations. Of course, there are dishes (Sarma—more on this in a moment) and ingredients (olive oil) that can be found throughout the country but half the fun is seeking out new culinary experiences. When you join our tour we’ll introduce you to some of our local favourites, but don’t hesitate to sniff out a few local restaurants on your own as well.
Along the Dalmation Coast, you can expect to find a whole lot of fresh seafood, primarily fish. As well as seasonings and flavours that are typical of Mediterranean food. Istrian food has some similarities but has numerous dishes and ingredients all their own such as truffles. In the country’s capital, Zagreb the food is more similar to dishes found throughout Central Europe. Hearty meals featuring beef or lamb alongside various forms of potatoes or root vegetables. From the outer islands to the inland city of Zagreb when you’re in Croatia you’re never far from a great meal.
Croatia has a long history of producing olive oil. In recent years there has even been a surge in production of high quality, small-batch olive oil, particularly in Istria. There are many commercial and family-owned groves throughout the country that allow for tastings. With this much quality olive oil in the country, it is no surprise that it is an important ingredient in Croatian food.
On our cruise, we’re hosting a short olive oil tasting so you can appreciate the subtle differences of locally-produced oil.
Can we start with dessert? Of course we can! These sweet fried pastry balls are mostly eaten in the winter months but you can find them at street stalls throughout the year if you’re really looking—just follow the sweet smells. After being fried the dough is dusted in a thin coating of powdered sugar. Depending on what region you are in the flavours vary from raisin, rum and/or orange to zippy lemon zest.
Peka is both an ancient cooking method and a beloved dish. The peka itself is made of terra cotta or steel in a domed shape with a tray placed underneath. Everything is heated by fire and the peka is topped with hot embers to slow cook everything inside.
There is no denying that this is Croatian comfort food at its very best. Veal, lamb, chicken, octopus, vegetables, and herbs are all cooked together under the hot coals. While tenderly cooked meat is delicious it’s been said the potatoes are the star of the show. They sit at the bottom and soak up all of the savory juices. Peka is easy to find throughout the country so you’ll have to try it and see what your favorite part is.
One of the most traditional Croatian foods you have to try during your visit is fresh octopus. Given our cruise’s proximity to the Adriatic Sea (we’re literally sailing it) means we won’t have to look far for the eight-tentacled mollusc. The salad itself is simple with finely chopped tomato, onion, and parsley serving as the base. The octopus is boiled until tender and then cooled and thinly sliced into bite-size pieces. The salad is dressed with olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. A fabulously light and fresh meal to be enjoyed in the seaside sun.
Sarma is a stuffed cabbage dish that has the magical power of getting better if it sits a little bit soaking up all the delightful juices. A mixture of minced pork or beef, rice, onion, and garlic is all rolled in a pickled cabbage leaf. If you are familiar with sauerkraut you’ll be familiar with the bright and acidic flavour of pickled cabbage. A savoury sauce is poured over the roll and typically served with mashed potatoes.
The Punjena Paprika or stuffed peppers are very similar to Sarma. In fact, the meat, rice, and seasoning combination used to stuff the peppers is virtually identical. After cooking the stuffed peppers, they are topped with tomato sauce and served on mashed potatoes. While you can find both dishes year-round many locals consider sarma a summer food and stuffed peppers to be a warmer, heartier winter option.
Small sausages called cevapi most commonly made using a blend of beef and lamb are a staple of Croatian street food. On the street, they’re dished out in groups of five or seven and always served with a generous portion of flatbread. Paprika is commonly mixed into the meat so the bread helps to break up the spice. You can smell them cooking throughout the city on a piping hot grill alongside peppers, onions, and eggplant. Wrap it all together and enjoy a delightfully savoury handheld snack.
Shaved truffles, truffle oil, truffle pasta sauce it’s all here and it is not hard to find. There are all sorts of truffle options on nearly every menu throughout the country as well as shops offering specialized truffle tastings. For those of us less familiar with the ingredient a tasting is a great way to educate yourself on this popular Croatian food. Be warned the truffle obsession is going to grow quickly. If you decide to take it a bit further consider going on a truffle hunt in the Istria forest.
Crni rižot (black risotto) is an absolute staple on menus throughout the Dalmatian. A meal that’s fit for any true seafood lover. The dish is bold in every sense of the word: flavour, smell, and of course colour. Interestingly, the deep black colour comes from the cuttlefish ink mixed into the short-grain rice. Cuttlefish, calamari, and prawns are then mixed with garlic and wine and added to the risotto. Plan accordingly before digging in, as the ink will dye your entire mouth, teeth, lips and tongue jet black.
Savour Croatia’s vibrant cuisine aboard our Dalmatian Coast Lesbian Cruise.
Beginning in UNESCO-listed Dubrovnik and ending in Split, our small cruise only has room for 34 jet setting ladies. Click here to learn more about this luxurious expedition and then get in contact today to reserve your cabin.
Meg Ten Eyck is a self-described travel addict and award-winning LGBT blogger who has been recording her adventures since 2012. Most recently, she launched EveryQueer Magazine which she hopes will bridge queer people across identities and borders.
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