It's been over 5 long years since I've been to my favorite place in the world, Croatia. I get a lot of questions on how I end up there time and time again, and it's all about returning to my roots. My mom is first generation and I've been hooked since my very first visit. The scenery is beautiful, the people (especially my family and friends) are warm and welcoming, the food is fresh and delicious. I've threatened to stay forever if I was able, and I meant it.
Part of the downside to being so negligent is posting is that I end up with gigantic blog posts like this. I'll try my best to iron it out smoothly, but I'm plenty aware there is a lot that will be lost. You might just have to go visit Hrvatska and see all the amazing treats yourself!
My cousins live in Varaždin, one of the most beautiful baroque towns in all of Eastern Europe. There is an intense cafe culture - every corner is filled with lovely outdoor seating areas to grab a kava. The city is surrounded by gorgeous vineyards (more on that later) and there's an epic fresh market 7 days a week just feet from my families home in the city center.
The last time I visited we cooked a lot together - I introduced them to a variety of ethnic foods they hadn't tried previously. This time I was spoiled, especially by my cousin Jurica's superstar wife Maja. She whipped up delicious baked goods and meals with such ease I'm still in shock. Even their daughters, Dora and Sara, were part of the action!
Within hours of getting to town, there's always palačinke - basically the best thin crepe-like pancakes I've ever had. I've mentioned them before (my aunt Tanja used to make these for me almost daily when I would visit years previous)... it's one of two must-have Croatian comfort foods. (Not pictured: burek, a cheesy pastry that might be the best guilty pleasure ever. We even had one with shredded pumpkin in it - amazing.)
This version was baked with farm cheese - made daily at Maja's parents farm in Sekatin (a village outside of town). They have a beautiful farm house, vineyard, and their own dairy cow. They also have a stone peka (outdoor stone oven) that they made amazing roasted vegetables - grown on their farm.
In the days ahead, there were endless culinary treats - fresh cheeses and breads from the market, borovnice (blueberries that even beat Michigan's), rakija (homemade fruit brandy), home made pastries, even biscuits with whole plums baked into the center. And that's before we went to the coast!
Earlier visits to the Adriatic coast consisted of budget eats (literally apples, peanuts, and bread) by day and dining out in the evenings (pizza, salads, pastas)... So I was thrilled to have such luxury treatment at Hax's parents' house on Pašman Island. Iva and Puko were lovely hosts - picking figs daily from the trees in their yard, serving us amazing Vegetarian treats, pouring gemišt with wine from their vineyard. From paprika stuffed with farm cheese and edible flowers, to palačinke with blackberry jam from their own harvest, to fig jam made the day before, we were spoiled with everything. The temperate climate on the coast is really amazing, and the crisp warm sea air makes dining outdoors perfection.
Seriously. We miss out on so much of the fig deliciousness in the States - not only are these fruits full of antioxidants they are delicious right off the tree or dried! I couldn't get enough of them.
Picking figs from the driveway - that's the Adriatic in the background, just minutes away.
The epically gorgeous Adriatic Sea.
The time on the coast - and in Croatia - is never enough. I want to spend months and months going to markets each morning, enjoy meals with family and friends in the warm island and crisp hillside air, and have a delicious coffee at a quaint cafe every afternoon (for less than $1USD). Until next time!
Borovnice Rakija and fresh cheese biscuits.
Rakija in the making.
Market fresh cheeses.