A Rhapsody of Taste in Front of Your Sails

A Rhapsody of Taste in Front of Your Sails

There are many reasons why seamanship is so popular in Croatia, but one of the most important ones is the variety of culinary delights you can find on your way. What is typical of the Croatian sea is a kind of symbiosis between sailors and numerous restaurants which, apart from good food, often also offer safe berth, and are usually only reachable by sea. The local culinary trademark are authentic and fresh meals which have made Croatia world-famous, at least in the nautical world. The methods of food preparation are often very simple, and the quality of meals comes from the value of the ingredients themselves that can be found in your immediate surroundings.


The simplest meals of highest quality are on offer, made of freshly caught fish prepared na gradele, i.e. grilled. The secret to good fish grilling is kept by many restaurant owners and caterers (getting the grill to the right temperature is an art form in itself), and the fish is served whole as an Adriatic speciality. White fish is commonly grilled, usually the best types such as bream, dentex or sea bass, but delicious examples of oily fish are successful competitors to their first-class “cousins”, among them the prized bluefin tuna from the Adriatic.
 

Maja Danica Pečanić

Fish is also prepared by cooking, and it is believed that preparing it na lešo, i.e. boiled with a small amount of water gets the best taste out of John Dory or the red scorpionfish. However, the most prized fish meal that's put on a pedestal is called brudet. Fish is prepared with onions, tomatoes and spices, and the resulting sauce is often more delicious than the fish itself. In this type of meal you can successfully combine various types of fish and crab, and the best way to prepare it is by cooking it in a tripod over an open fire.

These recipes are all traditional cooking methods, but fish specialities are prepared in a variety of innovative ways. The prerequisite for a delicious fish meal is having fresh ingredients. Some restaurants even have their own fishing boats and catch fish themselves, while others get their fish from local fishermen. You can often find restaurant owners returning from fishing in the early morning hours. Fish can be prepared in a variety of ways – it is eaten raw, smoked, dried and even as an ingredient of a kind of Croatian pizza that we call viška pogača.

 

Fish are not the only sea creatures that have made Croatian seafood famous; Croatia is also known for the quality of crabs caught in the Adriatic. The Kvarner shrimp belongs to a family where the species are twice the regular size and are extremely valued, as much as lobsters and European lobsters. Shrimp is prepared in various ways, and even though they are not commonly found on the menus of Croatian restaurants, deep-sea crabs are as prized as any other crab meals.

 

Apart from fish and crabs, Croatia is home to numerous shellfish that are often consumed by sailors. Oysters, mussels, the warty venus or the Mediterranean scallop are almost equally valued because they are kept alive in the sea and served as soon as possible, which maximises their flavour.

Croatia is also known for high quality meat served in local restaurants. Meat is usually traditionally on the menu in continental Croatia, with one exception. While sailing you will often see flocks of sheep grazing the grass underneath numerous island olive trees, but these cute animals are also a prized dish. Because of their natural diet, island lamb is infused with the taste of aromatic herbs and salt due to the proximity of the sea, which makes the meal even tastier and more special.

 

It is quite common to see restaurants or small villages on islands with their own numerous vegetable gardens where they grow tasty local vegetables that is served individually or used in the preparation of other meals. Most meals are cooked with olive oil, as is the tradition around the Mediterranean and olive branches are a symbol of Croatian coastal scenery. So by combining quality ingredients with fish and meat of the highest quality you have the complete culinary picture that is just waiting to be discovered literally in front of your sails.

Boris Kačan

Various grape varieties that are typical of the Croatian coast grow in the sunny terroir and are turned into delicious drops of wine in local wineries, having the original signature flavour of Croatian winemakers. When you combine local food with Croatian wines of the highest quality (with vineyards located usually right along the coast), you can begin to understand the complexity and quality of the Croatian enogastronomic offer.