Best Croatian Food Tour
The Croatian food scene is something I was lucky enough to experience recently. Thanks to the people of Dubrovnik Food Tours, I had a culinary experience I will never forget. If you love food and travel this is the article for you.
Croatia in Pop Culture
Croatia’s popularity continues to grow in the age of social media. More people are discovering its turquoise waters, striking mountains, and lush greenery in their news feed. Thanks to Game of Thrones, cities like Dubrovnik have increasing numbers of tourists. People line up to walk the locations where iconic scenes such as the “walk of shame” were shot. The perfectly maintained city walls help one understand why Dubrovnik is known as the Pearl of the Adriatic. It is no wonder why it is the setting for the fictional city of King’s Landing.
Dubrovnik has been a fortified town since the 7thcentury. It was initially built to house coastal refugees fleeing from various conquerors. As time moved on Dubrovnik became a well-established trading port known as the Dubrovnik Republic. It thrived with other famous maritime powers in Italy, such as the Venetian empire.
A Travelers Paradise
Throughout the ages Dubrovnik has been a bustling hub filled with travelers from far-away places. People have sought refuge, reprieve and good food. Dubrovnik satisfies all these needs and surpassed all of my expectations.
The more we travel, the more we realize the importance of experiencing local traditions and culture. One of the best ways to do this is through traditional food, guided by a local. Thankfully, I found Dubrovnik Food Tours. They helped me dive right into the food culture of Dubrovnik and the Dalmatia.
Old Town Food Tour
My magical evening began at Giusto Gusto. I had the pleasure of trying a selection of locally produced cured meats and delicious cheeses. I also had a local favorite called “Bevanda”. You may recognize that word from Italian, meaning drink. In Croatia it is a cocktail that’s a half glass of local white wine, mixed with sparkling water and ice. The locals created this drink so their glasses could remain full and their heads could remain clear. During the warm temperatures of summer, this was the perfect drink ot stay refreshed.
The meat options consisted of pršut (Croatian prosciutto), kulen (spicy salami), salami, Mortadella and even deer. The meats paired perfectly with the 3 cheeses we sampled, a goat cheese, a peppered cheese and an aged cheese. My Italian friends will think I’m crazy, but I liked the cured meats in Croatia better than Italian ones. In Italy when we order charcuterie, inevitably I typically find at least one meat too gamey. I loved all the cured meats I tried in Croatia. It is all thanks to Dubrovnik Food Tours and their carefully selected food experiences!
After polishing off every last bit of meat and cheese I could handle, and a few servings of Bevanda, we headed to Lucin Kantun for our main dishes of the evening. No Croatian meal is complete without a drink to open your palette; cherry grappa is my new favorite way of accomplishing that.
My attention turned to the chefs, thanks to the open kitchen at Lucin Kantun. Three chefs danced perfectly together, in an area no bigger than a studio apartment kitchen, preparing our first course. The Adriatic Sea is known for Tuna, especially blue and yellow fin Tuna. It is no surprise that Tuna tartar is a local favorite. I had the pleasure of trying two different styles, each with its own delicious and unique flavor.
Black Risotto Cuttlefish
My second course was a Dalmatian favorite, black risotto made with cuttlefish. My guide explained that the cuttlefish’s sack is broken towards the end of cooking to dye the rice black. This was the absolute star of the night for me. The cuttlefish pieces were incredibly tender, the rice was perfectly al dente. The dish had just the right amount of seafood taste accentuated with a rich white wine garlic sauce. Pure heaven!
My stomach was already bursting before our main dish of the evening was served, Šporki makarulior Dirty Macaroni. It is traditionally served to celebrate their patron day saint, St. Blaise. Legend goes that after the wealthy merchants ate their big celebratory meals, the left over meats were thrown together with pasta to serve to the servants. It gave the pasta a “dirty” appearance. But don’t let the name fool you, this dish could satisfy any craving for delicious meat ragu pasta.
Our final stop on this tour was Pupica for a slice of butter, orange almond cake. The cake was relatively light considering its contents. It was not overly sweet and was the perfect ending to an incredible evening of the tastes of Dubrovnik.
Dinner with Locals
My first outing with Dubrovnik Food Tours was so amazing, that I simply had to try another. This time I wanted to experience Croatian food like a true local eats at home. I was invited into the home of a lovely Croatian family to accomplish this.
Marija Papak and her husband Slatko prepared our meals in their home. Marija greeted me with the infamous Croatian cherry grappa. The delicious cherry flavor hit my tongue, and my appetite was instantly open. My eyes were immediately drawn to the table in the outdoor patio. Marija filled it with local cheeses, meats, vegetables, olives and pickles spread. In the garden, Marija cares for a pomegranate tree her grandfather planted 100 years ago. It was touching to hear her stories surrounding the garden, and her beloved tree. I was thankful to be a part of their traditions that have carried on through generations.
As I filled my plate with cheeses and meats, Marija brought out an entire leg of pršut (Croatian prosciutto). She smiled proudly as she offered each guest a slice of freshly cut meat. I happily accepted a large slice, allowing the fatty, salty taste of the meat take over my senses.
To my far left Marija’s husband Slatko was busily preparing our main course of the evening “peka”. The word “peka” translates to “cooking under a lid”. Slatko explained that in addition to meat and vegetables, even bread can be cooked using this technique. The pot is often made from cast iron. Its bell shaped lid can be tightly closed and then covered with coals to cook the contents.
Our peka was made from lamb, potatoes, onions, rosemary and garlic. All peka ingredients are layered together inside the traditional pot. The pot is tightly closed and then hot coals are placed on top creating its own mini oven. Every 40 minutes the coals are removed, ashes are wiped away and the contents are stirred. This ensures everything is cooking evenly and gives the potatoes a chance to crisp. After 2 ½-3 hours the dish is considered done, and the beautifully cooked meat and potatoes were served. I’m drooling just thinking back on this dish and the memory of just how delicious it was.
The peka was well worth the wait. The time, effort and preparation that went into this dish was evident in every bite. The lamb was perfectly roasted and the combination of rosemary, garlic and fat that melted in my mouth was sublime. The potatoes soaked up all the flavors. They were tender on the inside with a beautiful caramelized crispiness on the outside.
Dessert was a local favorite of called Paradizot, which consisted of lady finger cookies, merengue, vanilla, milk, sugar and chocolate. The dessert was served cold, which was welcomed on that hot summer evening. I really enjoyed the flavorful yet not overly sweet ending to our amazing home cooked meal.
Learn more about the Papaks and the traditional meals the serve on Natgeofood.
Why This Food Tour?
Dubrovnik Food Tours have been recommended by periodicals such as National Geographic Food, The Telegraph and The Wall Street Journal. In addition, they have been the recipient of Trip Advisor’s certificate of excellence for the last tree years. They have also received numerous other awards. This is what first allowed me to discover them.
I was so impressed by the level of detail and knowledge that went into my experiences. The groups are kept small to allow visitors to get a true sense of the local culture. They have many options including cooking classes and a culinary boat tour.
I can’t wait to visit them again to experience everything else they have to offer. Food lovers will fall in love with Croatia. Visit their website today to book a food tour experience you will never forget.