Food & Wine Maps of Croatian Regions
The triangle-shaped peninsula in the northern Adriatic is probably the best branded food & wine region of Croatia. Favourable climate, rich tradition and the mixture of Austrian and Italian influences have created a very interesting area, which reminds many foreigners of an „off-the-beaten-path“ version of Tuscany. Istria is the perfect combination of the rural and urban, of the tourist-infested coast and quiet, romantic inland, and its cuisine reflects this duality. The sea gives excellent fish and shellfish, and the forests and hills give plenty of meat, mushrooms, artisan cheese, forest fruits… Istrian cuisine trademarks are various kinds of indigenous pasta (fuži, pljukanci, Labinski krafi), wild asparagus, truffles, famous dry-cured ham pršut, some of the best olive oils in the world, Lim oysters, and local wine varieties like the white Malvazija and red Teran, but also great brandies like biska or medica.
Kvarner Bay is the coastal region in the northern Adriatic, including the city of Rijeka and the islands of Cres, Krk, Pag, Rab and Lošinj. Gorski kotar is the mountain region in its hinterland. Kvarner is the pioneer of organized tourism in Croatia, but also the region with some of the best Croatian restaurants stretched on a rather small area. Apart from the excellent seafood, especially the famous Kvarner Bay shrimps, there are plenty of local specialities and culinary icons, like Lovran chestnuts and cherries, Pag cheese, Rab cake, island lamb, Žlahtina wine from Krk… On the other hand, Gorski kotar is a less developed area, full of pristine mountains, forests and lakes. Its untouched nature and family farms offer great produce like honey, cheese and other dairy products, herbal brandies, and it is also known for wild game dishes.
For the average tourist, Dalmatia is the most famous part of Croatia and the first choice for a visit. Sea, historic towns, beaches, more than thousand islands, fun in the sun, donkeys and sunsets… That’s the usual mental picture. But there’s much more – strong tradition, layers and layers of history, untamed but fascinating hinterland, national parks, wild mountains. And there’s especially much more when it comes to food and wine, one just needs to scratch below the surface. The real Dalmatian food is fascinating in its simplicity and the purity of flavours, it is direct, strong, genuine and rudimentary, just like the people. Naturally, the highlight is the seafood prepared in countless ways (but nothing beats the simple „gradele“ style grill), but there are also fantastic things like meat under „peka“ baking bell, local cheese and dry-cured ham, eels and frogs from the hinterland, olive oil from Oblica variety, herbal brandies, prošek sweet wine, Mediterranean desserts based on figs, almonds, carob, lemon and oranges… Dalmatia also boasts its ancient winemaking tradition and a high number of indigenous local wine varieties, the primary one being the powerful red Plavac mali, directly related to the world-famous Zinfandel.
The capital of Croatia is the crossroads of several different but strong culinary traditions: Austrian, Hungarian and Turkish, but also spiced up with some nearby Mediterranean flavours. Zagreb cuisine mostly relies on meat, pastry, vegetables and dairy products, making the best use of the ingredients coming from its rural surroundings. Some well-known typical dishes are štrukli, baked turkey with mlinci, sir i vrhnje, kotlovina, various sausages, kremšnita, strudels etc. Cakes and coffee are an important part of Zagreb’s lifestyle. It is also one of few capitals with a premier wine region (Plešivica) just a few kilometres away. The best way to get to know the taste of Zagreb is to visit both the city and smaller places in its vicinity, like Samobor or Zagorje region.
Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem
The gentle plains of eastern Croatia are not so widely well-known as a tourist destination, but their potential is great. This region is known as the place where the food is most plentiful, rich, tasteful and, well… hard core heavy. No wonder, the influence of the neighbouring Hungary was strong, so paprika is the spice number one. Slavonia is the most important part of Croatia when it comes to agriculture and cattle raising, and meat products are the centre of its cuisine and tradition. Kulen, kulenova seka, mast, čvarci, švargle, čobanac, paprikaš… the list goes on and no part of the pig is to be wasted. There are also excellent dishes with freshwater fish like carp, pike and catfish, as well as filling traditional desserts often prepared with lard. Winemaking in Slavonia and Baranja dates back to the ancient Rome and the most famous Croatian white wine Graševina comes from here.