Wow – Croatia!
Last week, 7 friends, my lovely husband and I went to stay in Villa Vista, Viganj on the Peljesac Peninsula. What a place! The views alone were enough to sustain you through the somewhat inclement and unusual weather. We were lucky enough to witness one of the loudest, longest thunderstorms I have ever encountered: the thunder started at about 3am and sounded as though the mountain was being battered by a large sledgehammer – it woke up the whole village – and the lightening forked and struck our balcony several times, this continued until about 10am and we were lucky that no one sustained any damage to life, limb or property! The village apparently had never experienced such cold, rainy May weather, which became all the more obvious by the fact that every time we went out to eat, we ended up in a beautiful outdoor, vine-enclad pergola, designed to keep out the heat; we spent the time begging for sheepskin rugs and blankets to try and fend off the cold damp atmosphere, not helped by the fact that the Croatians do not believe in serving their food above luke warm! We were not put off, however, and spent our time sampling local wines, olive oils, sea bass and confish (I have yet to find out what the literal translation for this is) and suffice to say, did not have a bad meal and always for under the princely sum of £20 per head. Like many other European countries, Croatia clearly doesn’t succumb to buying in mass produced groceries at vastly inflated prices to try and please all the population; we feasted on locally caught fish, home reared eggs, tomatoes, kale, (more of this later) carrots, potatoes and lemons – an interesting mix which the locals had perfected recipes for over the years, and which we came to enjoy as the week went past. The local wines – grape varieties – grasevina, plavic mali, dingac and sauvignon, were all interesting – the reds were quite heavy, and both red and white were generally over 14% alcohol by volume, though because the grapes are grown organically, there was rarely a thick head in the morning, despite the quantity consumed! The market we visited in Dubrovnik old town was full of local produce – strawberries, cherries and a few apricots were the stars; some new potatoes and courgettes were just coming in, and the ever present kale…..the local dish seems to be to blanch it, throw in a few boiled waxy potatoes and then mash it loosely with about half a pint of olive oil and serve it just off cold. We had this everywhere and with everything; I cannot say I grew to love it , for me it would have tasted so much better if the oil were substituted for butter and it was fried till crisp and golden on both sides – lovely bubble and squeak!! Another local speciality they were selling was bags of freshly candied orange and lemon peel, preserved in icing sugar and mixed with dried figs and caramelized almonds; shaken together and studded with bay leaves, a nice local gift to bring home, and the peel was absolutely delicious, no comparison to the horrible trays of candied fruits you can buy in the supermarkets at Christmas! The Croatians are welcoming and friendly and will do anything for you to help. One particularly cold evening, we finished our meal and half of our party began to walk up to Villa Vista, about 30 minutes uphill. Bob decided he had drunk too much beer and his knees ached, so asked Borat, our waiter and owner/chef/chief cook and bottle washer if he could call him a taxi. Due to it still being off-season, there were no cabs, but Borat said to give him a minute and he would see what he could do. 5 minutes later, he turned up in his van – apologizing for lack of seats in the back (Sandy and I had to lay on the floor) and shouting to his remaining guests that they would have to wait for their bills. He drove us to the Villa, taking the hairpin bends at 60 miles per hour, and was most offended when Bob offered him some money for his trouble, saying he had only done it to help, and did not want the money! So if you are wondering where to go off for a summer break, give Croatia a try……. The weather (usually), the scenery, the people, the food, the wine, the prices – all absolutely wonderful, and as yet unspoilt by the mass tourist market that affects the coastal areas of countries such as Spain, France, Greece and Italy. In particular: Dubrovnik Old Town Korcula Island Montenegro
The Rambler, AKA Celia Dulieu
Celia has been sharing food, wine, recipes and friendship with Simon and Sue Gale for more than 15 years.
In a former life she was a mass caterer, working for large companies such as Selfridges, London; but after moving to the countryside with husband, 2 kids and dog, she resurrected her love of food, - particularly by entertaining her large extended family to lunches ,sharing informal get togethers with friends, and developing her small but productive kitchen garden. She is passionate about all things to do with food and wine; from where it is produced to how it arrived on her doorstep.
Celia’s love of meeting people, visiting places and trying different things has culminated in being invited to get involve with writing up the experiences of the Heart Kitchen and sharing her love of food with you through her ramblings.