Croatia is a land of picturesque Mediterranean beaches and scenic coastline, but what you might not known is that it's also becoming a destination for culinary connoisseurs around the world. Its unique spices, ingredients and spectacular vineyards are central to the culture of the Istria Peninsula, and offer an alluring taste of the rich Croatian cuisine. Learn why this region is world-renowned for both it’s spectacular flavors and unbelievable scenery.
Food to Indulge
No matter where you go in Croatia you will find delicious food. But in Istria you can count on an abundance of seafood, meats, cheeses, vegetables, and bold spices.
Try boskarin, the true delicacy of Istria, which is a rare white, long-horned cow that has become a symbol of the region over the ages. Once used for agriculture, they are now solely bred for gourmet cuisine. It can be tasted in full flavored salamis, boskarin Carpaccio and a number of other local dishes.
Shellfish are another staple of the cuisine here, and pilgrim scallop (Kapisante) is considered one of the tastiest shellfish in the world! It grows only in the Novigard marine area where salt water mixes with freshwater, giving it its distinct flavor. This scallop, cooked with Istria’s best olive oils is a Mediterranean match made in heaven.
From risottos to salads and delicious cream soups, Croatians of Istria have devised almost every way possible to cook their abundant wild asparagus. The plant is so deeply imbedded in the culture that when spring rolls around, almost every family will venture into the forests to harvest their share of the green sprouts. Asparagus hunting is a favorite pastime in the region, so if you end up visiting at the right time of year, get out there and gather your own bounty for dinner.
Any trip to Croatia’s Istria peninsula would be incomplete without having tasted prsut. This traditional delicacy is a form of dried ham, and the recipes are passed down from generation to generation. The pigs are brought up with great care, and the maturation and spicing of their meat is a long and meticulous process, but the results are mouthwatering. This is probably the most popular appetizer in all of Croatia.
As much as the Istria peninsula is reveled for it's food, the wineries are just as popular an attraction. Dotted with hundreds of vineyards both big and small, a large variety of privately owned and corporate wineries are spread across the hilly landscape. Check out Wine Station Trapan, Agrolaguna DD, Veralda, or ATC d.o.o., all of which are revered for their atmospheres and spectacular vintages. You can take a self-guided tour or hire a local company to take you to some of their favorites.
There are tons of Croatian companies that would be delighted to have you. Rovinj Wine Tour is highly romantic, and includes lunch at a family tavern that offers more than just reds and whites: they are revered for their orange wine and delectable desserts. The Central Istrain Wine Tour explores the relatively new world of wines coming out of the region of Lake Butoniga. The whites are spiced with flinty accents, while the reds have a heavy earthy, mineral flavor. Both pair extremely well with the local Istrain dishes, and the tour stops by a family tavern where you will get the chance to see for yourself. Completely unique, the tour actually starts underground in a disused water cistern below the historic hilltop town of Buzet.
Over on the other side of the Peninsula you can join the West Istrian Wine tours to explore the vineyards of some of Istria’s most famous winemakers. The wines from this region are extremely complex and have a spectacular reputation amongst connoisseurs and sommeliers. Learn how the soil of the Mirna River valley and Adriatic Sea and the wood of the barrels affects the flavor, and get an idea for how each winemaker leaves his/her personal mark on their bottles. This tour will take you to three different vineyards (so pace yourself) and includes lunch.