Istria – Food Heaven

The Istrian peninsula is part of North-Western Croatia. Originally the home of the Histri tribe of the Illyrian people, it has been variously owned by the Romans, Venice, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Italy, Yugoslavia and now Croatia. It is a Mediterranean coast country, and the food is awesome.

I mentioned to my host, Mihaela, that I was interested in trying Illyrian food. So she arranged for her sidekick, Tomislav, to act as my guide and date for the evening. He was wearing a red shirt, which was a little worrying, but I’m pleased to report that Bistro Laganini was wonderful. It seemed like the restaurant had been warned in advance that a foreign journalist was going to be eating there, so I may have got special treatment, but here goes on the report.

I passed on an appetizer, but we did have schnapps. It was flavored with mistletoe. Yes, seriously. It was also very good, and now I appear to have promised Cat Valente that I will find a bottle and take it to Åcon with me. There was also bread (Croatian corn bread, which is bread made with corn flour, not the American food) and local olive oil.

For the main course I was tempted by the goat, but was going to plump for the monkfish in truffle sauce (Istria is famous for it’s truffles), but the waiter mentioned that he’d had a couple of fish fresh in from the coast that day so would we like a look? You bet! One was a sea bass, which I have eaten lots. The other was a gilt-head bream, which I had never heard of, so that was what we had. They grilled it, with a bit of lemon and pepper, and it was awesome. It was served with something that looked like spinach but apparently wasn’t, and potato, but really that didn’t matter much. It was an amazing piece of fish.

With it we had a local dry white wine that was very nice. The glossy magazine in the aircraft on my way here had an article about Istrian food in which they mentioned that Istrian winemakers had managed to preserve some of their root stock through the phylloxera plague so I’m keen to try more of their output.

I would have liked to eat my way through the whole of the dessert menu. The gnocchi stuffed with plums sounded tempting, but eventually I decided on trying the stuffed ravioli. There were two dishes: one stuffed with cheese and raisins, with a cranberry sauce; the other stuffed with figs with a walnut and truffle sauce. We ordered both and shared them. They were both very nice, but we preferred the figs.

Entirely unrelated, Mihaela’s mother popped by this morning and made crêpes for breakfast. Yum. As I mentioned on Twitter, there’s no morning programming in Croatian conventions because they assume that everyone will need time to get over their hangovers. For me this means doing the blogging that I clearly won’t have time for during the heavily programmed evenings.

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8 Responses to Istria – Food Heaven

  1. Martha says:

    Istria has long been on my list of places to visit. Your fishy tale reminds me of wonderful evenings on Crete when I lived there. Since you’re trying to score mistletoe schnaps for Cat, do you think you could get a recipe for that cornflour bread for me? I bought cornflour this morning for something else and now have 2 kilos of it.

    Glad you’re having a good time. It all sounds wonderful.

  2. Narmitaj says:

    Illyria was also occupied by Shakespeare in Twelfth Night, which I recalled from it being an O Level set book, and presumably for its distant exoticism rather than for any specific necessary reason.

  3. It seemed like the restaurant had been warned in advance that a foreign journalist was going to be eating there

    Or it could just be that everyone in Croatia knows who you are at this point. 🙂 I’ve been scanning articles about Eurocon for any mention of an incipient Worldcon bid, and it looks like every media outlet in the country carried an announcement that the con was about to happen, complete with list of GoHs.

  4. Ivana says:

    That spinach-resembling food was swiss chard. Whenever you order fish in Croatia (or Serbia, possibly in some other surrounding countries too), it’s served with swiss chard and potato.

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