As I mentioned in my first post on Croatia, the country's food was a pleasant surprise. The Italian and Mediterranean influences are strong in the regional cuisine, but there were some distinctly Croatian bites to remember from my time here.
1. Italian influence: Croatia and Italy were only separated by the Adriatic Sea, so it should come as no surprise how much contact these two countries have over time. In fact, the Republic of Venice once controlled the Dalmatian region of Croatia for almost 400 years. Thus, food with Italian origins is incredibly pervasive in Croatian cuisine. The pastas, especially those made with the regional seafood or cheese, were top notch.
2. Mediterranean coastal vibe: Just like the Mediterranean region, olive oil and salt are ubiquitous. Croatian olive oil has robust flavor without any of the astringent notes. Fresh-baked bread and olive oil became a daily ritual, and the olive oil is used extensively in Croatian cooking.
3. Seafood: Being a coastal and island nation, fish and seafood are important part of Croatian cuisine. Don't be fooled by the simple preparation. Fresh fish caught from the sea grilled with fresh produce, olive oil, salt and hint of pepper made my mouth water, and it was my go-to meal on the trip. Some gems include Lady Pi Pi (Dubrovnik), Gariful (Hvar), Restaurant Horizont (Dubrovnik), and Arsenal Taverna at Gradska Kavana (Dubrovnik).
4. Pag cheese: Before every meal, there is usually an appetizer with bread, charcuterie, olive oil and cheese. Pag cheese is the most famous out of all Croatian cheese. It comes from the small island of Pag near Zadar. It is a hard cheese made from sheep's milk. This island is also a famed salt production facility. The strong winds cover the island, including its vegetation, in salt dust. Only the heartiest and most aromatic plants survive, and the sheep eat this. Thus, the sheep's milk is truly unique and comprises of what we know of as Pag cheese.
5. Wine: Croatian wine is incredibly good. I just didn't know how good until I sampled some of the reds and whites at D'vino Wine Bar in Dubrovnik. The national wine is a red fortified wine called Prošek, and it's often confused with prosecco, the Italian sparkling white wine.