I’d like to think I’ve learned a little about food over the years. Wine, on the other hand-not so much. Most wine tasting experiences for me have been more wine drinking (under the guise of tasting) and it seems the more I learn..the more ignorant I feel that I am on the topic. Today I set out on a culinary excursion that, lucky for me, also included some stops at a couple of the vineyards near the village of Lumbarda. The excursion was led by a lovely women from the UK who relocated to Korcula with her husband 8 years ago to start a family and a business. I am always so inspired by those who venture down the road less traveled in the spirit of living a life more in accordance with what they truly value.
We first stop at a small Grk winery-Bartul Cebalo.
Grk is a grape variety from the village of Lumbarda on the island of Korcula. The white, my favourite, was dry, acidity but incredibly aromatic. The wine was accompanied with a plate of croatian cheese (darker aged sheep and cow cheese and a light young cow cheese); there is a special croatian variety called Pag cheese, originating from the island of Pag. It is a hard sheep cheese-the grass that the sheep graze on is tainted with sea salted air and gives the cheese a distinctive taste. Then..anchovies prepared over the winter-filleted and preserved in salt and…my fave..thinly sliced ribbons of salt cured prosciutto.
As I drizzled a little fresh olive oil on my plate, our guide informed us that it is common for people who have olive trees to take their olives to get pressed and in a month their homemade oil is ready.
Next we tasted a beautiful cherry brandy just light enough to fit in the belly of my albatross.
It is not uncommon across the baltic’s for folks to start their day with shot of brandy, I am told. Hmm, I wonder how much more manageable it would be to mitigate my kids morning bickering with a shot of Brandy?
Speaking of shots..next..travarica…the king of all Rakijas (brandy with a 40% alcohol content). This brandy is made with a combination of herbs (mint, marjoram, walnut leaf, anise, sage, to name a few) and due it’s healing properties, is just what the doctor ordered. I slammed it back, ‘cause well, when on a vineyard in croatia as they say..and felt it light up my veins like an electric current. I got shivers just recounting it.
Second stop-Gavuni restaurant-a delightful family run restaurant on the coast. We feasted on an array of local specialties-octopus salad; hand rolled makaruni (from the village of Zrnovo) in a tomato seafood sauce and local squid with hand made potato chips.
With brandy still surging through my veins and my belly full, we make our way to OPG Anica-another small family run vineyard/olive oil producer. Our hosts-Ivan and his wife Anna. Ivan first tours us up the hills of his property brushing against the olives, grape and fig trees that grow abundantly around us. Ivan roughly grabs the stem of a tree “ve conquer the wood and plant new ones”.
I am already enamoured by Ivan’s naturally charasmstic and cheerful demenour. He then leads us to his home where we take a seat at his long wooden outdoor table amongst the pomegranate trees and handsome stone bbq.
He brings us his wine and then a procession of snacks..arancini (sugared orange rind); candied almonds, small chunks of fig cake, fritters and crepes with fresh preserves-all made by he and his wife.
I ask him, as I’m still unclear.. what is authentic croatian food. He states “ lots of bbq; brudet (fish stew in tomato base with fish and polenta) with salt. He adds; “In ston (an island off korcula) are old salt flats; once traded and more valuable than gold” ha!!! Salt is better than gold-I knew it!! And I will forever refer to this when people chirp my salt addiction. I am also informed of Peka, a traditional Dalmatian dish of mixed meat and vegetables, drizzled with herbs and olive oil and cooked in a bell-shaped dome over fire.
Next we try some of his olive oil and vinegar’s that are delectably subtle and tasty. Then..drum roll please..Ivan’s special Marmalade (varieties of fig, chilli, orange). I may know little about wine but this cookie knows her preserves and I can say, hands down, Ivan’s fig marmalade was the best preserve I have yet to taste and one of you lucky souls will be gifted with a jar when I return.
We finish the evening sipping on brandy and talk about..well..everything. But essentially, what it means to have a good quality of life. Ivan states with his distinctive rolling dialect..”we must work ..accept we must work..but also..live. When you only work your body hurts…your mind suffers. No stress..simple..stress is explosion in the body…you don’t like things change it..one door closes another window opens” he says emphatically. “What brings you joy?” I ask. He slams his hand on the table and pronounces with proud enthusiasm, “my marmalade!!!”. Here! Here! Ivan!!! Cheers to simplicity, enjoying life, and most of all..f$&@ing amazing marmalade”.