BalkansReportWorld Correspondents

Discovering Krk through its food

All former Yugoslav countries can take pride in their natural, cultural and historical riches, but Croatia is like no other, with Slavonia, Zagreb, and its beautiful islands in the Adriatic Sea.

Skopje, 18 June 2019 (MIA) – All former Yugoslav countries can take pride in their natural, cultural and historical riches, but Croatia is like no other, with Slavonia, Zagreb, and its beautiful islands in the Adriatic Sea.

One of these is the island of Krk, located near Rijeka, the second largest island in the Adriatic and the only one connected to the mainland by a bridge and an airport.

As a result of its geographical location, its rich vegetation, and cultural heritage, Krk is also known as the Golden Island.

Although Krk is not quite near, our team gladly accepted the offer to take part in the Krk Food Fest: Taste of Spring gastronomic event organized by the island of Krk’s tourist board in cooperation with Gastronaut.

We made our way there knowing we’ll have a chance to visit all the landmarks and enjoy authentic Croatian cuisine. As expected, there was a little something for everyone, along with a few surprises.

We visited 22 restaurants, hotels, and wineries in the tourist towns of Njivice, Omishalj, Malinska, Vrbnik, Punat, Bashka, Klimno, Shilo, and Krk.

Three days were not enough for us to explore the island’s rich and exotic cuisine including cooled Zhlahtina wine and hot lamb, scampi and fish (enjoyed while admiring the sea), sheep’s cheese tasting of sage, immortelle (a bitter Mediterranean plant) and other herbs, Krk prosciutto, olive oils, organically grown vegetables and wild edible plants.

The restaurants have adapted their offer to the seasonal ingredients found on the island of Krk, and they prepared many delicacies with wild asparagus, baby lamb, broad beans, samphire (a salty marine vegetable) and other spring plants and seafood.

According to Karin Mimica from Gastronaut Croatia, the event aimed to showcase Krk, its history and tradition, and how the whole island is connected through its cuisine.

“Krk has a lot to offer. Located in the Kvarner Bay, it abounds in fish, scampi, octopi, etc. The “shurlice,” made from asparagus and healthy herbs, are our traditional pasta.

“Krk is also known for its local cheese, prosciutto, lamb, and other delicacies. Hopefully, this event will only contribute to Krk’s reputation as a tourist and gastronomic destination,” Karin Mimica said.

Our gastronomic tour of Krk started in Njivice. The restaurant Rivica offers about ten delicacies with wild asparagus, including homemade ravioli filled with sheep curd (cheese) and wild asparagus in truffle sauce, asparagus frittata and risotto with wild asparagus, “pashticada” beef with asparagus, and desserts like sweet asparagus with white chocolate and hazelnuts.

Our next stop was Malinska, one of the most attractive settlements on the island. It was founded in the 15th century, after the construction of a mill, after which it got its name.

In the past, Malinska had been a pirate port, but today it has been transformed into an attractive tourist destination with an interesting history, beautiful beaches, many cultural and sporting events, and diverse cuisine.

One of the restaurants in Malinska is the restaurant Mulino, where you can enjoy wild asparagus soup, asparagus frittata, “shurlice” (pasta) with a sauce of wild asparagus, shrimp and sheep’s curd, grilled lamb or lamb prepared under the bell and sheep’s curd pancakes.

In the tavern Bracera, you can try young sheep’s cheese with asparagus served on polenta and olive oil and sheep’s curd spread with truffles, wild asparagus risotto, homemade pasta in tomato sauce with shrimp and wild asparagus, grilled lamb marinated in olive oil and rosemary or crispy lamb prepared under the bell.

Bistro Toni offers specialties such as spring salad with wild asparagus, duck breast with vegetables and calamari “brodetto” with polenta.

In the tavern Intrada, you can try homemade pasta “fazoletti” with cottage cheese and spinach, local grilled lamb, shepherd’s plate and duke’s “presnac” (a traditional cake made with lemon and quark).

In Noshtromo, you can have a spring salad with cheese and walnuts, wild asparagus frittata, asparagus risotto, “shurlice” with calamari or “presnac.”

The restaurant Primorska koliba offers sheep curd with Adriatic scampi and wild asparagus, seafood salad with broad beans, risotto with Adriatic shrimp, scampi and samphire, a vegetable that tastes like the sea and has even been referenced by Shakespeare in King Lear. After your delicious meal, you can try some of the desserts offered on the menu, like the pannacotta or the homemade crumble.

At Kuca krchkog prshuta (House of Krk Prosciutto), located near Malinska, you can buy local cured meats and enjoy pate made of prosciutto and young cheese, bread made with prosciutto, minestrone with prosciutto and spring vegetables and “shurlice” with Krk prosciutto and wild asparagus. Additionally, you can treat yourself with some Zhlahtina wine.

The next stop on our tour was a peaceful tavern in the village of Milohnici, which offers dishes made with fresh fish and vegetables from their garden, as well as a “brodetto” made with dried octopus and delicious sheep’s curd pancakes with honey.

In the village of Glavotok, surrounded by an oak tree forest, you can choose from among the various dishes of lamb, fish, as well as the different pates and soups, all tasting of spring.

After traveling around the island, we finally reached the city of Krk and the restaurant Volsonis. The restaurant’s location among ancient Roman ruins makes it a true attraction. Volsonis offers a wide array of lamb dishes, including lamb rolls made with vine leaves and lamb prosciutto.

The tavern Shime offers traditional Balkans and Krk grilled delicacies, while in the restaurant Marina you can try Bodulski pijat: white fish fillets in Zhlahtina wine sauce served with toasted polenta.

Finally, the tavern Galija offers ravioli filled with Adriatic shrimp and black truffle, a good incentive for a future visit.

The city of Vrbnik is located 50 meters above sea level, and it’s considered the cradle of literacy in Croatia. It’s also known for its indigenous white wine called Zhahtina, which you can try at the restaurant Vinotel Gospoja along with some young lamb ribs and sheep’s cheese.

The restaurant Nada offers roast beef with “mushtarda” cream and homemade green tortellini made with sheep’s curd and sage, while in the tavern Gospoja konoba Žlahtina you can have a taste of Zhlahtina wine ice cream.

But, Vrbnik is also known for its narrow streets. One of these is Klanchikj St. whose narrowest part is only 40 centimeters wide, so we wouldn’t recommend coming through here after all your gastronomic adventures.

However, if you do manage to pass, you’ll find yourself near the Stara Verbenska Kuca (Old Vrbnik House) built in the 15th century, which has been transformed into an ethnographic museum.

The town of Punat is a must-see when you’re traveling around Krk. Like all other seaside settlements, its population used to work as fishermen, farmers and boat builders. Today, Punat is one of the largest Croatian nautical and olive-growing centers.

The local restaurant Marina and the tavern Bocoon offer numerous delicacies prepared with scampi, asparagus, and mushrooms, as well as beef steaks in delicious sauces.

When in Punat, the tiny island of Koshljun is only a boat ride away. The island covered in rich vegetation was first settled in Roman times when a small castle (castellum) was built on the grounds, which is how the island got its name.

Today, the only inhabitants are a group of Franciscan friars living in a 15th-century monastery, part of which has been made into a museum which houses a collection of rare Glagolitic manuscripts.

The monastery’s library is one of the biggest and oldest libraries on the island of Krk. One of the library’s most precious possessions is a first edition of the Latin translation of Ptolemy’s Atlas, printed in Venice in 1511, of which there are only three copies in existence.

Next on the list is sunny Bashka, whose beaches have helped bring in tourists since 1908. In the Heritage Hotel, you can have lamb stomach with polenta. The hotel Tamaris, Cicibela and the rest of the restaurants offer delicious prosciutto, rosemary potatoes and shrimp in Dijon mustard and whiskey.

But, Bashka’s story doesn’t end here. Experts have created a real attraction in the town, the Bashka Glagolitic path. Interactive models and stone sculptures of the Glagolitic letters installed along the path guide tourists through the cultural and historical values of the region. Each letter has been donated by a certain town or city; Dubrovnik donated the letter D, Prague the letter P, Zadar the letter Z, etc.

Jurandvor, the place where the Bashka tablet was discovered, is located in the vicinity of Bashka. The 800-kilogram tablet contains 13 rows of text. It was believed the text contains secret information, but after it was translated in 1875, it was discovered that it is an account of a donation of land by King Zvonimir to the Monastery of St. Lucia. It’s the earliest found mention of a Croatian ruler in Croatian, in Glagolitic letters, which confirms the early existence of the Croatian state.

Diving enthusiasts will be intrigued by Shilo. The Pelestatis, a Greek cargo ship, sunk there in 1968, and can be found 20-30 meters under the sea surface.

Before heading to your diving adventure, however, make sure to visit Zeba and try the lamb prepared under the bell, which is usually cooked for three hours.

Nautical enthusiasts would enjoy visiting Klimno, a quiet, romantic town, home of a 14th-century church. Klimno has its port and a boat workshop. In the restaurant Zhal, you can enjoy a wild asparagus mosaic prepared with horseradish and quail eggs.

One of the oldest settlements on Krk is Omishalj. The spirit of the past can be felt in the cobblestone streets in the town center. Besides being an important Glagolitic center, Omishalj also has an abundance of beautiful beaches, marinas, and hotels.

Additionally, in the restaurant Maris, you can have tuna tartare, cuttlefish “brodetto” with polenta and lamb chops, among other dishes.

The famous Biserujka cave is located on the edge of Omishalj, near the village of Rudina. The cave is 110 meters deep and has an abundance of stalactites and stalagmites. According to the legend, the cave got its name from the pirate treasure buried inside.

Krk, often called the Golden Island, has a mysterious connection to the number seven: it was settled by the Croats in the seventh century, it had been attacked by pirates seven times and Frankopan, the seventh prince of Krk, was also its last one.

After three days enjoying the tranquility of Krk, we headed home, hoping to make a connection with the number seven. Our next chance to visit Krk will be during the fall Krk Food Fest in October, that is, if we don’t pop over for a visit during the summer.

Oliver Brankovikj

Tr. by Monika Mihajlovska

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