14 March, 2013

Simple Food. Honest Wine. #istria #croatia

"Simple food.. honest wine" was what our driver extraordinaire @Funky Zagreb, Mladan answered when we asked him what to expect in Istria.
He was so right.  We stayed in a gorgeous hotel the first night, run by the Maistra group in Rovinj.  The Hotel Lone has every modern amenity, and a kitchen that serves food that is both comforting and exciting.  Convenient, plush and a great base  for exploring.

 From modern to ancient, we
went by foot to the town of Rovinj, where we connected with the people, the history and the land.  From our awesom giude Michaela, we learned it's St. Euphemia who swings with the wind on the top of the church, letting people know if a storm is coming in or warm weather awaits them.  She washed up on the shore in 800AD , 500 years after her martyrdom and has been watching over Rovinj ever since.

 Rovinj has the wonderful charm of a European town and gorgeously clear water with  stairs cut right into the esplanades so that in summer you can stroll, eat, swim, shop and enjoy a wonderful Istrian experience.  Let me tell you, if I washed up here, I would want to stay forever too.   Later we would learn more about the terroir and what makes the wine delicious.  A key item is the white limestone soil.  Well, in Rovinj, the pavers worn smooth by hundreds of years of footsteps, are made from that same limestone that lends its mineral character to the terroir.  We could have stayed here a week, but got on the road.  An amzing lunch awaited us the Konoba Puli Pineta in Zminj. 
Konoba is the word for small restaurant in Croatian.  From now on, my mouth will water everytime I hear the word.  In the wonderful location, we were greeted with a new addiction, Rakija (RA- kee-ya) of grappa that is made from a variety of tasty items. In this case a mezmerizing fig and another of cherry that start a meal (or breakfast if you stir it into your coffee) right.  Grilled cheese Istrian style was cow cheese kissed by salt and carmelized into a yummy square.  There were cold cuts, an Istrian style rolled pasta, and the entree, steak salted and brushed with olive oil, then cooked in the wood fire.  Then Supa, warmed red wine aith olive oil, a littel sugar and fresh housemade bread stirred into an eartherware pitcher and eaten communally with a long spoon.  Fun and tasty too!  You'll notice I have given you no details about the wine. It is divine!  More on that later.  Suffice to say the history, delicious food, warm hospitality and landscape make this a woderful travel destination.  The wine is sublime.  More later!  But for now, our driver was so right.  Simple food (of impeccable quality, beautifully prepared and expertly served) and honest (wonderful, diverse, indigenous, most importantly delicious) wine.  Viva, Istria!

Many thanks to the Istrian Tourist Board and our wonderful guide Marko for making this experience so great

11 March, 2013

Zagreb Restaurant Week - Walking around, Bistro Karlo and Wine from #Istria

 It's Restaurant Week in Zagreb!  and that means a truly wonderful meal for 100 KN.  In our case, we got lucky since @MarcyGordon got this great tip from @Visit_Croatia and then found the amazing Bistro Karlo
When we found out we it was owned by a Somm, we were in. 

Walking distance, we saw some sights and then hot footed it to this restaurant. And were we glad we did! @Marcy Gordon and @luscious_Lushes Thea went for the fish option, but I succumbed to the siren song of pork, and opted for the meat version. After a mousse of foie gras, which was creamy and rich, I got a delicious dish of carrots pureed with baby leeks and spicnach raviloli.  Then the main course, pork filet mignon, juicy and succulent, accompanied by candied pineapple and a lovely glaze and final note, poppy seed chocolate torte. Rich and sweet, it was thet perfect note on which to end a wonderful meal.

For the wine pairings, we left ourselves tin the capable hands of Karlo, whose unerring pairing made me happy. I got a yummy sparkler, the golden Slovonian wine I had been coveting since the Air Croatia video, and a lush local Merlot from the producer Veralda. As well as tastes from Marcy's and Thea's ---all wonderful picks.

Previously, we had whetted our appetites for Croatian wine at a super cool wine bar, The Basement, located at the foot of the funicular.  There,  the three of us picked, white , Orange and Red wines. All from Istria, all compelling. My Ines from Roxanich was a blend of verduzzo, sivi Pinot, Bijeli Pinot, sauvignon Blanc, Tokai friulano, reisling italico and proseco.  Made in a way the server referred to as "old", it had enough skin contact to turn it an interesting orange. Spicy aromas and a smooth, lush taste, it made me curious to try more Isttian wines. Good news for me, we took off under the auspices of Mladan @funky_Zagreb, driver extraordinaire for a tour of Istria. More later... Spoiler alert: the wine makes us all swoon!

10 March, 2013

The Excitement of IWINETC - 1ST Day in Zagreb

I am finally here in Zagreb Croatia with co-presenter @luscious_lushes Thea.  After tons of preparation on the wines of Baja, MX, and a lot of scurrying to get here, I landed yesterday to a bold and exotic locale.  Zagreb is a bustling, misty city, I can't wait to explore.  All the signs and conversations are a confusing dance of letters to which  I am blind, deaf and dumb well except for the giant Microsoft logo.  Luckily the people are wonderful and and welcoming and our stay has been nothing but a delightful swoosh of hospitality.  Having travelled a bit in Western Europe and being functional in a couple of languages, Croatia presents as an adventure of the unfamiliar. 

Unfamiliar is fun when it tastes as good as wines of Croatia.  We hit the bar last night and our movie star handsome waiter kept suggesting tasty wines ---back to that dance of unfamiliar letters, we didn't write anything down but had golden, crisp and darkly sumptuous whites and reds.  More (much more I hope) later.  But for now just an note to suggest you check out the IWINETC and follow along on Twitter @winepleasures, @iwinetc and @enoturismo and also with the indefatigable @anthonycswift.

See you later!

01 March, 2013

Terra Antiga 2011 Vinho Verde

Chasing the sun has eluded me this week. While the bay area was springlike, I was in Chicago where the people and snacks are delightful but the weather is oh so frightful. Finally home enjoying the last rays of Friday sunlight with friends waiting for the SF fog to roll in, I was glad to have grabbed a sample of Terra Antica. Perfect choice since half the people couldn't decide between beer and wine. A pale gold color, the wine has aromas of citrus, apple and a hint of bread dough. The spritziness was fun. It even foamed up. The flavors were subtle with a nice hint of bitter in the finish. Add some conversation and you have the perfect pair.  Since the wine retails for only $9, you'll have plenty leftover to go find some sushi!