Food and Wines of Croatia

When we arrived in a small airport in Split, we were hardly tired but were anxious enough to find a nice laid back restaurant for a late dinner.

 The front table is where we sat our first night.

The front table is where we sat our first night.

As we rolled our luggage through the cobblestone floors in the Diocletian Palace, we were excited to see people having dinner in alcoves and having drinks on tables along narrow walkways.

The place is hard to describe because it’s not too often I can describe myself in an ancient palace bustling with romance. Needless to say we couldn’t wait to drop off our luggage.

People were out and the palace was alive and kicking and boy that got us excited!

 We had no idea what we would find just outside our door.

 

The Wine -- What We Learned

 I highly recommend Trattoria Bajamont - Not to be confused with the larger one on the piazza.

I highly recommend Trattoria Bajamont - Not to be confused with the larger one on the piazza.

Croatia is not a wine destination – it’s more of an island destination with great wine. With only a few days recommended to visit in most towns, stay a little longer if you want to learn more about their wines.

There are more wineries to visit along the Dalmatian Coast but you’ll be deciding to visit either the Falls, a winery, or swim off a boat. If there are places you’d like to visit other than wineries, take an extra day or two.

 There is a server who comes out on a piazza over 1700 years old to take your drink order while you listen to music.

There is a server who comes out on a piazza over 1700 years old to take your drink order while you listen to music.

Surprisingly enough, as much as we like wine, we decided to explore the towns we visited than go wine tasting. However, since we drank wine with almost all dishes, I can say their wines are solid. They take great pride in their wines like anywhere else they tout their horns so taking an extra day wine tasting would not be a bad idea.

They have a couple of good wineries that were the same ones consistently recommended on Hvar. There’s not a lot of wineries on the island but the fact that there are, I would visit them.

 

The Food – The Kinds of Dishes You Enjoy or Not

 Which fish to try?

Which fish to try?

I know, this is a common way to order (above) in a lot of places around the world, however in Croatia they take great pride in their fish dishes. If you make a face here, you might as well make a face with pasta in Italy.


We loved the clams, the mussels, the whole fish served in a pan and the sardines. If you’re allergic to shellfish or don’t like anything outside fish & chips, you might not get the ambiance here. Don’t like wine? Stick to the swimming and stay for not more than 2 days.

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If you like Italian seafood, Croatia should be calling your name. Once owned by the Roman Empire, the food of the Dalmatian Coast is highly influenced by pastas drenched in sauce and loaded with mussels, squid and other types of fish.

Another popular type of cuisine is Mediterranean. They rave about cooking fresh fish in olive oil, lemon and herbs and it’s amazing. I loved how they mixed spinach with potatoes; a common side dish and which I’ll be making myself. (As shown in the photo above served with fresh fish served whole.)



The People

Croatians are hard working during the high season months. However, I often found how a lot of them are not jaded to how tough the business of tourism can be.

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 After the Bosnian War and Croatia entering the European Union when everyone was old enough to remember, it’s good to know how special the people of Croatia are. There is now peace here and at the end of the day, they are proud to showcase their beautiful history including their food and wines.

I feel fortunate to be able to learn about this slice of paradise and it’s history. With palaces and castles that are centuries old that have been turned over by many countries throughout thousands of years traced back to the Roman Empire, the history shows in their cooking.  

The Towns of Croatia

Our plan was to visit Split and Hvar but we got more than we bargained for.

 

Split

 Sunset Boat Ride

Sunset Boat Ride

When we first arrived at night as we rolled our luggage through the cobblestone floor in the Diocletian Palace, we were excited to see people having dinner in alcoves and having drinks on tables along the narrow walkways. These narrow walkways were bustling with romance and we couldn’t wait to drop off our luggage.

This town is considered to have a lot of tourists for their piazzas built in 300 AD in the Diocletian Palace. I recommend staying within the walls of the palace and explore the area around the town of Split. Stay for at least 3 nights to visit the Krka National Park and the next day to do wine tasting.

I’d recommend taking a day trip to the waterfalls of Krka National Park about an hour away. This was the plan, but we were so mesmerized by the town, we decided to walk up the hill to get a clear look at the vista and then a sunset boat ride along the coast. Still wasn’t a bad idea.

 

Hvar

 View from our room

View from our room

We are really glad we kept exploring around this town. As we looked for a wine tasting room that was recommended we actually ran into another maze of narrow walk ways that housed what looked like all the restaurants in town aside from the waterfront restaurants.

 This island is the point to visit all the rest of the islands while staying in upscale hotels and enjoying cafes and beautiful restaurants.

 

Palmizana

 The water was a little cold in October but worth it!

The water was a little cold in October but worth it!

The island of Palmizana is an island for those who like discretion. It’s a hidden gem that we actually got lost when we got off the boat. From the looks of it, there didn’t seem to be any habitation but to our surprise, there were little markets to pick up snacks, a steakhouse and signs that led into a forest of more upscale restaurants to choose from.

 As we walked down a path that was taking us to the other side of the island, we saw many different trails to different restaurants. We decided to walk straight and stumbled on a beautiful cove on the other side of the island (shown above) where we were dropped off. I couldn’t believe on what looked like a desolate island were actually restaurants lined along the waterfront with places to sun bathe. I said, well, we have about 5 hours here to enjoy so why not.

We changed out of our wine tasting clothes into our bathing suits.

 This is common dining in Trogir and most towns

This is common dining in Trogir and most towns

 Trogir

As we arrived back to the airport in Split, the airline host said we were 5 hours too early because I misread our itinerary. She said not to worry because the town of Trogir was about a 10 min bus ride that we could explore and have lunch before our flight left.  It turns out, Trogir is another great town to see. I would recommend dropping your bags off at the airport, get on a bus and explore.

 Although there were cafes and restaurants along the water, we decided to discover an off-the-beaten path place to eat. As we continued to walk into the narrow walkways again, only reachable by foot, we found restaurants snugged together into small piazzas unlike the town of Split (similar to the one on the left).

We eventually found a cozy Italian restaurant that served seafood dishes with their pizza. Seafood dishes with Italian food is common and like this pizzeria, it is family owned.

Whatever your destination you plan to stay in Croatia, you’ll most likely stumble on hidden gems. The point is to just go with it and know that you’re discovering a country full of surprises.

What is on your bucket list to see in Croatia?

What To Keep in Your Wine Bag

That’s right. If you keep a diaper bag, why not a wine bag?  

Wine bags come in all shapes and sizes and you really don't need to lug that cooler around anymore. Even if it’s a grocery bag, having a bag just to take with you on a picnic is very simple.

If you have a busy lifestyle like us, it's good to keep a list of items you'll need and these bags have definitely helped us pack those little extras for a picnic that have been worth keeping handy. We like to grab these on our way out. I like to keep one in my car too with a table cloth inside.

 The one we use the most is the brown one - it's small and insulated.

The one we use the most is the brown one - it's small and insulated.

We have three nice wine bags but if they’re not filled with necessary items that's fine. The problem is you'll have to remember all the little items you'll need like a knife. I wouldn't think to have these items until I'm laying out the food and go, "ughhhhh!!".

Here are top 7 items that mostly will come with your wine bag but that you can add to yours.

  1. Tiny cutting board
  2. Cheese knife good enough to cut sausage
  3. Cloth napkins – not paper. I always add paper napkins just for keeps. Cloth napkins make pseudo place mats too.
  4. Plastic wine cups – not red cups and not the plastic kind you throw away. Cups with stems are nice so that you can hold it from the stem if you're drinking chilled wine. 
  5. Wine Opener – Just have an extra one in your bag at all times. This would be the worst thing to forget.
  6. If you're bag doesn't come with insulation like our favorite wine bag, buy a variety of chilled packs to keep your white wine and salads chilled.
  7. A table cloth - you can get these at the dollar store but I have some plastic ones as well as pretty cloth ones too. I have added one in the bag too that you see below. 
 These bags have all helped us prepare what to take.

These bags have all helped us prepare what to take.

“Is this all we do?”
”Yes, honey! This is it!” 
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If you buy takeout, a lot of times you won't have plates, forks and plastic knives so it's always good to keep those in your bag too. However, I was so glad to have the above items already in my bag. All I have to remember is a bottle of wine.

 Vegetarian sandwich on a picnic

Vegetarian sandwich on a picnic

If you keep these items in your wine bag all the time, you’ll have 1) something to drink your wine in 2) something to open your bottle 3) something to cut any cheese or sausage 4) something to clean up your spill and 5) something to cut your sausage and cheese on instead of your napkins that you’ll end up needing for that spill.

Here are picnics ideas. Now, go on a picnic! Just make sure you have a picnic blanket in your trunk too!

Does anyone else keep a wine bag with them?  

The Rush To Syrups

Are You Still Putting Sugar in Your Coffee/Tea?

If you love food and wine as much as I do, you’re probably watching how much sugar your eating. Wine has a lot of sugar and if you're going to be drinking it, you might as well get creative with your sweetener.

A great way to experiment is with different flavors in a simple sugar. So instead of using the inevitable, reach for a simple syrup instead.

Cocktails are far exceeding wine consumption nowadays in popularity but that's ok. The experiments with simple syrups and all their uses are opening the doors to get creative in how you mix sugar in your drinks and foods. Save that sugar for that wine! Let cocktails grow in popularity as you put a few drops in your coffee on your way to work.  

As I was conjuring up a story here, one of the gals at work created a few simple syrup concoctions for the office and sure enough, I was hooked! Have you ever had Lavender Simple Syrup in your tea? It’s amazing! 

If you want to know how darn simple it is, here is the recipe for simple syrup.

Below is a list of ingredients you can add to simple syrup or just by themselves without the sugar. There were so many variations to write about I broke them out by category.

 

Aromatic Herbs:

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This is my short list but this can go on forever with all the different herbs there are.

Lavender

My number one favorite - I love this as a substitute to sweetener. I use it mostly in tea but also in ice cream, smoothies and can't wait to try this in a cake. 

Fresh Vanilla Bean

Fresh or just about anything. I added this to a seltzer water and gave it to my sister. She was like, “ooh! This is nice! what is this?” Yes – it has few calories than a cream soda.

Rosemary

This might be great for an elixir but also added to the bottom of your steamer for an aromatic touch to your veggies. Having a hard time with grapefruit juice? Add this flavored syrup to a ruby red grapefruit juice with a splash of seltzer and it’s amazing! Add gin and you have yourself a dainty cocktail.

Basil

Add this to your water with lemon for a quick water infusion!

Mint

Oh let me count the ways; desserts, teas, coffee, a hot toddy.

Thyme

Add to Lavender syrup for lemonade

Verbena

My favorite herb although I hardly can find it - mix with a peach puree, a squeezed lemon and spritzer.

Chamomile

Mix with lemon and whiskey and you’re cured from whatever it is you have.

 

Fruity:

Do you often find your fruit going bad? Here are syrups that you can create instead of trying another water infusion.

Any citrus Rind

Orange, Lime, Grapefruit, Lemon, Kumquats,

Blackberry

I wouldn’t think blackberries would work but with raspberries, this is a nice combination. Before both of these get bad in your fridge, why not steep them like tea to store in your fridge longer? Add to melon and pears for a beautiful fruit salad that quietly knocks all the ladies socks off at a brunch. No sugar even needed.

Peaches

Add in a milkshake for a true summer drink.

Pear

Spiced pear syrup= ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and pear puree as its base liquid for some fancy cocktails. Hint: the harder the pear, the better the syrup.

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From Your Cabinet

Look no further.

 

Fennel Seeds

I want to think about this one but when fresh fennel is infused with apple, it’s great for digestion. How about in a spritzer?

Rose Extract

This is beautiful in teas but of course also as wonderful in desserts – blend with one scoop of vanilla ice cream, serve in a vintage dish, and it will taste as pretty as it looks.

Cinnamon

Great mixed with pancake syrup and of course coffee.

Cocoa

Chocolate and sugar - I'll let you take a crack at that.

 Whenever you see them on the bar, ask for a squirt in your coffee or tea instead of sugar packets.

Whenever you see them on the bar, ask for a squirt in your coffee or tea instead of sugar packets.

The Exotic

Maybe you won't keep a stash in your fridge but maybe you will because you like this sort of thang.

 Clove

Growing up, I loved how my mom added fresh cloves to an orange - the smell was so amazing. So with this, add oranges for an aromatic flavor to any dish or maybe Rosemary

Cardamom

Coffee, desserts and a twist to Indian or Malay drinks

Star Anise

Add this with Cardamom and I learned that together, these two are added in a mango lassis drink or any other exotic dish.

Lemongrass

I say, skip the sugar and let this steep for awhile for soup. However, what a great way to stir your senses in a simple syrup for your tea before starting your morning. What inbox?

Ginger

This would be great to add as a medicinal, which is what I did for a homeopathic tea when I was sick. I pierced peppercorns in a sliced pear and steeped it with honey and ginger and it was the only drink that cut my cough.

 

Spicy

You didn't think these would qualify?

Think again

 Thai Chili

Sweet spicy and bitter for not just a spicy margarita but a kick to a dip without making it too hot. Just add a few drops at a time?

Black Pepper

Dips, salad dressing or my favorite Greyhound drink of vodka and grapefruit juice for an even better health kick.

Black Peppercorns

You want to add this to the fruit that you’re steeping and skip the sugar altogether. I never thought to add peppercorns into an Asian pear and boil with honey and ginger but boy did it remove my cough. If you're boiling any kind of sauces, remember to add the peppercorns and not just sprinkled over for a kick to your foods. Surprise others.

 This is from my friend Kathy - she was the one I wrote about in my book when we were in Korea Town. She advised me to slice an Asian pear, insert peppercorns and steep with honey and ginger. I was cured!  

This is from my friend Kathy - she was the one I wrote about in my book when we were in Korea Town. She advised me to slice an Asian pear, insert peppercorns and steep with honey and ginger. I was cured!  

 

Wacky

If you thought these wouldn't go well in a shake, maybe now they do!

Beets

Maybe you need the red for color but the orange are just as beautiful. Try them in smoothies, greek yogurt, or other cooked fruit like poached peaches and pears

 

Many people can’t seem to break the habit of adding sugar to everything even though a lot of store-bought foods or restaurants already have sugar. So you might as well take control now.

The idea is to broaden your use of different foods instead of just adding sugar. This is actually a great way to experiment and add health to what your body is going to absorb anyway. Like everything else, as long as we do this in moderation, we’ll be able to continue enjoying our wine because boy, does wine sure have a lot of sugar!

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome!

 Flowered Toast at Kendall Jackson's wine pairing lunch

Flowered Toast at Kendall Jackson's wine pairing lunch

Welcome to Wine Body and Spirit

More than ever before, there are new foods emerging; from jackfruit, cashew cheese, tofu sour cream and many more from our plant-based community. Never before has the non-eating meat eaters had so much impact on our food culture. There is a lot to learn about the chemically changing effects this has on our bodies too. It's not about just losing weight, it's about getting healthy. 

But what does this mean? 

There is a lot of confusion as to what is considered a luxury and what is not when considering foods. I find often that what actually is a luxury is what is simple and good for you not the other way around. Richness doesn't always have to be found in the foods that make us fat. 

Take wine for example. There is such a difference between bad wine and incredibly good wine like the difference between great foods and unhealthy foods. However, we have it backward; healthy food shouldn't taste like cardboard boxes and good wine shouldn't always give you a headache. 

Let's start with your taste buds. 

If we think of getting healthy like training our bodies, why don't we train our taste buds? If most people can understand how the taste buds of a smoker change when he/she stops smoking, then isn't it the same effect of a carnivore who stops eating meat? Do healthy foods really not taste like anything or is it your palette that might be accustomed to the nitrates that suppress your ability to taste food? This is what I have had to think about. This is what I found in my diaries called 26 Days; A Plant-Based Diet and What You Need to Know.

Welcome to Wine, Body and Spirit where I share what I'm learning. I want to continue promoting how living simple is the absolute luxury. It's not about living below your means, it's about increasing your means with simple living. This is much more than learning how to pair healthy food with wine although I'm very much working on that and will continue to purse that endeavor!

As I learn how truly wine is a luxury, I understand how not to over rate it. Wine is what a farmer works so hard for. It's that moment of having a glass of wine where one indulges -- on the back porch! 

I can show you how the richness of great food can be found in it's simplicity too. Like the fisherman who can eat the scallops right out of the shell -- on the boat he just caught it in. It's about when to have succulent ribs and when to stick with cashew cream. This is the place to find and share ideas on healthy food while also finding great wine information.

Let me help you start to unscramble the confusion in your head. It starts with exercise, breathing, walking, eating what's good for you, but ultimately drinking good wine  too.

Share your ideas here and let's start the conversation. Let's indulge in ways we never thought we could.

Cheers!