Meditations

Dining with Dogs on the Dalmation Coast


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When having dinner in the South of Croatia, it’s not uncommon to find yourself in the company of a four-legged friend. On this particular night in Hvar Town, I sat down with a Weimaraner and enjoyed a particularly excellent seafood meal.

Hvar Town is a working fishing village, and all day boats are coming into the harbour with their catch. Some of the fish goes straight to the restaurants that line the harbour – as I was sitting down at Kop Kapetaina, two young men with bags full of fresh fish were making a deal with the restaurant owner, who took the fish off their hands. As it happens, one of those fish ended up on my plate; I’m not sure you can get much more fresh than that.

A typical seafood meal in Dalmatia starts with brodet, a fish stew that is sometimes served with polenta. At the Kapetaina, it was loaded with fresh fish and was the perfect start to the meal. Hot, salty, and light enough to leave room for the main course.

Fish is sold by the kilogram on the coast, and individual types of fish are priced by class – the tastier fish being 1st class and the more normal catch being 2nd class. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, so the owner brought out a huge metal platter, with five different whole fish, looking fresh enough to jump right back into the ocean. I chose a shiny red scorpionfish, and watched through the kitchen window as the chef prepared it for the wood-burning grill. About 10 minutes later, the fish was on my plate – subtely seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper. It was everything that a good fish meal should be: juicy, fresh, and perfect.

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In all, the Dalmatian coast has been a fantastic culinary experience. Their proximinty to Italy shows in the homemade olives, prsut (smoked ham), and pasta dishes, while the seafood brought to mind the Greek Islands. I had more great meals than I could count, including Rissoto neri (black risotto with cuttlefish ink, pictured above), grilled skempi and fresh squid. Dalmatia is also full of great white wine (the red is nothing to get excited about) which is served by the litre at very decent prices (about $5/litre). And, to top things off, most restaurants make their own brandies – sljivovica (plum brandy), travarica (herbal brandy) and local specialties like Zadar’s maraschino.

If you are a foodie looking for a budget alternative to Italy, keep the coast of Croatia in mind, but be sure to come outside of the tourist season – the locals recommend the beginning of September as the ideal time to come calling.

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