Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Article on Dubrovnik's Food Scene

More experimenting with local Croatian cuisine. The Dalmatian Coast is a lot like Italy (it was ruled by Rome then the Venetians [1400-1800]), but it has an identity of it's own. The city of Dubrovnik remained independent from 700AD-1800 (amazingly) and its food just blew me away. I tried to find only traditional Croatian dishes, wines, and restaurants, and share them with you! Eating the Adriatic - Traditional Dubrovnik Dishes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ravenous Travel - Eating the Adriatic Travelogue

I can't get no satisfaction.

Ever get that funny feeling... you know, sittin' at home or on the subway when something inside begins to rumble. What are my insides telling me you might ask. Am I hungry? Yes, of course, but it's not that. Sometimes I shrug it off and say, Hey, it's just one of those days. Sometimes I take a walk, but still, I can't get no satisfaction.

(Above: Photo taken by custom's guard in Frankfurt, Germany)

Life is rich. A friend took me to Mexico and taught me how to travel. I don't know how I would have found it otherwise (not that I wouldn't have). I think we traveled together for a month and I spent a total of $1000 with flight. That's when I figured out that budget travel isn't just a catch phrase. Whether it's Thailand (where you can live like a king for two to three months on $1000) or Italy, traveling to another country is a real possibility. Life is rich. I won't miss any of it.

Over the next five weeks I'm going to post travelogue articles on that will focus on culinary travel through Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy. It's all about finding the best gourmet ingredients in those countries and eating the crap out of them. Just the other day I could have bought a decently sized white truffle for $30. What would that have cost in the U.S.? Probably the price of a plane ticket.

Check it: Eating the Adriatic, Dubrovnik Croatia

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Croatia's Coastal Wine: The New Old World

So far I've visited Dubrovnik, Split, and Sibenik, and the wines just get better. Even though some wineries have been operated for four generations or more, the wine scene along the Dalmatian Coast is relatively new. Today, Croatia's winemakers are defining the country's wine-making style, and, interestingly enough, they are all saying the same thing: We want to make wines that taste like no other. They want to stand out from the throng.

Amazingly, every Plavac Mali and every Debit wine that I've had has tasted unique, and there really aren't many grand, sweeping generalizations to be made in regards to a Croatian wine-making style. That being said, I do find that the wines made with the Plavac Mali grape (relative to zinfandel) tend to be very dry and minerally. I would also say that they are more Old World than New World.

Wine production was controlled by the state when the Balkans were united as Yugoslavia. Tito did not allow individuals to make their own wine. Instead, cooperatives produced all of Croatia's wine. But everything changed with Croatia's independence in 1992.

I've been lucky enough to drink wines that are exceptionally balanced, and I really like the wines made by Milicic, Matusko, and Bibich. All three wineries distribute their wines in the United States. Wine Enthusiast recently provided the following list of distributors distributing Croatian wines to the US: Blue Danube Wine Company, Vinum USA, Oenocentric, Katharine's Garden, Empty Glass Wine Company, Tasty Wine Company and Dalmata.

As a last note, I highly recommend trying the wines made with each of Croatia's grape varieties several times. Usually, if I try a wine that is made with a grape that is new to me, say Petit Verdot, I give it two chances. If I don't like the wines either time, I tend to assume that I don't like the grape. In Croatia, however, winemakers are experimenting with different styles, and the wines simply are not consistent. I drank three wines made with the Debit grape before finding one that I liked. In short, I recommend withholding strong judgment until the country has had more time to weed out the less innovative and sincere wine producers. In my opinion, there are great wines being made using the Debit, Posip, and Plavac Mali grapes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sipping from the Heel - Polpettini di Carne aka Mini Meatballs

Part 3 of the Puglia Online Culinary Tour: Polpette di Carne Recipe (Puglia's famous mini-meatballs — one of the most iconic dishes from Puglia.)

Polpettini, often called simply polpette, are a Pugliese specialty. The small meatballs, which are three-quarters of an inch in diameter, they are commonly found in three styles, 1) deep fried and eaten alone during the antipasto course or 2) served in tomato sauce over pasta during the primo course, and 3) cooked in tomato sauce and eaten alone during the secondo course. Moist inside and crunchy outside, the deep fried version are particularly addictive.

In her book Puglia, A Culinary Memoir, Maria Pignatelli Ferrante writes that polpette could make two meal courses in the time it takes to make one . The meatballs are cooked in tomato sauce, and the tomato sauce (sans polpette) is put over pasta to make the first course, or primo. For secondo, the meatballs are eaten with a little sauce. I was served polpette this way many times. The meatballs really give the sauce a full flavor. It's an easy way to make two courses, and I think it helps you to focus even more on the flavor of the ingredients. It also makes wine-pairing a breeze. I recommend a bottle of Negroamaro or Nero di Troia.


1 lbs ground beef, or pork, or a mixture of the two
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
1.5 tbsp milk
Oregano or parsley qb
Salt qb
Pepper qb


1. Lightly toast breadcrumbs then put them into a large bowl. Add milk and mix. Next, add the ground beef and egg, then mix. If mixture is too dry, add more milk until small meatballs are easy to form. Wet is fine as long as they don't fall apart.

2. Get a large pan. Roll the mixture into balls about 3/4 inch in diameter, then put them on the pan, using all of the meat.

3. For fried meatballs: Heat a saute or frying pan with about a quarter inch of oil (vegetable oil is cheapest and healthiest). To test oil, add a meatball, cook, and sample. Make adjustments if necessary (more salt, pepper, oregano, or milk), then deep fry all meatballs, turning so that all sides get nice and brown and crispy. 3-5 minutes. Serve in a bowl.

4. For cooking in tomato sauce: Heat tomato sauce in a pan until slightly boiling. Add meatballs and cook on a soft boil until fully cooked. 8-12 minutes. Serve over pasta or in two courses, as is the traditional Pugliese way.

There won't be any new Puglia recipes next week because I'm embarking on a 5-week culinary tour of Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia. If you'd like to follow along, I'll be writing a travelogue for, called Eating the Adriatic, and I'll be testing out my new travel-writing name, the Ravenous Traveler. Please follow along and send any questions or comments. If you want me to check something out in the small town of Rovinj, Croatia, there's a good chance I will!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Puglia Wine Review, October 1, 2011

In this month's edition of The Puglia Wine Review, I found a very special Negroamaro, the Scaliere by Rosa del Golfo winery. It matches everything I want: it's interesting, delicious, and cheap. It reminds me of why I love reviewing wines. There's something special about digging around until you find that special wine. It's easy to find a great wine in the $50 price range, but how about 14 bucks? It's another reason to appreciate wines from Puglia, too.

As always, the following wines can be found in wine shops in Portland, Oregon.

Cantine Rosa Del Golfo 2008 “Scaliere” Negroamaro IGT

Grape: 100% Negroamaro
Rating: 9.5
Price: $13.99
Where to Buy: Liner & Elsen
Short Review: Smooth and surprising; great price

This wine is made just east of Gallipoli, Puglia, and it's truly complex. I'm using Karen McNeil's definition of complex: It's not complex because it has so many different components; it's complex like an artwork that you can't get out of your head but you don't know why. At first whiff, Cantine Rosa Del Golfo's Scaliere remains illusive. Memories of childhood somehow arise, and all descriptions fall short. This wine is excellent. It is interesting; more so than many $30-$40 wines. The nose has floral and citrus notes. There's dried date, cinnamon, cloves, and cooked blueberries. In the mouth, the wine's texture, structure, and finish are most present: medium bodied, soft as velvet, long finish. I love this wine, and the price is perfect.

epicuro 2006 Salice Salentino Riserva DOC

Grape: 80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera
Rating: 8
Price: $5.99
Where to Buy: Trader Joe's
Short Review: Simple wine for complex people

I hesitate to review cheap, mass-produced wines from Trader Joe’s because I question their consistency in terms of flavor. However, I reviewed this wine back in 2008 (when it was $3.99) and I liked it then. It’s a good wine for 5.99, but I think it would be a great wine for 3.99. It's simple but stolid. The score is so high because of the price point (price and quality both get 50% in my wine rating system). Nose of raspberry and cherry pie. In the mouth, it's rich with a smooth, chalky/chocolaty finish; full bodied. Great with any marinara sauce or pizza.

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