Does Zagreb have Open Table?

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Bistro Karlo, was an elegant restaurant in an old house just off the main square of Zagreb.  Marcy had engaged her social media workforce to find a great place for us to eat on our free day in Zagreb, and @Visit Croatia had slyly indicated that it was, indeed, Zagreb Restaurant week.  What a find!  While Liza and I were getting post flight massages (yes, you can hate us now), Marcy went to work finding a great locale. Our first choice was either closed, or booked, so our next option – Bisto Karlo, seemed liked a terrific choice.  The owner, a sommelier as well as chef, and his staff were top notch and greeted even my own sneakered feet with pleasure.  We were the only people in the restaurant, which wasn’t that surprising for a Sunday night, for a while and had all of their attention . This wasn’t really that much of a shock, since you have three American’s who are clearly wineaux.  The head waiter dabbled in acting, and was a charmer and a comedian.  All of the staff were absolutely enchanting, and we let our dinner linger as long as we could. As it was restaurant week, we had our choice of two set menus.  I chose the Fish Menu, as did Marcy, and Liza chose the pork option (which she tells us about here).  Once our orders were in, we set about thinking about the wine.  One of the reasons Marcy chose this place was the extensive Croatian wine list, most of which were available by the glass.  Since I am a newbie to the wines of the region, I told Karlo to pick his favorite pairings, and I am epically glad I did.  Since Marcy and I ordered the same menu, Karlo made sure we had some unique wines between the two of us, and there was a riotous game of pass the wine glass between the three of us. The first course was a pannacotta of cod fish, with freeze dried strawberries and beet sprouts.  Now, this is clearly not a pairing I would make myself, and I was not sure about the flavor of panncotta flavored with – dare I say it – my favorite <dripping sarcasm> bacalao (salt cod).  However, when it arrived, the creamy pannacotta only had a hint of the sea, and while creamy, was not sweet.  The strawberries were that unusual European variety that grows in the south of Spain, and while fresh and delicious, is not terribly sweet.  Coupled with the bitterness of the beet sprouts, it was a stunning dish.  This was paired with Karlo’s own Pink Elephant Posip. Next up, a fresh salad of spinach leaves, with fresh sardines, lightly fried.  Now I am NOT a fan of the sardines we get here, but these little fishes – crispy and melt in your mouth delicious – were something to remember.  With this dish, Karlo served the  KrauthakerSyrah, which was so good I had to have another glass with the salmon!  Who says […]

Where am I? Italy, Croatia, Austria, Istria!

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After our snowy and rainy day of exploring Zagreb, the intrepid Mousekateers set off to explore Istria, the dangling participle of Croatia.  This peninsula of land that is tucked under the Trieste region of Italy, and just under the former Yugoslav region of Slovenia, now a thriving independant country of it’s own.  Hanging out in the middle of the Adriadic, it has been part of Venice, part of Yugoslavia, and now part of Croatia.  Istria is distinctly – Istrian. Are you Italian?  Are you Croatian?  I am Istrian! But first, how does one get to Istria (Istra in Italian)?  From Zagreb, in the northern plains, and no where near the coastal riviera of Dalmatia, we had to get over a high mountain pass, around an inlet, and over to the other side of Istria to the gorgeous port city of Rovinj. So how in the world were three wine & travel writers, with all of our luggage and booming voices, supposed to accomplish this?  Marcy, Liza and I really didn’t want to deal with the headache of renting a car in Europe, and weren’t comfortable driving in a country that had a language more foreign than a French wine label.  So… Mladen to the rescue!  A former engineer, Mladen Car offers a wide variety of biking, hiking, walking, and driving tours in both Zagreb and the rest of Croatia.  Known as Funky Zagreb, he loves Mad Max, beer, and showing off his town.  Growing up in Zagreb, with the sense of humor that rivals a stand up comedy open mike night, I cannot recommend Mladen’s services highly enough.  In fact, I’m already thinking of my next visit, when we can explore some of the places that we didn’t have time to see on this visit – like the barrel maker, a great restaurant in Rovinj, and his favorite beer bars in Zagreb. With the mini van packed to the gills with bags and wine writers, we set off for our first stop – Hum, the official Smallest Town in the World, and the capital of Rajkia (Croatia’s answer to grappa, but more on that later). There is a change when you pop through the other side of the tunnel and end up high above the large port city of Rijeka.  At the crossroads of a multi-cultureral stew, Rijeka is the gateway to Istria.  Passing through town, you can see the hustle and bustle of Italy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and eastern Europe coming together.Now, back to Istria.   While it will be quiet in the off season, I am looking forward to exploring wine capital of Croatia!  Istria has been heavily influenced by Italy, and there are medieval hill towns reminiscent of Tuscany, and vineyards clinging to the hillside slopes with sweeping view. Istria is roughly the shape of a heart, or triangle, and is separated from the rest of Croatia.  The best part of this area is that is one of the most widely known wine regions in Croatia.  It’s a particularly fascinating […]

The Born Wine-Premacy

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Wandering the streets of Zagreb, our erstwhile Wine Mafia ducked in and out of small lanes, and explored cafes, shops, and the antique mart. After being confronted by an aggressive seller at the market for taking a picture, and asked “what are you buying today lady?”, I skulked off to examine the other merchandise while Marcy, Liza and I wove the lanes. Liza spotted a stall with some beautiful replica pieces from the Renaissance. Needless to say, it was impossible to resist to the charms of Hrvoje Marusic, the jeweler. Noticing our admiration of some earrings (and for me, a lovely ring), he said well, I like you – so for you, the price is 90 Kuna. But if you are a returning customer, it’s less! So, will you come back? To which we smiled coyly. As Liza completed her purchase of some earrings, I was pawing through the rings when I found one that called my name. Naturally I asked, may I have this one? Hinting at what my price would be since I was a special friend. He swiftly said well, it’s 90 Kuna (less than $20) but for you, 80. And if you buy your friend a coffee, less! Of course, having just come from the coffee shop, Liza and I melted in to giggles, as we paid him and walked away smiling, hearing “please come back soon!” in our ears. Just another day in Zagreb!

Welcome to Zagreb

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It’s Sunday here in Zagreb, and while the rain has let up, it’s misty and humid.  St. Catherin’s Cathedral is shrouded in a foggy curtain as it loom above the town square. But who cares!  I’m in Croatia!  Croatia has long been on my list of must visit countries, and I”m glad I made it here in once piece.  Arriving in London yesterday, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was a bit trepidatious, visiting a new country, where the language is vastly different from the Western Europe Romance languages But, to my delight, I was at once welcomed and treated to some spectacular service.  In the air, Croatian Airlines has a new program that is showing off both the regional cuisine and the the regional wines.  On this flight, they focused on Slovania, a rural, agriculture region east of Zagreb. On the short flight from Heathrow to Zagreb, I tried the Galic Grasevina, a bright white, with lovely acidity and mineralogy that was refreshing and zingy.  With lime leaf, lemon, and low alcohol, this was a great introduction to the wine of the region. The Croats are so proud of their wines, and they love to show them off.  This was evident as we got the hotel, and decided to do a little bar exploring.  The rain and jet lag kept us from venturing out, but the friendly bartender at the Bar Diana at the Westin took our direction easily, and excitedly picked wines for us to try.  “Do you like it?  Yes?” he continually asked.  “Yes!” Liza and I replied in unison, as we tried 3 delightful wines. But more on those wines to come… First impressions?  Friendly, open, welcoming.  Proud, strong, hard working. Today we are off to explore some wine bars here in Zagreb, as well as the Museum of Broken Relationships, and…ice cream! Tomorrow, the Three Mouskateers are off to Istria, to explore the dangling participle of Croatia, where the corssroads of Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia come together in a seaside wine focused cuisine. Živjeli!  At some point, I will fight the battle with my electronics to figure out how to use the Slavic language buttons, but until then, please excuse any spelling variations.