January the 19th, 2024 – Goodbye teens! That’s what you could say when referring to the nineteenth edition of the Wine With a Spoonful eno gastro project, which, following a short trip to Slovenia, returned home to where it started – Zagreb.
A cheerful and educational evening full of of delicious food and top quality wines was held in the Pri dečki tavern in Trnovčica (Gornja Dubrava), which opened last year in October. The guys behind it are: chef Mateo Pus and his business partner Tomislav Škof, who comes from the IT sector, but is also a great lover of gastronomy.
Despite only being 27 years old, Mateo Pus has gained a lot of experience working in prestigious Zagreb restaurants such as ManO, Noel, Bota Šare, Pomeri and Kaiser. In short, cooking at Pri dečki could be described as traditional with a modern approach. “It’s influenced, but not in the way my mother and grandmother cooked,” said Mateo, adding that all the dishes presented at this dinner are on their permanent menu.
Before the food and wines started coming out, Franko Šimić from the Šimić family distillery in Požega presented brandies that whetted the appetite of guests from the world of media: Viljamovka, Šljivovica and Kajsija, as they call apricot brandy and Višnjevac liqueur. The Šimić family also grows fruit on their property, and their brandies and liqueurs are completely natural, produced using the latest German technology, with their top quality being evidenced by the numerous awards they have won in the country and abroad.
For starters, a hand-cut veal tartare was served on homemade bread, which is characterised by the fact that it doesn’t have a lot of spices, as is typically done with classic tartare. In addition, Kutjevo Maximo brut, the first commercial sparkling wine from Graševina, produced using the classic method, was poured into glasses. This matching was especially praised by sommelier Tomislav Jakopović, who was also among the guests.
Help in serving was provided by another boy – the attraction of the evening, the robot waiter Keenon Dinerbot T8. Before getting down to business, the robot was programmed and mapped the restaurant space with its advanced cameras and lasers to ‘record’ the table layout. “The longer the robot works and serves, the better the he will adapt to the restaurant and its guests thanks to advanced technology. It scans the events on the route it passes, slows down if someone appears in front of it, and intelligently avoids obstacles with a binocular vision plan. He quickly became a favourite of the guests, as well as a colleague of the waiters who aren’t robots, because in addition to serving food and drinks, he quickly takes the empty plates back to the kitchen. He can carry about five kilograms of food on each tray, serve four tables at the same time, works 24/7 if needed, and doesn’t need a salary or sick leave,” joked Tomislav Kovač, the director of the Zagreb-based company Unitrg, which distributes these robots here on the Croatian market.
After the robot completed the first task and announced the future, it was followed by a return to something traditional. From the Kutjevo winery, which has been operating continuously since 1232, a pleasant surprise followed – Graševina Vinkomir 2022 – with creamy polenta with cream and bacon. Matko Kovačić, the representative of the Kutjevo winery, introduced the attendees to all the benefits of Graševina, which, according to him, is still an undervalued variety. This one is quite atypical, stylistically quite different from the popular Top (Vrhunska) Graševina. The grapes come from the vineyard located in Vinkomir, next to which a restaurant with a view of Kutjevo’s Golden Valley will be opened in the spring, announced Kovačić.
Since in addition to big wineries, lesser-known ones are also promoted at these events. The organisers Renata Cisar and Mustafa Topčagić found a ‘house wine’ – Dvoršak Rhine Riesling 2023 from the winery of the same name in Sveti Križ, not far from the Tuhelj spa in Zagorje. It was presented by Srećko Dvoršak, whose family is engaged in agriculture and cattle breeding, and soon they will open a winery where, in addition to Rhine Riesling, you will be able to taste their Muscat yellow and Graševina, which is also the house wine of Pri dečki. Nevertheless, they brought Rhine Riesling for the presentation, which perfectly complemented the incredibly tasty combination, locally called Krumpir i čvarci.
Then we moved on to a slightly more complex dish – Lamb ragout with pljukanci (a traditional Istrian pasta) and porcini mushrooms – accompanied by a wine with a more complex name – Blaufränkisch 2020, from the Trs winery from Ilok. Having been aged for a year in oak barrels, it boasts a rich and long-lasting taste. To simplify things, we’re talking about the Germanised name of the blue frankfurter, recognised by everyone in Central Europe, including here in Croatia. The wine has a deep, dark ruby red colour, with a nuanced fruity aroma dominated by ripe berries with fine background notes of dark chocolate, as emphasised by Iva Slišković, the representative of the Trs winery.
We also had the opportunity to taste their cold-pressed grape seed oil, which is used in gastronomy and cosmetics; it also has health benefits for cardiac patients, and is very rich in vitamin E. 1 decilitre of oil is obtained from 1 kilogram of grape seeds, so it’s level of appreciation among consumers is more than understandable.
The real delicacy was yet to follow – Aged pork belly done “under the bell” with honey – a dish that young chef Mateo is particularly proud of. He recently presented it on HTV along with some of his New Year’s food recommendations. The best recommendation for the accompanying wine came from the Opus winery from Komarna, in southern Dalmatia. Family member and their Zagreb representative Andrea Popić brought in their ‘divine nectar from the stone’, Opus Bridge Plavac mali 2018, a wine that was created as a result of the triple insolation of grapes with sunshine, sea and stone. Opus winery recently released the first Pošip, and there are high expectations for the harvest of this grape.
The regional representation of winemakers was then rounded off with Istria and Muscat rose 2022 from the Matić winery from Baškot near Višnjan. This local aromatic wine, produced by only six wineries in Istria, was an excellent choice with carrot cake with thyme cream and candied walnuts. The owner of the winery, Milenko Matić, grows as many as 12 wine varieties, among which Malvasia (Malvazija) is the most dominant of all. His Muscat rose was inspired by wine connoisseur Marko Havaši, emphasising that this wine means love, so it would be appropriate if it were on restaurant tables for Valentine’s Day. The very name of the wine is reminiscent of red roses and delights with the colour of melted petals, with a scent reminiscent of raspberries and strawberries.
As usual at previous events, the best combination of food and wine was chosen, and this time it was Kutjevo Graševina Vinkomir 2022 and creamy polenta with cream and bacon.
With some more of Šimić’s “travel brandy”, the nineteenth Wine With a Spoonful event came to an end in a warm and cordial atmosphere. The organisers are already starting to prepare the jubilee twentieth event, which will be followed by a series of good food, wine and a few more surprises.