October 3, 2023 – More surprises from eastern Croatia – an excellent Gastro Show by the national football team’s chef at the delightful Sokacki Stan.
I love heading east in Croatia.
Every visit brings a new surprise or delight, and I know that there is still so much to discover.
As was the case last week…
I had been to Vinkovci several times, and I thought I had discovered all there was to discover (oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, birthplace to two Roman Emperors, home to the oldest Indo-European calendar, a beer-making tradition dating back 5,000 years and much more, covered in Vinkovci: 10 Things to Know about Europe’s Oldest Town).
And then they took me for a drive into the forest…
A beautiful traditional Slavonian location, Sokacki stan from the 19th century on the outskirts of Vinkovci, has been transformed into a place where the whole family can enjoy relaxation in nature and gastronomic specialties – Sokacki stan d.o.o. – Gastro-educational centre. Here they organise various educations, workshops, tourist tours and activities throughout the year aimed at preserving the traditional heritage and preparing traditional dishes of the Vukovar-Srijem County.
All these events have a diverse content and offer and are prepared for each calendar year, where everyone interested can participate in the activities and learn or remember traditional cuisine and customs. As part of the Gastro-Education Centre, there is a restaurant that, with its rustic ambiance, evokes memories of Slavonian historical heritage and gives a feeling of home.
We were there as part of the project PannEx Reload within the Interreg IPA cross-border cooperation program Croatia – Serbia, a two-day event, whose final day including a Gastro Show on the final day.
The PannEx Reload project is a continuation of the Pannonia Gourmet project, in which the Sokacki Stan was renovated, the Gourmet Academy was held, the Gourmet Centre was established and the Eat Pannonia partnership was established, bringing together various producers of local products and service providers.
Tourism consultant Goran Rihelj, a passionate promoter of Vinkovci and Slavonia gave a lecture at the first-day conference on the importance of short supply chains in tourism.
In the entire supply chain, from hotels, restaurants, cafes… we have to sell our domestic products. Of course, you can also offer premium foreign drinks that you must have due to standards and globalization, but in Vinkovci, for example, you have to offer the guest the domestic craft beer Valens and explain to the guest why that beer is specific, emphasised Rihelj and added that it is necessary to connect chains in tourism primarily through agriculture, and for that, clusters are needed that have proven to be successful as a market model all over the world.
Chef Tomica Đukić, who is also the chef for the Croatian national football team, spoke about the importance of interpreting Slavonian gastronomy in a modern and traditional way, and he began his presentation by asking the audience: What is Slavonian cuisine?
– I was doing research, so we went around the villages. It was a heavy cuisine, so they had a good breakfast and went to work. It is precisely this part that we need to develop. We have a handful of groceries in Slavonia and Baranja and the entire interior of Croatia. We have come to the conclusion that we must use what is offered to us, God-given, and do not avoid it and put it aside. We need to use indigenous foods and preserve those flavors with modern techniques. Food is a moment that certainly keeps you going, especially if you have indigenous food. Now in trend is the black Slavonian pig, which connects green and blue Croatia. I think we have to market all that is autochthonous, work on quality, work on excellence, and in time everything will come into its own., Đukić emphasised in his presentation.
And so to the gastro show, which was hosted by my good friend Ribafish, and gave an excellent overview of the quality products on offer in the Vinkovci region: Vigus with its cakes, Mederija Ferbežar with mead, Vinkovci oil factory with Sunce Vinkovaca oil, Abelo distillery with its premium alcoholic beverages, then Valentinijan with its Valens and Vinkovački beer, and Podrum Marija from Ilok with wines served with each course of food.
And so to the food, prepared by the celebrity football chef. NOW I understand why Croatia is so good at football. I am sure if Tomica had been cooking for England in July 2018, we would have won a certain World Cup semi-final…
Smoked duck breast served with vinous beets, pears in white wine and couscous vinaigrette. Along with this dish, according to the choice of Podruma Marija from Ilok, Sokica Frankovka wine was served.
It followed main course – sous vide black pork loin, with red wine sauce, tomato cream, pumpkin cream, caramel carrot with pecans and spicy potato cake.
For dessert, carob/amber cake with coffee cream and hibiscus gel poured with late harvest Grasevina from Podrum Marija.
Great food, great wine, great company, fantastic hospitality, the magical tamburasi playing – another fabulous evening in eastern Croatia, which could provide a masterclass in how to treat guests. Truly the hospitality capital of Croatia.