A wonderful new initiative to celebrate the rich variety of Croatian regional cuisine was launched at Restaurant Potkova in Zagreb on April 12, 2016.
Ever since Anthony Bourdain’s now infamous discovery of Croatian food and wine on his No Reservations show on the Travel Channel a few years ago (you can watch it here), the word has been slowly getting out about the quality, freshness and diversity of Croatian cuisine, and a new initiative, Days of the Taste of Croatian Tradition, was unveiled at Restaurant Potkova at the hippodrome in Zagreb two days ago, to celebrate the rich diversity of the nation’s cuisine.
Croatia does not have a national cuisine as such, but its regions comprise perhaps the most diverse gourmet experience in Europe, and the concept of the new initiative is to celebrate the traditional grandma recipes of the region, with dishes served from fresh local ingredients. Speaking at the launch, the energetic Varazdin County Tourist Board Director Elizabeta Dolenec introduced the concept, as well as the specialities of her region, which lies between Zagreb, Slovenia and Hungary.
The beefsteak tartare was to die for…
Each participating restaurant must provide a certain number of dishes on the menu which fit the concept of traditional recipes from local ingredients, as well as accompanying local wines. When they fulfil these criteria, the restaurant is presented with a sign which it can hang outside, with the logo of the initiative, so that visitors can see they are participating. The concept is planned to go nationwide, but it will start in Varazdin County, where 14 participating restaurants will offer a 3-course traditional meal for just 55 kuna (7 euro) from April 18 to May 1.
There was plenty of Varazdin goodness on offer for the launch party.
Including the famous traditional cakes of Varazdin.
Although very strong in its regional cuisine, it is quite rare for a region’s food to be served in other parts of Croatia. One notable exception to this was the excellent Restaurant Potkova, which hosted the launch in Zagreb. A relative newcomer on the Zagreb gourmet scene, Potkova has a comprehensive culinary offer with dishes from the entire country, and so while local Varazdin restaurants are displaying signs promoting their regional cuisine, Potkova was presented with one for the Tastes of Croatian Tradition.
Director Dolenec was an enthusiastic promoter of the considerable variery of the Varazdin offer.
Potkova was the perfect setting for the launch. Located on the edge of the Zagreb hippodrome, the bright Spring sunshine and natural surroundings helped to reinforce one of the most important ingredients of Croatian cuisine – the freshness of its produce.
After the event, TCN paid a visit to Varazdin County to put the regional cuisine into context. The message came through loud and clear – local natural produce surrounded by historic towns and pristine nature. Grocery Shopping as It Once Was, to paraphrase the recently retired official tourist board slogan. Above the daily market in the centre of the pedestrianised Varazdin City. All from small local producers, and there is a newly opened restaurant next to the market whose concept is ‘from the market to the table.’
Given its geography, Varazdin is often overlooked by tourists, but it offers a spectacular throwback in time, one of the most beautiful cities in the region, and a relaxed, safe environment and idyllic nature close by. Its tourist appeal was considerably enhanced last year with the opening of the first 4-star boutique hotel in the centre – Hotel Park Boutique takes it name after the park which starts at the end of its terrace. Located just an hour from Zagreb, but also very accessible from other international cities – Budapest, Ljubljana and Graz – it is an ideal weekend destination to relax and discover one of Croatia’s most exciting and undiscovered regions. The Tastes of Varazdin Tradition fits perfectly into that concept.
Morning coffee on the main square, with a leisurely view across to Varazdin Castle.
And while Varazdin itself is the main centre of the region, the county is littered with jewels to explore, many of which have participating restaurants in the new initiative, including one of the jewels of Croatian tourism, Trakoscan, which stunned in the mid-April sun.
A selection of the menus on offer for the Varazdin part of Tastes of Croatian Tradition. And if you would like to learn more about this fascinating place, check out the video below.
TCN will be following Tastes of Croatian Tradition throughout the country as it unfolds.