Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Eating Gluten-Free in Croatia

The ultimate gluten-free guide to Croatia | Adelante


It's no secret that I sightsee through my tastebuds. 

Although I was diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2010, avoiding gluten has not stopped me from tasting my way around the globe. Upon traveling to Croatia with my mom, a fellow Celiac, I was determined to make it one of our best foodie adventures yet.

Croatia had been at the top of my bucket list for years, but I knew relatively little about its cuisine. As we ate our way through Croatia, we were surprised and delighted by how Celiac friendly the food is.

With each stop on our adventure through Croatia, it became easier to find gluten-free options. We started off in Zagreb, venturing into Zagorje to visit Trakošćan Castle and Varaždin. We stopped in Plitvice Lakes National Park on our way to Split, where we sunned ourselves until hopping a ferry to Hvar. After a heavenly island escape, we ended our trip in the magical city of Dubrovnik.

While Croatia itself is a dream destination, the gastronomy alone is reason enough to visit. If you're planning a trip to Croatia with Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, here is my complete guide to eating gluten-free in Croatia.

Eating Gluten-Free in Croatia | Adelante

HELPFUL HINTS

While most restaurants don't have a separate gluten-free menu, some may mark which dishes are bez glutena (gluten-free). If the menu doesn't specify, don't hesitate to ask the restaurant if a dish contains gluten or can be prepared gluten-free.

In general, be wary of sauces, desserts, and most polenta. Always double check when ordering soups and stews, as many can contain flour or pasta. Just in case, print out a gluten-free Croatian
restaurant card to show your waiters if you have any doubts about a dish's ingredients.

Surprisingly, most restaurants are actually quite knowledgeable and accommodating. This could be due to the heavy influx of tourists in recent years, or simply because Croatian cuisine is naturally gluten-free friendly. In fact, most of my waiters already knew which dishes were safe to eat without having to go back to the kitchen to ask.

Eating Gluten-Free in Croatia | Adelante

Eating gluten-free in coastal Croatia

Cuisine on the Dalmatian Coast is remarkably similar to Italian fare, which makes it all the more convenient to navigate as a Celiac. Due to its fresh Mediterranean flavors, you usually can't go wrong with seafood, grilled fish and meat, vegetable dishes, or prosciutto with melon.

Authentic Croatian risotto is not prepared with flour, which usually makes it a reliable choice. (That said, it's wise to double check with each restaurant.) If you're feeling adventurous, try the crni rizot, a black risotto made with squid ink. Be sure to also try peka, a method of cooking meat and vegetables under a domed baking lid.

Eating gluten-free in continental Croatia

Continental Croatian cuisine, on the other hand, is heartier than its coastal counterparts. Continental Croatia features a stronger emphasis on meat dishes and heavy stews. As opposed to the Italian-inspired gastronomy of Dalmatia, this region's cuisine is influenced by its central European neighbors. The Austro-Hungarian tastes make it slightly more difficult to find naturally gluten-free options.

In Zagreb and Zagorje, we relied on roasted lamb, potatoes, and charcuterie plates. Vegetables are generally used less in continental fare, but we were still able to find the occasional salad. While it was less convenient to eat gluten-free in continental Croatia, we still found a plethora of viable options.

Eating Gluten-Free in Croatia | Adelante

With a myriad of gluten-free options and a cuisine that naturally accommodates Celiacs, eating gluten-free in Croatia shouldn't be a considerable challenge. The following restaurants have my favorite gluten-free dishes, so prepare your tastebuds for a gluten-free feast of Croatian treats.

DUBROVNIK

Proto
Široka 1

Founded in 1886, Proto is one of Dubrovnik's oldest and most revered eateries. Known for its exquisite seafood, Proto specializes in fish dishes using traditional recipes from local fishermen. Atop the elegant terrace, one is sure to enjoy five-star service and cuisine.

Proto has attracted a distinguished list of patrons, including a glamorous array of actors, musicians and royals. If you're willing to splurge, look no further than Proto. Reservations recommended.

Eating Gluten-Free in Croatia | Adelante
Contemplating the GF menu on Proto's breezy terrace

Stara Loza
Prijeko 24

This romantic rooftop restaurant, perched atop the chic Hotel Prijeko Palace, offers an entirely unique gastronomic experience. Serving a tasty array of Mediterranean-inspired dishes, Stara Loza incorporates gourmet flavors with memorable twists. My tastebuds rejoiced as I indulged on a fresh citrus salad and juicy sirloin steak with Brie, wasabi and pepper jam.

While the cuisine is decidedly out of this world, the dreamy vistas and whimsical settings make Stara Loza all the more impressiveReservations recommended.

Eating Gluten-Free in Croatia | Adelante
Stara Loza's rooftop views at blue hour

SPLIT

Bokeria 
Domaldova 8

Named after Barcelona's most iconic market, Bokeria is a mecca of modern Mediterranean cuisine. This bustling restaurant thrives in a former hardware store, where contemporary flavors are reflected in the fittingly sleek and industrial decor.

After our first lunch here, the heavenly flavors and impressive wine list convinced us to come back for a second meal. I still dream about the carpaccio with pickled onions, candied walnuts and honey mustard, along with the pear, asparagus and gorgonzola risotto. (Reservations recommended.)

Eating Gluten-Free in Croatia | Adelante
Legendary carpaccio at Bokeria

Paradigma
Ulica Bana Josipa Jelacica 3

My rooftop feast at Paradigma was the crown jewel of gastronomic experiences in coastal Croatia. Resting atop an elegant terrace with inviting views of the sea and old town, Paradigma serves a blend of traditional Mediterranean gastronomy with unique contemporary twists. Indulgence is the name of the game here, as exemplified by our decadent feast.

We started our meal with champagne and fresh oysters, which were served in a variety of flavors including raspberry tapioca, cucumber foam, fresh watermelon, burrata, and jamón ibérico. The unconventionally sublime flavors effortlessly seduced my tastebuds. Next, we savored a Jerusalem artichoke and rose soup, followed by baba ghanoush risotto with green olives, goat cheese and eggplant espuma. (Reservations recommended.)

Eating Gluten-Free in Croatia | Adelante
Bokeria's pear, asparagus and gorgonzola risotto

Uje Oil Bar 
Dominisova 3

Pioneered by Croatian olive oil retailers, this trendy bistro is hailed for its seasonal Dalmatian fare. The interior is cozy yet refined, while its romantic alleys offer picturesque al fresco dining. You can also sample a variety of Uje's extra virgin olive oils, which may tempt you to pick up a bottle of liquid gold on your way out. Whether you're in the mood for cheese and charcuterie or hearty Dalmatian classics, look no further than Uje Oil Bar.

HVAR

Giaxa
Petra Hektorovica 3

Our most decadent meal in Hvar was enjoyed at Giaxa, where we savored carpaccio with black truffle and Parmesan, lamb rack with white polenta, and green beans with pancetta. After an extravagant meal and several glasses of Pošip wine on the cozy terrace, Giaxa goes down as one of my favorite restaurants on the Dalmatian Coast. (Reservations recommended.)

Eating Gluten-Free in Croatia | Adelante
Gariful's fresh mussels (not pictured: a phenomenal glass of local rosé)

Gariful
Riva 21

Along Hvar's polished waterfront lies the elegant terrace of Gariful, where the sparkling seaside views are almost as sublime as the seafood. From the patio's white tablecloths adorned with fresh seafood and world-class wines, one can watch opulent yachts sail into the harbor and chic passersby strolling the Riva (and maybe even spot a celebrity or two).

The refined nautical settings exude luxury. Though the prices are steep, the locale and fresh fare are worth the splurge. Reservations recommended.

ZAGREB

Vinodol
Nikole Tesle 10

Located in the heart of downtown Zagreb, Vinodol serves some of the capital's best cuisine. Gourmet yet unpretentious, Vinodol is revered for its classic continental dishes. Their succulent meals are prepared using seasonal ingredients, which follow traditional Croatian recipes. 

Savor the spit roasted lamb, seasonal soups, and charcuterie plates piled high with local sausages and cheeses. Pair them with a velvety glass of Croatian wine from Vinodol's phenomenal wine list. For a romantic and relaxed meal, reserve a spot on the airy covered patio.

Eating Gluten-Free in Croatia | Adelante
Vinodol's platter of spicy sausages and fresh cheese

VARAŽDIN

Restoran Bedem
Vladimira Nazora 9

Named one of the Top 10 restaurants in Croatia, Bedem is the crown jewel of Varaždin. Two distinguished Croatian chefs have come together to establish this gastronomic gem, which is nestled just behind Varaždin's castle. Using fresh and local ingredients, Bedem serves some of the highest quality creations in continental Croatia.

Here I indulged on a five-course meal that was arguably one of the best dining experiences of my life. Every dish was bursting with flavor, and the chefs went above and beyond to accommodate my gluten-free needs. Out of all the incredible meals I devoured in Croatia, my feast at Bedem was surely the most memorable.

Eating Gluten-Free in Croatia | Adelante
A five-star meal at Bedem
Eating Gluten-Free in Croatia | Adelante

Note: Although I'm usually quite sensitive to cross-contamination, I didn't get sick from any of these restaurants. That said, I did not look into how these restaurants prevent (or fail to prevent) cross-contamination, so eat at your own risk.


Do you have any food allergies or intolerances?
If so, how do you deal with them on the road?


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel

Where to eat, drink and explore in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Nicknamed the "Pearl of the Adriatic", it's no surprise that Dubrovnik embodies unabashed elegance.
Commanding the bright cerulean sea, Dubrovnik is half medieval fairytale, half paradise. In all of its shining, shimmering splendor, Dubrovnik is understandably Croatia's top tourist destination.

But amid the charm and charisma, the sea of red rooftops tells a story of Dubrovnik's tumultuous history. Behind the spectacular scenery is an aura of strength and perseverance, which is perhaps what makes Dubrovnik all the more enchanting.

Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante

Dubrovnik's captivating history, colorful character and sublime beauty assert it as one of Europe's most popular getaways. Though navigating the crowds can at times feel overwhelming, no number of tourists can dull the luster of this gem. Despite the throngs of visitors, the breezy yet vibrant energy of Dubrovnik is palpable and thriving.

While there's no shortage of things to do in Croatia's crown jewel, here are my favorite spots to eat, drink and explore in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante
Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante
Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante

EXPLORE

Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante

Old Town

Jutting into the brilliant blue sea, the fortified Old Town of Dubrovnik feels straight out of a fantasy. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is brimming with magnetizing history, culture and charisma. A painful past has given way to a prosperous present, and now the baroque buildings and sleek marble streets shine brighter than ever.

During the 1991 Siege of Dubrovnik, rockets rained down on the Old Town, damaging almost 70% of the buildings. The city's iconic terracotta rooftop tiles have slowly been restored, resulting in a stark contrast of colors. The juxtaposition of old weathered tiles and bright new tiles paints a vivid picture of the war's devastation. Through the reconstruction, the rooftops' varying shades of red have somberly symbolized the conflict.

While the scars of the Yugoslav Wars have shaped modern Dubrovnik, the city perseveres with optimism. From the polished main street of Stradun to the Old Town's maze of narrow alleys, Dubrovnik pulses with renewed energy.

City Walls

Dubrovnik is perhaps best known for its grandiose, fortress-like walls surrounding the city. These imposing fortifications were built in the middle ages to protect the maritime state. Perched atop the city's sun-drenched canopies, one can enjoy dazzling views of the Adriatic and the sea of red rooftops below.

Allow at least a couple of hours to stroll the walls and take in the breathtaking panoramas. Photographers should allot more time to capture all of the picturesque details. Out of all the things to do in Dubrovnik, walking the walls is an absolute must.

Franciscan Monastery's Old Pharmacy

Dubrovnik's Franciscan Monastery is more than just striking architecture and sunny cloisters, it's also home to Europe's oldest working pharmacy. Established in 1317, the Friars Minor Pharmacy was founded to serve both monks and the general public.

While the archaic equipment can be found in the monastery's museum, you can still walk into the old pharmacy to pick up ancient and modern remedies. I heard wonders about their skincare products, so I took home some rose facial cream and lavender hand lotion that are made using the Franciscan's original recipes.

Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante
Strolling the City Walls
Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante
Atop the Jesuit Staircase

DRINK

Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante
Pošip wine by the sea in Lapad

Buža Bar
Crijeviceva 9

Perhaps Dubrovnik's most prized diamond in the rough, Buža Bar is quite literally a hole in the wall. The terrace of this unpretentious cliff bar is built into rocks outside the old City Walls. While the limited selection of screw-top wines and cheap beers leaves much to be desired, nothing quite beats the resplendent scenery and unobstructed views of the Adriatic. The ambiance is nothing short of sublime.

To venture to Buža Bar, climb the Jesuit Staircase (leading to St. Ignatius Church), turn left, and follow the old City Walls until you see a "cold drinks" sign. Follow the arrow and head uphill until you see a hole in the wall on your left.

Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante
Sunset vistas at Buža Bar

EAT

Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante
Fresh prosciutto and melon, a Dalmatian classic

Stara Loza
Prijeko 24

This romantic rooftop restaurant, perched atop the chic Hotel Prijeko Palace, offers an entirely unique gastronomic experience. Serving a tasty array of Mediterranean-inspired dishes, Stara Loza incorporates gourmet flavors with memorable twists. My tastebuds rejoiced as I indulged on a fresh citrus salad and juicy sirloin steak with Brie, wasabi and pepper jam.

While the cuisine is decidedly out of this world, the dreamy vistas and whimsical settings make Stara Loza all the more impressiveReservations recommended.

Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante
Stara Loza's rooftop views at blue hour

Proto
Široka 1

Founded in 1886, Proto is one of Dubrovnik's oldest and most revered eateries. Known for its exquisite seafood, Proto specializes in fish dishes using traditional recipes from local fishermen. Atop the elegant terrace, one is sure to enjoy five-star service and cuisine.

Proto has attracted a distinguished list of patrons, including a glamorous array of actors, musicians and royals. If you're willing to splurge, look no further than Proto. Reservations recommended.

Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante

HELPFUL HINTS


Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante

Prepare for crowds

During the summer months, "packed" is a vast understatement. Unfortunately, Dubrovnik's Old Town is swarming with tourists. Factor in the cruise ships, and the hordes of visitors can feel especially overwhelming. Forget snapping the perfect photo without getting any people in it. Even swerving down the main street of Stradun can feel daunting. If you absolutely abhor crowds, take advantage of the early morning or visit during the off-season.

Avoid the City Walls at midday

If you want great photos, don't hike the old City Walls in the middle of the day. Most shutterbugs already know that the worst time of day to take photos is when the sun is directly overhead, and this is especially something to consider while visiting Dubrovnik. 

Dubrovnik's City Walls are brimming with photo opportunities, and I was massively disappointed when we went at midday and all of my photos were washed out. Although the timing was hard to coordinate while traveling with other people, I wish I could have found a way to wake up early and explore the walls as soon as they opened. That way, I could have beaten the crowds and taken advantage of the better lighting.

Stay in Lapad 

If you're looking to balance out Old Town's charms with some quality beach time, check out the hotels in the Lapad neighborhood. Just a quick bus ride away from Old Town, Lapad's hotels offer more relaxed seaside escapes. Hotel Kompas was our haven of choice, providing us with first-class service, sensational scenery, and refuge from the crowds of Old Town.

Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante
Dubrovnik: Croatia's Crown Jewel | Adelante


Have you ever been to Dubrovnik?
If so, what other recommendations would you add?


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia

A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante

The island of Hvar seduced me as soon as our ferry from Split drifted into the harbor. I felt an inexplicable pull, similar to what I've felt in Santorini, Porto and Paris - three of my favorite places that were especially quick to win me over. It was love at first sight.

My good gut feeling about Hvar was not mistaken. With each corner I turned and each fresh meal I devoured, I became more and more infatuated with the majestic island. Suffice it to say, having to leave after just a few short days tugged on my heartstrings.

A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante
A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante
A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante
A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante

From the seaside charm of Old Town to the lush fields of wild lavender, Hvar effortlessly took my breath away. I could have easily spent weeks wandering through its narrow cobblestone alleys and basking on its shores.

Hvar is notorious for celebrity sightings, and after witnessing the island's unassuming glamour, I can fully understand why the rich and famous flock here. Although Hvar emanates sophistication, it's by no means pretentious. It's a juxtaposition of classy and casual. Therefore, it's no surprise the island's natural beauty attracts luxury travels and backpackers alike.

A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante
A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante
The true definition of paradise
A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante

Of its many alluring assets, Hvar's dazzling jewel-tone waters are especially inviting. The dreamy cerulean sea practically begs you to jump in.

Seeing as we were short on time but wanted to take advantage of the island's picturesque shores, my mom and I stayed close to Old Town and wandered over to Hotel Amfora's beach. Though we chose our beach based on convenience, the atmosphere was decidedly relaxing. 

A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante
A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante
A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante
Gariful's mussels in white wine and garlic

Naturally, I spent ample time eating my way through the island. It's not a true vacation unless you sightsee through your tastebuds, right?

Our most decadent meal was enjoyed at Giaxa, where we savored carpaccio with black truffle and Parmesan, lamb rack with white polenta, and green beans with pancetta. After an extravagant meal and several glasses of Pošip wine on the cozy terrace, Giaxa goes down as one of my favorite restaurants in all of Croatia. (Reservations recommended.)

We also indulged on a seafood feast at Gariful, where the sparkling waterfront views were almost as sublime as the mussels. Though the prices were steep, the locale and fresh fare were worth the splurge. 

A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante
A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante
Lush fields of wild lavender

Perhaps the most memorable part of our stay was escaping Hvar's Old Town for an evening of wine tasting and a home-cooked dinner in a private olive grove. As we crossed the island and zig-zagged through lavender fields, we found ourselves in the quiet town of Jelsa.

We started off at Vina Tomić, where we sipped on phenomenal local wines in a cellar modeled after Split's Diocletian's Palace. Our next stop was Duboković, where we tried a selection of no-frills boutique wines in a quaint, candlelit cellar.

Once we worked up an appetite, we winded uphill to a family-owned olive grove with striking views of the Stari Grad Plain. Our gracious hosts prepared an authentic Dalmatian feast for us, complete with homemade cheese, tapenades, and wine. Though I'm not usually a huge fan of fish, I happily devoured freshly caught sea bass, cooked to perfection in a wood fired oven.

As the sun lazily sank into the rolling hills below us, we chatted with the family about their olive grove, their families, and Croatia's tumultuous history. Amid the hordes of tourists abounding in Croatia, genuinely connecting with locals was a refreshing change of pace. 

A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante
A private dinner in a family-owned olive grove
A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante
A Glamorous Getaway to Hvar, Croatia | Adelante

After only a few days in heavenly Hvar, it immediately soared to the top of my list of all-time favorite places. While I'll always cherish my memories from this trip, a part of me will always dream of going back.


Have you ever been to Hvar?
What are some of your all-time favorite places?