2020 Hvar, Croatia: When our sister-in-law Allie asked if we were in for some wine, food, and blues in Croatia, we enthusiastically agreed, “Yes! We are IN.”
Allie is a Master Experience Seeker. She and Doug set up an easy meeting point at Katedrala sv. Stjepana I. Who, after all, can possibly miss a cathedral tower? And then we were off to meet our driver, Leo (Lay oh) from Hvar Tours. Climbing into his car, we enjoyed every moment as we explored the culture and history of the island on our way to Lacman Winery.
At Lacman Winery, we met the Managing Director and Founder, Ante Lacman, and his distant cousin and winemaker, Boris. To our delight, they met us with chilled, herb-infused water creatively presented with cork caps to keep in the cool and to keep out the buzzing intruders. Then, with great anticipation, we moved onto the food and wine. Later, we will get to the blues…
Ante passionately approaches his region’s food traditions with a personal flare. Boris has his Masters in winemaking. Together they are creating a boutique, organic experience for their guests.
We are talking homemade sourdough crackers with local goat ricotta and homemade pesto with wild asparagus. If you remember our truffle experience at Motovun, you will recall how we learned how the Istrian Croatians cherish wild asparagus.
Next, we moved onto local cheeses artfully dressed with prosciutto, dried fig, and two types of jelly. The first was red onion, while the second was based on the Malvasia grape. Croatian winemakers prize Malvasia grapes, and so reflecting it in the cuisine creates a beautiful symmetry.
From there, we went light and bright with a salad of finely diced tomato, cucumber, egg, veal, red onion, and whole oats. Ante likes to keep flavors shine through, so he dressed it simply with flavorful olive oil and pepper.
Next, we moved onto a bold veal ravioli in a tomato-based sauce reduced with a liberal hand of Plavic Mali wine. The open-air kitchen was just steps away, and so I joined him to observe. To keep the cooking even without hurting the ravioli, Ante occasionally lifted his well-used earthen pot from the burner to give it a swirl. Then, when everything was delightfully bubbly, he finished it with oregano and cheese fermented in a sheep’s belly.
And then… wait for it!
Picture this… lamb lollipops marinated for 4-6 hours in lime juice, olive oil, and mustard. Again, I followed Ante over to his open kitchen, where his cast iron griddle was already smoking hot over a full flame. In minutes, the lamb was perfectly seared while leaving the interior perfectly pink. Spaced across a long serving board, the lamb was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. I will tell you this is the best lamb I have ever encountered.
So what about the wine? All along the way, we sampled their delightful, organic wine.
We moved through whites, orange, and red wines. Without exception, every glass was a joy. If you are new to orange wines… they are so named because of the color, not because of the flavor. When soaked with their skins (as for reds), white grapes take on an orange color. Thus the name.
Ante and Boris focus on the purest wine they can possibly make. Rejecting additive-filled methods is a tricky business and necessitates small production to keep control of the process. They showed us where they plan to bury amphoras for developing future wines.
The amphoras will be buried just a few steps away from the dining area. Ante’s young daughters are designing their labels for the bottles of the current vintage, which will be for sale once they are bottled.
And Now for the Wine, Food, and Blues in Croatia!
Halfway through the meal, Ante pulled out one of his guitars and started playing for us. His talent for music equals his skill as a chef. He owns some fifteen guitars and moves between the kitchen, the table, and the music with ease. I couldn’t help thinking, “Now THAT is confident in the kitchen!”