Monday, 29 April 2019

Marenda, the Art of Dalmatian Brunch at Radiona on Korcula

April 27, 2019 - The second day of this year's Korculanske Pjatance Korcula Spring Food and Wine Festival took an outstanding look at one of the pillars of Dalmatian society at Bistro Radiona - 'marenda', the Dalmatian brunch.

Korcula in Spring is mesmerising. This is my second visit to the island of Marco Polo at this time of year, both to the excellent Korculanske Pjatance Spring Food and Wine Festival. It is fast becoming one of my essential entries in the calendar, for it has everything Croatia could - and should - be offering in its shoulder months. 

But how to beat the incredible start of the opening day, where Konoba Maha in Zrnova played host to an extraordinary display of local nibbles, washed down with tequila and a copious quantity of Korcula's famed Posip and Grk wines? The wise ones among us kept a little space for the evening spectacle - and arguably the event of the festival - a 5-course special at Lesic Dimitri Palace, paired with Korculan wines and introduced by Master of Wine Jo Ahearne

What could possibly compare to that, I pondered to myself, on an early morning stroll (see video above), taking in the breathtaking gorgeousness of this historic old town jutting out into the Adriatic?

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First up on day 2 was 'Marenda - the Art of Dalmatian Brunch' at Bistro Radiona, a waterfront restaurant a short walk from the old town. 

Marenda is a double-edged word for me, and for many years, it had a really negative connotation for me. 

State institutions have an official break in the middle of the morning, also called Marenda. It is so-called as the hard-working officials who have been pushing paper around for at least a couple of hours, close the office and go for a coffee break and perhaps a snack. Nothing wrong with that, you might think. The only problem for those visiting officials in places like the tax office is that one never knew the time of the marenda, and so a locked office might be your reward for coming at the wrong time. And not only that - the normal marenda time was half an hour, just enough time to enjoy a nice leisurely coffee and gather some strength to push more paper around until lunchtime. So when I saw an advertised marenda time of 10:30 - 11:00, I would make sure I was in position by 10:59. Only to find that half an hour often became 45 minutes or an hour. Ah, life on a Dalmatian island. 

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But then there is the other type of marenda - the actual eating. The so-called Dalmatian brunch. And as I was about to find out, the Art of Brunch at Bistro Radiona on Korcula was a feast indeed. 

I wasn't too sure what to expect, but I liked the warm welcome above. 

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And you can't go wrong with a little prsut to kickstart proceedings.

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We took our places at our table for two, our first mission to do battle with this wonderful plate of oysters. 

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A little marinated anchovies never hurt anyone, and I particularly enjoyed the fragrant rock samphire and caperberries. A really strong dish, which tasted every bit as good as it looked. 

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A little goat and fava bean stew.  

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While my friend opted for the limpet and sea snail tagliatelle.

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The sea snails were quite chewy and easily prized from their shells. 

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There were more courses available, but I had had more than enough. Until the selection of traditional Korculan desserts came out.

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And who can resist a little light rozada? 

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A truly exceptional presentation of the art of marenda. I will be back!

You can follow Bistro Radiona on Facebook.

To learn more about Korcula, check out the Total Croatia guide, Korcula in a Page

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Marenda! Authentic Croatia Culture Comes to Paris Louvre

 November 12, 2018 - You can take the boy out of The Beautiful Croatia, but you can't take The Beautiful Croatia out of the boy. 

 It is an excellent idea to give Croatia a lot more visibility to the French market, which grew 8% last year, and various official heavyweights, including Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Tourism Minister Gari Capelli, were on hand at the opening of the photo exhibition "Croatia, Full of Colours" in the Carrousel de Louvre shopping centre next to the famous glass pyramid of the Louvre Museum in Paris. A month-long exhibition of 26 large-format photos from photographer Davor Rostuhar, whose wider project, Croatia from Above, was published by National Geographic as its first photo monograph from Croatia. You can read more about it here.

So far, so good.

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A TCN reader was in Paris last week and was rather surprised (and impressed) to find such a prominent display of Croatian tourism promotion in such a prominent spot.

And then she started to get a little confused, as each picture was branded with the logo of the Croatian National Tourist Board and the Zagreb Tourist Board. Nothing wrong with that if the photo exhibition was promoting Zagreb, but a little curious to have misty castles such as Trakoscan with the Zagreb logo. For busy shoppers seeing these incredible pictures associated with Zagreb was perhaps a little confusing.  

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Unless the idea was to show Parisians just how spectacular the capital of Croatia was - a wonderful city with monasteries on small islands. Idyllic.

But of course, there is no point doing such an expensive or prominent promotion without giving curious Zagreb tourists of the future the chance to learn more about this incredible city.  My reader was much cheered to see an information booth for people to visit. And very nicely branded too, with Luka Modric in THAT famous shirt, helping along with the branding of Croatia. 

There was just one problem...

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There was nobody there.

Nobody at all. 

For two hours. 

My reader said that at first she was angry that somebody who should have been doing their job was clearly not, but probably enjoying the delights of Paris at the taxpayer's expense, but then she smiled and realised that, in fact, this tourism promotion was presenting an important aspect of Croatian culture. 

The marenda. 

Marenda traditionally is a hearty snack taken by workers mid-morning after a hard day's toil in the field. Something akin to a late breakfast. It has taken on a life of its own in The Beautiful Croatia, and official bodies now have official 'marenda' times, usually 15-30 minutes, where departments in places such as the tax office will shut to the public while its officials take a well-earned coffee break after toiling away at their desks for more than two hours in the morning. 

It is a curious tradition for a foreigner who comes from a culture of official institutions being open from 9 to 5, but one that I have got used to over the years in Croatia. But the maddening part in Croatia is that the advertised marenda time of 11:00 to 11:30 at the tax office can quite easily extend to 11:45 or longer, for those public officials really do have to relax after such a stressful start to the day. 

And, it seems, that marenda time can stretch out to two hours on international business in places such as Paris, which must have some great cafes to choose from. 

One shouldn't complain, however. The modern tourism gurus say that 'authentic experiences' are what tourist are seeking these days. 

And you don't get more authentic in The Beautiful Croatia than an extended marenda. Dobar tek!

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The branding of Zagreb is just one curious example in recent months where the branding is causing confusion, rather than focus, at least in my opinion. Here is another. Around 6,000 tourist industry professionals are expected to descend on Zagreb in May, 2019, for the Central European Tourism Summit. I just hope those of them looking to enjoy a little ice skating and Chrismas lights will not be too disappointed at the May sunshine, having seen the homepage of the conference website. 


Friday, 24 February 2017

Bračka Marenda: Stories, Recipes and Photographs of Brunch on Brač

Bračka Marenda (Brač Brunch) is a cookbook inspired by the gastronomic heritage on the island of Brač. The book was released in 2015 by author Maja Duka and photographer Mario Kučera.