Friday, 14 January 2022

Đurina Hiža Produces First Croatian Free-Range Wagyu Beef

January 14, 2022 - Nikola Božić of restaurants Đurina Hiža and Reshetka is the first to produce Croatian wagyu beef, which will be served at two dinners in February. 

Plava Kamenica first spoke to the owner of Đurina Hiža and Reshetka, Nikola Božić, at the Zagreb Burger Festival in the autumn of 2020 about his pioneering project - breeding of the first herd of Croatian wagyu cattle. 

A year later, the Đurina Hiža restaurant in Varaždinske Toplice, one of Croatia's most respected meat addresses, will present its first dishes with the first Croatian wagyu at two dinners in February.

With Davorin Štetner and in cooperation with the Jastrebarsko veterinary station, Božić started breeding wagyu-holstein cattle in Žumberak Nature Park at 750 meters above sea level in Tihočaj. Until now, this crossbreed could only be heard about as a curiosity from Japan.

"This farm is the result of two of my desires, which I have been working on for years," Nikola Božić said to Plava Kamenica then. "I have been dissatisfied with the general quality of meat available in Croatia for a long time, and it became clear to me that sooner or later, I will have to start breeding to get the quality I want to work with," Božić said, adding that his other motive was smarter cattle breeding.

“I have been dealing with meat for years; I have visited many places in Croatia and, with some exceptions, but I think that the general level of breeding is very poor. When I saw the conditions in which cows live on some farms, I began to understand vegans," says Božić. He found out that there were wagyu and holstein hybrids in Croatia at the fair in Gudovac, and he found them in Međimurje.

Crossbreeding holstein cows and bulls that produce wagyu beef has been widespread in Japan and Australia for years. Wagyu beef is known for its almost perfect marbling, an intramuscular fat that is impossible to imitate, but cattle have a mild and timid nature. By crossbreeding with Holstein, they get characteristics to adapt more easily to breeding in European and American climates. Although it does not achieve the highest Japanese quality levels, wagyu from Western breeding is becoming increasingly popular due to its availability and delicious meat. Spaniards came the furthest with a marbling of 6/12 and the Americans with 9/12, which is phenomenal. 

Nikola Božić is one of the fiercest examples of the endurance of the Croatian restaurant industry. The pandemic seriously threatened the business of Đurina Hiža and street food brand Reshetka. Still, Božić was one of the first to launch nationwide delivery during the lockdown, which resulted in the new brand Deda ide po veti and new meat product lines such as Low & Slow. With the restaurant reopening, everything they risked and did during the pandemic began to return to Đurina Hiža, says Božić. 

The first dinner dedicated to Croatian wagyu beef, announced for February 18, is sold out; the second will be held on February 25 for a maximum of 25 guests. There will be wagyu burgers and steaks on the menu, and if you don’t get a place at this wagyu dinner, you can buy it and try to prepare it yourself!

Đurina Hiža
Varaždinska 70, Varaždinske Toplice

Friday, February 18 and Friday, February 25, 2022


The number of places is limited to 20 to 25

Reservations: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 098/9562435

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Sunday, 9 January 2022

Unique Gourmet Experience: 1st Croatian Free-Range Wagyu Holstein Beef Tasting

January 9, 2022 - Calling all gourmet lovers looking for a unique experience - a tasting dinner of the first free-range Wagyu Holstein beef in Croatia. 

One of the things I love most about TCN is that this 'job' gives me access to all areas of Croatian society and the characters one finds therein. 

And there are some truly crazy characters...

I first met celebrated Varazdinske Toplice restaurateur Nikola Bozic over a dinner of very fine wine and very fine tripe in a Zagreb basement as a guest of Taste Atlas founder Matija Babic about 7 years ago. By chance, the other guest that night was Davorin Stetner, who plays a key part in this story years later. 


Nikola invited me for dinner at his excellent meat restaurant, Djurina Hiza, back in 2016 - and a very fine dinner ensued - but it was only when I returned to Hiza with the legend that is Croatian gourmet blogger Ribafish that Nikola and I started to really click.  

Things moved quickly after that, despite the global pandemic of 2020. As Croatia locked down and restaurants were forced to lay off staff, Nikola Bozic was the only restaurateur in the county to expand his business. Having understood that the customer could not come to the restaurant, he decided to bring the restaurant to them by setting up a national delivery service of his steaks, burgers and other selected products. 

It was a huge hit. 

I am not sure how, but on the day when Europe opened its internal borders on June 15, 2021, I found myself in the passenger seat of his car, which was filled with his fine gourmet products, and on the road to Brussels via Munich and Luxemburg. The European distribution of quality Croatian products had begun. 

During that trip, I learned to expect the unexpected from Nikola, and so when he called and asked if I wanted a fun day out transporting four Wagyu Holstein cows from Medjimurje to Zumberak Nature Park, I knew that there would be at least three great stories involved, as well as a fabulous day out. 


And so it proved. Read more in Medjimurje to Zumberak: Transporting Croatia's 1st Free-Range Wagyu Cows.

And there we were, reunited with our 2015 tripe dining partner, Davorin Stetner, whose project to create an eco-village in Tihocaj is truly phenomenal.


Time passed, and the four cows became seven, with the addition of three little ones and three more on the way.

And the time has now come for the first-ever tasting of the first free-range Wagyu Holstein beef in Croatia, a very limited and exclusive dinner for a maximum of 20 people, to be held next month at Djurina Hiza in Varazdinske Toplice. 

The details... (video intro by Nikola in Croatia, before the haircut)

Planned date - Friday, February 18. 

Number of places - 20.

Number of courses, with wine - 4 (burger, steak, low and slow).

Price per person - contact Nikola on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 098/9562435

If you can't make the dinner, but would like to try the first free-range Wagyu Holstein beef in Croatia, Nikola has prepared an offer for both steaks and burgers, so contact him directly.

1 kilo of steak.


Pack of 5 burgers (180 gram each). 

To be continued... 

Read more in Nikola Bozic: Wagyu Beef, Burger Champion, Varazdin Street Food Artist.

Monday, 27 September 2021

Nikola Bozic: Wagyu Beef, Burger Champion, Varazdin Street Food Artist

September 27, 2021 - Nikola Bozic, a culinary pioneer from Varazdin, from award-winning burgers to Croatia's first free-range wagyu beef, and a refusal to compromise on quality.

I have met a lot of people from the Croatian goumet scene in the 10 years since I started Total Hvar. Incredible meals, fantastic wines, plenty of hidden gems. 

But for innovation, constantly pushing the boundaries, trying new directions, but with a refusal to compromise on quality, I have yet to meet anyone who comes close to Nikola Bozic, the charismatic face of legendary Varazdinske Toplice meat restaurant par excellence, Djurina Hiza, award-winning burger king both here and internationally, and taking the Croatian street food story into interesting new directions.

We first met at a private dinner in Zagreb 5 years ago, soon after which I had my first taste of the outstanding meat selection at Djurina Hiza, which has made it one of the few restaurants in continental Croatia that attracts a steady stream of Zagreb clientele. But it was only after my second visit to Hiza, and the ensuing COVID-19 lockdown, that I got to know Nikola a little better. 

And to see the efforts he was making to raise the standard of Croatian gastronomy. 


That second visit, at the invitation of legendary Croatian food blogger, Domagoj 'Ribafish' Jakopovic, in early 2020 was one of the culinary experiences of my 18 years in Croatia, as we were treated to a selection of the finest dry-aged steaks in the Djurina Hiza selection. And what a mouthwatering selection it was, as could be seen from the special dry-aging fridge in the restaurant. 

The restaurant was deservedly getting recognition as one of the premier meet restaurants in the country. And then came... 


... COVID.

2020 was a terribly difficult year for everyone, not least the Croatian hospitality industry.  With tourism decimated, and with restaurants closed or with restricted access for much of the year, it was inevitable that business would be down significantly, with numerous bars and restaurants closing permanently. Success stories in such difficult times were few and far between. Indeed there was only one restaurant that was reported to have increased its business during this challenging time, a Varazdinkse Toplice establishment run by Nikola Bozic. (Read more in How Djurina Hiza Owner Overcame Corona Crisis and Created A New Brand.)

As others closed their doors and hoped for the best, Bozic completely re-thought the business model and decided that rather than waiting for customers to come to him when his business was finally allowed to open, he would instead take his business to those who wanted his products. At the height of the pandemic, just as the roads in Croatia were almost totally deserted, he launched a nationwide premium steak delivery service on April 7, 2020.


The service was a total hit, with Bozic and team on the roads daily, fulfilling orders to Zagreb, Osijek, Istria, Split, the Makarska Riviera, as well as various Dalmatian and Kvarner islands, as grateful customers - old and news - welcomed the quality meat and other premium products in his collection. 

As Europe finally opened its borders on June 15, one of the first people heading north across Croatia's border with Slovenia was Bozic, the first toe in the water at a more ambitious delivery project - delivery of premium quality Croatian gourmet products to an international clientele. Nikola invited me to join him on the trip, and it was a pleasure to accept. This was when I got to know him a little better and his unshakeable philosophy of high-quality food without pretension.

It was encouraging to see how receptive this potential new target market was from just a few posts on diaspora Facebook groups. A whirlwind trip saw us delivering to numerous customers all over Germany, Belgium and Luxemburg, as well as establishing potential partnership arrangements with Croatian gastronomy businesses abroad, such as our visit to Maison d'Istrie in the heart of Brussels

One thing became clear during our many discussions along the Autobahns of Germany.  His lack of compromise on quality was total, and his desire to have more control over the production process was a major aspiration. If he could somehow influence the production of meat, rather than having to rely on others, the control of the quality would be all the stronger. 

On the road home from Munich, he told me about his latest project and invited me on one more road trip, a road trip like no other I had been on. 

He explained that he had purchased four wagyu cows and intended to make these Japanese cows the first truly free-range wagyu beef products in Croatia. He spoke with such passion about the subject that it would be an honour to join him on the trip, transporting the cows from a miserable existence in Medjimurje to the freedom of 25 hectares of pristine hills and nature in Zumberak Nature Park. It was an eye-opening day and remains the only occasion in my life when I have actually seen a cow skip with joy (see below). Compare and contrast the two spectrums of cattle rearing in Croatia today in Medjimurje to Zumberak: Transporting Croatia's 1st Free-Range Wagyu Cows.

The four cows are clearly enjoying their new home. Named after characters in the cult children's TV programme from the 1970s, the Magic Roundabout, Dougal the bull, has managed to father a calf each with Ermintrude, Florence and Zebedee. All three are pregnant again.


We were back on Zumberak yesterday, visiting the cows and enjoying a lunch prepared by Nikola. The first cows in the region for 40 years, the black Japanese residents have become a hit with visiting children.


The cows now reside in the hillside hamlet of Tihocaj, where local entrepreneur Davorin Stetner is creating an eco-farm of high-quality Croatian produce, of which the wagyu cows are the first step. 

Raised on 100% natural products without any artificial additives, they are the first free-range cows to be reared in Croatia. The ensuing wagyu beef will appear on the Djurina Hiza menu later this year. A special, exclusive first wagyu beef tasting dinner, limited to 25 paying guests, is planned in Varazdinske Toplice for the end of November this year.  


(Lunch yesterday - simple, but delicious. Photo credit Taliah Bradbury)

But while Bozic is building his name in the quality steak market, he is also expanding his range - and the debate - in the world of burgers and street food. 

Last weekend saw his Resetka International brand take second place at the Zagreb Burger Festival. It was the fourth year in a row that Bozic has been among the medals at the most prestigious burger festival in the region (including first place in 2019). It also crowned a successful year for the man from Varazdin, who added it to his 2021 burger prize collection of second place in Belgrade and first place in Siroki Brijeg.  


His signature burger, Wild Djuro, has been a popular hit, but this year's event had a new addition attracting many plaudits. A strong believer in promoting quality domestic products, Bozic is proud of his Varazdin roots and is keen to promote the region's gourmet excellence at every opportunity. Djuragan 042 (the number related to the Varazdin telephone code) is a new burger dedicated to the ingredients of the Varazdin region. 


(Djuragan 042, a burger made in Varazdin County - Photo by Josip Novosel)

The meat is sourced from a supplier 40km from Varazdin, the Varazdinec cheese from Varazdin firm Vindija, as is the brown butter with fresh cheese, and the onions from Tomasevec, 5km from the city. Discussions are ongoing to offer this complete burger package via Vindija stores in vacuum packs of 9 burgers each, complete with additional ingredients. The perfect way to impress at a barbecue with minimal preparation. 


High-quality street food has been a major thrust for the Reshetka International brand, which has enjoyed considerable success with its pop-up street food concept, particularly in partnership with chef Katarina Vrenc, whose innovative combinations include this outstanding octopus and pork belly kushiyaki, octopus jus, fermented garlic, and sea fennel croquette, above - one of the highlights of my first Reshetka pop-up experience. 

After so long on the road, promoting and preparing Croatian gastronomic excellence, the latest chapter in the Nikola Bozic story is going full circle. Last week, he took possession of the restaurant where his career in hospitality began some 21 years ago. He has taken over Gaudeamus in the centre of Varazdin, which will reopen its doors later this year as Reshetka Street Bar Varazdin.


The basic concept will be to provide a place to go out and chill, but with food.  The award-winning burgers will be the base of the menu, but with a selection of international street food on offer as well. A small laboratory for new tastes, if you will. 


The suppliers of the Varazdin region will be supported and celebrated, and the drinks menu will feature quality craft beer, craft gin, as well as sparkling wines. Local suppliers will include Devetka Craft Beer and Saperlot Craft Gin. 

Nikola Bozic is coming home, and his new venture in his hometown will no doubt have Croatia's gourmet class heading up the A4 motorway from Zagreb when it opens.  

But one thing is for certain - whatever the success of his new enterprise, it will not be long before he appears elsewhere with some new quality addition to the Croatian gourmet scene. 


You can follow the Nikola Bozic culinary journey in the dedicated TCN section.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Djurina Hiza in Varazdinske Toplice Named Best Restaurant in Continental Croatia

September 12, 2020 - 2020 is turning out to be quite a year for Nikola Bozic and the Djurina Hiza team in Varazdinske Toplice, now named the best restaurant in continental Croatia. 

How many people do you know who are having a good year in 2020? They seem to be few and far between. I know one guy, and his good year has nothing to do with luck, and everything to do with hard work, vision and determination. 

And the results are remarkable. 

Given the amount of time I have spent with Nikola Bozic this year, it is perhaps surprising that I had only seen him once before this year - for an excellent dinner at his Djurina Hiza restaurant - since our first meeting in Zagreb four years ago. 

That changed in 2020, as I found myself with one of Croatia's true gourmet visionaries in a variety of situations - and locations - watching a fantastic success story unfold as everyone around went into lockdown, and restaurants laid off their staff. 


An invitation to dinner in February from legendary gourmet blogger and all-round hero, Ribafish, meant a second visit to the restaurant, which is renowned for its high-quality meat, and one of the few restaurants that regularly has diners from Zagreb driving out of the capital for lunch and dinner. 


And with the temptations of Nikola's dry-aged meat selection prominently on show in the restaurant, diners can feast on what is soon to be on their plates. 

The Hiza 2020 success story begins - for me at least - during the most depressing part of the year. Lockdown. What to do when you own a restaurant at a time when restaurants are closed, and people more or less confined to their houses? The answer for the majority of restaurants was to lay staff off, at least temporarily, then sit, wait and pray for the situation to improve. 

Not young Bozic...


I think I am correct in saying that his was the only restaurant in the whole country during lockdown that not only did not fire anyone, but actually hired more staff, as he adapted his business model to the new realities. The introduction of a nationwide steak delivery service, accompanied by other gourmet goodies such as quality olive oil, wine, burgers and natural juices, was a complete hit. Deliveries were across the whole country, from Osijek to Istria, and as far down as Makarska on the Dalmatian coast. 

The service brought plenty of media attention, and with it increased business to his core business at the restaurant in Varazdinske Toplice. So much business, in fact, that soon after reopening post-lockdown, Hiza recorded its best night's takings in its history. 

Crisis? What crisis?


Somehow I found myself in a car heading for Brussels and Munich with Nikola in mid-June as the borders reopened. If a national delivery service of quality Croatian products was successful, what about a European-wide service for Croatia's diaspora in various European cities? The take-up on the service, advertised on expat Facebook groups, was impressive, and slices of Croatian goodness were delivered to various addresses in the heart of Europe. 

New contacts were made, including the excellent Maison d'Istrie, an Istrian restaurant in Brussels. A relationship was formed, which will see Nikola return to the Belgian capital next month to present his food at a European street food festival. 

Speaking of street food, there was something to be salvaged from the summer season, and an innovative quality street food concept, in partnership with Katarina Vrenc, brought something a little different to various locations around Croatia. 

One only has to be in Nikola's presence for a minute when talking about food to see his passion for the very best quality and production methods. He has no time for fakers, and he is slowly realising that the best way to guarantee quality is to control the entire production process himself. 

"I am getting the first free-range Japanese Wagyu cows in Croatia next week. Want to come and see?"


A crazy notion from almost anyone else, but I knew he was deadly serious. And I knew it would be quite a story. And so it was that four black Japanese cows became the first residents of an abandoned village in Zumberak Nature Park, the first cows to graze there in more than 40 years. Learn more in Medjimurje to Zumberak: Transporting Croatia's 1st Free-Range Wagyu Cows.


September meant the Zagreb Burger Festival, where his Reshetka stand has been one of the most popular stands of all. Again. Last year's winner as best burger at the festival could well be repeated, as the Reshetka range of innovative burgers has been an unqualified success. 

But in the unlikely event that burger success eludes him, Nikola has another reason to celebrate today, as influential gourmet media Kult Plame Kamenice has just published its list of top 11 best restaurants in continental Croatia. And top of the list is... you guessed it. Djurina Hiza. You can read the full list here

Can you succeed in the hospitality industry in the middle of a pandemic? It is certainly not easy, but hard work, vision, a quality product, great team, and determination are qualities which are helping this man succeed. And with 3.5 months still to go in this unusual year, I wouldn't bet against more innovative stuff coming from Nikola. Especially after hearing some of his plans. 

I salute you, Sir! And we all look forward to the next chapter. 

You can follow the Djurina Hiza story on Facebook

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Reshetka Pop-Up Fine Dining Street Food Season Kicks Off in Varazdinske Toplice

July 23, 2020 - The Reshetka pop-up fine dining street food season has begun, as Nikola Bozic and Katarina Vrenc combine to produce something new and authentic for the Croatian coast this summer. 

When I first moved to Croatia back in 2003, there was a joke among the local expats about restaurant food in Dalmatian restaurants, whose offer was essentially the same. There is one factory somewhere in Croatia which prints the menus for all the restaurants. All the restaurant then has to do is add its name and prices. 

And it was true. The food one offer was very one-dimensional. Once you had tried one menu, you had tried them all. Thankfully, there has been a lot of progress since then, and the gourmet scene in Croatia has really moved forward in the last decade, both in the acceptance of more international cuisine, but also in a growing diversity and experimentation of the younger generation of Croatian chefs. 

And sometimes those young visionaries combine to create something a little different, as was the case last Friday night at famed meat restaurant Djurina Hiza in Varazdinske Toplice. 


Already regarded as one of the premier meat restaurants in the country, Hiza owner Nikola Bozic has been easily the most active restaurateur during the corona crisis. As others kept their restaurants closed and laid off staff, he not only kept his entire team but hired more people, as he reinvented his business model. A nationwide delivery service of his quality dry-aged steaks and other fine Croatian products proved to be a big hit, one which is now in the process of going Europe-wide. 

Looking to the future, I accompanied Nikola as he took delivery of Croatia's first free-range wagyu cows, now enjoying 200,000 m2 of paradise in Zumberak Nature Park. 


Among his many other skills (including winning best burger at the 2019 Zagreb Burger Festival, Bozic also organised street food festivals through his Reshetka brand, bringing his grilling expertise to different parts of the country. Along the way, he has met many inspirational people in the gourmet industry, including a young Istrian chef with previous experience in Zinfandel and Plavi Podrum in Volosko. One only has to listen to Katarina Vrenc talk about her passion for food for a second to realise that she is going to be a big name in the Croatian gourmet world very soon. 

And so a partnership was formed to offer something a little different, and a little authentic, for tourists in Croatia this summer. - pop-up fine dining street food at various locations on the coast, as previously reported on TCN

The opening night was at Djurina Hiza in Varazdinske Toplice (and it will be repeated tomorrow before heading to the coast), and TCN was delighted to be in attendance to watch Katarina weave her culinary magic. IT was rather a different menu, as you can see below, but one which worked very well. 

reshetka (2).jpg

To start, smoked tuna tartare, lardo on chickpeas taco, yellow Jolokia mayo, fermented cherries and sea fennel. 

reshetka (1).jpg

The second course was octopus and pork belly kushiyaki, octopus jus, fermented garlic, and sea fennel croquette. 

reshetka (5).jpg

Chef Ozren prepared an amazing "Wild Đuro" deer burger with wild Mushroom sauce and soft butter buns.

reshetka (3).jpg

And to finish, chamomile tuile, white chocolate namelaka and baked peaches with orange wine and chamomile macerate.


Follow the Reshetka story on the official website

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Medjimurje to Zumberak: Transporting Croatia's 1st Free-Range Wagyu Cows

July 5, 2020 - The first free-range Japanese Wagyu cows arrived in 200,000 m2 of idyllic natural heaven in Zumberak Nature Park this week. It was quite a journey to get them there. 

The corona lockdown was a time like no other, as we were all forced to confront and adapt to a new reality. New friendships were made, many of them virtual given the restricted movement, and innovative business ideas came to the fore.  

wagyu-cows-djurina-hiza (2).jpg

None more so than Nikola Bozic, the visionary owner of top meat restaurant, Djurina Hiza in Varazdinske Toplice, one of the few restaurants that many people from Zagreb get into the car to enjoy (it is about 45 minutes from the capital). And with succulent servings like this, it is not hard to understand why. 

Rather than staying idle and putting his staff on gardening leave, Nikola was perhaps the only restaurant in Croatia which not only did not lay off any staff, but actually hired more people during the lockdown. While other restaurant owners were catching up on Netflix movies, Nikola started a national steak delivery service, while also offering his burgers (he won gold at the 2019 Zagreb Burger Festival), high-quality wines, olive and pumpkin oils and other top quality products. There were more than a few frustrated expats holed up in their apartments who welcomed Nikola after TCN publicised the service in Need a Steak Delivery? Top Croatian Restaurant Starts National Delivery Service

wagyu-cows-djurina-hiza (1).jpg

I didn't know Nikola that well before the lockdown, but we have become good friends during and since, and I accompanied him to Munich, Luxemburg and Brussels on his first international trip to expand his delivery service (full story on TCN soon). And I am delighted that he has decided to join our CROMADS initiative. 

We were introduced over dinner a few years ago, and I visited Djurina Hiza soon after for the first time. Apart from trolling each other on Facebook, that is as far as it went until the legend that is Ribafish suggested we meet for dinner in Varazdinske Toplice back in February to check out the dry-aged meat Nikola was bringing to the market. 

It was only on that evening that I really saw what Djurina Hiza was all about. A total focus on quality, with no compromise. The highest quality local produce, with the plan to start rearing his own meat supply. 

On the drive to Brussels, he told me that he had bought four Wagyu cows, the Japanese beef that is among the most expensive in the world. Although there have been a few Wagyu cows in Croatia, he believed that his would be the first to be free-range, as he has organised an initial 200,000 m2 of pristine nature in Zumberak Nature Park. The plan was to give each of the cows 1.5 hectares of land to themselves, according to the Swiss model, and in Zumberak they have much more than that. He invited me to join him on the trip to Medjimurje and then the transportation to Zumberak and the small eco-village 770 m2 above sea level miles from anywhere. 

wagyu-beef (2).jpg

200,000 m2 for four Wagyu cows seemed a fantasy when we arrived at the village in Medjimurje where the cows were currently being held.

In total, there are 43 cows at this facility. 

They include a variety of international species, including Belgian Blue.  

Persuading the cows that they were going to a much better place was not easy, but after an hour, we were on our way. 

The first port of call was the Veterinary station in Jastrebarkso to register the animals. 

And then the real journey began. 

What already felt remote suddenly got even remoter, as we left the paved roads for a 9 km journey on a rougher road. 

For the last kilometre, we drove very slowly, as we were stuck behind a tractor with trailer which was carrying large containers of water. 

It just so happened that this water was being transported just for the four new Wagyu cows, who were soon to arrive. 

Getting the water delivered was not without its problems. 

The team at the eco-village made sure the drinking trough was in place, with ample space for all. These cows apparently need up to 100 litres a day each.

And then the moment of magic. Releasing the cows into the field must have been a confusing moment. All collars were removed from the three female cows - Ermintrude, Florence and Zebedee (named in honour of the cult children's TV show, The Magic Roundabout, in the UK in the 1970's) - while Dougal the male was initially tied to a tree in the shade with plentiful grass until he was calm enough to be released. 

As you can see above, Ermintrude was a little confused with her first steps of freedom, but it did not take her long to start skipping along. I must confess I have never seen a cow skip before. 

The eco-village is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Davorin Stetner, who is from the area. The village used to have 70 inhabitants. Today it has none. And the four new black Japanese residents are the first cows in the area for 40 years. Nikola (in Croatian) and Davorin (in English) told us more about the project in the video above (this interview will soon be on YouTube with English subtitles and I will post it here).

It was time to set Dougal free. Davorin invited me to assist freeing the bull. Call me a coward perhaps, but I suggested I would be more use the other side of the fence documenting the whole thing. Being alone in a field with a confused bull with just Davorin for protection did not fill me with enthusiasm. 

In he went, and it took three attempts before he managed to succeed. In the first above, he emerged with a cut finger as Dougal resisted his efforts. 

He returned with a peace offering of water, but still did not succeed. Success was just around the corner, however, and soon Dougal was also free. It was not too long before he was also enjoying the attention of the three ladies, apparently. 

And that is how the first free-range Wagyu cows came to find a slice of pristine nature in Croatia, in pristine fields with abundant water and grass, some 770 metres above sea-level.  A far cry from how they started the day in Medjimurje. 


We will write more on the eco-village shortly, and I am delighted that Davorin has also agreed to join our CROMADS team. There are so many outstanding and authentic experiences in Croatia which most people do not know about. While we may keep some of the hidden gems secret, CROMADS will start connecting some of these magical places soon after we launch. 

A great project and a great day - and another random one in this fabulous country. 

Read more - How Djurina Hiza Owner Overcame Corona Crisis and Created A New Brand


Monday, 29 June 2020

How Djurina Hiza Owner Overcame Corona Crisis and Created A New Brand

June 29, 2020 - Nikola Bozic, the owner of Djurina Hiza near Varazdinske Toplice, did not fire his workers during the corona crisis. Moreover, he added more employees to his team. His restaurant uses home-grown produce, avoids large-scale production, and produces as much as it can within the family and facility.

Nikola is not afraid of a new wave of the coronavirus because, with the project 'Deda Goes Around the World', he started the delivery of family products and expanded his business. He calls his team his family, saying he could not have progressed without them. The entire family helps in the production, from wine to homemade juices. Through his work, he creates more and more cooperation at the European level. spoke with Nikola about his great success in the middle of a pandemic.

You have covered 30,000 kilometers in 3 months. Did you expect so much work?

"When the restaurants were closed, I didn’t want to fire my people. I have a great team with me, we are like family, and I went with my head through the wall. My team is a great support to me, and I know they work hard when they send me videos about grilling in the middle of the night. If they weren't so persistent, I couldn't be either. Fortunately, the number of deliveries started to grow very quickly. I delivered all over Croatia, but also abroad. I am offered many opportunities."


Luka Šalamun

Where does the meat come from?

"I am starting to raise the most expensive cattle in the world. The grass will grow on Zumberak, as they must have a good diet. I can't watch cows locked in small barns, I want to act humanely in everything, so I will be guided by the Swiss model - 1.5 hectares per cow. The animals will not be under stress. I have regular partners from whom I supply the necessary products, but I am constantly making new contacts with ideas for collaborations, including meat, wine, beer, etc."

What does an ideal burger look like?

"The ratio of bun and meat should be 1:3. If the burger weighs 180 grams, then the bun should weigh 60 grams. The lowest I went with the weight of the bun was 80 grams, and I didn’t dare go any further. People are not used to it. It is difficult to combine all the parameters of the burger that should be met - toppings, sauces, buns, meat, methods. I tried grilling on a gas grill, which is a bit harder for me because it only heats up to 280 degrees and the fat melts at 320. Everything I know I learned by reading and studying."

Nikola owns 13 grills, including four different types - kamado, smoker, gas and kettler.


Luka Šalamun

Do you drive all deliveries yourself?

"I hired Nikola, who will drive deliveries around Croatia, and I will drive abroad. I can’t get everything by myself because we really have a lot of work to do. I drive my products to Munich, Brussels, where people are interested and where there are a lot of Croatians. He will also be in charge of running the festival stands when they return. We will continue with everything we have done so far."


Luka Šalamun

Nikola is proof that a crisis does not have to mean doom, and he is aware that his business can only grow. He creates new products every day, studies, and says he wants to create an even bigger base with people willing to collaborate.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Deda Ide Po Svetu: National Delivery for Isolated Meat Lovers

April 12, 2020 - Keeping stay-at-home meat lovers sane in an insane world, the Deda Ide Po Svetu delivery service from Nikola Bozic from top meatery Durina Hiza is proving an absolute hit. 

We are finding out a lot about ourselves and others in this crazy corona era, and one conclusion I am reaching is that the craziest Croats I know are becoming just a little crazier as they find innovative ways to respond to the crisis. 

My absolute favourite person to follow - and we are in contact daily - is one the craziest of them all, the charismatic but not entirely sane owner of one Croatia's top meat restaurants, Durina Hiza in Varazdinske Toplice - the one and only Nikola Bozic.  

As the global economy fell apart, all Croatia's restaurants closed and hospitality staff were laid off in their thousands, young Nikola not only retained his staff, but hired more. And then he refocused his business to a national home delivery programme, bring the very best steaks and many other great local products directly to desperate meat lovers in self-isolation all over the country. You can read more about the steak delivery service here

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 This week Istria was part of the delivery network. 

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And slowly the lonely open roads of Croatia are being covered by the Deda Ide Po Svetu service.  

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 The service has proved a hit with expats, even more so since an English menu is available. Please note that this is subject to rapid change due to availability. Staying in touch with the Durina Hiza Facebook page will keep you informed of the latest availability and delivery schedule

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Meet Schtig and Gorilla, the Deda Ide Po Svetu delivery team. 

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From Istria to Slavonia, Zagreb and slowly down the Adriatic, going further south than Makarska next week.  

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 Picking up premium supplies along the way for an ever-expanding menu for home delivery. 

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My favourite fridge in the world used to serve the diners of the Durina Hiza, one of the few restaurants outside Zagreb that had a steady stream of customers willing to drive 45 minutes outside the city for dinner.  

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Now that fridge and other prime Durina Hiza ingredients are adjusting to the new reality and being delivered all over the country. The view from Velika Gorica this week.  

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And Easter on Krk will be a little more enjoyable. 

I have a friend in Zagreb who is choosing the moment to devour his freshly-delivered T-bone and deer steaks. Meanwhile in Split, my Romanian friends are counting down the minutes until their delivery on Friday - just in time for Romanian Easter next week, which will be celebrated with a self-isolation barbecue with traditional Romanian dishes and a Deda Ide Po Svetu meat fest. 

Meanwhile in Zaostrog, a small village south of Makarska, I was catching up with a friend self-isolating with his punac and punica, and he wanted suggestions how to show his appreciation to his hosts. Within minutes, an order was placed, and Schtig and Gorilla will be making meat dreams come true in a small Dalmatian village on the Adriatic.  

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This boy IS making a huge difference to people's lives with this outstanding service.  


And while I can't wait to relive unforgettable nights in Varazdinske Toplice like this with Nikola and Ribafish, for now I sit back and follow this crazy Croat as he goes above and beyond the call of duty to deliver an outstanding - and much appreciated - service.  

And he is clearly having fun...

This week's schedule:

Wednesday in Slavonija (Osijek)

Thursday in Zagreb

Friday in Dalmatia (Split, Zadar, Makarska)

Saturday in Varaždin (Ludbreg, Čakovec, Varaždinske Toplice as well).

To order, by email only - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Need a Steak Delivery? Top Croatian Restaurant Starts National Delivery Service

April 7, 2020 - Salivating over those wonderful restaurant meals from the pre-corona era? A new steak delivery service from one of Croatia's top meat restaurants has launched a national delivery service to meat your needs. 

Now that we have all got to know the four walls of our current location intimately, close your eyes for a moment and try and decide where and with whom you would be spending your self-isolation in a perfect world (let me rephrase that - in a best-case-corona-scenario world). 

A lot of people have expressed longing for the gorgeous Adriatic when I post photos and videos from my 30 minutes a day away from the laptop. And I have to confess that that half an hour by the sea is helping me keep it together, when the rest of my day is 100% consumed with digesting and reporting on the current horrors. 

But while there is a longing for location, location, location, there is also another desire which is becoming ever more prevalent as this lockdown continues - food. 


I am fortunate to be holed up with the best punica in the world, the best wife in the world, and the best sister-in-law in the world. Not only that but the fresh produce from the field of the best punac in the world means that we are eating healthily, and the creations coming out of Konoba Zorica are absolutely outstanding. Ladies, I salute thee!

But I also keep thinking back with longing to one quite extraordinarily unbelievably amazing culinary experience we had just as few weeks ago, when the living legend that is Ribafish invited us to dinner at the Temple of Meat in Varazdinske Toplice, Durina Hiza. 

Ribafish, left, and a fat Irishman, right, are sandwiched between two of my favourite things in life - the highly entertaining Durina Hiza owner, Nikola Bozic, and THAT fridge. Now THIS is a place and company I could certainly consider for self-isolation. Who needs the Adriatic?

 Nikola is also a total nutter, full of the craziest ideas, and it was hardly a surprise to me that while the whole global economy was crashing to pieces all around him, not only was he retaining his staff, but hiring MORE.

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Cometh the hour, cometh the Schtig! If you can't come to Croatia's finest meat restaurant at the moment, let Croatia's finest meat restaurant come to you with your favourite steak delivery! 


Here is a sample of what is available. PLEASE NOTE that the availability of items is subject to changing availability, and I recommend you follow the Durina Hiza Facebook page for the latest info

I asked Nikola why he had decided to go down this route when others were closing down and laying off staff.


"Because I love what I am doing and because gastronomy is my life choice and passion. I have a group of dedicated people who support me, and we have been all working together for quite a while now. I just couldn't let them down so it came to me that I can still continue to offer the best meat and keep my family in business. This is how this delivery idea was born. Now what I am trying is to reach out to all the premium OPG's in Croatia to broaden my offer and help them survive."

Can you imagine how the quality of life in Croatia when (not if) this fabulous initiative takes off? Adding all the quality locally produced food to the network, delivered to your door? Direct support for Croatia's farmers. Celebrate the little guy and help him win. 

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The Schtig has already begun deliveries, and Nikola tells me that he has the current delivery schedule. 

To order, by email only - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Today - Tuesday, April 7 - Koprivnica/Virovitica/Osijek/Vukovar

Tomorrow - Wednesday, April 8 - Varazdin and Zagreb

Thursday, April 9 - Rijeka and Istria

Friday, April 10 - Zagreb

And confirmed for after Easter:

Friday, April 17 - Split. 

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Young Nikola, I salute you, and I am proud to call you a close friend. 

I really hope this initiative succeeds and grows, and the small quality producers all over Croatia come on board and turn this into the new way to get our food. 

For the latest in your steak delivery needs, follow the latest via Durina Hiza FB

For the corona latest, follow the dedicated TCN section