The North Adriatic gourmet courtship

Water, Fire, Earth or Air? If we had a choice, regardless of the criteria, probably each of these elements would find its ‘audience’. Iconography motiv from the Middle Ages based on Empedocles’ theory on space structure, later transferred to a man often personified thorough a human character, side of the world or continent, besides its basic features also contains an array of psychological characteristics of human life. I have chosen these as a basis, source, essential part of the whole picture that might be named as north Adriatic gourmet courtship. Just as an element is a substance that cannot be divided through a chemical process into simpler parts, with the same consistency l give you these four elements represented by certain culinary eminences and hedonistic experiences served at the table. The choice of these can only be justified by the expression ‘Part pour l’art’ for creation on a plate or nectar from a glass confirms thesis the work of art stands for itself - while the only thing we have to do is recognise them and enjoy them. One would say very simple. Nevertheless, it was hard to create this story for there are only four elements, and people worthy of north Adriatic gastro promotion more. Beauty is a subjective feeling, and art something belonging to all of us, yet simultaneously individual in itself. Enough explanations let me introduce you to the chosen ones.

Water. We have to agree with Pindar, a poet of ancient Greece, on this ‘Nothing is better than water’ as he said. ‘Transparent, beautiful and freshwater’ as Petrarca depicted water. Francis of Assisi wrote ‘Mrs Water... very useful and modest, valuable and pure.’ Veiy simple, water is the source of life, a sign of pure thoughts, regeneration, purification. Water is motion.

Nenad Posavac represents the source of new ideas on the plate; his thoughts are of endless creativity; his recipes are being used all over again, improved and purified. The driving force of this artist is to prove himself. Born with his Sun in Aquarius (as they say a fixed sign with both feet on earth) , approximately one meter ninety tall, with two toques awarded by prestige ‘Gault Millau’ (Oesterreich), he dared to combine fish with pork, to mix Slavonia and Adriatic together, lamb and squid, pumpkin and shrimps... All these are combo specialities of a restaurant ‘Lavrvs’, an integral part of villa Kapetanovic in Opatija. One can actually enjoy a genuine bird's view over Opatija from up there. Villa Kapetanovic is a small family hotel with apartments offering a magnificent view. Currently, it is going through a revival phase, and in an, about a month, it shall turn into a jewel in the crown of Croatian tourism. Neno is on the ball: sea cevapcici (grilled meat dumplings) in lamb wrap, seafood and spinach strudel, bonito wrapped in leek with apple and stone leek sauce or ravioli filled with shrimps in pumpkin sauce... even those suspicious ones, if they manage to let go, shall be won over as his fans, gourmand who shall be proud of having tried the impossible and contradictory combinations, but nevertheless (typical for us humans and not something to criticize) shall leave home full.

Let ’s play the game of opposites! What is the first thing that occurs to you after water? Fire, of course. It might be the fire as essential element responsible for technical progress, i.e. civilisation. Our ancestors wondered: Who is that invisible being demonstrating such destructive and glaring force? The man, according to them, was an impossible answer to this question, so they chose to believe it was someone or something else, something surpassing the man himself, someone who should be respected and should be praised for the goods he does. Fire is, according to their conclusion, a deed of some God or God himself! So they considered it sacred. Anyway, our ancestors managed to make it themselves by striking stone against a stone with the intention to see which one is harder, our ancestors did not make arms or tools but caused a spark that lighted dry wood. A flame was lit that helped get rid of the mental darkness and ignorance and getting on the progress path. Still, that same fire also caused many miseries to mankind. Often it was its fierce enemy. The great fires, the most famous one ‘authored’ by Nero in order to watch Rome in flame from his tower (many historians claim this is a lie) or the one (that was set) that turned Moscow in five days into ashes, after which Napoleon started to retreat... - destroyed everything, but also created myths and legends. Fire and flame also appear in religion as signs of some saints as a part of the symbolism of western Christianity, tongues of fire above apostles’ heads stand for the presence of the Holy Spirit. We would definitely not dare to testify of such, but fire, passion and energy sizzle out of Deniz Zemba’s kitchen in a restaurant in Volovsko.

This Sagittarius shall make you see. All you have to do is step into his temple named ‘Le Mandrac’. This is the place where the truth enriched with chef ’s personality and his immense sense of creativity will be revealed to you. ‘The classical way’ does not exist there. With his skill of preparing fine food and abundance of combinations, Deniz has successfully been opposing to already known values of the Mediterranean cuisine. If you wish to make not one, but two steps fon/vard in tasting the food and enjoying your time at the table, just open the door of‘Le Mandrac’ and peek into the kitchen (behind transparent glass), for it offers the whole world of new perspective to life, a new philosophy of life of a man who has brought a glorious reputation to our gastronomy all over the world. Smoked St Jacob ‘s shells with polenta and leek mousse (from explorer ‘s menu) or smoked octopus carpaccio on wild roquette bed and pesto bring the glorious experience of dining at ‘Le Mandrac’. To satisfy your sweet tooth have a go with baked wild berries combined with ice cream made out of curd and pepper or pears and rosemary, even though you are not clear with what it really is, it shall leave you flabbergasted. It is essential to say that in the end, having tasted an array of smaller portions coming out in sequence, we managed to satisfy our appetite completely. It is humane to have the part for satisfying one own needs on one ’s mind, although not proper if one is focused solely on that point.

Living by consuming only air is certainly not possible, despite the fact that the fact air is one of the elements in the theory of space structure. Air... The first thing we breathe at the moment we are out of our mother’s womb, once we grow a little, we are taken outside to ‘grab some fresh air’. We are looking for some fresh air in the cities, villages, north and south, on all parts of our planet... and there is less and less fresh air left. Without oxygen and air, our lives can last for less than a minute. Are we aware of this fact? So we join cries of the ecologists’, howls of the planet Earth... warning us we have to do more in order to protect our environment. Besides, oxygen is produced locally and spent across the whole planet. If this was not the case there would be no life in Sahara desert for on those ten million square meters almost no air is being produced. instead of a conclusion l ’ll just quote a sentence the Great Seattle Chief sent to the president of the USA in 1854: ‘The air is precious to the red man for all things share the same breath: the beast, the tree, the man...’ Two thirds of the oxygen on our planet are produced by algae and phytoplankton in the sea, and the remaining third is produced by plants on the land. This actually brings glory to the seas, oceans? Having landed from the air at sea make sure you do not omit a splendid fish restaurant ‘Dvi murve’ in Porec. That is the place where shrimps from Pag aquatorium are brought to the table, squid caught at Silba served, and soon to be arrived lobsters dished up while chef Gianpaulo Sardot - a young, full of energy and discreetly kind person places his sea vision before you. The shrimps this young man serves have a stance of stud creativity of dramatic proportions that could match any theatrical performance. At the entrance, you shall be greeted by a small vanity fair photos of former visitors, really impressive ones. Having done a successful business, a question that pops up in every good manager’s head is where to take the client out for an impressive dinner. The right answer is ‘Dvi murve’. The atmosphere is graceful, and service strictly in an old fashioned manner, of high quality, proper and decent. It provides you with a feeling of royalty. The lights are in orange colours matching with chocolate tables and chairs giving you a feeling of calmness and relaxation the moment you place yourself at the table.

Earth! I shall be a little bit dull, though educational. The Middle Age iconography shows Heaven on Earth like a garden full of flowers, trees, bushes in blossom and different animals all peaceful and meek. According to the Bible, it is a green oasis in the desert, East garden full of water and shade in times of hot sun that even the God uses to go there for a ‘stroll during a daily breeze’. The rocks of Earth crust are structured of many minerals, natural substances in the firm crystal state. Granite, alabaster, asbestos, sulphur, calcite... are of special properties and distinguish themselves through formations being the result of fracture of minerals. By cutting and faceting these, you can make a brilliant, Holland rose, cabochons, as well as jewels. Gemstones are considered valuable because they are rare and pure. A carat is a unit of mass used for measuring gemstones and pearls. The word carat is a term for a very small unit of weight defined by reference to a small seed - ‘carob seed’. Diamond, emerald, topaz, ruby, sapphire... these fine things occurred to me while holding a crystal glass of well-chilled Malvaziia in my hand. Namely, every autumn vine enriches our organism with its fruits-grapes nurturing us with minerals. I just associated wine with minerals. Nothing special, purely superficial. Anyways, having tried some wine sorts l have awarded ‘carats’ to some. Why don ’t you have a go?!