Istria, Croatia: For Foodies, the Next Tuscany
By GISELA WILLIAMS
Published: January 22, 2006
With a bounty of seafood in the surrounding Adriatic waters, and with white truffles in its rolling hills, Istria, a heart-shaped peninsula in northern Croatia, is starting to attract adventurous foodies weary of overpriced and overcrowded tables in Tuscany and Provence.
Antonin Kratochvil for The New York Times
Adriatic waters draw vacationers to Istria, a peninsula in northern Croatia.
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Lidia Bastianich, chef and author of "La Cucina di Lidia" grew up outside the town of Pula near the tip of the peninsula and travels there at least four times a year. "In Istria you'll find intensely wonderful pristine flavors from the earth. That's the beauty of the region. One is still able to go around and taste artisanal products almost straight from the family table."
Ms. Bastianich and her daughter Tanya, an art historian, offer custom trips to the region through their travel company Esperienze Italiane. But she also recommends Tasteful Journeys, a boutique luxury tour company founded by friend and fellow Istrian, Wanda Radetti.
Istria, Ms. Radetti says, is a rich "mosaic of Roman, Germanic and Slavic heritage, history and ingredients which produces exciting culinary results." In 2006 she plans to organize at least one trip to Istria with Milan Licul, a native of Labin who is the owner of two New York restaurants, Arno and Delmonico's. "Much of what you'll eat in Istria is produced within a 10-mile radius," says Ms. Radetti. "There's a man with a restaurant called Kukuriku in Kastav. Everything he cooks is from the area: the honey, the cheese, the mushrooms - and the lamb is from a nearby island where they feed on fresh herbs and the saltiness of the sea."
Istria is a year-round destination, but Ms. Bastianich is particularly fond of the early spring, when she forages for wild asparagus. Truffle fans might prefer the fall, when generous helpings of white truffles are grated like cheese onto a dish rather than sparingly and carefully shaven. And stay tuned in 2007 when the Istrian island of Veliki Brijun will be the much buzzed about home of the spa resort complex of Brioni, the fashion company. GISELA WILLIAMS