To begin, some exciting news: Lorenzo Colombo of Vinealia has joined us, becoming the 6th Giovane Promettente, or Young And Promising Wine & Food Writer.
It is therefore fitting that he take the stand:
Many hotels boast tailoring vacations to the clients, but I had never been able to tailor a vacation to the extent made possible by the Grand Hotel Palazzo, at Pore (Parenzo), in Croatia.
The potential client need only call and say what he would like to di during his sojourn and the hotel staff will see to organizing every aspect of the vacation; as one might expect choices can also be made once one is at the hotel.
This historic hotel, established in 1910, returned to new life in 2009, after a log period of abandon during which it was also used to house those left homeless during the dark years of the war that led to the collapse of Yugoslavia.
Completely restructured following the original plans, it is now a deluxe 4-star hotel with an excellent quality-price ratio, especially if one has the opportunity to visit during the off season.
We stayed at the hotel for a couple of days at the beginning of May, on the occasion of Vinistra, an event dedicated to the wines of the peninsula, and were able to verify the staff’s willingness to meet the most varied requests, as the hotel has established working relationships a wide variety of artisinal producers and travel operators of the Istrian Peninsula.
Let’s take a look at a food and wine trip such as ours and see how it might be organized.
Winery visit: we went to Moreno Degrassi, located at Savudrija (Salvore), near Umag (Umago), twenty five hectares of vineyards located in four different areas: Bomarchese, Contarini, Ferné and San Pellegrin; they grow sixteen varietals, 65% of which ate international.
Degrassi is the Istrian estate that produces the largest number of distinct wines, 25, despite their only having begun to bottle under their own name in 1996.
Of the many wines we tasted during our visit, we found the most interesting to be the Terrano Terre Rosse 2008, an elegant wine with beautiful well defined red berry fruit and slight smoky accents, freshness and minerality nice acidity, and a persistent bitter finish.
The Refosco is also quite interesting, and dry, displaying intense ripe cherries laced with spice, savory notes, bright acidity, and considerable persistence.
Among the whites we were especially impressed by the Terre Bianche 2011 “Cuvée blanc”, which is ample on the nose with honey and jasmine notes, nicely structured and soft on the palate, but savory and with nice acidity.
After our visit we dined at Toni’s, in Savudrija, the fife of Paolo Paoleti, who has run the restaurant since 1970 (though he is passing it on to his son); he will offer you a series of fish dishes you will not easily forget: We began with a smoked tuna carpaccio followed by an extraordinary shrimp cocktail with asparagus and eggs, and Canestrelli with tomatoes and scallops. Sea bass fillet in its broth to finish up, with Scampi and black truffles.
If the dishes please you, you will find their recipes (and many others) in “La mia cucina di pesce”, My fish cooking, a book Paolo has recently published in Italian, Croatian and English.
After lunch, an excursion into the green heart of Istria led us to Livade, home to Ipša (www.ipsa-maslinovaulja.hr ), a small producer of excellent olive oil; from their 2,200 trees they obtain 4,000 liters of oil per year. Among the oils they produce we were especially impressed by l’Istarska Bjelica (Bianchera Istriana), a cultivar that displays celery and tomato on the nose.
The day is not yet done; we return to Buje, to visit “Zigante tartufi”. The estate, which prepares and sells truffles – with which the Istrian Peninsula is richly supplied – also boasts a restaurant where we were able to sample several dishes based on the precious tuber (black, of course, given the season); after fresh truffled cheese with sausages and beet greens, we enjoyed the classic tagliatelle al tartufo, and finished with a delicious truffle ice cream.
And if one wanted to just relax?
No problem. The hotel is quite capable of simply cuddling guests.
We’ll begin with the restaurant, the Parenzo 1910, which has been entrusted to the young chef Ivan Justa, who has been running the kitchen for a little more than a year, after a variety of Italian experiences. In addition to working with very fresh fish, Ivan has dedicated himself to the local beef cattle, a breed known as “Boškarin” which was used in the past on the farms, but risked extinction with the arrival of mechanization; it has proven to be well suited to the kitchen as well, and in the course of Vinistra we samples several dishes, including a fine tartare Ivan prepared during a cooking demonstration.
The hotel also boasts the most modern Cafè del Mar, with an ample terrace overlooking the sea, and has a small but well equipped wellness center reserved for guests’ use, which offers aesthetic treatments and massages, though not a private beach – it is on the shor, but in the heart of the ancient hamlet, and therefore is equipped with a pool, t present just uncovered. Those wanting to lounge on a beach can however cross over to the island of Sveti Nicola, directly in front of the Grand Hotel Palazzo.
The latest addition at the time of our arrival was the Vinoteca, which offers a wide selection of wines from Istria and elsewhere. Speaking of wine, the list at the restaurant includes both Sassicaia and Chateau d’Yquem, just to be complete.
And finally, of one wants to dine at Parenzo, but not at the hotel?
No problem. The Ristorante Sv. Nicola, is just a shrt walk, and offers, in addition to an à la carte menu, selections of meat and fish. We of course opted for fish, anjoying a tartare of shrimp and scampi with caviar, followed by a truffled sea bass fillet and a sea bream fillet with oysters cooked in Champagne, accompanied by a fresh, savory Malvasia Istriana.
Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.