Only in Croatia, on a private yacht charter can one experience tasting award winning boutique wines, plump fresh oysters served right from the Adriatic Sea, white and black truffles in various dishes, and the Dalmatian traditional cookery of foods under the Peka Bell when cruising through these beautiful blue green waters. It is along the coast and on the various islands, that a luxury yacht charter culinary adventure in Croatia can truly be found.
The Dalmatian Coast and Islands are home to many award winning boutique wineries as the soil, sun and climate produce spectacular wine grapes. These wine grapes are considered so special that several locations on the Peljasac Peninsula just north of Dubrovnik, where Plavac Mali grape vines are grown, have their own appellations-Dingač and Postup. Several wineries can easily be visited (with advance reservations) for wine tastings such as Korta Katarina Winery, and Grgic Winery by just anchoring in front of the wineries and heading ashore.
The Dalmatian coast has a centuries old tradition of mariculture. The top spot in Croatia for mariculture of oysters and mussels is Ston and Mali Ston Bays. Both bays, have submarine fresh water springs bubble to the surface of the sea beds, creating brackish water in which the oysters and mussels are grown with a special combination of minerals, nutrient salts and a large quantity of phytoplankton.
In London at the 1936 World Exposition, oysters from Mali Ston received both the Grand Prix and the Gold Medal Ston and Mali Ston Bays. Oyster cultivation has been occurring in both bays since ancient times as evidenced by remnants found of Roman oyster farms, however; it was not until the beginning of the 19th century, that oysters and mussels were farmed and shipped as a food product for non-local consumption. Wars decimated the oyster farming industry including the recent Croatian War of Independence ending in 1995. However, since the end of the recent war, oyster farming has renewed with a flourish in these same waters in both bays that are crystal clear and sparkling clean. When on your yacht, stop by ship’s tender at a farm raft floating on the water, and ask to buy freshly collected oysters to have raw on board, or cooked in many different ways by your onboard Chef.
Both black and white truffles can be found in Istria, in northern Croatia. The woods in this area have the perfect combination of soil and moisture in which truffles thrive and both white and black premium grade truffles can grow to the size of your fist. Croatian truffles have not yet captured international notice and so the prices of these underground jewels are still quite reasonable. For the truffle aficionado, having truffle this and truffle that while on board will not break the bank. Before or after the charter one can always travel to Istria, Croatia for the complete truffle experience including hunting truffles yourself with a trusty truffle hunting dog.
Peka Bell Traditional Dalmatian Cookery
A traditional Dalmatian cooking technique, a peka bell is a large dome shaped cast iron lid that covers and roasts food. The peka bell is suspended over a platform, once made of stone, where a wood fire is lit early in the day and allowed to die to embers and ash. The embers and ash are swept to the side, and a combination of meats or seafood, with vegetables and wild herbs are placed in a ring on the hot stone. The peka bell is lowered over the food and sealed with the hot ash and embers and allowed to bake for a considerable time if lamb, less time if octopus. Once done the peka bell is “cracked” by raising the bell which breaks the seal created by the ash and embers. Cracking the peka bell is not to be missed, for as the peka bell rises, your nose is met by fabulous aromas of beautifully slow roasted food, laced with fresh wild herbs.
While this is not a treat that can be made onboard, there are restaurants ashore in Dalmatia that serve peka bell foods, such as Gulin Farm in Vela Luka on Korcula Island (reservations required). At Gulin Farm, the wood fire is started early in the day to create the peka bell ash, embers and resulting hot stone. Peka bell foods are set on the hot stone surface, covered by the peka bell, and then sealed with the ash and embers. The food roasted in the peka bell is grown and raised on the farm, and when cooking they use their own olive oil pressed from their olives, and herbs picked wild from their fields. Fresh fish, if requested, is caught that morning from the sea edging their coastal farmland, and grilled over a wood fire.
What ever itinerary you choose to do whether cruising on a private gulet, motor yacht, mega yacht, sailing yacht or catamaran in southern Croatia, wine, oysters, truffles, and Dalmatian peka bell cookery can all be part of a luxury yacht charter culinary adventure through the islands and along the coast of ancient Dalmatia, that today is Croatia.