The Dalmatian fjaka doesn’t really have a simple translation. Even the Spanish concept of siesta, taking a snooze on a hot afternoon, although related, doesn’t quite cover it. Fjaka is more of a trancendental mood where time stands still and mind and body drift in a totally relaxed state. Nothing happens. Any movement is simply too much effort. It’s said that the ability to do absolutely nothing to quite that degree is part of the Dalmatian identity, inscribed in their genes. But although this condition is purely passive, a glass of wine should cause no problem.
Here we were at the final seminar of the Dalmatian Wine Expo for 2014, with a rather end-of-term feeling about it. We’re about to go out into the world to use our new-found knowledge of wines, and this is our last lesson. And it’s a cracker! The good folks from Taste of Croatia were about to lead us through a selection of wines to enhance fjaka, along with appropriate background music, snacks and a vision of their own fjakizma. Presented by Lada Radin, Goran Zgrablić and Morena Zibar of Taste of Croatia – aided and abetted by Darko Baretić and Bruno Trapan!
Taste of Croatia is an independent set of writers and social networkers who are passionate about food. They believe in thinking globally, and eating locally, open to new challenges and flavours while staying true to Croatian traditions. Their website has lots of information (in English), such as recipes, and great places to eat at all price levels.
Snacks were created by the unofficial guru of new Dalmatian cuisine Čedo Kovačević, better known under his online pseudonym On je Kovach. Čedo owned a restaurant in the Netherlands for many years, and is now “retired” in Dalmatia, from where he posts gorgeous pictures of beautifully prepared dishes that appeal to all your senses. Absolutely wonderful. This was our first encounter with him, and we’re now big fans of wild garlic flowers in the salad! The pink flowers are especially tasty!!
From the island of Brač, a little opol, or rose wine to start us off. Made from Plavac mali grapes, this is reputedly one of the best Croatian rose wines, and it’s a rather lovely light rose in the Provence tradition.
Senjković website: http://vina-senjkovic.hr
From Vodice, near Šibenik in north Dalmatia. Debit is a local grape variety, and the wine has a citrusy aroma with a hint of fresh paint. Flavours of grapefruit. Very fresh and light wine, perfect for a summer day.
From Hvar’s most easterly winery, based in Sučuraj, though I’m not sure where the vineyards are. Prč or perhaps Parč if you feel the need of a vowel, is a local grape varietal from Hvar. It has an aromatic aroma, maybe a touch of rosemary or pine, and a taste of green apples. Lovely!
At this point there was some debate about substituting wine for coffee at breakfast time! Now why did I never think of that?
From Imotski in the Dalmatian Highlands, Kujundžuša is local variety. It’s a very light wine, uncomplicated, delicate fruit with undertones of minerals and almost a crystalline salty feel in the mouth. Again, this is a local variety that you won’t find elsewhere.
Marko Sladić Maraština
There are various Sladić winemakers near Šibenik, and Marko is known for his excellent Maraština. This particular grape is fairly widespread in the area. Typical Maraština aroma of straw and apricots, with a fairly full-bodied taste of hazelnuts and spices.
By now we’ve all given up the idea of merely tasting, and are happily drinking the wines!
A local wine from the Stari Grad plain of Hvar, and one of Carić’s two white wines. Though I did think possibly that their Bogdanuša would make a better laid-back fjaka wine, this also works! Cesarica is a blend of Bogdanuša, Pošip, Maraština and Parč for a lovely full-bodied taste of citrus and aromatic herbs.
Moving on to the reds, we stay in relaxed, lighter wine mode.
OPG Sladić Lasina
Different winemaker, but from the same area, this time we have Marinko Sladić. This grape is the little-known Lasina, which I’m not sure I tasted before. The aroma is floral and fruity – rose petals, perhaps? The flavour is red fruit, strawberries and cherries. Rather good!
For our final wine today, we’re back on the island of Hvar with winemaker Ivo Duboković. His Laganini is made from Darnekuša, but it’s a far cry from the intense Plančić version. This is a softer, more relaxed wine for chilling out, with aromas of fruits and summer herbs. Lagano means slow, so Laganini must be the perfect wine for taking it easy!
The snacks were lovingly and carefully prepared to balance the various flavours of sweet, sour, savoury and salty. There was even a special vegetarian version which Čedo made just for me! They looked like works of art, and tasted amazing. Our “dessert” course was sugared orange peel dipped in varenik – boiled grape must before it’s fully fermented. Very yummy!
Čedo’s recipe goes something like this: Marinated chicken roulade, onions and leeks … roulade stuffed with young goat’s cheese, cranberries and plums, with lemon balm leaves. Roulades are prepared by slow steaming for 4-5 hours wrapped in plastic … all the flavours combine into a new dimension … ah … you have to taste … served on a bed of sundried tomatoes with Dalmatian herbs and a thick coat of mandarin, grapefruit and lemon. The explosion of tastes is sublime… serve with a smile!
See photos on his blog balancana.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/dalmacija-wine-expo/ (written in the Dalmatian dialect – I hope I got it right!)
Fjaka – Between Times www.croatia.org/crown/articles/9842/1/Fjaka—Between-Times.html