So what’s the big gastronomic trend of summer 2018? Slow food? Fast food? East-West fusion? No, it’s throwing a blanket on the ground, opening up the hamper, and desperately trying to remember where you put the corkscrew before opening that promising-looking bottle of local wine. The good old picnic is back in fashion.
We’re always being told that Croatia is a paradise for traditional, locally-sourced, non-globalized food. The question is how to do it justice. Dubrovnik’s Old Town is frequently hot and crowded, restaurant tables are packed, and prices lean towards the expensive. If you are travelling as a group or as a family, it’s pretty difficult to find a table just when you want one, and the resulting meal could well cost you a fortune. Very often the best way to enjoy the fat of the land is to put it in a rucksack, find somewhere nice to eat it, and take your time enjoying it.
The first step on the road to picnic paradise is to head for the local market. Not the market in Dubrovnik’s Old Town, which despite a scattering of fruit and veg is increasingly dominated by souvenirs. Instead follow the locals to the main food market in Gruž, right beside the boat quays. Fresh local produce is piled high on trestle tables, while the pungent waft of seafood drifts over from the adjacent indoor fish market. Stock up on juicy tomatoes and seasonal fruit, most of which has not travelled that far from the place where it was grown. You’ll also find locals selling jars of marinated anchovies (here known as srdele or inćuni), and home-made preserves. As well as bakeries, there’s a brace of butchers on either side of the market where you can stock up on sliced pršut, Dalmatia’s melt-in-the-mouth home-cured ham. Just up the road from the market at Obala Stjepana Radića 13 is the Gligora delicatessen (open 7am-8pm Mon-Sat, 7am-1pm on Sun), selling award-winning cheeses from the island of Pag, marinated olives, and a shrewd pick of local wines.
If you don’t have the time to garner the ingredients yourself then consider contacting Piknik Dubrovnik (piknikdubrovnik.com), who will assemble a luxury picnic from fresh produce and their own delicious extras, put it all in a rucksack complete with groundsheet or rug, and provide you with directions to the best places to eat it. They can also hook you up with local hiking guides so you can latch the picnic experience onto an invigorating nature walk.
‘Picnics are the best possible antidote to the tourist crowds of the Old Town, and make for the perfect escape’ says Piknik Dubrovnik’s Alex Cram. ‘Great food and breathtaking landscapes are both so essential to the Dubrovnik experience and it makes sense to put both of these together in the same basket, as it were’. One of the things that Alex Cram has noticed is that picnics are increasingly popular with couples who want a romantic meal – a point particularly well-made when one considers the Dubrovnik region’s natural way with ambient aphrodisiacs - fragrant summer breezes, lapping waves, ravishing sunsets… If picnics are the food of love, then munch on.