Polenta with cheese and truffles
On my recent trip to Istria I was convinced again that the best time for visit, at least regarding landscape photography and light/weather conditions for it, are autumn and spring. In the same time when the light and weather conditions are ideal for photography there are numerous gastronomical trade fairs of wines, truffles, prosciuto(ham), chestnuts, new wine and olive oils. While summer is best for swimming, sunbathing and sea/beach related sports and entertainment the light and weather conditions for photography are mostly too harsh and too bright with cloudless, clear skies and washed colors. This isn't a problem if you are shooting only during blue hour when clouds are already absorbed by the blue skies but if you crave for beautiful sunsets with rich and dramatic clouds summer is not the best time for it. Springtime is just like autumn equally good for landscape photography. Unlike autumn's bonfires of yellow, red and orange colors Istria in spring is saturated with lush green and red colors coming from poppy fields. Did I mention that in springtime Istria is also saturated with gastronomical trade fairs of asparagus and artichoke delicacies? Pre and post summer season prices of accommodation and food are significantly lower. With such combination of best light, weather conditions, food and lower prices Istria is simply irresistible both in autumn and spring. Rolling hills in foggy dawn, asparagus scrambled eggs for breakfast, pasta with truffles and Teran wine for lunch, sunset on dramatic cliffs of cape Kamenjak, fish stew with Malvasia wine for dinner... Let me tell you life and choices in Istria aren't easy.
Since photographers have to care a lot about expenses if they want their travels to be nearly profitable I will give you a few tips where to eat good at fair prices but be aware that whenever you eat truffles don't expect bargain dish. For those of you who never ate truffles you need to know there are white and black truffles and Istria, Motovun area especially, is one of the Europes most known truffle places. It is also home of the owner of the Guinness World Record of the biggest truffle(1.31 kg) –Giancarlo Zigante. White truffle is more rare, expensive and of better quality then the black one. The season of white truffle begins at the October and ends at the end of January. Please do have in mind that I am not writing a typical gastronomical blog about food, local cuisine or about extravagant and expensive restaurants. Although I visited many restaurants of such kind this is not my intention at all. What I am writing about are budget friendly restaurants with local and domestic oriented cuisine.
My best experience with truffles was at the Konoba Mondo in Motovun(Montona in Italian) in the heart of the "Truffleland". You may have heard of it from Anthony Bourdain on TV but don't believe him. See it for yourself. You won't regret it or at least I didn't. Wine list is not spectacular but they offer excellent authentic house wines both black and white, Teran and Malvasia. Stick to that and you wont miss.
Right across the river Mirna valley on the neighboring hill is a place called Oprtalj(Portole in Italian). In the center on the main road across the city's "Loggia" you'll find a typical domestic-tavern style restaurant " Konoba(Tavern) Oprtalj". Though interior looks a bit soc-realistic decorated I never missed with any truffle dish. As I said don't expect too much but the food and wine are really good. Generally it's a very good value for money.
Last restaurant I visited on the coast was Sveti Nikola(St.Nicholas) in Porec(Parenzo in Italian). Comparing the prices of neighboring restaurants on the main waterfront "corso" this one was evidently cheaper so we decided to eat here. We also got a tip from a waiter in coffee bar that this restaurant is not a tourist rip-off and that the food and value for money are good. Even though the place was full we were lucky to get a table. Wine list is excellent and they offer almost every better wine producer from Istria. The food and service also were great and we sure will come back.
In hope you'll treat your taste buds with some of many istrian delicacies I am leaving you with the photo of one of my favorite truffle dish –polenta with cheese and truffles. It's tasty, light and cheap and it goes well with Malvasia wine. Cheers!