Croatia at first may not seem a prime vacation destination idea, but in reality it's the 18th most popular tourist destination in the world. Beaches, mountains and plenty of leftover shrapnel works, it seems.
Tony is on the Croatian coast, on the Adriatic sea. The mostly temperate climate and relatively clean waters yields tons of mussels and oysters. "Welcome to Tony's raw bar," he tells us as he eats copious amounts of the bivalves, then washes them down with grappa (more about the wine later). As his new friend Mate Jankovic from MasterChef Croatia (yes, Virginia, there really is a MasterChef Croatia) makes a mussel dish using olive oil, breadcrumbs, and white wine, Tony says you could train a chimpanzee to make these mussels. But you really don't want their hairy paws in the food. A combination of the grappa and the thought of primates in the kitchen makes Tony admit his two real fears in life -- clowns and Steven Segal's hair which looks like a possum fucked on his head.
Allow me, for a moment, to point out to Bourdain that Croatia was ravaged by a terrible war for independence in the not-too-distant past. Yet he was witty and snarky -- a crime that he accused me of just last week.
Want a reason to go to Croatia? How about white truffle hunting? Tony points out that Shotsy the wonder pooch is a champion white truffle sniffer. The fungus goes for about $55 an ounce and grows in a state-owned forest. Anyone can come searching for them. But Shotsy has the best chance of getting one. Equipped with a doggie cam, he sniffs until he finds one. It's tiny. It's probably worth about $200. It's used in abundance at the Mondo Konoba restaurant, where you can find truffle omelets, truffle pasta, and truffles with truffles -- all for about the price of a burger in Manhattan (or Miami, for that matter). What do we learn? Truffle oil is bullshit.
We now get to the Tony-on-a boat sequence. There's a wind from the north blowing and it's cold on on the water. Tony's not fishing for the money fish -- sea bass. He's out to catch the shit fish that fishermen eat -- small sharks, mullet, bonito. These are the new "in" fish in Croatia: seared bonito, raw lobster tail (still moving), shark liver pate, and monkfish tripe. Tony's never had fish tripe before. Fish brains and sperm? Why yes! But never tripe. And I'm thinking that the only way I'd eat fish sperm is if I were lost at sea with only my docksiders and a big tub of fish sperm to eat. After the shoes were ingested, I might go for the sperm. What would it take for you to eat the fish sperm?
A visit to a tuna farm and Tony literally swims with the fishes. Which
is what many chefs in New York wanted him to do figuratively when Kitchen Confidential
came out, so it all comes full circle. Speaking of circle -- these
tuna are high grade sushi tuna, designed to die and be sent to the famed
seafood markets of Japan. Tony demonstrates how they're killed and
it's pretty barbaric. Hooked by the eyeball, the tuna is dragged up and
a spike is inserted into its brain. "Lobotomizing a tuna -- as easy as
confusing a Kardashian," Bourdain states.
Apparently Tony can
read Croatian, because he's in the local paper and helpfully translates an article that states he has a freakishly large penis and is
shacking up with Lindsay Lohan. More seafood, with a little lamb tripe
and a lot of wine.
So let's get to the wine. And the war. This
particular winery has been around for five centuries. The vines are
grown at basically the same soil and latitude as in Tuscany. Which
makes for amazing product. The winery was burnt down during the war,
but it's been rebuilt and no one really wants to talk about the time
neighbors fought neighbors. So they drink more wine. And more wine.
And Tony's down. Like Dean Martin always said, "You're not drunk as
long as you can lie on the floor without holding on."
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boat ride before we leave. "If you haven't been here, you're a fucking
idiot", says our intrepid traveler, as he drinks in the sea air to
alleviate his wine-induced hangover.