A Croatian Delicacy: Boškarin Ox

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On a trip to the picturesque Croatian region of Istria earlier this year, a group of fellow bloggers and I were introduced first-hand to the wonders of Croatian wine (I’ve been a long time fan) as well as some of the country’s culinary specialties.

After a fascinating olive oil tasting, we embarked on an epic evening of Boškarin Ox, a delicacy specific to the region.  Each of the six courses was to be accompanied by wines from two of Istria’s best winemakers: Giorgio Clai and Moreno Coronica.

The first course arrived: Boškarin Ox sausage made with Malvazija wine and two salamis – one made with Teran, the other with truffles. The wine to accompany these meats was the Clai Ottocento Bianco 2010 – a big white wine that needed the chewy, spicy texture of the meats.  It showed touches of ginger and spoke more in terms not normally associated with wine tasting – wild, untamed, primary.

The second dish was surprising and untraditional – the yolk of an egg topped with threads of grated cheese aside a small rectangle of Boškarin Ox topped with sugared and salted dumplings of dry curd cottage cheese.

The wine with this dish was our first from Moreno Coronica - his Malvazija 2009 made without any skin maceration and with ten months ageing in oak barriques. It was fresh and full of flavour and stood up well to the multiple textures of the multi-faceted dish.

Wine number three was back to Clai and his Malvazija Sveti Jakob 2010, which as he says, is his ‘greatest expression of the Malvazija grape’.  The grapes for this wine come from a vineyard he believes is the best location for Malvazija in Istria.

The wine had macerated on the skins for two months in open-top wooden vats and spent another year in the large oak vats.  This accompanied potato soup with finely shredded Boškarin.

With wine number four, the vinous duel reverted to Coronica and a red of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon which was paired with transparent circles of potato ravioli containing morsels of ox that melted at first taste. The dark berries and chocolate of the wine brought the rustic ox to the fore, while the bed of cooked pumpkin and dried cherry tomatoes matched with the earthy, brawny aspects of the wine.

It was at this stage, around 10:30pm and just before the two main courses, that everyone seemed to simultaneously need a break. We played musical chairs and chatted with friends at distant corners of the table and generally gave our jaw muscles and digestive systems a short break – like athletes stopping to stretch!

After this rejuvenating pause, course number five arrived, a stewed shoulder of ox in red wine with a chickpea and chicory mash. Served with the 2010 Ottocento red from Clai – a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Teran and Refošk – a wine as Giorgio describes it is just ‘taking off’ in terms of its readiness to drink.

The final movement in our six course oxen opera was an ox rumpsteak with pears in wine and escorting it was the final red – the Grand Teran 2008 from Coronica.  Giorgio had been telling us about Moreno’s wines in his absence and with this wine Giorgio jokingly said he was glad it was the last wine as he was ‘pissed off with how great his competitor’s wines are’!

For dessert we were introduced to Pinca (a traditional Istrian Easter cake) with zabaglione – too delicious not to find room for!

‘Excellent’ is an inefficient adjective to describe the experience of the evening at Chiavalon.  It had been a night of new experiences for me – an olive oil tasting, wines I’d only heard about, making new friends in Sandi and Giorgio – overall, an exceptional finale to the ideal introduction to Istria.