Albona: San Franciscos Istrian Restaurant

The potato gnocchi, which are a good deal different that what you might be used to. When it comes to Italian restaurants in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, the choices are nearly endless. When it comes to Italian restaurants in the area that are actually good, the list tightens up a great deal. So enters Albona, which is best described as the Italian restaurant in North Beach that is pretty much not Italian nor in North Beach. A simpler way to say that is to call it an Istrian restaurant. The menu Istria is a peninsula that sticks off the far western corner of Croatia. This wasn’t always the case as the region has been under flags of Venice, Italy, and even France for a spell. This is reflected in the cuisine a great deal. While it’s easy to call it “Italian-esque” and leave it at that, this would do a heavy disservice to what makes the food unique. It’s a crossroads of Central European, Mediterranean, and Slavic foods and you taste that with every bite. Take for instance the strudel. Yes, that’s right, a strudel. Try and find that on an Italian menu! This dish which is oft considered … Continue reading Albona: San Franciscos Istrian Restaurant

Malvasia and more from a leader in Istrian wine making

Line-up of the bottles at the Kozlovic tasting. We drive through Slovenia toward Istria, the area just below Trieste, Italy, that was part of Italy for twenty-five years until the end of World War II. As we approach Croatia, the Germanic-looking houses and barns and the typical hay drying racks–a ladderlike wooden rack open to the air but protected beneath a roof–disappear, and we no longer see maypoles in the little towns we pass. Our destination is Porec, about a third of the way down the western coast of Istria. It’s a pretty resort town with bars and restaurants lining the waterfront street on the land side, and luxury power yachts lining it on the water side. We’re here to join a group from Vinistra, the Istrian wine trade show that is going on this weekend, on a pleasure tour by boat. Our hosts are three prominent producers, Kozlovic, Degrassi, and Matosevic, who have been working together to build an Istrian wine brand closely linked to tourism in the area. As the boat makes its way south along the coast to Rovinj, a beautiful medieval fortified town crowned by a church, we sit on the top deck in the frigid … Continue reading Malvasia and more from a leader in Istrian wine making

The Philosophy of Kozlović Part 2

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Malvazija is always best served cold. This is a continuation from Part 1 where we discussed the history and thinking behind the wines. Now, let’s get in to the wines properly. We started with the 2006 Malvazija which is the core wine the Kozlović production. The nose has this nice, soft, lilting grapey set of aromas to it. The body is bright and tones of grapefruit come through on top of everything else. The finish is nice and smooth. Gianfranco amongst wines There is dryness, but it works wonderfully to refresh you. As described elsewhere the color is really lovely on this wine. It’s a nice, pale, beckoning yellow that sits well in your glass on a hot day. We then moved in to the 2004 Santa Lucia. This is a Malvazija that has a great meaty nose that speaks of pršut, the ham that they eat with great abundance in Croatia. There is light fruit throughout it and a touch of sweet melon aromas as well. It is an incredibly fresh wine, bright and like a meal for the nose. The wine is mixed with … Continue reading The Philosophy of Kozlović Part 2

The Philosophy of Kozlović Part 1

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe The valley of Kozlović winery with the Momjan fortress above. The last stop on our whirlwind tour of Istrian wines was Kozlović. The location that the family has settled in is spectacular one, near the village of Momjan. While the village is typical of the type you see in Istria, it has a nice standout feature which is the ruins of a fortress up on a hill. Like something out of medieval fairy tale, this stony skeleton floats about the small valley where the family built their current cellar in 1904 on a hill, overlooking some of their vines. Gianfranco Kozlović opens a bottle. Even when you strip away the setting and just focus on the wines, you see that this is a family that knows what it is doing when it comes to the grape. Their Malvazija can be gotten here and is getting to be recognized as a quite stellar make of this Istrian varietal. But there at the helm of everything is Gianfranco Kozlović. He is a character who loves his wines and loves the process of making wines. His various philosophies and … Continue reading The Philosophy of Kozlović Part 1