Summer means different things to different people. My childhood summers were spent lazily on the cape devouring ice cream, enjoying dinners on the deck and taking day trips to sites around the New England area (compliments of summer library passes). Now in my (almost) mid twenties not much has changed. I still inhale ice cream in all forms, outdoor dinners European style are extended to late hours in the lingering summer heat and as far as day trips come, there is almost too much to be seen in terms of monasteries, fortresses, ruins, rivers and lakes in and around Serbia.
Summers are cherished for a reason and let’s be honest no one willingly remembers winters…at least not under ten plus feet of snow.
What does summer mean to you?
Maybe it means… Shake n’ Bake?
First up, I promised you a sweet nom to cleanse your pallet in last week’s post. It’s quite possible that the place I am about to highlight is now my favorite spot for gelato on the planet. Not to get pretentious but if you are reading this blog you probably know the difference between ice cream and gelato. In case you didn’t (no shame in that), gelato has a higher percentage of milk and lower percentage of cream and is prepared with less air than ice cream, creating that dense almost gooey like quality we know and love.
Crna Ovca when translated to English means ‘Black Sheep’ which if we are referring to Crna Ovca’s individuality among the other ice cream-esq shops in Belgrade absolutely lives up to its name. With sassy savory flavors like Gorgonzola or Parmesan and delightfully sweet combinations like sesame coffee, marscapone pistachio and blood orange, being out of the ordinary is a delicious understatement. Located on Kralja Petra, a ten second walk off the end of Knez Mihajlova, you have no excuse not to seek out this fluffy hoofed lamb.
You’re going to laugh at me because out of all the amazing flavors I listed above, yours truly went with peanut…but did you expect anything else? It’s me we are talking about. This however was not your ordinary peanut, this perfectly creamy gelato had a salty peanut base sprinkled with crunchy bits of real peanuts. I never wanted it to end. This gelato is freaking phenomenal.
Believe me when I say the higher than usual price for a small portion is well worth it. For me the small is a perfect size but go nuts and combine flavors of your wildest dreams. Crna Ovca truly is the black sheep of Belgrade but for all the right reasons. Their signature tiny cups with their sheepish mascot is also incredibly adorable.
Are you the only one of your friends that prefers gelato to ice cream? Then perhaps you should embrace your inner black sheep!
In the order of events, this past weekend Milan, Marina and I took a full day bus tour from Belgrade to Đerdap National Park making stops along the way at Srebrno Jezero (Silver Lake), Golubac Fortress, Lepenski Vir and Ethno-village Kapetan Mišin Breg, ending with a boat cruise along the aquatic boarder of Romania and Serbia. These beautiful Serbian sights were accompanied by a cloudless sky and some delectable traditional noms. If you are interested in more details, I would highly suggest you subscribe to Postcards from around the world and await the upcoming post highlighting all the fascinating things from our excursion.
Our first stop at Srebrno Jezero was a breath of fresh air and a welcomed spot to stretch our legs. This beautiful lake spans between Veliko Gradište and Kisiljevo, located off the Danube just an hour and a half drive from Belgrade. Srebrno Jezero is a great place to beat the summer heat of the city, kick back and relax. It felt like summer camp at lake Winnipesaukee all over again. Plus the beach line has plenty of places to get your nom on in case you neglected to pack a picnic.
This palačinke is a fine example of what true day trip noms should look like. A scoop of ice cream enveloped by a pancake then smothered in chocolate sauce, plazma and a dollop of whipped cream. Kind of like hide-and-go-seek palačinke style.
Our next stop at Lepenski Vir left me questioning the roots of our existence as we entered the recreated ruins of the oldest civilization in Europe (as early as 6000 BC). The tools, quirky sculptures and skeletal remains of these early Europeans were uncovered alongside the Danube river in the mid 1960’s and have since been preserved and uprooted to higher ground for all those to marvel at.
It was said that the people of this tribe survived until old age because of their primarily fish based diet, non existent of wheat or grains. Certainly says a bit about our food culture today doesn’t it?
But then again I eat a pancake a day so I’m not one to talk…
By the time it came for us to drive to Kapetan Mišin Breg for lunch we were all drowsy from the heat and longing for a proper Serbian feast. Again, the history of Kapetan Mišin Breg and the family that runs this quaint B&B can be better explained through Postcard’s most recent post ‘A hill, like no other’ so please be sure to check that out. For the purpose of this blog though I will focus on the noms first and foremost.
At the gate you are greeted with a taste of honey rakija which happened to be my favorite part of the visit because it was perhaps the sweetest (and least potent) rakija I have ever happened to try. Because the meal is prepared and served by the family members at Kapetan, you really get to experience the wonders of Serbian hospitality first hand. They begin the feast with home made chicken soup, scorching in the afternoon sun but you know they say drinking hot things in equally hot weather actually regulates your body temperature…it doesn’t hurt when it’s delicious either.
For the main part of the meal there was a plethora of traditional options made with ingredients grown in the gardens of Kapetan. Lepinje, proja, fresh white cheese, pita of potatoes, pita of zelje (greens), breaded nettle, grilled chicken breast, potatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes. While waiting in line our tour guide laughed at me because I excitedly whispered to Milan ‘Can I have EVERYTHING??’. Turns out I could, and I did.
There was a possibility to go for seconds since there was so much food, however I was already stuffed and had my eyes on the vanilice. These soft jam filled cookies are a specialty around Orthodox Christmas time but can of course be enjoyed year round.They were actually the first Serbian dessert I learned to make and are virtually fool proof. Use any kind of desired sweet filling, sprinkle (or smother) in powdered sugar and try not to eat them all on the spot.
After the meal we walked around the grounds and enjoyed the spectacular view overlooking the river below. I actually took a small nap in one of the hammocks to shake my post feast drowsiness. If you do find yourself in the area of the Iron Gates, do yourself a favor and visit Kapetan Mišin Breg.
We drove on to the main event of the day which was a boat cruise through the Iron Gates of the Danube to see the famous rock face sculpture of Decebalus, the last king of Dacia. I had read about this particular sight in multiple magazines and it tends to comes hand in hand if you google search touristic sights in Serbia despite it being on the Romanian side of the boarder. Not a cloud in the sky, it was truly a beautiful day to float down the river and see this unique (and enormous) bearded looking dwarf man.
Behold Decebalus. Something straight out of Lord of the Rings, no? Unfortunately our meeting with the last king of Dacia was short as we cruised past then made our way around and back to port. By the time we returned to the bus, the sun was already setting (beautifully) and every bone in our bodies cried for home.
This little day trip was jam packed with the best of both natural and historical sights in Serbia, something I would certainly do again. Many thanks to Postcard’s for inviting us along on this journey!
The following day we were long over due for an outdoor dinner on Zemun Kej which was chosen to take place at one of the most well known fish restaurants in greater Belgrade: Šaran. I had mentioned in my last post that proper seafood in Belgrade was hard to come by (at least at a price) but look no further because this long standing establishment has what you’re looking for.
Šaran is somewhat of a tradition for Milan’s family and clearly for many other families based on it’s unwavering popularity. My first dining experience at Šaran was full of new experiences such as riblja čorba (fish soup) served in a large cauldron to feed the entire table. Coming from New England where clam chowder is king, this red colored broth complete with bones was a bit foreign to me. Foreign but nom! I had also had my first taste of ‘traditional’ Serbian serenading music. Something I have since gotten used to.
Having been provided with ideal evening weather, we dined on the outside portion of the restaurant abutting the water. It didn’t take us long to find something that fit each of our appetites as we jumped straight into our main courses (after sipping on prosecco and nibbling on bread and garlic butter of course).
My grilled river fish came lightly seasoned alongside some of the most superb potato salad and grilled polenta which I had ordered as an extra add on simply because I love it. There were a few bones here and there but overall the fish was tender, properly grilled and full of flavor.
Milan pleasantly surprised me by ordering something other than salmon and choosing the grilled tuna steak, possibly the best decision he could have made because that fish was the essence of nom. Unlike white fish, tuna steaks are a darker, tougher cut of meat hence why they call it a ‘steak’. Served over greens and potatoes, Milan made his way happily through his meal and from the satisfied look on his face will be ordering tuna at Šaran in the future.
One of the things I love about Milan’s family is that there is somehow always room left for dessert. One could say that I come from a family who appreciates all kinds of sweet noms, so this makes me feel right at home. The fun thing about Šaran is that their dessert menu is actually a plate of the desserts themselves to assist in your decision making process. Once you see them it’s hard to say no! Milan and I went with a light pana cotta so as not to tip us completely over the edge. Light, creamy and very nom.
I have never had a bad meal at Šaran. I’m not even sure if it’s possible. Even if you don’t enjoy fish based dishes there are plenty of other options to choose from that will leave you extremely satisfied. Something I always appreciate when visiting Šaran is their friendly and knowledgeable staff, and due to the amount non Serbian speakers passing through their doors, they are always eager to make suggestions to ensure you leave completely content.
As I said (other than being buried in the sand) not much has changed when it comes to summers over time and for my sake I hope they never do. Summer means differnt things to different people but I bet they all include family, sun and noms!
Wait! There is one last nom! Remember a few months ago in ‘Belgrade must noms’ I had introduced you all to Teta Nada and her amazing culinary skills? Well yesterday evening we were lucky enough to visit her again and as we speak… I am still stuffed.
Sunflower bread, my favorite prebranac (beans and caramelized onions), sauteed peppers and eggplant, savory meat cake, assorted rostilj and a pillowy jaffa inspired cake to finish.
Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom.
I should probably go exercise. right. now.