Welcome to my website. I am the author of ‘Vietnamese – Simple Vietnamese Food To Cook At Home’. I am a photographer and film maker. You can book into my supper club, Vietnamese cooking classes, buy my book, check out my photography and lots more here.
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Thanks to Kodak PlaySport –we got to make this movie & I get to enjoy editing again.
You can vote for us to win a foodie trip by clicking here
In Hvar Town, there are people – tourists everywhere – there for the good life, there for the glory of summer and of the sun melting into their faces, tanning their skin. Summer… the word sizzles into our imagination like a pleasure tool; like The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air lazing on the deck of some Knight Rider boat with a cocktail in his hand around dancing girls in bikinis to “My Name Is Rio…” – perhaps not – maybe “…Let Me See That Thong… Thong Thong Thong Thong!”
We love summer. The sun undoubtedly brings a smile to all our faces. In Hvar, (mainly) European – Italian tourists flock together to celebrate the parade of summer – the boats belonging to some of the richest people in the world having no choice but to be standing ostentatiously on the crowed harbor gianting even the mountains that cradles the harbour in. It’s a fantastic sight of awe and astonishment by all who see it come into dock like it’s a prize from outer space.
It took a while to get the best deal for a scooter – there are stands everywhere exposed to the blazing heat soaked up by the stone and cobble pavements of Hvar Town. But when we did, we sped off around Hvar Island – trying to seek out beautiful and secretive places.
The air of Hvar is the most unique and beautiful you could ever be lucky enough to breathe in. The lavender that grows wildly there covers the rocks and grows like fresh grass everywhere leaving the fragrance lingering in mid air, hovering like a blanket of invisible scented mist, dancing like a whisper of perfume you crave to inhale…in…
Along the way, we would see some of the most breath taking landscapes, roads, mountains and seascapes existing whether someone is there or not. There are abandoned houses – solitaire in the middle of nowhere in between valleys and on top of mountains and nearby roadsides. The skeleton of stone walls bare evidence to the romantic thoughts and stories of the past; of love, lost and found; of ghosts who once lived or still live within the hollow dark windows, among the lavender, under the moon, next to the sea. The sound of wind and crashing waves howling and creasing… chilling your spine with its deafening echo of silence.
Laying bare to the sun, on a beach, next to the crystal clear blue water is one of the most heavenly grand prize after a year’s hard work in concrete, wet, cold London. We went to Dabovica and Zavala. In Part One of this post, we mentioned eating the best grilled seabass in Dabovica – the stony beach is one beauty. If we could spend at least 7 days here, our lives would be just that much richer.
The owner of the beach café, a granddad still prime and youthful has a basic shell of a house, some electricity to maintain his ingredients and his grandson whom he hired for the summer to help him wait his customers. He brews his own wine and prossek – which is like a plum wine/ digestive for dessert. We sit under his cool roof shack for hours ordering as we finish; reading our novels and occasionally bellowing to each other about the stories we are in.
Zavala is farther away and probably took an hour to get there on our scooter who just had enough power to push us less than 45 degrees uphill. What was the most exciting thing about getting there was not that we had just witnessed a bush fire along the way, but going through a one lane tunnel (where scooters are not allowed – but it was the only way to get there) that’s probably about 3 metres high, with no lighting inside.
The whole journey took about six minutes at about 20 miles per hour but we went into complete darkness, the round light behind us disappeared and we could only see as far as the headlights reached; the sound of the engine noise bounced around the stone walls like hurricane of bullets to our ears and small little stones had fallen along the concrete road. But the chill that came bore tightly on our skin. You can feel the goose pimples on your arm like stiff little nipples. We were in the middle of a mountain and there was no escaping – it was like driving through to the core of the earth, deeper and deeper, colder and colder – the raw cold of the mountain, the inside of the earth – a place never seen the light of day had a cold that penetrated straight to the bone.
The light at the end of the tunnel was certainly a welcoming sight and a true metaphor for such a thrilling experience. The beach at Zavala is like a spice that brings flavour to the whole dish. Let me please spend a month there and I will go away and come back every summer for the rest of my life.
It was such a pity we couldn’t stay there for weeks and weeks. There are small resorts/ private self catering apartments along the beach that seem very ‘untouristy’, local and ever charming.
How funny are we all when we are at the beach – forever, fussing about our appearances and image on a daily basis – but go to the beach – all is let loose. We become so primal and unprovoked by society just on a sunny day, laying on a towel, dipping in the sea, reading a fabulous book. Its no wonder so many of us loves it so much.
We hung out there – all primal, when we saw an octopus washed to shore. Octopus is what this part of Croatia eats regularly – it’s on every menu and each restaurant that we went to served octopus differently than the next. But we all felt so sorry for this little creature that looked so terrified, an Italian man swam it back to the sea.
The other typical Dalmatian dish is black risotto or seafood risotto which is delish!
In Hvar town, we saw a display of a tuna fish – just caught that morning; it lay on a metal table, 2 metres long, like on public autopsy. It was a clever marketing tool from a competitive restaurateur. Neither of us had ever seen a tuna fish, as a whole before and it was so beautiful. The grand size of it, the shinny surface of its skin and still the glowing, sparkley eyes laid there dead to the world bought it home to us about how precious all life is. If we are going to eat tuna or any animal/ fish of this size, we must not waste it – we must make the best of it and we have to be more conscious about where it all comes from, how sustainable it is and how us eating it would effect the ecosystems it lives in.
There are certainly not plenty of fish in the sea any more.
In Stari Grad, we found the charming Croatia that was so lacking in Hvar Town. It was like stepping into an old Italian movie, where there are plenty of nooks and crannies for the little girls to play hide and seek in and the boys are flying their kites along the harbour. The restaurant owners are sitting outside on their wonderfully adorable and delightful eateries – Eremitaz & Antika – of which Jones from the blog ‘I Couldn’t Possibly Eat A Whole One’ has recommended.
We could only go to one so we chose ‘Antika’ which was really wonderful. We sat on the balcony under the stars, drinking a fine bottle of Croatian red wine, eating octopus salad, pate, and mussels. Simon’s main of monk fish was really delicious but I ordered ‘Steak – Slap Slap’ thinking it was steak, slap, slap on the pan but it tasted like a very strange meat, like camel or donkey!? We asked the waiter but he was not too pleased and said he bought it from the butcher that morning, asking for beefsteak – but then he also said, they all look the same, raw!
O well, my steak experience in Croatia was somehow very unlucky. Simon ordered one at Split Airport of all places and it was ruddy wonderful!! Lucky bastard!!
It was great to meet the local Artist, Goran Tadicwho was telling us about his life as an artist, moving back to Stari Grad and being a bit obscure. He collects found objects such as stones and pebbles, fallen twigs, fish bones and horns off dead animals and re creates imaginary creatures that look like that are prehistoric or even futuristic.
We invited him to stay with us in London should he wish to exhibit and hoping eagerly that this will one day happen.
One night – we took ‘the scenic route’ (There are only 2 roads on Hvar Island) in hope to find some obscure restaurant. We rode for so long in the cold and found nothing so we stopped at the first one – and yes – we had icicles hanging off our noses, but thankfully, there was not a poll nearby for Simon to lick.
The people of this island depend on the tourist season to keep afloat for the entire year. Nothing really happens there 9 months of the year – except the lavender keeps growing.
We found out that no matter where you go on Hvar, all the prices of food is more or less the same. One fancy restaurant’s price may not be much different from one that is not so fancy and still stuck in the 70s – just like our hotel – one of many that boomed when tourism really started for Croatia back then still remain, untouched and un-refurbished since.
Our hotel in Hvar and Korcula were certainly retro. It felt exactly like we were our parents, with the exception of digital equipment. The food they served there was also from the 70s – it was all strange but at the same time delightful to be a grown up in an era when we were children and couldn’t really “be” in it at the time.
On the last day, as we are waiting for planes, trains, ferries, buses and automobiles – we ate at one of the best restaurants in Croatia– ‘Dalmatino’ in Hvar – the waiter there – called Mike, has a second family, this family owns this great restaurant and Mike sells the food to his customers in perfect English like its his own business. He must be about 25 years old or even younger, he flirts with the group of Spanish babes as well as informing all his diners where the fish is from, how fresh it is, how they cook it to which wine to have with anything ordered. A perfect waiter – I wanted to take him back to London with us for the supper club so that he can explain about our efforts.
The food here is wonderful! For a start, we were given some chocolate what looked like bits of bark, a lovely aperitif, and then we had fish soup and octopus salad and granny’s cake. Yum! The best find! We will definitely come to this town again just to eat here – where you will find our names signed – ‘Fernandez & Leluu was here 7/2010’ you can leave messages on their wall.
We left Croatia –‘traveled’ in 7 days, we only had a little 2 days of resting on the beach – my favourite part as well as hiring a boat and touring the islands of Korcula, which were beautiful! And eating on Stupe Island– the wonderful Korcula Macaroni with grated courgettes and pancetta.
It is worthwhile working hard, just so that you can discover these wonderful countries with islands and beautiful beaches and ghosts that mesmerize and alter every way that you see, hear, smell and touch.
We had won this trip, thanks to Qype – Word On The Beach and www.onthebeach.co.uk but the competition doesn’t just end there. One of the three winners gets the grand prize to win another holiday.
It doesn’t look good on the voting front on our end. There is no way we can get as many votes as the others but we really appreciate every vote we already have and all the support that we have received.
You can still vote though, here – you never know! : )
If by some lucky star, we get to win – we will use that opportunity to travel to countries that we have never been to, such as Nepal, Japan, Bali and even Lebanon to discover its food, its people, some secrets and how best to live and eat sustainably and of course, to go to the beach!