A Taste Of: Zagreb, Croatia

I love Zagreb!
photo: Christine Zenino

It’s been a while since I’ve traveled (for leisure and not a wedding), and I’ve longed to have wanderlust related content, so I’ve asked my international friends to contribute to Glass of Win with their favorite local spots and tips for travelers. Please welcome my friend Barbara, a Croatian native born and raised in its capital city, Zagreb. Zagreb is located in the northwest of Croatia, along the Sava river, at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain. It’s the only area of Croatia with over one million residents and boasts a rich cultural scene with museums, music, performing arts and of course, food and drink. The latter of which Barbara will be discussing.

You’ll often hear Balkan people take a lot of pride into their food. Croatians will, of course, take pride into everything that is considered Croatian, especially their food. And how could we not? Croatia is the meeting point of many cultures, geographically and historically. It’s a place where Central European, Mediterranean, East European and Turkish kitchen meet, and it’s the best of all worlds. In my humble, Croatian opinion. If, by any chance, you stumble into this part of the world, there are some awesome places to eat, visit, and hang out – from a students’ perspective.

Slasten burek iz sača
photo: Peter Malovrh

Bakeries for Snacks
We love pastries. And after a night out, or in between classes, it’s most likely people will aim for warm bread, or a nice, hot burek, a be puffy pastry filled with meat, spinach, or cheese. This originated from Turkey, their version of the Greek spanakopita. Also very good for hangovers! They are all over town, but there is one and only bakery of choice for many students and night owls: Dafina. Favorite combination? Meat burek and a croissant filled with Nutella.

cafe in old town
photo: Tiago Bortoletto Vaz

Sweet tooth? No problem. Do you know about Hansel and Gretel? In these parts they are more known as Ivica & Marica, and that is the name of my favorite pastry shop. Their cakes are magnificent, the entire place is decorated like the witch’s house and the entire collection of their yummy food is made without artificial colors or sweeteners. And you never just eat a cake there. The best way to enjoy it is to order a nice cool glass of lemonade.

Something to Eat?
Zagreb has plenty of restaurants to go to, and most of them have excellent food. Everyone has their favorites, and mine definitely has to be Sofra. Specializing in Bosnian food that is heavily influenced by Turkish cuisine, it has one of the most delicious, finger-licking meals in all of Zegrab. The way you eat there is: First you order some pita. Meat and spinach are my combination of choice. Then you take a break, sip on beer and order the main. Best way to go about it is to bring as many friends as you can and each one should order something different with extra plates, so you can eat more things from the menu. After that comes the dessert, and after that you can’t finish such a good meal without Turkish coffee.

photo by Barbara

Another favorite place to go to, especially for many students, is any pub that has the word ‘bear’ in it. Mali Medo, Zlatni Medo, Medvedgrad… Other than great beer, they serve great food from all over the country, and are places where you can most often find and meet now people, share a nice chat, listen to some good live music, and just enjoy yourself.

Lastly, and one of my favorite options is one of the many random barbeque joints all over the city. They are everywhere, though their food and hygiene is questionable at best, they’re extremely charming, but unfortunately, they close up pretty fast. I personally don’t think I’ve been in many of them more than once, but my favorite is Čingač.

photo: R Arno

Coffee Culture in Croatia in general is very important. There are cafe bars everywhere. Quite literally everywhere and they are the absolute favorite place to be for Croatian folk. Everyone has that one cafe where they’re considered a regular, and as soon as they enter the waiter already knows what they’ll order. It’s pretty simple. Drinking coffee is not just drinking coffee; it’s a social event. When you get invited for coffee at 8pm, don’t be surprised. Most likely, you’ll be drinking beer at a cafe bar.

It’s very common to sit at the table for three or more hours, drinking one espresso. It’s more about talking and hanging out than coffee. In Zagreb, on Sundays at noon starts something we call špica. Everyone comes together and meets at their favorite cafes for coffee and chat and latest gossip. Preferably somewhere around the Main Square. So, if your new and awesome Croatian friends invite you for a cup of coffee, remember to take it easy, slow down, there is no hurry. Enjoy the chat and coffee, scan for interesting people walking by. And while you’re at it, remember to pick up some pastries from the bakery. Those two go excellent together.

photo: Mario Fajt

Thank you, Barbara!

Learn More:

  • Croatia National Tourism Board
  • Zagreb Tourist Board
  • Zagreb at The Lonely Planet
  • A Taste Of: Retro Row Long Beach

    While I am away on my medical leave, I have a couple of guest posts lined up with my ow scheduled posts. Thank you, Melanie! – Rachael

    Melanie is the author of the blog LA Explorer, where she shares her favorite discoveries from her adventures around Southern California. She can also be found on facebook, twitter, instagram, and google+.

    Long Beach has long been one of my favorite cities in Southern California. It’s large and diverse and offers a variety of treasures just waiting to be found. One of my favorite spots is 4th Street and Cherry, an area that is commonly called Retro Row.

    As the name suggests, the area is home to a variety of vintage vendors. There’s a the requisite clothing shops



    and also a few home stores.


    If your tastes or more retro than truly vintage there’s a fun selection of businesses offering brand new merchandise and services.



    Of course, all that shopping often makes one hungry. Luckily Retro Row is home to a few great dining options. My favorite is Lola’s which offers an updated take on Mexican cuisine.

    And you can’t miss grabbing a coffee or tea from The Flea, a quaint circus inspired coffee bar.


    Personally, I recommend the Lavender Steamer.

    But my absolute spot on 4th Street is The Art Theatre.

    This art deco gem has been around since the 1920’s and shows a variety of independent films. It’s the perfect place to catch a flick.

    Next time you’re in the Long Beach area be sure to check out Retro Row and discover all the treasures it has to offer.

    Here I Go! International Food Bloggers Conference

    Seattle Skyline
    Sunny Seattle Skyline

    Tomorrow I leave for Seattle to visit my high school friend Liz, her husband and to attend the International Food Bloggers Conference located at the W Hotel in downtown.

    Organized by Foodista.com and Zephyr Adventures, IFBC was the first-ever conference for food bloggers, first held in May of 2009. The series focuses on three themes: Food, Writing, and Technology. This event will feature high-quality educational sessions, personal networking opportunities, and what 95% of attendees say is the best food and wine of any blogging conference! Join us for our FIFTH annual conference in beautiful Seattle, Washington!

    International Food Blogger Conference 2013 Seattle

    There is going to be a lot of delicious eats to be eaten both at the conference and with my friends – the perfect send off before I have to hibernate after my surgery come October – plus knowledgeable speakers and guests at the conference itself to advise tips and tricks on the ins and outs of food blogging. The panels, demos and activities I am most looking forward to are:

  • Tech: The Elements in Building Traffic – Lord knows I feel like I am speaking to myself here on my lonely little island off the cost of The Rest of the Internet. Hoping I can learn a thing or five about building up quality numbers from Allrecipes.com’s Judith Dern and Richard Kozel and Foodista.com founders Barnaby Dorfman and Sheri Wetherell.

  • A Taste of Seattle and Gourmet Fair ~ Food, food, glorious food. Enough said.

  • Food Photography & Cooking Demo – Renowned The New York Times food photographer Andrew Scrivani will open this Food Series with the A-Zs of Digital Food Photography with live cooking demonstration from Chef John Mitzewich.

  • Discovery Expo – Sample delicious food/drink and discovering interesting products and services.

  • Taste of Alaska Seafood Reception – Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute will share some creative and delicious tastes of the best seafood Alaska has to offer. JESUS CHRSIT gimme all the seafood!

  • Urbanspoon Dine-Around Dinner – Urbanspoon is hosting more than a dozen intimate dinner parties around the city and the clever buggers are keeping the locations a secret!

  • Wake up With Pike Place Market – If I can actually wake my butt up, I’ll be going on this fun self-guided tour of the historical Pike Place Market!

  • Writing: Snap Out of It! Author/journalist Kim O’Donnel will lead this interactive timed-writing workshop on how to wake ourselves up from a writing coma, aka writer’s block, and breaking out of old patterns.

  • Now, I had a ticket to the Thursday excursion out to Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville for a special wine and food pairing event, but since my doctor looked me directly in the eyes as he said in his signature No Nonsense Dad voice: “You can’t drink.”
    WHAT! Dude. You killed my buzz – before it even happened! However, I’m not one to break the rules on my health, especially since I’ll be out of town and away from the comforts of TEAM RACHAEL!, so I did the right thing and sold my ticket. Sigh. Oh, well. Plenty of virgin drinks to whet my palate.

    While I will be relying on my friend Liz, Cathy’s Seattle posts, and Anthony Bourdain’s Layover list, I welcome other Seattlites and visitors to leave a comment to recommend somewhere to eat – especially in Ballard!


    Seattle has excellent public transit, but why wait for the bus when you can grab a Lyft? Readers of Glass of Win get to enjoy a $20 credit when you sign-up for Lyft On-Demand Rideshare.
    Just download the free app, follow instructions for registering and enter the code: LABlogger. Credit is only good for new users.

    See you soon, Seattle!

    Vegetarian Dim Sum House – Chinatown, New York

    Vegetarian Dim Sum House - Chinatown New York

    Vegetarian Dim Sum House

    Chinatown, New York City, New York

    This night began earlier when my hostess, bartender extraordinaire Miss Chockie, took me to La Maison Cointreau for an evening of booze-soaked education and history of Cointreau. A handful of drinks with just enough small bites to keep me upright later and it was time for real sustenance. My hostess and I grabbed a cab from Greenwich Village to Chinatown where we met up with Jake, Miss Chockie’s vegan fiance. Admittedly, when I’d been told we were heading to a vegetarian dim sum restaurant I was worried. Not just the usual omnivore-who-is-desperately-in-need-of-meat kind of concern, but the legit concern of someone who is soy sensitive due to a wonky thyroid.

    Chockie reassured me….well, at least I think she did. To be honest, this night is kind of hazy in my memory and my phone with all of my notes died approximately five days later. In my hand. While I was on a hunt for bagels and Indian food. I found both, thank goodness, but getting to Philadelphia the next day proved to be a feat I’d not prepared for since before the dark ages of not owning a cell phone. Dark days, my friends, dark days.

    Continue reading

    La Maison Cointreau New York

    LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York

    La Maison Cointreau

    Greenwich Village New York

    Back in October I traveled to New York City for the first time as an adult. Staying with a friend I’d met way back in my college years meant I had the luxury of having a local to guide me around for my first couple of days. NYC is overwhelming to me, because my brain is used to the vastness of Los Angeles, which I acknowledge is difficult for many to figure out. Miss Chockie, my divine hostess, is a bartender extraordinaire and knows how to work her magic with any alcohol. She was invited to La Maison Cointreau, a special industry event presented by Cointreau. With a cool, “She’s with me,” as only Chockie can pull off, I was able to slide in to this glamorous, booze filled evening.

    LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York
    Welcome to the land of booze

    Though the majority of my images had to be chucked due to insufficient lighting, the memory of the night will burn brightly for years. Located at 632 on Hudson in the iconic Greenwich Village, the 5,000-square-foot nineteenth-century townhouse boasts three floors for exploration. On the journey, Alfred Cointreau, sixth generation family member, highlighted Cointreau’s rich history, its beginnings in Angers, France, in 1849, its inclusion in some of the very first cocktail recipes ever created, and its legacy today. Mr. Cointreau brought along some rare first-edition and historic cocktail books dating from the mid-1800s.

    LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York
    My Strawberry Mint Basil Cocktail!

    At the Cocktail Lab, tables chock filled with vegetables, herbs, and fruit and sideboards lined with all the top-shelf booze and mixers any rookie or veteran bartender mixologist could ask for. Additionally, we were given drink tickets for the in-house bartenders to take in exchange for some classic Cointreau drinks. I had my first Cointreau sidecar; it tasted like falling in love.

    LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York
    Cointreau Macarons: Orange & Chocolate

    I think, all in all, I drank about four cocktails. Food, you ask? Well. There were little itty, bitty finger bites, just enough to put into our stomachs to balance out and keep from falling to our deaths on one of the many flights of stairs we climbed. These macarons were infused with Cointreau and hit that lovely spot between richly chocolate and bright bite of orange.

    LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York
    Nicole Renaud on Lincordian

    At the evening’s end, we were taken to a lower-level boudoir and ballroom echoing with Parisian chansons. Entertainment was provided by Nicole Renaud, a French songstress and accordion player who performs on am illuminated lincordian designed by Paul Etienne. Her performance was ethereal and haunting, but very beautiful.

    LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York
    Obligatory Light Fixture Photo

    I don’t know how Miss Chockie was doing by the time we stumbled outside into the crisp night air, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I was inebriated and in much need of sustenance. As we were meeting up with her fiance, the staunchly vegan Mr. Jake, we would be heading someplace where Jake had more than two options that would still satisfy two hearty meat eaters in dire need of booze-soaking comfort food.

    Which is how we ended up at Vegetarian Dim Sum House in Chinatown. Stay tuned for Wednesday’s post for the review!


  • 632 ON HUDSON

  • LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York
    Do you like Cointreau? What cocktails do you like to mix up?

    A Taste Of: Old Town Orange

    This guest post has been graciously provided by Melanie Kaminski. Melanie is the author of the blog LA Explorer, where she shares her favorite discoveries from her adventures around Southern California.

    Old Town Orange is located in the heart of Orange County and has long been a filming location for several Hollywood films. No wonder because it is quaintness personified. 

    When I was growing up, the Orange Circle (as locals call it) was home to countless antique shops and a few tea houses. In recent years it has become a hotspot for restaurants like Haven Gastropub (the original)

    and Linx.

    But local fixture Watson’s Drugs and Soda Fountain (going strong for over a century) endures.

    Antique stores do remain but they are now joined by boutique shops like Elsewhere Vintage

    and Eikon Home

    Though the business district is always evolving the buildings remain the same.

    And glimpses of the past can be found everywhere:

    Thank you for guest posting, Melanie!

    Travel: United States Botanic Garden Conservatory (Washington DC)

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    By the end of my first weekend in Washington DC, I was equal parts excited and nervous. Excited, because the metro subway system in Washington DC was easy to master and I was getting the confidence up to venture out on my own, further than I had traveled Friday the 15th, the day after my arrival. Nervous, because a cold front was swooping in and going to test my Southern California skin with its gray skies, chilled winds, on and of rain and daily high of 40 degrees. FORTY! That is 4.4 degrees Celcius! Not that it doesn’t drop to 40 in the L.A. winter, but at least the temperature has the decency to wait until midnight to do something so indecent.

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Thankfully, KD and her husband, Guille, had given me a great insiders tip over the weekend: Head out to the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory and enjoy some refreshing humidity among the beautiful, tropical gardens. Not only would I get to enjoy the bright colors of nature, but I would be able to get out of the house and do something without having to stress about being chilled to the bone. So, come Monday, I found the courage to bundle up, grab my camera and my SmartTap metro card, and head out.

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Thankfully, my friends live around the corner from the Orange & Blue lines, and signage at every Metro Station is very clear so I was only ever turned around when I had to go from one platform to another in stations with four lines. Getting to the Botanic Gardens from Capitol Hill SE was very direct, as it is off of the Federal Center SW station. It was just a matter of walking down two blocks and over another block as fast as humanly possible. I decided to cut through Bartholdi Park, where I caught glimpses of the Capitol Building through the evergreens and deciduous trees, and made a little friend (pictured above).

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    There wasn’t too much going on in the park, so I moved on for greener, warmer, and decidedly more colorful views at the Conservatory. Constructed by Lord & Burnham (architect of the Capitol) in 1933, this historic greenhouse contains two courtyard gardens and 10 indoor garden rooms, totaling 28,944 square feet of growing space.

    Here are some of my favorite shots:

    Sanokku Orchid - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Aside: My grandmother grew orchids in her front yard, and while I never appreciated their draw, many other people did. Living in a cul-de-sac off a busy thoroughfare, my grandmother marveled at how common it became to find a car pulling alongside the curb and a perfect stranger(s) would come out, camera in hand, to snap photographs of her many orchids. They ranged from professional set-ups, tripods and all, to amateur point-and-shoot from orchid enthusiasts. She did not care one way or the other, so long as nobody picked them. Me, being the uncouth country girl I am, never thought orchids could compare to the simple beauty of the daisy, nor hold its own with the classic rose. Now, here I am trying to grab the best shot of these cosmopolitan flowers, and I cannot look upon an orchid without thinking of my grandmother.

    Guzmania Marjan - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Tillandsia Harrisii - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Coral Aloe - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Oriental Smile Orchid - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Powder Puff - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    True story: When I saw the final shot, I nearly cried from joy. People, I in no way consider myself a visual artist, so when I manage to snap a photo like the one above, it makes me want to break into song and dance with strangers in the middle of the street – rain or no rain.

    Pink Pentas - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    To view all of my photos, please visit my Washington DC photoset on Flickr!

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory
    100 Maryland Ave SW
    Washington, DC 20024