Discovering the Green Pearl of the Adriatic

As we descended from the 13th century stunning walls that encircle Dubrovnik, the smell of citrus blossoms whispered a soft fragrance as the Adriatic Sea winds danced. As I turned to view the tiny perfumed white buds surrounded by healthy green leaves, a young man in a tailored suit kindly asked us take a look at the restaurant menu.

Normally I shy away from that ‘tourist trap’. You know, the mediocre overpriced restaurant that targets its ‘one-time’ victims. For some reason today was different. Could it be the calming citrus oils that drew us near? Perhaps it was our aching feet from the 1,940 meter (6,360 ft) city wall walk or the fact that I was famished that convinced us to give the restaurant a try.


View of Adriatic Sea from Dubrovnik

We were surrounded by a mix of locals, few tourists, the Mayor of Dubrovnik–all extremely good signs we had found a treasure and not a trap.

We ordered a starter, the fish of the day, and as I was about to inquire about a side vegetable, the waiter said our main dish would be served with the local specialty, which he explained in his best English is similar to spinach.

Spinach? An eye-roll and lip curl gradually released its grip from my face. I’m not a spinach hater, but I’m definitely not a spinach lover. With hunger pains roaring I was open to giving anything a try.

As the main dish, a lovely filet of sole and my spinach substitute arrived, I decided to try the colorful complement. I think I detected that the green vegetable and potato mixture was perfumed with olive oil, shallots, and perhaps garlic too. The waiter approached our table and asked if I was enjoying the Swiss chard, a popular Croatian/Mediterranean dish.

Wow, I never could have imagined that the leafy green could possess such a simple yet alluring taste sensation. What a perfect vegetarian option or complement to fresh fish, beef and pork dishes too.

I think I love spinach, I mean I love Swiss chard!

Swiss chard

As the vacation progressed and we ventured out for meals, each waiter explained that our main dish would be accompanied with a side of the local specialty–Swiss chard. I smiled and looked forward to the low-fat, low-calorie power veggie which is also an excellent source of Vitamin C and K.

Just like your favorite recipe though, cooks have their own secret Swiss chard blends too. After about a week along the Dalmatian Coast, I tasted quite a few Swiss chard varieties. Some just right, some too bland, watery, over-salted, but each one an experience–because at least I tried them. Whether the taste is fantastic or flawed, the chance for another taste experiences is what I love about travel and food.

If you still hate spinach, love Swiss chard, the Green Pearl of the Adriatic.