We at Travel Dynamics International were very saddened to learn of the death of R.W. Apple, Jr. in 2006 — gourmand, politico, and one of the New York Times’ very best writers. In 2004, he traveled with us along the Dalmatian Coast, and was so inspired by the fantastically fresh seafood he encountered there, he immediately returned to Manhattan to write this tantalizing, delectable survey of Croatian coastal cuisine. He was particularly impressed with Proto, one of Dubrovnik’s finest restaurants, where we took our guests for lunch one afternoon:
But restaurants like Proto — a few steps off Dubrovnik’s pedestrian-only main drag, whose limestone paving blocks have been polished to a high gloss by hundreds of thousands of feet — buy the best and know just what to do with it. We were stunned by the sweet, magically tender shrimp, cooked on a wooden skewer, and the ruddy scampi, which were so plump they could almost have passed for baby lobsters.
They were rockets of flavor intensity that scored direct hits with us both. The young waiter told us why: “They were alive when they came in this morning, and they’re barely cooked — two or three minutes on the grill, depending on size.”
Our lunch at Proto was one of those meals where everything worked perfectly. Our table, covered with a sea-blue cloth, was shielded from the fierce midday sun by an awning and cooled by a fresh breeze. I am not much of a fish salad fan, but my starter was exemplary — a mixture of delicately flavored baby octopus, succulent little mussels, chopped red onion, ripe tomatoes, fleshy black olives and round, wonderfully juicy Mediterranean capers. Betsey’s shrimp came with a mound of saffron rice, every grain distinct and slightly crunchy, and a salad of tart rocket dressed with oil from Korcula.
The espresso, with a perfect head of crema, would have pleased Dr. Illy, and it went very nicely, I thought, with a slug of slivovitz, the local plum eau-de-vie. Well, not exactly local; I thought I detected a note of regret in the waiter’s voice as he took the order, and then I realized that slivovitz is Serbian, not Croatian. The last time I had been in these parts, the rival countries were both part of Yugoslavia.
Read more of his culinary adventures with Travel Dynamics International in the Adriatic here.