We heard very good things about this experience from our contacts at Jayway Travels, but Dinner with the Locals (hosted by Marija and Zlatko Papak) more than exceeded our expectations!
We were served a traditional Dalmatian feast. We started off with homemade grappa (had several shots because there were different kinds) and learned the native way to say cheers (zivjeli – something that was repeated several times into the night). The appetizer included a variety of cheeses, nuts, figs, pickled onions and the best prsut (prosciutto ham) we had in the entire trip. The main course was veal, lamb with potatoes cooked under a “peka” (an iron bell). This dish took at least 3 hours to prepare which required getting the right temperature and timing — something that Zlatko has mastered! The meat was tasty, juicy and tender. Homemade wine was overflowing.
Our experience diverged from the norm after the main course because 3 members of our party were celebrating birthdays. We arranged in advance to have live music (a very talented guitar and accordion duo who played a mix of Dalmatian songs with a mix of American standards, Abba and Madonna). Marija baked a beautiful and scrumptious Jaffa cake. We sang Happy birthday in at least 4 languages. Champagne was overflowing.
The delicious meal and wonderful music (plus an abundance of alcohol) definitely lifted our spirits, but the star of the whole experience is the company of Marija, Zlatko, their daughter, Lea, one of their friends, Sandra (an accomplished tour guide from farther up the Adriatic coast). We talked about local traditions and customs, how food is and should be prepared, the meaning behind folk songs, life under Tito and what happened after he died, the painful experience of war including the siege of Dubrovnik and the opportunities and problems in present-day Croatia. The experience felt so genuine that at the end, Dinner with the Locals became Dinner with Friends. Hvala Papak Family!