Remote Year Month 1: Split, Croatia (and Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina) Top Food Experiences

Soparnik

Detailed in my Top 7 Croatia Experiences. If you have a chance to try this fresh, or at all, don’t miss out. As far as I know, the family that made it from scratch for us sells it at the Split Greenmarket.

Michelin Star restaurant in Split that doesn’t disappoint. Recommended by a local for high quality traditional food that doesn’t break the budget. She mentioned they could charge more but don’t because they want people to have a great konoba experience. Make a reservation as it’s a bouncer-like.

Mostar: Tima Irma and Cafe Alma

Not Split, but a not-too-long bus ride across the border gets you to Mostar, which is very worth going to.

National Restaurant Tima Irma 

Worth the line and the gruff service. Insanely good prices for quality and quantity of food in a great atmosphere. Still one of my top Remote Year Food Experiences writing about it so much later. Get the Mijesano meso or mixed meat, which includes a generous serving of cevapi.

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Cafe Alma

Go for the Bosnian coffee, similar to Turkish coffee, but not, and served with Turkish delight. The locals will explain to you or watch vid in link. One of few if not only still coffee roaster in town, with one that “survived the war” as the family brags.

Luka Gelato 

Delicious gelato. Also a bit off the madness of the main squares of the old town and peaceful to sit near the fountain. Lots of unique flavors, not your average basic ass hipster gelato place.

Green Market 

Amazing farmer’s market with insanely good quality produce. Honest vendors and great prices considering how touristy the rest of the area is.

Dvor

Really beautiful, I mean, beautiful restaurant set outside an elegant old home and next to the beach. Think fifth date. Kind of a hilarious Remote Year memory for me as I went to dinner here for the first time with someone who would become one of my best friends on Remote Year, but kind of an awkward place for a first meeting. As with most restaurants like this, and especially in South Europe, it’s Slow dining with the capital S, but you come here if that’s what you’re looking for. We weren’t expecting it and went off a recommendation, but lovely.

Fisherman’s Pension

Rustic seafood island hopping. If you’re visiting and able to book a private tour to visit the islands, I’d request going to this place. A part of my Top 7 Croatia Experiences.

Uje Oil Bar

Worth a stop in the shop for an olive oil tasting and a meal at the delicious restaurant. I recommend their products to buy home for gifts, really good quality. Olive oil is what you’d expect sitting on the Mediterranean.

Bokeria

This restaurant is definitely kind of fancy tourist hipster, but is delicious and the restaurant group is committed to more sustainable tourism and being a good force in the community. Extensive Croatian wine list.

Find the location to all these restaurants and my other favorite spots this month on this map.

 

My Top 7 Croatia Experiences

The first month of Remote Year: overdrive on the senses and mind, but some of the most beautiful experiences possible in a part of a world I knew so little about.

1. Soparnik

This one is a huge credit to Remote Year for setting this up. RY offers tracks each month, various local experiences surrounding food, the outdoors, and culture, or all of the above in one day. We went rafting, bit of hiking, and while that was fun, the best part of the day was going to a local family farm run by an older couple who made us Peka and Soparnik, some best things I’ve eaten on Remote Year, a perfect combination of amazing ingredients and traditional cooking. They both involve burying food and slow cooking, but being able to see the multi-step process and enjoy the Soparnik, a Croatian version to me of 韭菜盒子 ,still remains one of my top RY memories a year out.

2. Mostar 

I talk more about the experience in this other post, but visiting Bosnia and Mostar was for me, of those travel moments that truly shake you with its beauty as well as its sadness. I definitely had one of my best meals all year and best times chatting with locals in Mostar, but everything from the scarred landscape to how a blonde police officer forced our driver to pay 20 euros (feels really little) as a bribe really informs you about the condition the place is still in due to its recent history.

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3. Swimming in the Adriatic Outside Workspace 

My first Remote Year workspace conveniently had a beach outside of it. Given how crazy my headspace was the first month, my favorite part was getting up everyday and swimming in the ocean with Croatian families. It’s one of the few places I felt super comfortable going alone and leaving my stuff out all year, despite being a super obvious foreigner (as you can imagine there weren’t many overweight Asian women swimming at a beach off the tourist-y areas). I felt so lucky everyday to swim in the pristine water.

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4. Greenmarket Shopping and Wandering Around Roman Ruins

The old town of Split, the old city center of roman ruins, incredible farmer’s market, and tourists galore (kind of gross). Even though parts of it are touristy-trappy, the farmer’s market is delightfully a place for the locals but friendly to tourists. I’ve had some of the best tasting produce I had all year and learned to enjoy it all with ajvar.

5. Island Hopping

Island hopping in Croatia from Split, can’t even describe how amazing, beautiful, and varied the experience can be. Swam in some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.  Fisherman’s House and Pension, run by a Scandinavian man who fell in love with a Croatian woman, served unpretentious fresh delicious seafood.

 

6. Meet the Barba: LAB Split Brewery 

Another Remote Year track “Meeting the Barba,” or the man behind one of first the craft breweries in Croatia. One of the best American Pale Ales I’ve tasted from the tap, can’t believe this guy just let us enjoy it. There’s not much high-end beer selection in Croatia, so this is your guy, who could easily go toe-to-toe with any California craft brewery.

7. Visiting a Working Shipyard 

Another Remote Year track and far off the tourist track, getting an up close look at the shipbuilding industry in Split. Took a look at the post-Yugoslavian socialist era to competing with much more modern and sleek operations globally. Wish them the best as they’ve got their work cut out for them.

Favorite Coffee Stops in Split, Croatia

The first thing my American ass I missed when I spent a month in Split was cold brew and drip coffee. Especially in the mediterranean, not really a thing. Croatia is still so recently a post-Soviet state with a small population to boot, so the sheer variety of such frivolities is still limited.

Luckily, a few places came to the rescue:

D16 

The most American style and first iteration of such coffee shops in Split Croatia. You can get Cold Brew growlers if you’re in town for awhile. Us American savages do not appreciate the slow drinking of expresso like the rest of the region.

  • Website
  • Dominisova ul. 16, 21000, Split, Croatia
  • ~$3-5 USD

4coffee soul food

More than decent stop for a good cup of brew while wandering around the old city. You can really feel the love for the bean here. They specialize in Italian style coffee, but have Cold Brew for American tastes as well.

All the Feelings about Croatia, and Bosnia. Where I was at and what what I learned. 

Where I Was At 

Every month on Remote Year, I wrote a bit about my mood and what I learned from each place each month. I got more disciplined about this over time, even taking a spreadsheet grid of each place I went to and what I liked. I’ll start posting that in the months to come. But it’s been more than a little over a year since I left and almost two months into my return, so I should start.

I have to say, a lot of my learnings are not necessarily the most happy, especially in the beginning, but I hope reflective and needed to decompress from a year as unbelievable I’ve had. I’ll start on some of the fun stuff soon. 

To start, I had a dark predilection for visiting and learning about unhappy places and sectarian conflict. I can easily draw a straight line back to my own family’s history. You project your own history on the history of others in the tragic tapestry of the human experience a way to sort out one’s inheritance. It’s a particular Asian American refugee neurosis for those of us in the tribe and other with similar experiences, but difficult for outsiders to comprehend that constant state of mind. Given world events the past few years the awareness I’d soon no longer be considered young, I was in a kind of mood. 

I wasn’t ready for a routine and not ready to settle down. At this point, I’d also gone through years of feeling figuring out my identity, that didn’t fit in anywhere and deprogramming myself from intergenerational trauma. Unfortunately through that progress I had evolved into the sort Asian female yuppy monster – you’ve seen them on the streets of NY, SF and LA, a bunch of recovering ABGs never too far from a needless act of aggression. 

My co-workers affectionately told me “you broke out of a middle class prison” by job hacking to work remotely for a year. I digress to say we’re better off than most New Yorkers, so it’s some real first world urban elite complaints. Still I wasn’t feeling it, so with the encouragement of a dear friend and mentor who did RY I put laptop on my backpack and got on a plane to Croatia, which had to be the most fitting places for both literally plunging into beautiful ocean and into dark history. 

All the Feelings About Croatia and Bosnia

In between daily gorgeous swims in the Adriatic outside of our beachy hipster workspace, exploring the islands, seeing insane natural beauty, running through roman ruins, and still working my full time job, I steeped myself in really terrible news articles and reels about Srebenica and the Bosnian wars for probably more time than was healthy and read Girl at War  and The Tiger’s Wife. I remember also reading S in college and remembered what Dr. Quinn, shout to one of the best professors I’ve had, taught us about the unfortunate nature of how history repeats itself despite knowing it and the shock to Europeans of it happening again in living memory at their shores in the Balkans. 

This behavior was probably not something someone should do on a couch with a view of the sea or anywhere for their psychological and emotional health. This month I had in Croatia and the next two were weird places for dark historical tourism juxtaposed to a kind of magical European vacation and drunken party Eurotrip alongside serious work hours and pressure on top of the madness of the first two months. Your sense of time and experience becomes warped and compressed in this way on Remote Year along with a sense of displacement. A friend told me about a French word dépaysement that describes it well I think.

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I felt this acutely traveling into Bosnia. It was really the first time I contemplated and saw blue hair blonde eyed White people in such a destitute ruins and recovering from such a recent and tragic history. 

In Croatia, it felt like the past wasn’t far behind, but the scars of war are visibly gone in most places a tourist would go. In Bosnia, bullet holes and no go zones with land mines are part of the tourism. It’s one of the early experiences that sticks with me. When I think about my time there, I think about one of the best meals I had all year and the beautiful landscape while sinking into a disturbingly recent shocking moment of humanity’s depravity. 

Dark tourism aside, I loved hanging out with a few college students telling me how their family saved the coffee roaster they got from Italy during the war and about Bosnian coffee. They asked me questions about what I was doing there and expressed how they wanted to join the EU and be like another EU member state, be able to travel and get jobs in places like Germany. Definitely a favorite moment of the trip, even if bittersweet. Really want better for them.

What I Learned

The enormity of how little I knew about this part of the world sank in, and I consider myself pretty cultured and well-traveled. Everything from the beauty, how charming the people were in a particularly slavic way, and histories I need to learn more about. 

So my lesson for the first month was fitting for the start: how little I actually knew and still don’t know. This would prove to be hypnotic contrast when I got to Asia, so in hindsight I felt grateful for the humility. I really leaned into that vibe as we traveled to Prague.

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First Transition Day aka traveling hoard of digital douchebags.

The Best Foie Gras Experience at Au Pied de Cochon

This is a Love Letter: disclaimer a place I haven’t visited in awhile (possibly months or a year) but still exists in a place I love dearly but no longer live full-time at the moment – check latest reviews on other sites accordingly as some items might be out of date.

I had one of the best dining experiences traveling alone at Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal in the super cool Plateau Mont Royal neighborhood. It’s not a fancy pants white table cloth place, feels more like an upscale bistro/French brassiere that is unpretentious yet refined. Definitely fine dining although hipster beards and tattoos would not be out-of-place here.

I didn’t get a chance to try the famed foie gras poutine since I dined alone, but I definitely will if I have the opportunity to return to Montreal. Instead I had apps of a fresh baguette with butter, definitely above average. I do think it’s the sign of a good restaurant when items that are sometimes throwaway are given a lot of care.

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Then I felt adventurous and had the foie gras nigiri. I had something similar awhile back at A Plus Sushi in Taipei. Not the most pretty, but holy crap, it tasted amazing and genuinely like nothing I had ever before. Fusion food tends to be crap, but this combo of big ole hunks of high quality foie gras, good nigiri rice, topped with the slightest bit of soy sauce made this trip worth it alone.

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Of course, I had have what Anthony Bourdain had, the Canard en Conserve or Duck in a Can – literally a pound of duck and foie gras cooked in a can with vegetables and thyme so all the fatty juices melange. I rarely can’t finish a dish, but the richness and how tasty it was almost nasty. I kept trying to shovel more bites of the fatty duck, foie gras, and lard-glazed veggies but couldn’t especially after the plate of nigiri and bread. I ended up taking half it back with me. I joke around about eating heart attacks in a can, but very little hyperbole here. Perhaps kind of an abomination to French Canadian chefs, but it was bomb the next day reheated with sriracha sauce.

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Eating at Au Pied de Cochon and Jean Talon Market were definitely the highlights of my trip to Montreal. For solo travelers, it’s a fantastic place to dine alone with a long bar in front of friendly chatty kitchen staff. I was far from the only one enjoying a foie gras feast on a solo trip.

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Ironically, I’m writing this love letter I mentioned I had been there to an older Canadian couple on the same bus I was traveling on from Croatia to Bosnia, who I thought were surely French tourists at first but then turned out to be awesome friendly Canadians whom I talked food and politics all day after we bonded after I mentioned I had been there. Nothing brings together people like food.

  • Website
  • 536 Duluth Est, Montreal, QC, H2L 1A9
  • $30+ Canadian Dollars or so for entrees and $12 for apps 

Coffee Master and Craft Beer at Vagabond Hanoi

One of my favorite parts of visiting Hanoi was chilling with one of the owners of Vagabond, a craft beer and coffee bar near the 24h street and train tracks that many tourists enjoy going to. We talked about the Lakers, Celtics, my thoughts on Hanoi as a Taiwanese-American, childcare, etc. Just a good time.

Vagabond has a variety of coffees, including traditional Vietnamese and Aeropress expresso, two draft beers on tap, cold-pressed juices, and more bottled craft beers. I personally preferred the blonde even though I’m normally an IPA-drinker, but both are worth stopping in for.

This place definitely represents a new wave of shops in Hanoi that might be taken as worldwide hipster generic if not for its showcase of indie Vietnamese brands as well as warm and very hip locals. It’s a good stop for people who need a little taste of home and to pick up some more upscale and unique gifts. I’m so happy I saw it and stopped in.

  • Facebook
  • Address:7 Tôn Thất Thiệp, Hanoi, Vietnam 100000
  • Price Range: $1-$3 USD

Amazing Longanisa at Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is known for clam chowder and Seattle Seafood, but as luck would have it, I had less than half an hour to spend there before a flight and found this gem. I lived next to Daly City for years and miss Filipino food so much living in NYC, and this is definitely some of the best longanisa I’ve ever had, paired with some awesome pancit and rice. Check out Oriental Mart if you’re in the area and don’t want the usual.

Longanisa with Rice and Pancit

Longanisa with Rice and Pancit

The people who work here are awesome too. Super nice and a fun bunch. The food stall has some serious character and Filipino pride that I appreciate by extension.