Sometimes a tiny word like “yes” conjures supersize magic. When our friend Massimo asked if we would like to help a farmer harvest olives yesterday on the #UNESCO Stari Grad Plain, we said, “Da!” and soon found ourselves in the field with the Stancic family picking a bounty of olives to be pressed and transformed into their award-winning olive oil.
For almost 2,400 years, since Greek settlers to the island divvied up farming plots and set to work, this fertile plain has produced Adriatic treasures of olive oil, wine, vegetables, and herbs. The privilege of being a tiny part of this rich tradition wasn’t lost on us.
Dad, mom, son, aunt, uncle, friends and neighbors, everyone worked together and a merry crew it was. Blue sky and perfect temps helped the morning breeze by. We learned a few tricks of picking and gathering, discussed olive oil traditions, and upped our Croatian vocabulary, in the process.
We also learned that in addition to being a renowned farmer, the family patriarch is a chef. Someone shouted, “Lunch is ready!” and we turned to see smoke billowing from behind a stone wall where Antun was grilling pork over coals. The alfresco feast also included the sweetest bell peppers I’ve ever tasted; Ajvar, a beloved Croatian dish of peppers and garlic, freshly baked bread, and, of course, homemade olive oil, plump olives, and homemade wine. Meal and setting were simple perfection.
With bellies and hearts full, we began saying goodbye. As we were walking away, Antun delivered yet another surprise by asking, “Would you like to come to our house tonight, see our restaurant, and taste more of our wine?”
The only correct answer?
When you visit Hvar, be sure to eat and drink all things at Restaurant Santa Marija in the tiny village of Dol and whatever you are asked, reply “Yes!”
Here’s a link to the Stancic family’s restaurant and apartments. Between Antun and his wife Katarina they craft everything in sight from seed to plate and glass : http://www.apartmanisantamarija.com/en/