With just three weeks to go before I jump on a plane and make a beeline for the Balkans (with a short stop in London for a bite of my favourite foodie city) it's time to put aside the list of city landmarks and focus instead on the only list that really counts - my summer dish list.
So here's a roundup of all the things I plan on eating as I make my way round the English capital, down a bit of the Adriatic and into the green hills and riverside towns of the Balkans.
Maltby Street Market, London
A wintry trip around Borough market - trying to balance piping hot mead with a grilled chorizo sandwich and get them both into my tummy without ruining my gloves - is one of my favourite memories of eating in London. Pretty much straight after on the list would be a trip huddled around a plate of jerk chicken in a corner of Brixton Village a few months ago. So I'm aiming to add some summer food market memories to the mix with a visit to Maltby Street Market this time round for more sandwiches, pies, pastries and Pimm's. Touted as smaller, friendlier and less crowded than its bigger cousin in Borough, I can't wait to have a snoop around the food stalls and practice juggling multiple plates of goodies once again.
Fresh seafood along the Adriatic coast
The konobas or taverns strung along the Adriatic coast look just like my ideal dining destinations - quaint seaside restaurants overlooking glassy bays, wild green mountains mirrored within, Roman palaces tumbling down hillsides and of course, fresh seafood by the basket load to tuck into at each meal. From shrimp to squid ink risotto, fish, octopus salad and more, the menu in Montenegro and Croatia sounds absolutely perfect for summer dining by the sea.
Coffee and cevapi in Sarajevo
My favourite Turkish proverb describes how the Turks prefer their coffee - "black as hell, strong as death and sweet as love" - which is also my preferred poison, so I can't wait to wile away a couple of afternoons in Sarajevo's famed Ottoman-influenced coffee houses and spend my evenings feasting on that other Turkish import - cevapi. Cevapi are kebabs stuffed into pita and onions, drizzled over with kajmak (sour clotted cream), preferably eaten while taking in the city's famed minaret and church tower-pierced skyline. Considering how much descriptions of Sarajevo liken its history-seeped, shifting, multicultural vibe to my most-loved city in the world, Istanbul, I can't wait to visit this Balkan gem.
One of my most anticipated trips on my holiday is a planned visit to the wineries of Hercegovina to find out more about how this region produces its local Žilavka and Blatina grape. I still regret not getting a chance to do a spot of wine touring when I visited Romania, but the Eastern European country had some of the smoothest wines I've tasted recently and I expect Hercegovina's wines to be as exciting.
The Balkans seem to have a rich and distinct culinary tradition - stuffed full of indigenous cheeses, popular Ottoman-empire influences, sweets and cakes from the Austro-Hungarians and Italian-influenced dishes from across the sea all mashed up into a menu that's equally strong on meat and seafood specialties.
If you have any top tips on things to try or restaurants to visit in Sarajevo, Mostar, Kotor Bay, the Montenegrin mountains or Split, do leave a note on where I could find them :)
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