Eating ‘Trash Fish’ In Croatia And Testing The ‘Bourdain Bump’

I wasn’t necessarily in Croatia to find an aphrodisiac. But there I was standing on the Adriatic shore just outside of Rovinj on the Istrian peninsula with some local conspiracy theorist/café owner staring at a pile of twigs in the palm of his hand. “Here, eat it,” he said. “It’s good for, you know, the sex.” And then, as I chewed the bitter weed that he’d just pulled from the ground, he began a long tirade about how multi-national banks are controlling our thoughts.

After a little research I realized I was eating rock samphire, also known as sea fennel. It is mentioned as an aphrodisiac on websites – and, as we all know, everything we read on the Internet is true. (The site I looked at also lists bananas, sea snails, garlic and Champagne for “the sex.”)

I swallowed the motar, as samphire is called in Croatian, and wished I were back at Batalina instead. Located in the town of Banjole, Batelina is run by David Skoko and his two parents. David has quickly risen to fame in Croatia, thanks to his appearance on the popular Croatian TV show Master Chef.

When I first arrived at Batalina that afternoon, I immediately recognized Skoko from another TV show: “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.” On it, Skoko and Bourdain cruised around the Adriatic waters pulling up all manner of sea creatures and plopping them in a cooler. Later they ate those creatures, which is Batalina’s specialty: not just raw and seared fish but the types of fish and parts of the fish often discarded – what Bourdain called “trash,” the stuff that comes up in the net after all the good stuff has been fished. Basically, the seafood fishermen would keep for themselves.

Case in point: I sat on the terrace sipping local wine as Skoko brought out a procession of plates to my table: conger eel mouse, angler fish liver, shark confit, grilled shark belly, grilled grey mullet in a dandelion emulsion. I ate well while I was in Istria but this was the best meal I’d had in a long time.

Eating raw or partially raw fish is a sort of new phenomenon in Istria, sort of because, as Skuko told me during one of his trips out of the kitchen, “Raw or freshly caught fish – not frozen – was always eaten in the home. Never in restaurants.”

A fourth generation fisherman, Skoko goes out to sea every day and cooks up that evening whatever he pulls out of his net. Starfish? Yes. Shark? Yep? Squid? You bet.

Batalina isn’t the only restaurant in Istria serving up fresh, sometimes raw fish. In the last few years, a small handful of restaurants have put it on their menus, including Marina (which does straight up sashimi like dishes) and Damir e Ornela, both in Novigrad.

And have visits increased since he and Batelina were featured on No Reservations? A Bourdain Bump? “Not really,” he said. “At least not until it airs on European TV, which it is scheduled to do in a couple months. Then we might see an increase in business.”

That would be a real aphrodisiac.

Bourdain to host second Travel Channel show

Anthony Bourdain of the Travel Channel‘s No Reservations will host and executive produce a new series called The Layover which is set to premiere in the fall. The premise of the new show has Bourdain spending no more than 48 hours in a city, searching out the best experiences he can in that time.

“This is a chance to show viewers the secrets of Tony’s traveling routine: cracking open the essence of each city, getting right to the marrow of every experience, and making the most out of every moment,” Fred Graver, Travel Channel’s head of programming told

Originally called 24-hour Layovers, Bourdain says of the show “unlike No Rez, you will actually be able to do the stuff covered on the show. And unlike other shows of the genre, you might actually want to.”

“These shows are not only about finding the best of every city, but they’re filled with amazing tips and tricks for where to go, where to stay, where to eat, and how to get around — as only Tony can share them” Graver adds.
Bourdain and fellow No Reservations exec producers Lydia Tenaglia and Chris Collins will also executive produce The Layover.

No Reservations, in its seventh season, continues Monday, August 1 as Tony visits the famed Spanish restaurant El Bulli, which is about to close.

Photo: @OttaviaBourdain

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Travel to Sri Lanka grows, along with obstacles for tourism

Since the end of the Tamil Tiger confilct in May 2009, travel to Sri Lanka has been increasing, with the country celebrating their 600,000th foreign tourist last month. This year, 700,000 are expected with tourism growing to 2.5 million a year within 5 years, reports the BBC. “The nature has blessed us with beautiful beaches, waterfalls, exotic wildlife and historic places. We as a nation have a reputation for our hospitality,” says Basil Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka‘s Minister of Economic Development. While the increase in visitors is welcome, Sri Lanka is experiencing some growing pains and challenges as a tourist destination.

India and the United Kingdom are currently the largest sources of tourists, though now it is claimed that the Eastern European tourists who came during the confict are being ignored in favore of Western travelers. Russian-speaking tourists are being turned away in the tourist boom, hotel prices have soared, and Russian guides complain of lost income. A proposed change in the visa process could discourage more visitors, though the government claims the new system is designed to help travelers.The visa can currently be obtained for free on arrival for citizens of 78 countries including the United States. Similar to the Australia electronic visa, the new visa process would be done from your home country online. Approval would take 24-72 hours and “special facilities” would be provided on arrival for tourists with the online visa. An added fee could potentially dissuade visitors who could instead spend their vacation dollars at a free visa destination.

The government hopes to allow tourism to develop naturally without direct intervention, though some small businesses feel they are struggling while larger-scale projects are planned. In northwest Sri Lanka, an adventure tourism zone is being developed with whale watching, scuba daving, and an underwater vistor center. A similar Tourism Promotion Zone is in the works near the country’s international airport to capture a similar transit market as Dubai, and increasing Sri Lanka’s flights as a major Asian hub.

Have you been to Sri Lanka? Planning to travel there now that warnings have ceased? Leave us your experiences in the comments.

[Photo of Sri Lanka’s Pinewala Elephant Orphanage by Flickr user Adametrnal.]

Anthony Bourdain enjoys Sri Lankan street food in the below video.

10 great Anthony Bourdain ‘No Reservations’ clips

Known for this brash wit and obscene perversion for food, Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain has traveled the world in search of the most delectable treasures in his popular show, No Reservations. Here are 10 of the best clips from one of the best food shows on the tube:

“Hospital Chic”

Gold plated wheel chairs? Dining under operating room lights? Syringes full of something powerful? Bourdain’s “gastronomique adventures” take on a new light in this clip, “Hospital Chic” based in Singapore.

“Saudi Arabia Lamb Dinner”

Experience a traditional-style Saudi Arabian feast with your hands in this No Reservations clip. How about a little lamb brain while you’re at it?

Giant Hot Dogs from Chile
Bourdain travels to Chile and partakes in a Chilean tradition: giant hot dogs called “Completo”: Ron Jeremey-esque dogs layered with tomatoes, sauerkraut, guacamole and heaps of mayo in one gigantic bun. How can you go wrong?

“U.S. Southwest”

Take a tour of the US Southwest with Bourdain as he cooks while traveling 80 mph and visits the restaurants of Alice Cooper and Ted Nugent.

Banh Mi in Vietnam
The Vietnamese sandwich is a delicious staple in this country. Watch Bourdain and his cohort devour every tasty little morsel.

“Colombia’s Delicacies”
Bourdain’s travels land him in Colombia for this clip. Ever heard of an entire restaurant devoted to ceviche? Neither had we.

“Egyptian Breakfast”
Don’t be a “Ful,” Anthony. Bourdain literally devours this traditional Egyptian breakfast while traveling the country.

“Kabab Cafe”
Bourdain travels with “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern to the famous Ali’s Kabob Cafe in Astoria, Queens. Prepare to salivate.

“Family Roots in Uruguay”
Watch Bourdain get his grill on and sample a wonderland of “meatness” in Uruguay at Estancia Del Puerto.

And last but not least…

“ATV Wipe-Out”

Ok, so that had absolutely nothing to do with food but how could we not add it to the list?

Get more Bourdain:
> Follow No Reservations on Twitter
> Watch No Reservations on TV
> Read Bourdain’s travel journal
> Learn Bourdain’s Survival Skills

Watch more videos:
> 10 things you probably shouldn’t do in a kayak
> 10 hilarious (and painful, and frightening) ski lift videos

Anthony Bourdain creates animated web series

I’m a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain and I love No Reservations. A show that combines travel to places both exotic and familiar, pure rockstar gluttony and classic Bourdain snark – how could it go wrong? So when I heard that Bourdain was creating an animated web series for the Travel Channel (relax, it will NOT be taking the place of No Reservations) I figured it couldn’t be anything less than awesome.

Based on the sneak peak, the show looks like its going to have plenty of Bourdain’s signature sense of humor. In the first episode, “Robo Chef,” Bourdain laments how much effort it takes to create the perfect celebrity chef – all that work and then they go off and get their own talk show! – so he decides to make one himself. But when he accidentally puts in Rachel Ray’s brain instead of Alton Brown’s, things go awry.

According to Bourdain himself, future episodes won’t be all about his issues with Food Network chefs. They’re designed to be alternative versions of No Reservations – “representing things we never could have done on the actual show – or representing the way things should have gone on the show – or animated acknowledgments of what already went terribly wrong on the show.”

One of the six webisodes will be posted on the Travel Channel website each month. The first will debut November 2nd.