Award-Winning EVOO, Local Cuisine Delight the Senses on Hvar

Eva Marija Čurin challenged guests at a dinner to decide which extra virgin olive oils paired best with local dishes.
Harvesting at OPG Seca
By Nedjeljko Jusup
Sep. 11, 2023 14:47 UTC

The Croatian island of Hvar, known for its impec­ca­ble nat­ural beauty and rich his­tory, is also a top des­ti­na­tion for sum­mer vaca­tions.

One of the most vis­ited places in Dalmatia and on the Adriatic, there is always some­thing going on in its gas­tro­nomic scene, and the most com­monly used ingre­di­ent is extra vir­gin olive oil.

A healthy Mediterranean diet is unthink­able with­out high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil,” said Eva Marija Čurin, owner of OPG Seca from Gdinj in the munic­i­pal­ity of Jelsa on Hvar.

See Also:Restaurateurs, Producers in Croatia Debate Charging Extra for Local Olive Oils

A few kilo­me­ters from Gdynia, on the island’s east­ern side, in the local­ity of Seca, is the organic olive grove of the Čurin fam­ily, cov­er­ing 5 hectares with 1,000 olive trees. The most com­mon vari­ety is Oblica, fol­lowed by Levantinka, Leccino, Lastovka and oth­ers. At 280 meters above sea level, there is a restored fairy-tale olive house with a tast­ing room.

We orga­nized all fam­ily events and cel­e­bra­tions as well as work­shops in the olive grove. This is the cen­ter of our agri­cul­ture,” Čurin said. As it is also of great sen­ti­men­tal impor­tance to us, Seca spon­ta­neously imposed itself as the name of the fam­ily farm, olive house, tast­ing room, the brand for the oils and all the prod­ucts we pro­duce.”


House of olive oil in the center of the olive grove

An inter­est­ing event recently occurred in the Seca tast­ing room, the first of its kind on Hvar and in Dalmatia.

For guests eager for new expe­ri­ences, Čurin and the famous Croatian wine expert, Marija Vukelic, have designed a spe­cial din­ner: olive oil tast­ing, with five care­fully selected courses of Hvar del­i­ca­cies and top Hvar wines.

Two olive oils were served with each course, and the guests chose the best com­bi­na­tions blindly because the labels of the tested oils were cov­ered.

Additionally, one Hvar wine was added, which was also tasted blind. On top of every­thing, Mediterranean spices from Čurin’s gar­den were added to the com­bi­na­tion of food, oil and wine.

Given that it was the first tast­ing of this type, I was pos­i­tively sur­prised by the response and later by the impres­sions of the guests who par­tic­i­pated,” Čurin said.

The olives are picked by hand and processed the same day exclu­sively by cold extrac­tion. Thus, we get high-qual­ity organic extra vir­gin olive oil directly from the olive fruit,” Čurin said.

At the begin­ning of the evening, she pre­sented seven olive oils: two mono­va­ri­etal olive oils (Levantinka, Leccino), three fla­vor-infused oils (lemon, basil and chili) and two blended olive oils.

The com­bi­na­tion of the Mediterranean cli­mate with long, dry, sunny sum­mer, rocky soil and a lot of pas­sion and hard work yield extra­or­di­nary results, as con­firmed by numer­ous awards won at local and inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions.

In the guided tast­ing, which pre­ceded the evening, Čurin showed the guests how to taste olive oil in a blue glass cup prop­erly. You pour it in, warm it between your palms, swirl it, smell it and sip it,” she said.

For the tast­ing, Čurin chose her Levantinka mono­va­ri­etal, which earned a fourth-con­sec­u­tive Gold Award at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity con­test.

Čurin then described the char­ac­ter­is­tics of all the oils the guests were wait­ing to taste. Meanwhile, Vukelic spoke about the grape vari­eties and wines of Hvar, and after each pour­ing from a cov­ered bot­tle, she revealed which wine it was and intro­duced the win­ery.


The first course was a bruschetta with arugula and fresh goat’s cheese from a local pro­ducer in Ježić, with which two oils were offered: Levantinka and basil-infused olive oil.

Guests ulti­mately pre­ferred the basil-infused olive oil to pair with the food, par­tially due to its famil­iar scent, but chose the Levantinka olive oil with the wine.

The bruschetta was served with a 2022 Bogdanuša from the Tomić win­ery in Jelsa, which was awarded the pre­vi­ous day at a local wine qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion.


The sec­ond course was risotto with cod, served with Parmesan and one of the blended olive oils along with the Leccino. The Leccino gave the risotto an exotic touch, but the blended olive oil was widely con­sid­ered the star of the meal.

The third course – prawn tar­tar on polenta with a bit of caviar – was pre­pared with Fjori Fôra fish sea­son­ing mix, fol­lowed by the blended olive oil and chili-infused oil.

The chili fla­vor was chal­leng­ing and excit­ing with the dish, paired with a 2022 Rosé Pavičić from the vil­lage of Vrbanj, made from the plavac mali grape. However, guests pre­ferred the pair­ing with the blended olive oil this time.

See Also:Cooking With Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Next, the steak arrived with a potato base and sprouts, with the other olive oil blend and Levantinka olive oil. This com­bi­na­tion proved dif­fi­cult to judge because both oils went well with food and wine. The wine was the iconic bar­rel-aged 2018 Medvid from the Duboković win­ery in Jelsa.

Dessert fol­lowed, fea­tur­ing white choco­late cream with drops of lemon-infused olive oil and Prošek from the Luviji win­ery in the town of Hvar; the som­me­liers con­firmed it as the ideal com­bi­na­tion.

The well-known Dalmatian dessert was pre­pared by Čurin’s par­ents, both expe­ri­enced chefs. Čurin attrib­utes her cur­rent suc­cess to their sup­port, along with the fam­ily – her hus­band, Hrvoje, and seven-year-old son, David.


Brushette with cheese, vegetables and two oils for pairing and tasting

We live in har­mony with nature and our eco­log­i­cal pro­duc­tion,” Čurin said. Besides olives, we grow laven­der, immortelle, figs, cit­rus fruits and sea­sonal veg­eta­bles. The com­bi­na­tion of the Mediterranean cli­mate with long dry peri­ods, the sun, rocky soil and a lot of love and work give extra­or­di­nary results.”

While Čurin read­ily attrib­utes her suc­cess to those around her, she does not hide her pride after OPG Seca was named the best organic olive grove in Split-Dalmatia county.

The best pub­lic­ity is achieved by par­tic­i­pat­ing in inter­na­tional events,” she said. This is how we con­firm to our­selves that we are doing well, that we cre­ate top qual­ity and thus attract cus­tomers. We offer them the best we know how to do. Also, in this way, a bet­ter prod­uct price is achieved.”

Last year, the Čurin fam­ily moved fur­ther by open­ing the doors of the newly ren­o­vated tast­ing room — the House of Seca Olive Oil — in the olive grove.

One could say that it is the heart of the olive tree. The tast­ing room was built on the foun­da­tions of a heavy agri­cul­tural house and pre­served the orig­i­nal­ity of tra­di­tional island archi­tec­ture.

With the recon­struc­tion, we wanted to achieve a touch of moder­nity,” Čurin said. The dark red color of the house refers to the fer­tile red soil, which is one of the fac­tors for obtain­ing top qual­ity.”


Eva Marija Čurin and Marija Vukelic

She added that the feed­back from vis­i­tors has been excel­lent. Tourists vaca­tion­ing on Hvar increas­ingly visit her farm to pur­chase olive oil. They taste it and buy it. Even the par­tic­i­pants of the blind” olive oil tast­ing did not skimp on com­pli­ments.


Oils ready for tasting

All the feed­back and suc­cess have moti­vated Čurin to con­tinue cre­at­ing even more inter­est­ing and high-qual­ity prod­ucts.

She also hopes to teach other olive grow­ers in Hvar, Dalmatia and Croatia to attract domes­tic and for­eign guests to their olive groves and tast­ing rooms, who are increas­ingly inter­ested in food and wine des­ti­na­tions.

For Čurin and other pro­duc­ers, the oppor­tu­nity is appar­ent. Over the sum­mer, more than 1 mil­lion tourists vis­ited Croatia.


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