Croatia knows its seafood.
That was the consensus of our group after dining throughout this country that borders the Adriatic Sea.
Never undercooked, never overcooked, the squid, octopus, lobster and grilled fish I feasted on were the best I'd ever had.
It's remarkable how quickly you can tell the difference between seafood that's been frozen and that which was caught in the morning and cooked the same day. In Croatia's restaurants, everything was served in this fresh manner.
Other specialties found throughout Croatia include olive oil, wine, homemade prosciutto, cheeses (in particular a local salty cheese called pag -- a must-try for any cheese lover), gelato, yogurt drinks and burek, which is filo dough filled with cheese, spinach or meat.
One night we decided to do Italian, not expecting much. But I'd be hard-pressed to remember the last time I had better pizza, calzone and pasta.
We bettered our chances of finding good restaurants by asking locals where to eat. And we were cautioned not to go into any restaurant that had pictures of their food posted outside; these are widely considered tourist traps.
As for shopping, Croatian specialties include fragrant lavendar satchels collected and made by the locals, lace, and jewelry made of the distinctive, deep-red Adriatic coral.
In Zagreb, Croatia's capital, I also made sure to stop off at the Croata store to buy a few ties, since the country is considered the birthplace