A Perfect Meal In The Albanian Alps

by Jonathan I Hirsch

Gjecai Guest HouseThe cuisine of Northern Albania is a hearty mix of many surrounding cultures. There are elements of Mediterranean, Italian, and Balkan culinary traditions in their dishes.

We had the good fortune of spending a few days in the Theth Valley, near the border of Kosovo and Montenegro, sometimes referred to as the “Albanian Alps”.

At Gjecaj (pronounced JAY-CH-AY) every ingredient is intentional, and arrives fresh from the garden. That warm, fluttery feeling one gets from the most complete and perfect of meals? All the right notes were there when we sat down to eat.

Veal Stew

Lunch, the largest meal of the day, consisted of a veal stew in a tomato and vegetable broth (much like the Balkan variations on Gulyas) with a simple but delicious salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and thick hunks of sheep’s cheese. Byrek, a savory pastry of Turkish origin, is filled with spinach and cheese. A honey filled sweet cake, and a shot of honey Raki rounded out the meal.

Honey Cake & Yogurt

The food at Gjecai was special not just for the simplicity and beauty of the meal, but for the reminder it brought me: every ingredient, no matter how small,  counts.

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