Category Archives: Artisan Food

Goranska borovnica – in the highland paradise of forest berries

We are sitting beneath a vast oak tree and enjoy splendid elder flower juice. It is made by Nataša Kozlica, owner of the family farm Goranska Borovnica (Highlander Blueberry) and it just suits great in already warm end of spring. She is accompanied by three generations of her family, a dog, and a cat. Oh yes, also a wooden bear looks at us, as part of the education garden where school kids come to learn more about self-grown herbs and students have their practical work.

But the basis of this family farm is in traditional Gorski kotar favourite fruits and sweets, the forest berries. The gift of the mountains and woodlands, berries were unavoidable part of the locals’ diet for generations. Today, they are essential part of every highlander menu, and not only in its sweet part. Local game dishes, such as bear or venison, regularly come with blueberry sauce or cranberry jelly, giving a perfect blend of pure meat and sweetness of berries.

Throughout summer people go into the forest to pick berries and make grandma-style jams and juices. At Goranska Borovnica, they plant it. One can find here strawberries, raspberries, currants, American blueberries, elder, and blackberries. A mix of forest berries is a basis for Kozlica’s refreshing liqueur, which we readily enjoyed at the estate.

It seems idyllic but there is a great deal of effort and risks behind this work. Everything is done beneath open sky, and fruits can ripe at different times, thus adding to the unpredictability of the whole process. But the end result is pure taste in various products that can be found in the farm’s souvenir shop.

Here guests can find authentic highland souvenirs, like wooden and ceramic products, homemade teas, soaps, candles, postcards. Especially appealing is the Fužine basket, rich with the fruits from the farm. And if you feel tired, why not spending a night or two here? Apartment Polić is just next to the farm, and is run by the oldest members of the family. Their piercing blue eyes keep the wisdom of the rural life in the mountains, while the agricultural knowledge of Mrs Kozlica makes this farm one of the best in the whole Gorski kotar region.

The family also prepared us cake with their fruits and guided us through the farm, where also a forest log cabin is situated for any guests seeking peace and quiet of woods. Information tables can be seen all around, giving interesting information about plants, animals, waters, and forest; indeed, a tour many of us should take in order to bring back memories of childhood visits to the woodlands.

Obrt Borovnica
Belo selo, Fužine 51322
mob: 00385915124712
pero.kozlica@ri.t-com.hr
http://www.goranska-borovnica.com

Vinistra 2017: Olive Oils

Together with the wine, Vinistra is place where the best Istrian olive oil is being chosen. Remnants of diverse ancient oil manufactories along the entire western coast of Istria, particularly on the Brijuni archipelago, in the towns of Barbariga, Poreč and Červar Porat, show the long heritage of olive groves in Istria.

The Istrians say: “Close to these, real industrial areas intended for the amphora manufacture had been set up. It is only natural that large olive-groves were planted aside, namely the indigenous local sorts (bjelica, karbonera, buža, etc.). Nowadays, it seems like we have to start all over again. We dispose of unrivalled legacy, apparently excellent climate conditions and soil structure, favourable geographic position, skills handed down from our ancestors, knowledge and properly qualified personnel; nevertheless, we seem to lag behind the latest worldwide trends and attainments in the field. We need to take a step forward and face the challenge of planting olive-groves consisting of selected, autochthonous sorts, producing top-quality olive-oil, accepting new growing technologies, as well as of constructing up-to-date oil plants.”

The hard-working Istrian olive growers are fit for the job, at least according to the huge push in the international olive oil ratings. At Vinistra, a dozen olive growers achieved medals: OPG Marko Radola (Barban, golden medal for buža); Azrri (Pazin, golden medal for karbonaca&buža blend); OPG Gržinić Marko (Vižinada, golden medal for istarska bjelica, leccino & pendolino blend); Dolija 08 (Krnica, golden medal for istarska bjelica); Zigante (Kostanjica, golden medal for Istrian special selection); OPG Gambaletta (Vodnjan, golden medal for istarska bjelica, buža & karbonaca blend); Monte Rosso (Umag, golden medal for leccino, istarska bjelica, pendolino/Maurino/ascolana & picholine blend); Dešković (Grožnjan, silver medal for leccino); OPG Nela Popović (Poreč, silver medal for mixed olive oil); Laguna Novigrad (Novigrad, silver medal for frantoio and pendolino blend); OPG Damir Vižintin (Oprtalj, silver medal for leccino and istarska bjelica blend); Laguna Novigrad (Novigrad, silver medal for leccino and pendolino blend); and OPG Beaković Mauricio (Kaštelir, bronze medal for leccino, frantoio, pendolino, buža & rošinjola blend).

And while we did try some of the best olive oils, our attention was given to the municipality of Tar-Vabriga. The olive oil from this Istrian municipality has a continuation of use and production since antiquity. In first six centuries after Christ, the Laron Bay was used as primary harbour for transferring olive oil on whole Adriatic. In the Middle Ages, olive oil from Tar-Vabriga was used on the tables of European rulers, and in 1970-ies FAO designated the region as best for the northernmost olive oil production. The local authorities plan to open soon an eco-museum of olive oil as a testimony to the values and traditions in Tar-Vabriga.

Everything is connected to the olive growers themselves. Their efforts and knowledge combine with heritage and love. They have preserved the dry stone walls surrounding the centuries old olive groves; they have opened their cellars for visitors to taste and buy olive oil; and combined this offer with local foods and wine for a perfect and durable experience throughout the year.

 

HERITAGE – FIRST STOP FOR CROATIAN TRADITIONAL FLAVOURS

Anyone even remotely familiar with Croatian gastronomy knows how difficult it is to say what is the signature dish of Croatia. Three cultural circles (Central European, Balkan, and Mediterranean) make up very diverse culinary traditions and indeed rich and various tastes in every corner of this rather small European country. Thus, it is an interesting concept to present a single place with all the major flavours of Croatia. It is the Heritage shop in the very heart of Croatian capital Zagreb.

Šime, Nikola, and Silvije, three friends and geographers, were thinking of opening a small street food shop with homemade Croatian products. Although geographers, Šime Sušić is also a former winner of MasterChef Croatia and all three are evidently knowledgeable of Croatian traditional cuisine. But instead of having large restaurant with loads of products, the Heritage is based on toasted sandwiches, salads, cheeses, salamis, marinated olives, and fish; finger food and quick bites that are kept simple and true to its original taste.

We’ve met Silvije in the Heritage shop, which is simple and rather narrow place in the very vicinity of the Ban Jelačić Square, but modern and open to passer-by. One can take away the delicacies or one may try it in the shop itself, while talking to the guys who will always recommend several wines on display. The wine list is quite small, but what is present is of high quality. White wines feature the Istrian Malvasia from Višnjan and Pinot Grigio, the eco-wine made by Enjingi in Kutjevo. Reds are Dingač Skaramuča from Pelješac and we have tried barrique Plavac „Mali Morkan“ from the island of Korčula. Out of all these wines, Mali Morkan might be the best choice for foods present; it is surprisingly mild and easy to drink, entirely suitable for pairings with the Heritage’s foods. Those in favour of sweeter tastes may opt for an excellent blackberry wine.

And the menu is indeed covering whole Croatia. A line of small starters is called „Crobites“ (coming from Croatian bites), and you can choose here among marinated anchovies with caramelised red onion and dill and salted anchovies with sour capers and wild oregano, the bites specific for the Adriatic region. Wild oregano paste is especially interesting, as is the combination of tastes and ingredients. Central Croatia is presented by cottage cheese (so Zagreb-ish!) with pumpkin seed pesto and crunchy pancetta; in Heritage shop you may also buy pumpkin seed oil, a rich comeback from the past times and rediscovered again in the north-western Croatia.

Every visitor will be astonished with traditional Slavonian spicy sausage Kulen, which may be served with cream cheese and grilled sour red pepper; visitors can see whole kulen presented before them, in classic smoked shape which turns into characteristic shamrock shape when sliced. Who knows, you might just get lucky! We were for sure, as the smell of kulen is enchanting!

We opted for prosciutto, another specific Croatian appetizer. The Heritage offers a Dalmatian prosciutto, from the Nira production in Pakovo Selo, in the Šibenik’s hinterland. This is a special Drniš prosciutto, made with exclusively Croatian meat, smoked and then dried on bura wind. Its taste combines the Drniš region’s characteristics, including sea salt, Drniš herbs, and oak, beech, and hornbeam smoke. It is served with marinated olives and homemade bread, making the Dalmatian appetizer a very joyful event.

Olives themselves are very represented in Heritage. Green olives, black olives, olives with almond, toasted in olive oil and wild oregano, or served with cheese, everything makes up an olive-lovers’ paradise. The olive oil comes predominantly from the island of Korčula, known for its golden drops since the ancient Greeks. And they fit great with aged cheese from Žigljen on the island of Pag.

Another regional taste is that of Istrian truffles. The family Prodan’s collection of truffles, truffle paste and tartufattas, olive oil with truffles, cheese with truffles, and prosciutto with black truffle paste will be just enough to fell in love with these authentic mushrooms, or to reconsider using them for a long time in your kitchen, as truffles are love or hate on first sight!

Sweet-tooths are not forgotten too! On display are traditional handmade pralines from the island of Hvar: Karobeli (chocolate filled with carob cream), Figolini (chocolate filled with fig cream), and Levonda (chocolate filled with lavender cream). Also, there is Šibenik rhapsody, i.e. chops of sweet pastry, seasonal fruit, cottage cheese, walnut, honey, and lavender. The northern part of the Adriatic coast is proudly presented with fig cake and fig products made in the Kali Tavern in Medveja.

Small CroBites are just perfect with small sips of Croatian favourite drink rakija. Varities included in the Heritage include Velebit Pelinkovac, Velebit Herb Brandy, Fig brandy from Istria, mistletoe brandy (Biska) from istria, and Zadar’s Maraschino. And if you are just plain beer lover, do not despair. Apart from the unfiltered light and dark Velebitsko beer, visitors can try Zmajsko ale, Pulfer, Red Baron, and Bura ale.

Small producers and inclination for ecologically grown foods is excellent way to present Croatia to newcomers and Heritage is well suited to become Zagreb’s introduction to the culinary riches of Croatia.

Heritage Croatian Food
Petrinjska 14, Zagreb
+385 97 684 2306
http://www.facebook.com/heritagecroatianfood
info@foodheritage.hr

 

 

DUKAT OF SLAVONIAN CUISINE

Dukat is tightly tied to the Slavonian soul. These are golden coins that people wear as a necklace, as part of the Slavonian folk costume. It is passed on though generations, making it one of the most valuable family heritages. Dukat is thus a name that preserves Slavonian culture and habits, and is regarded as very special. And when looking for a very classic and traditional Slavonian homemade cooking in Nova Gradiška, the Restaurant Dukat is prime spot.

Situated on the outskirts of the town, Dukat is beautifully styled as an old Slavonian interior. Wooden indoors welcomes the guests to an ideal family enterprise of rural gastronomy. The family Arić comes from nearby village of Gornji Crnogovci. Two brothers with their families travelled around and found their way to stay in Sava Valley and beautiful Slavonia. Their idea was to produce on their homestead, prepare in on the estate, and present it in their restaurant, which was once horse stable. And they have succeed marvellously!

Family cares for agriculture but also animals, especially the authentic Slavonian species of black swine (fajferica), Slavonian oxen (podolci), Posavac horses, deer, etc. Their products of traditional Slavonian cuisine are prepared according to the highest quality markers in the Nova Gradiška manufactory.

In the old household in Gornji Crnogovci the Arić brothers saw their dreams come true – they reconstructed the old home of their grandparents and made “Matin i Anin stan” (the home of Mate and Ana), a spectacular agritourism close to the Sava River. Orchards, agricultural buildings, and small lake are typical examples of traditional rural architecture in Slavonia, but the agritourism also offers two manifestations presented as heritage to this region, traditional Slavonian pig slaughtering (kolinje, svinjokolja) and traditional women games.

https://youtu.be/uf_G1PYzo0Q

We have visited the restaurant itself to feel the essence of Slavonian hearty cooking and meaty products. With a sip of plum rakija, itself a valuable addition to the local gastronomy, we started the Slavonian gastronomic journey with care for history and originality. The best way to start is to have a plate of Slavonian favourites, homemade dried sausage kulin, sausages, bacon, greaves, cheese, and hot peppers.

Main dish is as meaty as it gets. Smoked pork chops, stuffed pork loin, filled turkey steak and an imaginative array of chicken dishes (chicken fillet in seed crust gives precedence to the pumpkin, sesame, and flax seeds; chicken fillet in ham sauce accentuates homemade ham, while Šokadija is jolly combination of chicken, wine, peppers, mushrooms, and herbs) are included in the best ready meals.

Specialities are rather more interesting. Baked Bread Soup may be considered to be more Central Croatian thing, but it surely gives a local characteristic in Nova Gradiška. Veal baked in a traditional oven with a side dish or rolled veal or turkey made in same oven all bear innovative local names (Bećar, Lola, everything connected to the bohemian lifestyle in Slavonia).

If you order it a day or two before, you may enjoy here roast lamb and baked veal, or you may opt for excellent freshwater fish, especially carp or fish stew (fiš paprikaš). Hake is also present, thus giving a nice alternative to the meat. Unfortunately, given the local readiness to go to the restaurants not so much for the specialties but for the grill, this place serves grilled meat, pizza, and even calamari, which is a sad story repeated all over Croatia.

Because meat specialties are so prevalent, the best wine to go along would be traditionally good Graševina, of which Slavonia is famous and respected, but even more so with excellent Frankovka Ferinčanci which we tried with Bećarski steak. Indeed, the time of the Slavonian red wines has come. And Dukat makes it even better in the natural atmosphere of Slavonian home and hospitality, with an obligation to visit the agritourism as well.

Restaurant Dukat
Bana Ivana Mažuranića 27, Nova Gradiška
00385 35 330 180
ari-agro@hi.t-com.hr
www.dukat.com.hr

OLD BREWING TRADITION AND BOŠNJAK BEER

When military border was dissolved in 1871 and the area of Nova Gradiška was adjoined to the rest of continental Croatia, economy drive was huge. The place becomes regional centre, with a railway link to Zagreb from 1888. Economy, culture, and society began to develop. Among the many small enterprises a special one included the grand brewery of nobleman Dragutin pl. Lobe. It was a first steam powered brewery in Croatia and, because of the seasonal production, its first beer was called Ožujsko (March Beer). Accidentally or not, Ožujsko is still one of the two favourite beers in Croatia, produced massively in Zagreb.

Some beer barrels still survive and we were lucky to find one in the Bošnjak family courtyard in village of Sičice, south of Nova Gradiška, near the Sava River. The family is known not only because of the barrel, but because of the homemade craft beer of highest quality, made according to the family recipe. Two brothers, Mario and Dario, run the family homestead, and their father Ivan greets us with a sip of beer brandy (rakija), excellent homemade drink with addition of juniper. The taste is excellent and surprisingly mild, while juniper gives freshness and specific aroma.

Mario comes soon after and takes us in the traditional interior of tasting room, where organised groups can come and enjoy perfect beer. The tradition of craft family brews is not big in Croatia, but the big production is. Still, some families did made beer, due to a simple geographic reason. Wine does not grow near Sava, but there was an abundance of water. Some hundred years ago, Bošnjak family dig a deep well which didn’t run dry even in the greatest droughts. The well was used for mills and for the making of beer. Next to the homemade dried meat and rakija, grand-grandma of today’s owners also made a murky beer, kept in the earthen jars. At the same time, the family made corn rakija, which brings the similar technological process of making beer, as both drinks are made from crops.

Today, the beer is not murky but light and non-filtered, kept in the modern barrels and refrigerators. Their hobby became a new business in 2008 and ever since the Bošnjak Beer makes its brand. Spreading to the full-scale tourist project, today Sičice are a destination for beer lovers and all those who would like to find out how water, barley malt, hops and yeast combine in a beautiful drink.

And indeed it is beautiful! We have tried the original Bošnjak lager. It has nice amber colour and is made according to the traditional Czech recipe in Bošnjak’s manufactory. It contains only water, four kinds of barley malt, three kinds of hops and yeast. Fresh and energizing, non-pasteurised nor filtered, this is light beer that can be used every day. If bottled, it retains freshness for nine months. Bošnjak also makes dark lager.

While we were talking about old times and new beers, Mario brings us some green fluid. It is beer, of course, but green?! The secret addition remains the secret, but the intensive green colour shows also remarkable innovations and marketing strategies of Bošnjaks: this beer is presented for the Saint Patrick Day. And although the cyclists on the bike routes through the Sava villages may drive a bit more jolly, Bošnjak place is for sure one of the must-do gastronomy spots in and around Nova Gradiška.

Bošnjak Brewery is part of the Posavka education road, a local idea of connecting gastronomy, history, archaeology, folklore, and folk heritage, giving an insight in the unique and authentic Posavina architecture, and offering river tourism, hunting, adventures, and cycling. This road of 30 kilometres, leads through the rich Slavonian woodlands and along the Sava River.

OPG Bošnjak Ivan

Sičice 94, 35423 VRBJE
Tel: 035 345 190, Mob: 098 349 490
WEB: www.pivobosnjak.com
E-MAIL: pivo.bosnjak@gmail.com

Choco & Wine Festival in Brtonigla

Who is not in favour of chocolate? How about wine? In Brtonigla, a gastronomy paradise near Umag in Northwest Istria, you can easily pair both. For already five years, Tourist Board of Brtonigla prepares Choco&Wine Fest, a unique gastronomy festival in Croatia. New trends in chocolate world and local sweet delicacies have been presented together with wine champions of this Istrian municipality.

Same weekend hosted Seventh Brtonigla Adventure Trek, which gathered some 300 trekkers from several countries. Three trails, of various length and intensity, led many to appreciate the beautiful nature of this part of Istria. All of them could later come to the Brtonigla’s main square in the chocolate tent.

Sweet sense of chocolate tears the air inside, where many chocolate masters showed their expertise. Especially interesting program of cake decoration by Dragica Lukin from Vila Soši in Umag was indeed a delight. Dragica and her son Igor Lukin showed how the chocolate is rightly tempered and decorated. Vila Soši is somewhat a legendary sweet centre of Umag, dedicated to the preservation of traditional sweets and heritage of Croatian delicacies.

Choco art & show of Italian sculptor Stefano Comelli featured the chocolate jewellery, especially chocolate rings, favourite among kids and adults. As the carnival season is high, Vili Radonić from Pula made chocolate masks.

Wine was in no shortage either. Sunny weather gathered also many wine enthusiasts who indulged in wine tastings of renown Brtonigla wine makers Novacco, Veralda, and Ravalico. Istrian Malvasia and Muscat are among the best wine sorts coming from these wine cellars and go excellent with various chocolates.

The tent in Brtonigla was too small for all the guests arriving to this first gastronomy festival in the year in Istria.

Photos by: Elvis Horozović

CVIČEK AND ČEBULA – GASTRONOMY HITS OF KRŠKO COUNTRYSIDE

When you come to Krško, be sure to visits its surroundings. The countryside of Posavje region is the land of pristine flavours, traditional food, and excellent wines. These delights locals call the “River of Flavours” and indeed it is. You will first receive a warm greeting and an amazing hospitality, just as we experienced it in the restaurant Ribnik near Brestanica.

Typical local dishes in Posavje include flat cake with overheated cream (puhla s pregreto smetano), flat cake with cottage cheese (cop na lop), buckwheat cake (bizeljski ajdov kolač), cottage cheese dumplings (pečeni sirovi štruklji), carrot soup (korejevc), Krško-polje pig delicacies, colt, fish… everything cooked with fresh, authentic and local ingredients. Local action group Posavje is very active in raising the value of local products and services, establishing locally based sustainable food supply, and overall development of rural regions.

One such product is Krško-polje pig (krškopoljski prašič), the only autochthonic Slovenian pig sort. It is historically raised in the Dolenjska region, which abounds with valleys, already in 1850ies. This black-and-white pig gives particularly soft and delicious ham and praised lard. Especially pleasing are dried meat products, which go well with cviček.

In place of Raka, the Tourist Association Lovrenc Raka began a project “Best from Raka”, an innovative conception of presenting the autochthon onion sort (čebula, raška č’bula). They try to promote this piece of local agricultural heritage further in local and national restaurants and inns, as unavoidable part of the Slovenian culinary offer.

Raka was once famous for red onion, grown in hard but fertile ground. Almost every household had onions to sell, and the seed was carefully preserved. Raška č’bula was once staple food, used every day in local homes. It is powerful antiseptic which protects from illness and strengthens immunity. It is eaten raw, with sausages, ham, or just with bread. Local folk medicine also used this onion to cure. Today, probably the most famous čebula grower was Mr Učnik, grandfather of Melanija Trump who was born in nearby Sevnica!

We learn more about raška č’bula in the Cvičkov hram wine house. This is the centre point of Raka events. Day of St. Lawrence is onion and wine day, and traditional fire-fighter party is being held. People also walk through the Čebula path from Raka to Krakovski gozd and Kostanjevica. We try the specific čebula onion soup with bits of bread soaked in it (čebulova juha). Quite simple and different from the famous French onion soup, it replenishes body and soul. No wonder, as it was usually served after the Sunday church mass. This onion blends well with marinated trout, with mushrooms and salad, as basis for onion jam together with pork roast, or as an onion pie.

Tourist Association Lovrenc Raka
Raka 36a, 8274 Raka
041/532 727
td.lovrenc@gmail.com
www.tdlovrenc.com

Čebula also goes well with cviček, wine classified with recognised traditional name. It has quite unique blend of various reds (modra frankinja, žametna črtnina – 70 per cent) and white varieties (kraljevina, laški rizling, rumeni plavec, zeleni silvanec – 30 per cent). It is a dry wine with low alcohol, up to maximum 10 per cent, and somewhat higher acidity. Cviček enchants with its light red colour and ruby casts; Slovenes are particularly proud of it. It has fresh fruity aromas, with an emphasis on raspberry and cherry. Our hosts claim it also has healing properties!

Cviček is known in this region since 1500’s and mentioned even in the great Slovenian historian Valvasor’s work as Marwein, a jolly wine of Dolenjska. Today, some 20 million litres of cviček is produced in Dolenjska region, and cviček wine maker association numbers more than 200 people. In Raka they gather in Cvičkov hram (the embassy of cviček), which has educative and pleasurable parts. In the basement is a wine cellar that can accommodate up to 70 guests. We enjoyed it with opnion soup and homemade sausages and bacon, while listening to gorgeous Lovrenci male a cappela band. The upper floor is made of oak logs and is a modern version of the 18th century house (gorniki).

Another famous wine of Posavje region is Modra Frankinja (Blue Franconian). It is one of the most favourite red sorts in continental parts of ex-Austro-Hungarian Empire. In Slovenia, Posavje and Podravje (regions characterised by the Sava and Drava rivers) offer a particularly good terroir for this wine. It contains lots of antioxidants, making it perfect wine for meaty and fatty meals, full of cholesterols. Modra frankinja is also part of cviček.

A special treat is to book your accommodation in a vineyard cottage (zidanice). It is a unique trademark of Posavje, where lots of vineyard cottages, wineries, and wine cellars make a heaven for wine tourists. Most wine cottages are not at all small or excessively rustic – they are now real villas in the rural surroundings of Posavje wine hills.

RAJHENBURG – TRAPPIST CASTLE WITH CHOCOLATE WINE

Perched on sixty metres rock above Sava River and village of Brestanica, the Rajhenburg Castle stands as a spectacular historical attraction of Krško. It is also the first medieval castle mentioned in Slovenian texts from 895. The original castle was demolished and later rebuild by Bishop Konrad of Salzburg in early 12th century. Among many owners of this castle, the Trappist monks stand out. They lived here from 1881 until 1941, and gave a specific gastronomic heritage to this castle.

The fort has thick walls and entrance leads to a cobbled square surrounded by white walls of this beautiful castle. The nobility ruled this estate until 1881 when Trappists bought the castle and made a strict monastery. German occupation in 1941 moved the monks out and used the premises for Slovenian refugees. After Second World War, the communist government nationalised Rajhenburg and transformed it into a female political prison. Only in 2004 did Krško Municipality gain the ownership of Rajhenburg and started its renaissance to the present state.

We first got warm with tea and excellent pastry inside the castle cafe, before embarking on a quick one-hour tour of the castle led by knowledgeable Mrs Helena Rožman. Within an hour we were astonished by the development of castle’s architecture, beginning in Romanesque period and travelling through Gothic and Renaissance features until the present day.

Castle is known for its not yet fully explored Romanesque chapel from 12th century and Renaissance chapel from 16th century. Exquisite Renaissance frescos still exist in one room, making Rajhenburg one of the most important Middle Age castle architecture in Slovenia. The scenic position and exemplary interior make the castle ideal for weddings, celebrations, concerts, and cultural events.

The museum inside the castle features the destiny of Slovene deportees and the time when various correctional institutions operated in the castle. Visitors can also see the castle furniture from the collection of the National Museum of Slovenia. Postcards show Brestanica from the end of the 19th century and motifs from the social life in this small and picturesque village that hosts one of the biggest churches in Slovenia, the Basilica of the Mary of Lourdes. The castle also includes exhibited medals from the Olympic games and world championships won by Primož Kozmus, the most famous athlete from Brestanica.

Castle Rajhenburg
Cesta izgnancev 3, 8280 Brestanica
07 620 42 16
info@gradrajhenburg.si
http://www.gradrajhenburg.si

In the home of Silent Monks

The main attraction is, of course, the Trappists. The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.) is a Roman Catholic religious order of cloistered contemplative monasticrs who follow the Rule of St. Benedict. They are branch of the Order of Cistercians and one of the strictest orders in Catholicism. “Silent monks”, as they are sometimes called, came to Rajhenburg from Trappist monastery of Dumb near Lyon and dedicated it to the Mary the Rescuer.

At first only French monks were present, but over time Slovenian brothers entered the monastery. In Rajhenburg they worked for 17 hours a day, of which six hours they spent in prayer and meditation. They were strictly forbidden to talk or even communicate with the body language. Those who have taken the vows were no longer allowed eating meat, fish, and eggs, and they only made Trappist cheese. It was possible to eat this cheese at non-fasting days, making it the only food of animal origin on the monastery’s dining table.

Extensive farmlands in the area were the basis of Trappists’ survival. The monks were breeding cows, horses, pigs, and chickens, whose meat they sold. They cultivated the land, had vineyards and orchards. In 1929 Trappists bought the first tractor in Posavje region and they planted first vine in Sremič, now known as top wine area. In 1896 monks also built first hydroelectric power plant in the area.

Chocolate wine

One heritage that lasts is chocolate. The Trappists were first producers of chocolate and liqueurs in Slovenia. They imported the necessary machinery from France in 1896, and used the hydro energy of Brestanica brook to produce first chocolate dragees. The Viennese Imperial Court was especially pleased of its quality, so they bought regularly chocolate bars from the monastery. In fact, Emperor and King Franz Joseph gave the honorary title of Imperial, which soon became their brand name. The Imperial chocolate was sold all over Europe. They also produced Cocoa, Trapistin and the Grand liqueur, three kinds of liqueurs, of which some became basis for modern day chocolate wine.

We tried the famous chocolates and chocolate wine in Rajhenburg itself, presented by Lojze Kunej. The family tradition of wine making in Kunej family goes back to the end of the 19th century. In 2013, the production of vines and wine is joined by production of chocolate.

The Kunej family partnered with the City museum of Krško and Rajhenburg Castle in the project entitled “The influence of Trappist order on the Posavje countryside, acronym Trapistin” and began producing chocolate products inspired by the Trappist heritage. The chocolate products are produced in the House of Mozer in the direct vicinity of the renovated Rajhenburg Castle.

Kunej’s major product, Chocolat Impérial, is a new beverage based on dark red wine from unique grape variety selection, which can be combined with its gentle tannin with dark chocolate. This is a harmonious fusion, which takes us into the world of sensual pleasure and comfort. It can be enjoyed by itself as an aperitif or with selected snacks or deserts, dark chocolate, truffles, forest berries, nuts, berries and selected gourmet food. The wine is not as sweet as one might expect, mostly because of the high-quality Ecuadorian 76 per cent dark chocolate used to produce it. The wine itself is cuvee of dornfelder, acolon, cabernet cubin, and cabernet dorsa.

But real treat is a newly made wine with white chocolate, Chocolat Imperial Blanc. This unique dessert wine is based on chardonnay, sauvignon, and Laški Riesling, with addition of aromatic white chocolate. The complex aroma gives the feelings and tastes of white chocolate, sherry, vanilla, coffee. Indeed, it is a perfect, romantic, pleasurable dessert drink that goes well with soft and mild chocolates.

The best chocolates for these wines can also be found at Kunej’s manufactory. These are again based on Trappists’ tradition, and you can choose from handmade chocolate candies, chocolate bars, and chocolate round bars. The most difficult part is to try all combinations with a drop of excellent wine.

HOUSE OF VINES, WINE AND CHOCOLATE KUNEJ
Kunej Ales s.p.
Cesta prvih borcev 40
8280 Brestanica, Slovenia
E-mail: ales@kunej.com
http://www.kunej.com
Phone: 00386 (0)7 49 73 330
GSM: 00386 (0)31 337 526
Fax: 00386 (0) 599 54 671

Bakar Gastronomy

As in other Kvarner towns, Bakar’s gastronomy is a combination of seafood and agriculture in its hinterland. This area is influenced by heavy northeast wind bura and rainy days in winter, while having a sub-Mediterranean climate in rest of the year.

15027446_10207944572034895_7965556522259173719_n

It is the specialties that Bakar is famous for. Everyone here is proud of Bakarska vodica, a sparkling wine grown on the terraces high above the Bakar Bay, or Bakarski baškot, unique baked bread used to gain strength on long voyages of famous Bakar captains and sailors. Fresh fish and sea products are still very much everyday meals here. On the very waterfront stands town’s most famous fishery and a small fish restaurant Vladimir. Beautiful setting of this place is accompanied by also beautiful and fresh food.

15036685_10207944569874841_5949510240664557031_n

15032810_10207944567074771_1505676207330094833_n

Everything is simple – the menu consists of healthy blue fish, squids, high quality fish, octopus salad, everything with classic potato or beans salad, or Swiss chard.  Of course, the daily menu depends on the successful fishing night. The owner has its own boat and here you enjoy true gastronomy chain – from fishermen to your table! For us, the owner Marijan Čoklo made a beautiful plate of seafood, with distinctive freshness of fish, squids, with Swiss chard and potatoes on the side. Simple, fresh, juicy, this is a branch everyone should wish for!

14992054_10207944572194899_924269373345567665_n

14963137_10207944570394854_8237343168758975191_n

Vladimir
Primorje bb, Bakar
00385 98 9519 962

And while many influences in Bakar’s town cuisine came through the ships, Bakar’s surroundings preserved old-fashioned peasant dishes. Such a famous place is the Restaurant Bujan in the village of Praputnjak. This old village inherited the viticulture and agriculture from past times, and Bujan is an old inn, with respected past. On this very spot, called Meja, as this was the toll border between Praputnjak and neighbouring Hreljin, the family had their inn since 1932. Bujan is famous for homemade meals and big portions, and every guest will be offered with homemade rakija (brandy).

15085666_10207944619276076_6002917530112456571_n

We came to Bujan without prior notice and were surprised with excellent plate of prosciutto and cheese, together with a superb olive oil. This classic Adriatic appetizer is determined by the quality of every ingredient, including the olives, and Bujan is known to offer excellent hard cheese. Among other appetizers guests like to point to the Grobnik cheese with hot potatoes and olive oil.

14980798_10207944617636035_2783558549565643903_n

Place is also known for its soups, minestrone and stews, especially in winter period. We also enjoyed excellent minestrone soup with chunks of meat, bean, and corn. Rich soups are classic meals in the Northern Adriatic, pointing to the various Mediterranean and Central European influences. But it is the meat Bujan has always been famous for. Known delicacies such lamb and veal baked under the lid can be also matched by beef shanks, always an excellent speciality of the house.

15036296_10207944619836090_3908632388940421428_n

Bujan is the remnant of the old-style local inn, based on great homemade foods, quality ingredients from the vicinity, very friendly prices, and an atmosphere where the owners will sit with you and with joy drink a glass of wine or rakija, although you have never met before. This is what many locals still very much cherish.

14963392_10207944620076096_6581869144186963793_n

Krčma Bujan
Meja 16, Praputnjak
00385 51 809 500

Some of the desserts may be done with local honey producers, in nearby Hreljin. The medieval Hreljin fort was administrative centre for residential, trade, and defence use. Since 1225, when it was first mentioned in history record, until 1790, when famous family Frankopan left the castle, Hreljin was a very important place. We cannot be totally sure if they enjoyed honey, but apiculture has long tradition here. Nowadays it is Apitrade from Hreljin that cares for this tradition.

151

The honey is brought here from various cooperatives, but the magic of transformation is visible in magnificent end products: honey vinegar, honey brandy, honey wine, nuts, walnuts and almonds in flower honey, dried figs and honey jam. Honey made in Apitrade are mostly Primorski (Mediterranean) honey, acacia, linden, heather, chestnut, flower, and honeydew. The sweet paradise of Hreljin travels around Croatia, as guests on various festivals, fairs, and events, but you can always order their products here:

69 70

PZ Pčelarstvo Apitrade
Hreljin 136, Hreljin
00385 51 545 552, 00385 98 926 3969
info@apitrade.hr
www.apitrade.hr

13254107_931943353570012_9187750116659491993_n

Surrounding karstic valleys, where sea and mountains interact, are great pastureland for sheep and goats. Unfortunately, only one shepherd is left here, in Plosna. This small village next to Škrljevo, in the hinterland of Bakar, is very old. Evidences show it was inhabited by Illyrian tribes, long before Romans came to these lands.

14068324_997446290353051_7491283316168893994_n

14100446_997432700354410_8291294120825530756_n

It is here where Mr Dario Mičetić runs family homestead Plosna, and makes excellent cow and goat cheese. His animals roam freely in the valley, nurturing on the healthy and aromatic Mediterranean herbs. End product is clean and refreshing cheese, which can be obtained in the area of Kvarner.

slide

It is thus strange that Bakar does not have stronger restaurant scene. A rather new attempt strives to make this offer better. It is the restaurant Vallis, situated on the seafront of Bakar. Refurbished and positioned on excellent spot near the sea, this restaurant bases itself on fresh ingredients bough from the local producers. The place has excellent wine list and even better brandy choice. Both meat and fish are present on the menu, with a slight orientation to modern dining, while enjoying the old pictures of Bakar on the walls. In warm months the owners open the summer terrace; it must be a great experience to sit right next to the sea and enjoy the sudden discovery of Bakar. It is truly worth of it!

Restaurant Vallis
Primorje 128, Bakar
vallis.bakar@gmail.com
www.vallis-bakar.hr

Photos by: Bruno Vignjević, Vallis, OPG Plosna, Apitrade

Naval Tradition and Bakar Baškot

There is no town in the Northern Adriatic with such a great and long tradition of naval education and captains as Bakar. It doesn’t mean you will find them around the town, though… these are past times, and you can just imagine captains and sailors in this natural port, preparing their ships for long sea travels. Imagination transformed itself into the old costumes and a naval battle. But some things remain – Bakar is still the place of high-school education in its maritime school, and heritage of Bakar captain families is vivid and represents great value and pride for the locals.

gradskastrazabakar_236109606

12003345_835828696535975_3280189001634307383_n

Bakar once had its own Sailor’s House. According to the historical information, it was in fact a brothel. In past centuries every port had brothels, where sailors spent their income. Although there isn’t much written documents, the brothel was later renamed as a Sailor’s House, and it did had accommodation for tired sailors. But, sailors can be proud of better things too. The first number of the magazine “Novi život” (New Life) was published in Bakar on May 29th 1911, the magazine that consisted mostly of maritime topics. It was also a magazine that promoted actions against foreign rule in Croatia.

1_966132087

pomorska-bitka

To evoke memories of this long and rich tradition, Bakar reinstated its Town Guard in 2009. he Town’s Guard Bakar’s uniform is sewed in according to the sample of Jakov Tadejević uniform as shown on his portrait.  He was the duke of Bakar’s guard from 1848.  An emblem of The Town’s Guard Bakar is the historical emblem of Bakar, and it was established with the Statute of free and royal town Bakar, as approved by Bakar’s parliament on 3rd November, 1896.

013

This Guard also takes part in the annual Naval Battle, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Bakar. Within the Margaret’s summer in Bakar (Margaretino leto), the spectacular “Naval battle” is held regarding the Town of Bakar’s Day celebration (Saturday closest to July 13th). It is about reconstruction of this historical naval attack, when for the last time the Venetians had unsuccessfully tried to win Bakar back in the year of 1616. The old sailing ships (Klementa, Sakuhai and Stari Ive) equipped with pyrotechnic resources and with members of the Croatian Army historical units from all parts of the country are all participating in the battle as defenders of the town. The originality of a real naval battle experience is guaranteed, along with the shootings from the sailing boats, rifles, firelocks and guns from the shore, fiery torches, water bombs and smoke effects. The whole event ends with a magnificent firework, concert performance of a popular artist, and a party late into the night.

15037187_10207944578195049_1603366919508716750_n

15078801_10207944578075046_6442746300412629537_n

Many of the sailors who embarked and disembarked in Bakar had with themselves Bakarski baškot. Baškot is a typical double toasted or a fresh bread product (type of a bun) in a shape of a ring brought to Bakar by fishermen from Chioggia.  Once, the fishermen carried them instead of the bread to longer fishing trips, and they were also unavoidable in ship’s kitchen where they would hang from a rope.  Baškoti could last up to six months due to their dryness, and were also convenient to have as a part of diet on other travels. They were often eaten with all liquids available on the ship (wine, tea, water), although baškot was traditionally dipped into red wine.  Baškot’s quality was determined by dropping it from a certain height to see if it would break.  Baškot that broke in the most pieces was better.

15085603_10207944576395004_4044980720242597232_n

15027534_10207944579955093_2034579184679578536_n

Each baškot is not perfectly shaped because men make them, not a machine, but from the same reason is perfect and unchangeable in taste. They were produced with love and touch of warmth to provide taste enjoyment.  Today it has become the protective sign of Bakar, and it had been chosen as an official souvenir of Bakar.  Our Bakar’s baškot had always been consumed with joy, and even today it is very popular among all generations that gladly come to well-known bakery “Bakarski baškot” that daily produces soft and hard Bakar’s baškot.

15036551_10207944577195024_7318766678717428821_n

15073497_10207944576635010_4969093888945365142_n

The story of Bakar’s baškot connects to the life of seamen which is as “Bread with seven layers.” Once, it was taken instead of the bread to longer fishermen trips, traditionally is dipped into red wine or coffee with milk.  Today, baškot is one of the symbols and souvenirs of the town of Bakar, and we have tried it in original Baškot bakery, situated on edge of old town, Veberova 135a

Photos by: Bruno Vignjević and TZ Bakar