Category Archives: Restaurant

PETEANI – TEMPLE OF GASTRONOMY IN LABIN

You cannot miss the Peteani boutique hotel. It lies exactly on the main road to the Labin Old Town and its elegance is visible already from the street itself. It can easily be among the finest gastronomy experiences in Labin, which is the main destination of the eastern Istrian coast. This picturesque medieval town of long history is also the birthplace of Matthias Flacius Illyricus, the reformer and collaborator of Martin Luther, which might be interesting in 2017, when 500th anniversary of Reformism takes place.

But our place in Labin was dedicated to excellent time with Serđo Peteani, an experienced restaurateur and hotelier of this region. Mr Peteani took us to every corner of his new hotel, made within the belle époque villa from the turn of the century. Modest and self-effacing, Mr Peteani shows us spacious and unique rooms for stylish holiday. Nevertheless, it shows how much experience he has and how much love all of his family and staff give to this new project which already turns to be a blissful success.

There is something basic and earthy in this hotel. Its white-and-dark colours, its feeling of elegance but without much fuss, stone and wood, and of course some iron… all of these remind guests they are in Labin, town of miners whose time has faded away. This feeling was made on purpose and it fits great, as the details are really small and they do not change the overall atmosphere of relaxed place for fine dining.

Meeting the chefs and kitchen staff showed us something else – Peteani gives lots of space and innovation to the young people. Very young staff is ready to combine traditional Istrian cuisine with a touch of modernity, just as they themselves have chosen to live in Labin just to engage more into the tastes of the northern Adriatic. They are headed by Peteani Junior, who is running the everyday business of the hotel and the restaurant. And its food… it is really splendid!

Peteanis were kind enough to invite us to lunch although they had a dinner party for over 50 people and were preparing for major event. Luckily, this event was intended to show more of the Peteani cuisine and we came just in moment to try some things from the elaborate menu. Classic fish and meat menu is too humble to describe ideas stemming from the kitchen one floor below.

After a strong Muscat rakija (brandy) a line of five meals were introduced to us, beginning with marinated cuttlefish and shrimps with wild garlic (marinirana sipa i gamberi s medvjeđim lukom). Sea is felt all around this appetizer consisting of indeed fresh ingredients that come every day from verifiably trusted fishermen. Surprisingly mild wild garlic gives flavours to the seafood, with additional carrot dough. We enjoy the gold-awarded Medea Chardonnay 2015, dry and fruity wine with strong floral scents of acacia and lemon. Fresh, rich, and very drinkable, this wine fits great with seafood served in Peteani Restaurant.

Salted cake with pancetta and sheep curd (slana tortica od pancete i skute) is an exciting combination of salty and smoked Istrian pancetta with elegant and mild sheep curd, together with celery, root vegetables, and wild garlic paste. By itself, this meal shows essence of Istrian husbandry; pigs and sheep or rather goats are somewhat a symbol of Istrian countryside.

First main course is stewed octopus with pasta (šufigana hobotnica s pasuticama), so tender and sweet, it almost melts in mouth. Homemade pasutice is traditional Istrian pasta as it was done in past times by hard working Istrian women. It is best to add some drops of olive oil inside and when we speak of olive oil then it must be locals’ favourite Negri, made from the olive groves situated just south of Labin. William and Anessa Negri are descendants of old Labin noble family and their olive oil was part of the best extra virgin olive oils in the world by Flos Olei 2011 guide. Local Negri oil and locally caught octopus, with masterly done pasta combine in a very Mediterranean meal.

And to add a bit more of Mediterranean, we drink Chardonnay Epicuria 2013 and red blend Nomade 2013 by Koquelicot production from Central Istria. This is a very specific wine story which shows arrival of foreign wine makers to Istria, recognising its global potentials. In Gračišće, on road from Labin to Pazin, a French-Croatian marital connection brought the French style burgundy type wines in the Istrian peninsula. Perfect blend of two quite different styles contributes to the restaurants all around the peninsula, giving it a chance for more nuanced pairing of wine and foods. In our case Epicuria balances the octopus with wine vinified in French burgundy oak barriques for ten months, while Nomade is a delicate blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Teran also vinified in same barriques for two years.

Second main course is tranche of flounder fish on aromatised potatoes. Immediately when I have tried the potatoes I stated: this is potato of flounder! Such is the intensity of this very rewarding fish which is baked together with potatoes. Skill and knowledge of Peteani kitchen staff in preparing fish is immaculate, and when one sees how neatly the potato is cut then one cannot wonder where on earth did Peteani find his people!

When in Labin, one must also try krafi. Without it, the visit to Labin would be a waste of time. It is indeed curious that krafi cannot be found anywhere else in Istria in same fashion. Krafi is kind of big ravioli stuffed with cow curd or cow’s grated cheese, raisins, and lemon zest. They may be served with salty or sweet sauces and Mr Peteani opted for sweet version. The sauce is magnificent. It is made of reduced Muscat wine and dry figs, thus giving a bit of acidity and natural sugar of figs. This very local dessert, of which Labin people are especially proud (in nearby Kršan they even have Krafifest!), is also best eaten with some sweet wine. We are indeed honoured to be offered by Benvenuti Corona Grande, a blend of Istrian Malvasia and Muscat made in the cellars of Istrian family Benvenuti. This sweet wine goes perfectly with Peteani’s krafi as it is aromatic, harmonic, with acacia honey and raisins aromas.

Truly magnificent food is a new must-see place in Istria, which also revives the Labin Old Town in the most splendid way.

Hotel & Restaurant Peteani
Aldo Negri 9, 52220 Labin
+385 52 863 404
info@hotel-peteani.hr
www.hotel-peteani.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

THREE LIGHTS ABOVE KRŠKO – TRI LUČKE

Sremič is a hill overlooking Krško. Its green slopes are dotted with vineyards and cellars. In 1874 the family Attems, owners of Brežice Castle, built a large wooden wine press, later declared a cultural monument and probably the biggest press in Slovenia. Some hundred years afterwards a guesthouse emerged around that press and because of the three lights on the terrace, which are seen all the way to Krško, the place was called “Tri Lučke”.

The wine press remains as vital part of this restaurant today and is a testimony to the past times. From 1985 Tri Lučke gained a good reputation among locals for homemade aNd delicious food and in 2016 Igor and Andreja Zorko reopened the establishment bringing it to exquisite place of fine dining. Guests can also rest in apartments, have a wedding or a business meeting, or just enjoy the wine cellar featuring best Slovenian and international wines.

The interior of the place is minimalist and bright, with spectacular views of Sava River and Krško. It is here where owners welcomed us most dearly, with a light lemon tea to warm up before venturing off to the wine cellar for some sparkling wine tastings and innovative meaty snacks.

But the real festival for palate was at the table, just across the big wine press. The chef Dejan Mastnak and his team did excellent job to provide us with a feeling of Tri Lučke cuisine. A refreshing appetizer of red trout fillet, with potato sauce, trout caviar, and parsley oil gives delicate and rich flavours to begin with. Parsley oil is indeed a surprise, and everything goes well with Green Sylvaner 2015 of Rudi Kos from Sremič wine hills. This hard making wine sort is dry and neutral, with beautiful colour and enhances the experience of this meal.

The soup was another pleasant surprise. We got on our plates bits of fresh beef tongue, lightly fried, pieces of apple and small onions before this mix is splashed with parsley root soup cooked in a bit of milk. This mild soup also gives freshness because of the apple and all the ingredients are easily recognisable, which is a sign of very good quality.

Main course consisted of Krško-polje pork belly cooked in vacuum for 18 hours on 74 degrees, together with vegetables. Side dish is bean puree, served in a frankinja-and-pork sauce. Fatty climax of our meal is another praise of this local pork sort and a dedication to the preservation of it for next generations. It blends great with Jernej Žaren Modra Frankovka 2011, champion wine of Dolenjska region in 2015. With high sugars, this natural wine is two years barrique and is pleasant companion to heavy meals.

Our dessert is all about apples! Apple soup, apple sorbet, apple pie, with chutney aside; a rewarding and refreshing end of the gastronomy journey. Another pleasure of it is Janez Živič Laški Riesling 2009, superior quality wine (Prädikatwein) with beautiful gold colour. It surprises with its mild taste of honey and blends just right with the dessert.

Tri Lučke indeed serves as the best culinary achievement of Krško, when fine and slow dining is in demand. The historical background of it and heritage of the wine press that once pressed 30 to 50 hectolitres of must are excellent incentives to a very dedicated team.

Tri lučke
Sremič 23, 8270 Krško
mob +386 (0)41 300 110
e-mail info@trilucke.si
http://www.trilucke.com

FISH DELICACIES IN RIBNIK

In a relaxed surrounding of Brestanica fish pond since 1986 family Dular runs a restaurant attracting fish lovers and fans of traditional Slovenian cuisine. Nearby forest gives brilliant background in any time of the year, and also reminds that every dish on your plate stems from nearby farms or as a gift of nature.

We were greeted by host Mr. Bogdan Dular and his excellent staff, headed by the chef Anton Barbarovič, famous for innovative approach to the traditional dishes. Family Dular also makes own wine, served in the restaurant, as well as in wine cellar in Kostanjek where wine is produced in an environmentally and human friendly way.

Dry Dular’s Sauvignon from 2016 introduced us immediately to the family passion, with a bite of Slovenian salted bread. It was a nice welcome to the dining hall with a glass wall overlooking the pond and forest, and with a pleasant feeling of fireplace. Very soon we tried homemade smoked ham with horseradish foam and creamy boiled egg, a testimony of ingenuity of the chef. Indeed, instead of just serving ham with horseradish, in Ribnik we were surprised with foamy and mild horseradish, next to thinly and neatly sliced ham. Custom asks for this dish to be served for Easter, but healthy horseradish is ever needed in winter, to open all the airways inside our bodies.

Soup is unavoidable part of Slovenian lunch, and we got an opportunity to try two very specific Slovenian everyday soups: beef soup with noodles and meat dumplings and mushroom soup. Refreshing beef soup is somewhat an opposite to the thick mushroom soup with a touch of cream. The mushrooms, of course, are from local forest. Mushroom soup (gobova juha) is deemed to be Slovenian national soup, given the geography of this mostly Alpine land with many woodlands and hills. Appetizer and soups are followed with Modra Frankinja 2015, dry wine from Dular wine cellar and pride of the Posavje region.

Main course is the signature dish of this restaurant, perch fillet with pine nuts and baked polenta. Rich freshwater fish has always been a rewarding basis for culinary imagination and perch in Ribnik confirms that. Close to the restaurant is also a home of Fishing association Brestanica – Krško that celebrated in 2016 seventy years of existence. After the industrialisation, river Sava became off the limit for fishing, and thus the locals renewed the old Trappist fishing ponds. Besides perch, trout is the main offer in Ribnik, and both go excellent with Duler Laški Riesling 2015, which balances the flavours with its acidity.

Dessert in Ribnik was homemade cheesecake, a spectacular and not to sweet finish that leaves places for more gastronomy enjoyment in the Krško region. Dular Family is not only favourite among the fish lovers, as it offers good burgers, various salads, vegetarian meals, both for children and adults.

Gostilna Ribnik
Naselje Srečka Kosovela 2b, Zagorje ob Savi
info@gostilnaribnik.si
030 225 929, 05 916 78 59
http://dular.si/

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.

Winter Rhapsody in Stancija Kovačići

The search for traditional Liburnian gastronomy in times of carnival led us to a homestead located in the less familiar place Rukavac, near Matulji. A rural estate has found its place among family homes. It was built in 1880s and since then has remained in the same family, who converted the estate into a refined experience of gastronomy pleasures, with quite unique view of Lisina Mountain. It is a gorgeous wood park at a foot of mountain chain Ćićarija, which provides numerous short and long walkways thought it as well as hiking paths.

Former house for labourers in the field, for whom homesteads were intended, heirs to the Ružić and Frlan family now turned it into a holiday home for gastronomads. They enjoy the rich variety of tastes among which are Grobnik cheese and curd, Istrian prosciutto, truffles, all aroma and flavour with the addition of olive oil and seasoning with herbs growing around the restaurant, which the chef and owner, Vinko Frlan, carefully chooses when creates his exquisite meals.

His father still makes excellent brandies based on herbs and fruits in the region. Rukavac herb brandy (rukavačka travarica) is of his making, as he handpicks Mediterranean herbs and makes indeed great brandy. We also tried fig brandy, which has excellent aroma and even better taste. It is great aperitif for imaginative winter menu we have tried in Stancija.

Elaborative start began with smoked beef carpaccio with Grobnik cheese and olives. Slightly smoky carpaccio reminds on the meat freshness and enchants with its red colour, while grated Grobnik cheese is usually salty but also young and without strong taste. It comes from another famous carnival region of Grobnik. Everyone here is connected by bell ringers’ tradition and indeed Mr Frlan is also Halubje bell ringer. The cheese saltiness is additionally eased with extra virgin olive oil from Nino Činić in Krasica near Buje. He cultivates leccino sort; young olive oil with an aroma of mowed grass fits well with black olives and rucola on the carpaccio.

We enjoy homemade bread, small round bites of traditional perfectness, still warm from the oven. Home wine, cabernet blend and Malvasia would go well with all Stancija meals, but more elaborative wine list is available, mostly of Istrian wines.

Main course consisted of crisp pastry, bacon and boškarin sausage, leek, prosciutto and curd. Boškarin is popular name for authentic Istrian beef and its sausage is finely baked; more and more flavours open up when you chew the sausage and enjoy its mild and meaty taste. The sausage lays on basis of crisp pastry and curd, which gives specific milky aroma and balanced essence of leek. On top comes rich and salty prosciutto.

Almost as a surprise comes poached egg inside this dish, and it completely changes the flavour, giving an impression of two dishes inside one. Very balanced combination emerges as arty expressions of winter and carnival traditions of this region between sea and mountains. Sausages are unavoidable feature of carnival food, while its origin gives local authenticity. And everyone knows what kind of combination eggs and bacon give!

Second main course was again pleasure for senses; in a basket made of dough beef Bolognese with mushrooms and béchamel sauce is served. First comes the strong essence of boletus, picked often in neighbouring woodlands. The dish is rich, layered, and meaty, with big chunks of mushrooms.

Dessert of this winterish gastronomic journey is chestnut tiramisu, with caramel and cream dressing, excellent finish for anyone who likes less sweet desserts. In special occasions one can also try rukavački presnac here, which is gastronomic heritage of this place.

In the restaurant of the homestead Kovačići you can always taste homemade pasta and fresh baked bread. These culinary challenges and delights are not hidden away from the guests. Homestead offers many cooking schools, which combines Croatian traditional culinary delicacies in a memorable, interactive and imaginative way. We surely did experience it in the beautiful, cosy and warm dining room.

A complete offer if fulfilled with four spacious double bedrooms and one single bedroom, equipped with all the necessary modern day appliances. Although the rooms do not reflect a traditional style, they are tastefully decorated in accordance with the view from the window. Guests also have access to bikes with which you could explore the whole surrounding area of Matulji, and for those looking for more adrenaline there are mountain bikes, hiking and tennis courts.

Stancija Kovačići
Rukavac 51, 51211, Matulji
+ 385 51 272 106
stancija.kovacici@gmail.com
http://www.stancija-kovacici.hr

Photos by Stancija Kovačići and Taste of Adriatic

Mladenka – The Gastronomy Home of Halubje Bell Ringers

In northern part of Viškovo centre, on a crossroad marked by a wooden statue of Halubje bell ringer, for already fifty years stands the Restaurant Mladenka. It was opened by Bezjak family in 1968. and has a near-legendary status ever since. We have visited the place in time of famous carnival, which features in Viškovo the Halubje bell ringers (Halubajski zvončari).

We were greeted by Mr Bezjak and his staff and taken to the table next to the big animal head, used by bell ringers in their traditional walks. The welcome was extended with homemade excellent herb brandy (travarica), an excellent aperitif by all Croatian standards. Restaurant’s interior is very pleasing, combining natural and local features of wood and stone. In a corner stands beautiful fireplace with real fire, adorned with specific wine jars – bukaleta. There is a whole local history written on the sides of porcelan jar, such as the traditional festivals, good wishes to the owners, and specifically of Halubje bell ringers.

Mladenka gave us a special treat – a fascinating introduction to the winter Carnival food! It is a mix of staple and comfort food in winter months, when heavy northeast bura wind make you feel bitter cold, although the temperatures never drop very low. This food is a traditional way to preserve strength, warmth, and health in these months.

One such dish is jota, probably most memorable winter dish for many older people in North Adriatic region, including Istria, littoral Slovenia and Italian province of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Italians call it iota, iotta, or minestra di crauti, and has several varieties. For example, in Trieste you will not find meat, while Gorizia version adds barley inside. After Second World War, following easier approach to meat, jota is being replenished with meat and potatoes.

Such was jota we tried in Mladenka. Jota is a thick stew, based on beans, sauerkraut, and potatoes. Essential parts of jota are dried meat cooked in the stew itself, bits of bacon, and zapešt (mix of bacon, parsley, and garlic). Put inside carrots and onions, bay leaf and olive oil, and jota will give you excellent combination of aroma and taste.

Sauerkraut is also unavoidable side dish for other gastronomic pleasures in Mladenka. These are famous sausages and pork steaks done in old fashion. One such thing is zarebrnik, dried pork chops, fried on both sides on fat, and then cooked in white wine (traditionally it should be local belica, but most restaurants serve it cooked in Istrian malvasia). No carnival can pass without sausages, which are often smoked and give excellent tone to the meal. Beside sauerkraut, Mladenka serves also cooked potatoes with fried onions, tomato, and bacon paste, also with bits of sausage inside. Everything mixes well in almost a main dish itself!

Mladenka is favourite place for lunches (marenda), when the restaurant is packed full with guests enjoying excellent local dishes for minimal prices. Depending on day and season, one may find here cod stew, minestrone, bean stew with sausages, various meat stews with pasta and gnocchi (a special treat would be the horse stew), local fish delicacies, and grill.

Specialties of the house include zarebrnik and sausages in wine, which we tried, but there are lots of other gastronomy delights in Mladenka. One such meal is horse steak in wine with parmesan cheese, a great combination for anyone enjoying the horse meat. Pork and veal shank is another treat, while those caring for fruits of the sea should really consider trying octopus baked under the baking lid. You can’t get more traditional than that.

As Viškovo is surrounded by forests and mountains, no wonder Mladenka offers game dishes as well. The restaurant will offer you venison sausages, mushroom dishes, bear, venison, boar meat, made both as a stew and as a steak, with various pasta on side. Steaks and grill come along, as well as many pasta dishes and some fish offers. Mladenka is not fish restaurant, and should be regarded as prime destination for meat dishes.

Pancakes and cakes make sweet finish, but if you want to try traditional stuff, you should go for presnac. This famed cake of Northern Adriatic is made in numerous different ways, based on the specific heritage in a particular place. In Mladenka presnac is done by owner’s grandma, and partly resembles local presnac recipes (halubajski, z Kuta). We tried it, and it is sheer mouth-watering experience, as it contains raisins and dried fruit. Carnival cannot go without fritule, made often with a drop of rum or brandy.

Mladenka has a solid wine list, and we enjoyed particularly good Merlot made by homestead Maurović in Istria. Full of fruity-berry bouquet and with a beautiful ruby colour, Merlot is very easy to drink but sadly comes in very small quantities. That choice of home wine is great decision of Mladenka staff.

RESTAURANT MLADENKA
Vozišće 28, 51216 Viškovo
+385 51 256 461, +385911256461
info@mladenka.hr
http://www.mladenka.hr/

Food for Body and Soul in Castle Lužnica

A massive Christmas tree stands decorated in front of an old castle. It is chilly but sunny, and the sun rays catch us through the naked branches of castle’s park. Lazy cat just finished stretching, wondering who the funny looking guys are. Here and there we hear cock crowing and we definitely saw at least one nun caring for the chickens. It is morning in Lužnica, peace on earth near town of Zaprešić in Zagreb county. It is our staring trip along the Sutla River, which makes the state border between Croatia and Slovenia. And it is good we began here, as Lužnica is indeed a very special place.

Lužnica is today owned by Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, and withing the castle and newly built monastery nearby works Spiritual-education centre Castle of Mary, led by the nuns. Beautiful castle is built in second half of 18th century, on a place of previous fort. It was built by noble family Čikulin, then Moscon, and finally baron Pavao Rauch, Croatian ban (viceroy) from 1908 until 1910, whose father was also very much involved in building the castle. Lužnica became main seat of the baron and his family amblem is seen in many places in the castle itself. In 1925 the castle became property of the Daughters of Charity and remains such until this day.

The place is near magical, as it offers stay, relaxation, spiritual rebuilding, conference halls, and standard programs run by nuns. The castle includes 8 hectares of English yard with a lake, woodlands, walking paths, banks and wooden tables, ideal for finding peace, relaxation, and meditation. Nuns are always busy with preparing spiritual and educational programs for every age and interest. Especially romantic feeling is when castle shuts down all electricity and makes light only with candles.

We were greeted with a bright smile of sister Tea and introductory talk went immediately to the Suggestions of Saint Hildegard. This saint from German Benedictine order was a writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, and lived from 1098 until 1179. She is also known as a Doctor of the Church because of her medicine writings. Based on the recipes of St. Hildegard, nuns recovered middle age cuisine, which tells what is good and healthy in both body and soul.

The recipes are taken from old books and mostly mix meat with vegetables and various natural spices such as cinnamon, mint, cumin, savoury, and clove. Sister Laura is true master of Hildegard’s cuisine and cares several times a year for the one-day event of Saint Hildegard. Advices for body and soul are then received by numerous guests. Among more pronounced dietary suggestion of St. Hildegard is use of spelt flour. Everything in the monastery is done with it, including coffee.

More elaborate meals include turkey or chicken, often with dill sauce. Sweets shouldn’t be too sweet, and you should very well take home two of the most famous souvenirs from Lužnica. One are anti-stress cookies, a complex mix of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, butter, sugar, and eggs; daily five cookies should be enough to feel well. With cookies you can also try Lužnica tea, sort of official souvenir, made from 15 various herbs.

Sixteen nuns care for vast castle, park, and monastery, pray and work for the benefit of all men. Always welcoming and always smiling, they bring happiness to every visitor. Many other products can be found in Lužnica, those caring for body and those for soul. Who would describe the beauty of long hallways, beautiful works of art, peace of the castle’s chapel, vistas from windows, blissfulness of spring, and comfort in winter?

For our part, we would strongly recommend everyone to visit Lužnica and take part on one of its programs. You can easily contact the castle and nuns here:

Duhovno-obrazovni centar Marijin dvor, Lužnica
Lužnički odvojak 3, HR-10290 Zaprešić
Telefon: +385(0)1-3350-944
Fax: +385(0)1-3311-487
E-mail: tajnistvo@luznica.hr

www.luznica.hr

Photos by: Andrea Seifert, www.mint-media.hr

Fairytale at Stara Vodenica

Family ethno hotel “Stara Vodenica” (Old Watermill) of family Galić is situated close to Klanjec and near the Sutla River. You cannot miss it on the road as the exterior resembles fairytale place with a distinctive Zagorje features. Family Galić transformed it based on years of tourism experience. Now it welcomes visitors from all around the world in a picturesque corner of Hrvatsko Zagorje, with River Sutla, Klanjec, Kumrovec, and Castle of Veliki Tabor in easy reach by car.

We came to Stara Vodenica after long day of visiting the area and trying local specialties. As a reward, bright smile of staff and welcoming drink with Mr Galić waited for us, along a substantial dinner. The restaurant of this place is decorated in rural Zagorje style, evoking memories of the old, and grandma’s fireplace. Every meal is done in stone oven and the offer is based on traditional Zagorje dishes such as baked beans with sausages, turkey and duck with mlinci, filled Zagorje loaf, baked štrukli, along homemade Zagorje peasant bread.

Hospitality in Zagorje is always present. Thus, we enjoyed talking to the owner while sipping a glass of homemade rakija, before venturing off to the adventure of Zagorje dinner. Situated next to the fireplace, we enjoyed beautiful mushroom soup. Forget all the tastes in city restaurants, this is soup made from hand-picked mushrooms in Sutla valley. Soft chunks of various mushrooms blend perfectly with the broth.

Next, we had Zagorje’s famous and signature dish duck with mlinci. Mlinci, a thin dried flatbread prepared by simply pouring it in boiled salted water, is by its simplicity a true opposition to the knowledge of slowly baking duck and making it a soft main dish. Nowhere in Croatia is duck more popular than in Zagorje and people here are masters in making it.

For dessert you will probably find grandma’s apple pie, pancakes with grandma’s jam, or baked štrukli, another famous Zagorje meal, often eaten not only as a dessert but also as an appetizer. With some homemade red wine, our dinner was a very pleasant finish of the day, with a found memory of duck with mlinci.

Stara vodenica was also our resting place for the night. None of the rooms is the same, and they are all made in Zagorje rustic style. The furniture inside is made from old oak woods, and every rooms is equipped with a TV, air condition, bathroom. Small details are what brings happiness to guests and make the stay here very enjoyable. Sleeping here is indeed almost like a fairytale.

But the real fairytale is to be found around the restaurant and hotel itself. It is a park with old fashioned rural wooden houses, a true historical mill, and animal farm with hens, chickens, dog, goats, etc. In warmer months the park is filled with people sitting on wooden benches and massive wooden tables, enjoying the pleasant green area not far from the Sutla River.

For those who stay here over summer, an outdoor swimming pool may come handy. Otherwise, there is wellness option, with massage and Jacuzzi. Or you may just visit the wine cellar next door and find many top quality wines from all around Croatia and Slovenia.

There are some major master plans to spread the experience and success of Stara Vodenica and make a fairytale village all the way to Sutla. This would greatly enhance the touristic offer of this destination and indeed make our own fairytales known in the wider world. A great experience, enjoyable night, and in every way a place to visit again.

Staying at Stara Vodenica was kindly provided by the Tourist Board of Klanjec.

Seoski turizam “Stara vodenica”
Gredice 32 Klanjec
tel/fax: +385 49 550 577
mob: +385 91 5422 747, +385 98 625 537
mail: vodenica@staravodenica.hr
www.staravodenica.hr

Photos by: Andrea Seifert, www.mint-media.hr and Stara Vodenica (outdoors)

Zelenjak – poetic introduction to Zagorje cuisine

When poet Antun Mihanović was writing a poem in 1835 that will later become the Croatian national anthem, he surely didn’t even think that in a protected nature forest of Zelenjak, where is a monument dedicated to him and his poem, will be also one of the top quality restaurants in whole Zagorje. Family Ventek runs the restaurant Zelenjak and is proud of dedication to beautifully made, eye pleasing, and traditionally authentic Zagorje foods.

Immediately next to the Sutla river, for already seventy years, this place enchants its visitors. They can now stay and rest in the family hotel, a pleasant destination for business ventures, family dinners, and various feasts. Grandpa Ivan and grandma Josipa opened in 1936 a small inn here and very soon the spot became favourite among merchants and citizens of nearby Klanjec. Zelenjak is also protected natural area where you can go for bird-spotting, walk alongside Sulta river all the way to Klanjec, or hike up to the Cesargrad and Chapel of Our Lady of Snow.

Gastronomy here is based on protection of real Zagorje taste, but it is also an inspiration to create something new and different, but again very local and traditional. Fresh and quality ingredients from Zagorje make it even better. The Ventek’s are very busy but also very tentative to their guests and we weren’t an exception.

First meal of the day – Zagorje soup. It is now so known outside the region that five star hotels all over Croatia offer it on their menus. Zagorje soup is clear-creamy mushroom soup and consists of dried ribs, potatoes, carrots, greens, but what really gives a difference are the locally grown boletus.

Full of taste, it gives great energy and fills with warmth. The same goes for aperitif we had, homemade plum brandy with bits of dried plums inside the glass, and clear fruity taste of bitter-sweet cherry brandy.

Main course consisted of pork loin wrapped in bacon, very nice delight for everyone caring for pork. Crispy bacon gives full flavour to tender pork loin, and blends well with cooked vegetables. Additionally, we were surprised with turkey roll filled with savoy, giving the accent on famous Zagorje turkey. Last but not least, mlinci (thin dried flatbread prepared by simply pouring it in boiled salted water) baked with boletus and bacon were real treat! As usual, the simplest dish turns out to be best surprise on the plate. Full of good old taste, it is also praise to the cook’s knowledge and blending of ingredients.

Don’t look far for sweet ending. Baked štrukli (pastry filled with cheese) with raisins is a sweet variety of this old and most recognisable Zagorje dish. Although it looks hearty, it is easy and not too sweet dessert, given the rich and smooth cottage cheese and bitter-sweet raisins in it. All the time we enjoyed Klanjec graševina, a mild wine without much acid, that was splendid with all the dishes we had.

Overall, Zelenjak is unavoidable fine dining place for everyone who likes to get a great introduction to the Zagorje cuisine.

Restaurant Zelenjak is listed in 100 best restaurants by www.gastronaut.hr

Villa Zelenjak – Ventek
Risvica 1, Kumrovec
tel: 00385 049 550 747
www.zelenjak.com
zelenjak@zelenjak.com