Blue World in Lošinj

Yes, I’ve adopted a dolphin! Its name is Boa, she has offsprings and has problems with breathing. Nevertheless, I tell everyone I’ve adopted it. Sure, it was part of the visit to the Blue World Institute, Lošinj’s educational centre about the sea, where we heard many thoughts and activities regarding the protection of sea world and biodiversity.

Research focuses on large marine vertebrates (mostly Cetaceans, sea turtles and cartilaginous fish) with an aim to contribute to their and marine environment protection and conservation. Results of research are translated into activities aimed at raising public awareness and education. Our offices and field activities are based on Adriatic islands, showing our support to the sustainable development of local, insular communities through cooperation and an interdisciplinary approach to conservation.

In 2003 Blue World opened the first marine education centre on the eastern Adriatic coast. In the centre, there are permanent and temporary exhibitions and interactive multimedia presentations. In addition, the centre hosts workshops and lectures for the education of visitors and different interest and age groups. The programme is being continuously updated and changed and has been approved by Croatian Education and Teacher Training Agency.

The most significant project of the conservation programme has been the involvement of Blue World Institute in the development of the Cres-Lošinj MPA, the first such area for dolphins in the entire Mediterranean. Blue World Institute supports permanent protection of this area through support of the process of transparent public participation and establishment for the local protected area management institution.

Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation

Lošinj Marine Education Centre
Kaštel 24, 51551 Veli Lošinj
Telephone: +385 51 604 666, Fax:+385 51 604 668
E-mail: info@blue-world.org  or adp.losinj@gmail.com
http://www.blue-world.org

Harmony of sea and imagination at Zijavica

On a picturesque and widely popular beach of Mošćenička Draga, amongst various cafes and bars, there is a special restaurant Zijavica, a destination for imaginative and elaborative kinds of seafood.

The owner Stiven Vunić welcomes us on his terrace with a spectacular view, while his staff gives a final touch to the small and enchanting bites waiting for us. In Zijavica they say: “Extremely harmonious blend of romantic past and exciting challenges of today – that is the feeling when entering the interior of small and cozy tavern “Zijavica”. The discreet touch of wood and stone bathed in pastel colors creates the impression of domestic and very pleasant atmosphere. Terrace, situated just a few inches above one of the most beautiful beaches of Kvarner, is really a special place – perfect for experiencing small masterpieces of the Kvarner and Istrian cuisine.“

While sitting at the table, we indeed feel these impressions, guaranteed by the 40-year tradition of fishing and especially scampi catching in the Vunić family. This experience is upgraded to cooking and serving fresh food in this tavern.

The tavern’s name sounds somewhat like a joke. It contains two basic meanings: either woman that shouts, or a cave that howls. Indeed, there is a cave in the nearby mountains, but you should not joke with Mr. Stiven: he is a member of the Croatian adventure team Ad Natura that travels the world for extreme sports and adventure tourism.

When he is not running through Patagonia or climbing the Andes, he makes magic with food. Scampi tempura with self-grown herbs (of which marinated samphire is especially noticeable) is one such example. The tempura itself is quite tasty, but the way you eat it is a superb example of imagination: it is served on a flat sea stone! To eat it, you need to slurp it into your mouth. Excellent experience!

We’ve tried deep-fried cod; evidently, it is a major hit nowadays in the Northern Adriatic to deep-fry all the unusual fish and seafood (Croats can think only of deep-fried hake). But, it comes handy to refresh the taste for scampi mousse, served with a net made from olive oil and salad. Another feast of flavours makes you think twice about the boringness of seafood.

Apart from standard salted anchovies (ever heard of a better cure for a hangover?) and octopus carpaccio, the menu is a mix of Istrian-styled dishes such as scampi risotto, homemade fuži pasta with Istrian truffle, or gnocchi with smoked bacon and fresh garden vegetables. For more detailed experience, you should order oven-baked octopus, mussels in buzara sauce, monkfish in Istrian Malvasia wine and caper sauce, or for those who just cannot be pescatarians all the time, beef in a green pepper sauce.

Zijavica is a fairly new way of culinary enjoyment and spectacular scenery, and it is well worth to come and sip some sparkling wine with local Lovran cherries inside, just as we did. Cheers!

Zijavica
Šetalište 25. travnja 2, Mošćenička Draga
mob.: +385 (51) 737 243
mail: stiven.lavita@gmail.com
http://konoba-zijavica.com

Za Kantuni – Great Seafood round the Corner

Locally caught fish around the islands of Cres and Lošinj is the basis of fish restaurant “Za kantuni” menu. This place, owned by the tourist company of shipping firm Lošinjska plovidba, is situated as its name says “round the corner” from Lošinj’s main coast road. It looks old, and the look is truthful, as this was in 1903 Bierhalle Dreher, a beer house for Austrian tourists led by a Slovenian Franc Jakobič. At the time, Lošinj was known as a fragrant island, perfect for a winter getaway and summer paradise. It stayed like that, and the place was a restaurant up to the present day.

Today, Za Kantuni offers authentic island foods, made according to the recipes of old grannies and adapted to the modern times. The restaurant also offers adapted ancient menus, based on the Greek and Roman artefacts. All ingredients used by Chef stem from the Kvarner region and wine predominantly from Istria.

We came (a bit) late, but the staff was very pleasant, and the restaurant’s manager was eager to tell us more about the history of this place for fine dining. For us, it was indeed a fine dining, a combination of seafood so fresh that you can really taste the scent of the sea.

Marinated anchovies with Pepe-Fish tomatoes, pasta with scampi, tuna steak, shrimps, bonito pate, and octopus salad was an introductory meal, somewhat as a menu and greeting from the chef. Even a bit of this fish plate shouldn’t be wasted, as the fresh aroma gives impulses for more. Do not be afraid of dipping the bread into olive oil afterwards, as Za Kantuni bakes its own bread.

We’ve also tried the homemade pljukanci pasta with shrimps. It is a solid combination of Kvarner and Istria, as pljukanci originate from this biggest Croatian peninsula. Pljukanci are becoming more and more favourite among locals and tourists as it brings back old styles of pasta making. It is hand-rolled and specific to Istria. Chewy and perfect for seafood, in Za Kantuni they make pljukanci with a variety of toppings.

Our main course was sea bass filet that came from the fish farm in Cres we have visited earlier, and combined in an old recipe from Lošinj, served with mint and artichoke sauce. It is a really old recipe, discovered partly through the records in the restaurant itself, but more than that it resembles Lošinj as a fragrant island, full of Mediterranean scent.

Evidence for that may also be found in desserts, such as the lemon cake. Lošinj is the northernmost island in the Adriatic that is rich in citrus fruits. Due to its mild climate, Lošinj boasts with oranges, mandarins, lemons, and all other fruits that usually grow in more southern places. Given this fact, the lemon cake in Za Kantuni is superb, as well as the mild wine from Istria, featuring Pilato Malvasia from Vižinada, from where also come Cabernet Sauvignon and Borgogna. For more nuanced tastes, there is Žlahtina Toljanić, a respect to the nearby island of Krk.

Anyone visiting Lošinj should definitively try sea richness in Za Kantuni, and learn a bit more about the island’s history of food.

Za Kantuni
Vladimira Gortana 25, 51550 Mali Lošinj
+385 51 231 840
restorani@losinia.hr
http://www.losinia.hr/

 

Taste the Sea

Within the FLAG Vela Vrata, several taverns and restaurants received the award for clean, fresh, and local menu delivered by the local fishermen. These include tavern Tramerka in Volosko, tavern Kali in Medveja, tavern Zijavica in Mošćenička Draga, restaurant Mareta in Martinšćica, and restaurant Za Kantuni in Mali Lošinj. We’ve visited several of them.

Fish’n’Sheep – Gastronomy tradition of Cres in tavern Mareta

Za Kantuni – Great Seafood round the Corner

FLAG Vela Vrata created a two-day touristic itinerary suited to the small groups interested in maritime traditions and gastronomy of the Kvarner area. This itinerary joins tourism, fishery, restaurants and environment protection into one coherent and interesting offer. We’ve experienced this tour with pleasure and learn many interesting things about Cres, Lošinj, and Liburnian coast.

The island of Cres is a place of unspoiled and rugged Mediterranean beauty. Coastal villages swarm with charming little bays, secluded beaches and the clean sea. A huge number of walking tracks, footpaths and hiking trails leading up to the out-of-the-way bays surround small villages located at the very coastline.

Harmony of sea and imagination at Zijavica

The city of Cres is the biggest town on the island and its administrative centre, surrounded by ancient olive groves and small fortresses, with preserved old town and spectacular surroundings.

It is from here that we embarked on a touristic ship owned by fisherman Đildo Damjanjević. His dual business proves to be an excellent combination as the tourists can learn first-hand how the fishermen’s life looks like. Every day, when the weather permits, Damjanjević and his son sail out to the sea. The family is known for catching prime-quality Adriatic scampi. Everybody seems to agree with the claim that the most delicious scampi in the world come “from the blue mud of Kvarner Bay”. Many gourmets from across the globe are willing to pay much more for the Kvarner scampi than for any other type of this delicacy.

Mr. Damjanjević talks to us about catching the scampi. This delicacy is caught exclusively with fishing traps on a long line (vrša). Nowadays there are more scampi than before because there are less fishermen. Some 300 traps are thrown into the waters around Cres daily. From the 50-55 metres deep they catch some 4-5 kilos of scampi, and they are always solidly sold to the local restaurants. The price is hefty, but the flavour of real Adriatic Scampi is magnificent.

The boat takes us to the Orada Adriatic fish farm to see the possibilities of aquaculture development. Bream and bass are two sorts of fish raised in an open bay off the Cres cliffs. While we were looking at the farm itself, suddenly we were surprised by two dolphins. Their duet and tranquil play enchanted us all. We met another fisherman with traps, and the whole experience can be told for family and friends, while speaker gets an aura of adventure!

Adventurers have to eat and we did try ingenious small bites, deep-fried mussels, salted sardines with olive oil, and fig cake with Istrian sausage made with gastronomy snails, a perfect combination of Tavern Kali (which is famous for fig cakes and fruity vinegars) and company Manjon, a 60-years old business of family Cvjetković from Matulji, whose main product is gastronomy snails.

 

Fish’n’Sheep – Gastronomy tradition of Cres in tavern Mareta

Martinšćica is a small fishing village turned into one of the most beloved tourist vacation places on the island of Cres, and Mareta is its prime gastronomy point. It is owned by the family Saganić, and the owner Alfred Saganić is professional fisherman. Of course, the question about the freshness of the menu is quite obsolete here.

Bright smiles of immaculately dressed waitresses and friendly owners welcomed us to the restaurant’s terrace, surrounded by lush olive groves and dry stone walls. It reminds us on several very important features of Cres, one of the most beautiful islands in the Adriatic: its people lived here since prehistory, using the stone to build forts and houses, while fish and olive oil were staples so important that Cres even today rests upon these ingredients for the basis of island’s culinary experiences. Quite literary, fish on plate here connects you through centuries with same tastes that once dominated on Cres.

After sipping mild homemade chestnut brandy, fish plates came on our table. Pleasing arrangement was intact for just few seconds before the desire for taste rushed us to seek aromas of octopus salad, marinated anchovies, marinated bonito (palamida), spider crab salad. One can indeed taste the freshness of sea. The octopus is soft and tender, and one cannot decide which part of this plate is more fresh and tasty. Another great addition is olive oil, made by the family itself, and it is just a short moment of time before people start dipping bread into the golden drops of Mediterranean heritage.

Some curious looking tools came afterwards, scaring us with possible existence of dentist nearby, but the fear vanishes instantly after Adriatic scampi arrived. Served with polenta and tremendously good sauce, tools come handy if you don’t want to have red dots all over your clothes. After few trials and errors, people mostly use fingers to extract those mouthful pieces of meat hiding beneath cooked and red scampi’s shell.

In meantime, owner’s father Vitomir Saganić calls us to walk behind the house and enjoy in the opening of peka or čripnja, a classic Adriatic iron baking lid. Beneath is octopus with potatoes and Mediterranean herbs, old-fashioned and traditional dish favourite among the gastronomads. The precision in making it is based on years of experiences, constant care for the fire, and the balance between octopus, potatoes, their weight and time. It is helpful if you’ve finished catering school in Mali Lošinj and culinary school in Opatija, and if you’re secretary of the sport fishermen association Crab, as in the case of Mr Vitomir.

Her majesty octopus came with a scent of rosemary and tender taste, rich and plentiful, even delicate. For generations was octopus feeding substance of the island’s life, as much as was the lamb. Cres is famous for its lamb, which is also present on the Mareta’s menu. Rich herbal diet makes Cres lamb aromatic and with less fat, and prime example we saw running through the restaurant’s terrace. It is the family’s darling, still suckling lamb who found refuge from photographs behind the owners who were playing cards. It was almost mythical and primordial sight of old men playing card games and a lamb hiding between them, everything surrounded by olives and dry stone walls. Indeed, a picture that tells thousands of words!

Lamb was also the basis for our dessert. Do not wonder, as we did more than you can imagine! It is tradition on Cres to use every bit of lamb and so it is with lamb’s stomach to make “olito nadenjeno” or filled stomach. The sheep stomach is dried for a few days and then filled with a mix of flour, water, orange peel, sugar, raisins, and dried fig juice. It contains the sheep fat, and is cooked for four hours to become jelly from inside. Before serving, it is sliced and slightly fried in a pan. It has a specific taste and specific scent, and for every lamb fan this is heavenly dessert. Very old dish has jelly structure and is not too sweet.

In Mareta you can also enjoy other old-style cuisine containing lamb. Almost every family had a sheep and people use to make sheep soup, dried sheep meat, and excellent tripe. Thus, Mareta is indeed a place where you can taste the fishermen’s and shepherd’s tradition of Cres at its finest.

Mareta
Miholašćica 1c, Martinšćica
Tel +385 51 574 325

 

Majerija – Enchanting Place of Exquisite Gastronomy

Outstanding experience of dining in the Restaurant Majerija is a fine example of local and traditional recipes turned into culinary masterpieces with a special twist. At the first glance, one would assume it is yet another hipster story of refurbishing an old house and inventing unusual gastronomy styles with Asian spices and tropical fruits. Not at Majerija, as almost everything you can get on the table is produces in the Vipava Valley.

The Majerija is in fact an old estate nestled right in the centre of the Vipava vineyards. It was built around the year 1700 for the maintenance of the property owned by the family Lanthieri. This family was kind of local mafia bosses in the old times, owning everything and everyone in the valley, but at the same time these counts were crucial for the development and agriculture of Vipava.

Today is Majerija home of Matej and NatašaTomažič but others can stay here as well. The house has guest rooms, ideal for all those who seek quietness, nature, and a pristine rustic environment. Every room is unique in colour and name of plants and herbs growing in the garden which is exactly above the rooms. The garden is quite spacious and brings fresh ingredients to the chef.

Refreshed with sparkling wine made from the local sorts, we have entered the dining hall full of old details. Though the stone vault visitors can admire the wine cellar, where all the local favourite wines found its place.

As it turned out, Mr Tomažič excellently combined the Vipava wine scene with the imagination of his own kitchen staff.

They’ve greeted us with the asparagus cigars, a dough with asparagus and few drops of Hrvatin olive oil. Another item on the plate is stone brought from the Croatian island of Hvar – a testimony that Tomažič family likes to spend holidays on another gastronomy spot in the Adriatic!

Another appetizer was a solid proof that meal in Majerija is a sort of culinary adventure. Take a dandelion, crystallise it with salt, and eat with yoghurt mixed with honey and you will have a pleasant and inspiring starter. Crunchy dandelion is bitter in its body and excellent balance to the yoghurt. And while we were knocking our head how would one think of mixing dandelion with yoghurt in a fascinating combination, we were introduced to the Zelen Burja 2015, a prime example of local zelen wine whose smoothness is great wine for contemplation. Made by Primož Lavrenčić, Burja 2015 is soft and floral wine, it is also organic wine produces on Lavrenčič’s bio-dynamically farmed estate.

Majerija cares for everything that is fresh and good in any given moment. That is why in mid-spring beef carpaccio comes with very young sheep cheese and olive oil but also with raspberries, blueberries, and pine nuts. The carpaccio is mild, but the forest berries are strong; in an aesthetical manner, it is a curious combination that may resemble the nature.

After some try outs we realised that the chef is playing with us, making the guest to make efforts and think about the meal. If so, this is seldom seen and great idea. Our own try-outs included raspberry-carpaccio (strong fruit) and blueberry and pine nuts with carpaccio (excellent combination of freshness and salty flavours). Together with this meal we tried the Hedele Malvasia 2015, a matured work of Andrea Pittana from a homestead in the place of Goče. Another organic wine, it has a strong scent and rich flavours.

The Vipava Valley is a micro-world of the wider area and its influences. Here the culinary traditions of Mediterranean and the Central Europe combine with a unique Slavic touch and produce rich meals. Unavoidable part of it is pasta in its numerous variations. Such is homemade corn pasta (trganci) with duck breasts and courgettes.  Trganci itself was regarded to be simple and peasant pasta, but rich in substance in order to feed the poor families in the past. Majerija brought this pasta back and added duck breasts and courgettes in another somewhat challenging combination. To bring some freshness, we are offered with Pinela Avin 2015, local sort with a pleasant acidity and great combination for pasta.

Spinach pie with black sesame, nettle, and tomato brought us back into the flavours of our mothers, a reminiscence of spinach meals we hated but whose flavour indescribably stays with us and becomes beloved search for the same aroma to come back. By this time Majerija is packed with people having lunch, including an American family who’s offspring delicately runs between the friendly staff carrying more and more plates of gastronomical desires.

We overheard people sitting behind us are going to the same wine event later that day. No wonder, we are told, they are Petrič family, Zmago and Zorica, the owners of Guerilla wine estate. Recognisable name comes from the fact that every day is another fight in the wine world, but their fight ends with beautiful wines such as Guerrila Tabu 2007, a barrique blend of pinela, rebula, and sauvignon. It has heartbreakingly beautiful orange colour and rich aftertaste, making it love at first sight.

Refreshing pause with mint sorbet, dried fruit, and basil returned us to lively atmosphere and bright smiles of our hosts before venturing to the main and indeed special dish: mouflon fillet with elder flower! Sweet and meaty chunks of mouflon, juicy and tender, is by itself a taste we cannot see so often on the table. But elder in the sauce and bits of flower round the plate is such a surprising addition that we had to pause and rethink the whole concept.

We almost forgot to open the dough package with excellent and rich curd inside. Innovative and challenging, Majerija indeed showed its best! And to be very clear, this wasn’t a menu set for the visiting journalists: all guests could try it. Krapež Merlot 2011 follows us to the essence of mouflon meat, with its ruby colour and oily texture, fruity yet strong and rich wine that needs still time to reach its finest potentials.

The curd is made by the grandma of the house and it goes not only in the dough but also as a basis for dessert with strawberries and poppy seeds, a gentle and balanced sweet ending of the gastronomy tour in Majerija. Dessert sweet Guerilla Nika accompanied us to the finish with yet another quite specific story. This wine is made with grapes dried on the bura wind, thus closing the chapter of bura and Vipava Valley and all the scents and flavours experienced in Majerija.

A pleasing experience will be cherished by anyone visiting this place and will evoke a danger of desire for coming back for more!

Majerija
Slap 18, SI-5271 Vipava, Slovenia
Phone:
 +386 (0)5 368 50 10, Mobile: +386 (0)41 405 903
E-mail:
 info@majerija.si
www.majerija.si

Pri izviru Hublja – On the Spring of Homemade Tastes

If you follow the road from the centre of Ajdovščina into the mountains, you will pass the Youth House and end up in front of an impressive waterfall of the river Hubelj. In the ancient times, Romans called it the Cold Water and it was the source of life in the valley. Next to this rock surface is the lowest mountaineer hut in whole Slovenia (only 210 metres above sea level) that is named exactly after the river: restaurant “At the Hubelj’s Spring” (Pri izviru Hublja).

The Pižent family runs the restaurant since 1992 over the weekends and from 2007 until today it is open as a standard restaurant. It is favourite getaway for the citizens of Ajdovščina, especially in warm summers when the touch of mountain gives so desired shadow. The whole family greeted us warmly and presented their cuisine that boasts with local tastes and aromas, together with the beloved wine sorts of the Vipava Valley.

In fact, it is precisely these traditional and good tastes that invites locals to Hubelj. The kitchen often prepares dishes that may be partly forgotten or are not so usual in the everyday life. In cold winter nights people still remember to warm up their organism with bacon spread over the baked bread. Full white fat melts in mouth and brings the scent of pork that is clearly very local. As a very pleasing introduction, this appetizer was given to us together with Pinela Tomas, from the Fabčič Household. Fresh white wine with accentuated acidity is a rewarding start of our culinary voyage to the classic Vipava table.

It was spring when we have arrived at Hubelj and the asparagus season. That is why we were surprised by the home-grown asparagus with homemade sheep cheese over which the local olive oil is spread. It is a mild combination where cheese dominates with its salty flavour, while the olive oil is a significant reminder that we are not so far away from the sea. The asparagus can be found also in soup, and we did refresh ourselves with an excellent soup made of asparagus, carrots, and potatoes.

Another fine example of Mediterranean influence came with gnocchi made with the bear leek sauce and ten other herbs, with addition of pancetta. The chef plays with us, the dish comes in a shape of wine cluster. Gnocchi are soft and full of potato flavour, while bear leek and pancetta give tremendous interplay of tastes. Pižents suggested us cleverly Zelen Vipavska dolina, a table wine from Zelen sort in the neighbouring villages of St Martin and Brje. Its freshness and mild aroma greatly support the culinary experience.

The same is with herb rakija (brandy) made from the herbs growing just next to the restaurant itself. We also visit the waterfall and learn more about the place that once was a mountaineering resting place near the old hydro-energy plant. It is peaceful place, excellent for body and soul. The jolly and ever-smiling family Pižent says cleverly: “If you are ashamed to eat, you are ashamed to live” and it is indeed a slogan we stand with. Their philosophy is very simple; cook as you do it at home, and put meat in the beef soup! No wonder this family, father Stane and mother Zdravka, together with daughter Sonja and brother Tomi, were cooking for the Slovene Olympics representation in 2000 in Sydney.

The reason why exactly Hubelj’s staff was invited hides in the simplicity and honesty of its dishes. Such a clear reason is the lamb with baked potatoes and onion. It is a classic meal in the Adriatic region, but every lamb has its significant touch. Mild lamb still brings its distinguished taste, it is tender, and served with caramelised onion, rosemary, and a touch of garlic. Everyone appreciates good lamb, but there are significant varieties. Vipava’s lamb is more fatty than Adriatic island lamb, and it leaves that great and unique lamb aftertaste. But, word of advice: don’t even consider to eat lamb ribs with fork and knife, it is the fingers that should feel the essence of why we love lamb so much!

The same goes for pork ribs with asparagus and fennel, an interesting combination of beautifully baked pork with strong fennel, which gives to this dish a specific taste. It is served with dumplings and salted mildly.

A beautiful dinner at Hubelj concluded with classic desserts made by Mrs Zdravka (the mother) whose knowledge and brightness transforms dough into the walnut dumplings and cherry strudel. Rich in substance, it opens way to the family’s soul: giving the best of home cooking in the relaxed and enjoyable natural environment!

Gostilna pri izviru Hublja, d. o. o.
IV. Prekomorska 75, 5270 Ajdovščina
00385 5 366 37 88, 00 386 41 201 924
http://www.gostilna-izvir-hublja.si

 

 

 

The Vipava Wine and Cuisine Festival

Grape wines have been grown in the Vipava Valley since the Roman times. Local wines and vineyards were already described by Janez Vajkard Valvasor in his book from 1689. In 1844 Vinoreja, the famous first book on winegrowing was published in the Vipava Valley, whilst 120 years ago the valley witnessed the foundation of the first winegrowing co-operative in the Carniola (Kranjska) region.

Wherever we look we see vineyards, especially on the south-west side of the valley. The unique mixture of Mediterranean and Continental climate with bura wind, with warm soil and particular terroir, produce some 25 sorts of wine here. Among the white wines are: Rebula (Ribolla Gialla), Sauvignon Blanc, Malvasia, Welsh Riesling, and Chardonnay, while the reds include Merlot, Barbera, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

But, we didn’t come to Vipava for that. Instead, we’ve embarked on an oenology journey to the domestic varieties like Zelen, Pinela, Klarnica, Poljšakica, Glera, Pergulin, Vitovska Grganja, and Pikolit.  Zelen and Pinela are considered to be unique to the Vipava Valley, which were almost forgotten in the past. Fortunately, in recent years, local people have started to again appreciate the heritage of their ancestors and there are many who grow both varieties.

The producers of Zelen of the Upper Vipava Valley founded the commercial interest Association of Konzorcij Zelen in 2003. In 2006 the Pinela’s producers also joined this association whose purpose is to protect the quality of local and unique varieties. All of these wines can be tasted at the local wine road or in the restaurants.

The Vipava Valley Wine Road is one of twenty such roads in Slovenia and one of four in the Primorska region. With 30 wine villages and its farmers it is also one of the biggest of its kind, and is well-marked by the signposts. The basic offer is high quality wines, but guests can also taste local products, foods, and drinks. Together with natural and historical sights, it can be an excellent day-out or more, depending on your love for wine. Many paths are also made for cyclists, so cyclotourism combined with wine is very popular here.

Each year in May, the Zemono Manor hosts the traditional Flavours of the Vipava Valley wine and culinary festival. Our visit to the festival was a highpoint of our tour, as all the important wine makers were there. We were focused on producers of Zelen and Pinela, but also other sorts, whose combined characteristics were floral scents, rich bouquet, and often barriqued wines.

Another excellent thing in this Festival is the opportunity to try local traditional products. One of these is prosciutto, named after the Kras region. Despite numerous technological innovations locals have retained the traditional manner of producing this speciality. Just salt, fresh air, the northern wind we call the burja, and careful watching and waiting ensure that after 12-16 months maturing you’ll be able to slice with pleasure into a truly tasty, ruby red and succulent dry-cured ham with and irresistible aroma.

The region is also famous for its cow, sheep, and goat cheese products, excellent fruits, and many other gastronomy delights. All of these can be tasted in the restaurants, inns, and agritourisms of Vipava.

Vipava Valley – Uniquely Different

The road takes us from Koper into the mountains. We are driving without a single clue where are we heading exactly. Yes, we’ve heard about Vipava and its gastronomy, but we’ve never been in any of its places. The cliffs of Mount Nanos, however, gives us a familiar look. It is a mountain with wind scars: north-east wind bura is as famous here as it is all along the Adriatic coast. Beneath it starts a magnificent valley, full of history, sun, wind, wine, and cuisine, surrounded by mountains from three sides, hidden as a gem above the Italian coastline between Gorizia and Trieste.

We are passing sleepy towns and houses, whose roof-tiles are often weighed down with rocks as the strong bura wind frequently unroofs buildings in the valley. Despite it, the valley has a pleasant atmosphere, evidences since the Roman times, when the hedonistic ancient Romans planted first vine here. Another example of mild climate are the fruits, including cherries, apricots, pears, chestnuts, olives, and kakis, especially in the village of Budanje.

A short drive brings us to Ajdovščina, today the administrative centre of the Vipava valley. It is another old town, as the present buildings are built on the foundations of a Roman castrum. The military camp was erected in 270 and many artefacts can be seen in the Ajdovščina City Museum. It is also the birthplace and working place of famous Slovenian artist and expressionist Veno Pilon, whose gallery is one of the foremost places of interest in Ajdovščina.

Photo: TIC Ajdovščina

But the city itself was not judicial, administrative, and cultural centre since centuries ago. It was Vipavski Križ (Vipava Cross), which acquired town privileges as early as 1532. The whole town is formed as a castle with two distinctive churches. Within the walls is the Capuchin monastery with a rich library and the friar’s cells, of which the most famous was the preacher Janez Svetokriški.

Apart from Vipavski Križ, whose beauty is enchanting, its views beautiful, and its cosy and quiet alleys almost saint, everyone visiting Vipava Valley should also go to the place of Vipava itself. Vipava is in fact a river flowing slowly through the valley, and the town is built on its spring. Because Vipava is crisscrossed with footbridges, bridges, and the wonderful deltoid spring of the Vipava Rover, spreading out behind the magnificent Lanthieri Manor, the place is also referred to as the Slovene Venice.

We came to this picturesque valley for the Taste of Vipava, the Festival of wine and gastronomy that gathers important wine makers in the valley and presents the gastronomy offer of Vipava.

Our visit to the Vipava Valley could not be possible without the help of the Development Agency of Vipava that provided us with free accommodation at the Youth House in Ajdovščina.

Razvojna agencija ROD Ajdovščina
+386 5 365 3600
www.ra-rod.si
ra.rod@siol.net
Okusi Vipavske

Mladinski center in hotel Ajdovščina
Cesta IV. Prekomorske 61 A
5270 Ajdovščina
http://www.mc-hisamladih.si
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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.

 

Croatian Gastronomy Secrets