Tag Archives: Slovenia

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 Tomažič 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 strudel 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

 

 

 

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
e:info@mc-hisamladih.sit:+386 (0)5 368 93 83g:+386 (0)41 945 392

 

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

KRŠKO – TOWN OF HISTORY AND FLAVOURS

Most people think of Krško as a place with nuclear plant. Indeed, this place on the banks of Sava river is famous for its industry and nuclear power plant, which you can also visit in organised tour. But two day visit to Krško, organised by the Club of Tourist Journalists of Croatian Journalist Society and the Tourist Board of Krško, opened our eyes to this beautiful and less known part of Slovenia. From castles and Catholic monks to the pleasures of exquisite gastronomy, Krško is a pleasurable destination to visit.

Situated between Sava Valley and surrounding hills, six municipalities (Krško, Sevnica, Brežice, Bistrica ob Sotli, Kostanjevica na Krki and Radeče) form the Posavje region of Slovenia. The area is rich in history and natural beauty. It has five castles. Sevnica, Podsreda and Rajhenburg are refurbished to their past glory; in Kostanjevica is situated an art museum, while castle Brežice houses the Posavje Museum. Probably the most fascinating story is of the Rajhenburg Castle which we visited on our tour.

Old town Krško is defined by several historical and cultural points of interest. Our hosts guided us to this realm of Slovenian history accentuating local patrons and personalities that lived in Krško. The town has a rich history. In 16th century Krško was an important Protestant centre, place where Lutherans Adam Bohorič and his student Jurij Dalmatin worked. At the end of the 17th century, the famous polyhistorian Janez Vajkard Valvasor passed away in town’s historic centre, in Mencinger House. This house used to be home to the lawyer and writer Janez Mencinger. In the old town one can also find the Valvasor library with a Capuchin monastery, the town park, the parish church of St. John the Evangelist, and the Krško City Museum.

We started our tour in the city park. In one part of the park named Gaj zaslužnih občanov (Grove of deserving citizens) we can ‘meet’ the psychologist Mihajl Rostohar, the trained sculptor and medallist Vladimir Štoviček, the educator and grammarian Adam Bohorič, the translator and writer Jurij Dalmatin, the botanist France Vardijan and the patroness Josipina Hočevar. The park was once a graveyard with the church of the Holy Cross. The church still stands, but has not been used for religious purposes since the end of the Second World War. After the renewal in 2003 it was named Dvorana v parku (Park hall) and various cultural and other events are held there. The park also contains the Hočevar mausoleum, an octagonal neo-Gothic chapel with a pyramid roof, where Martin and Josipina Hočevar – the great benefactors of Krško – are buried. They donated their money for various charitable causes. Nearby is the Capuchin monastery holding the Valvasor library of Krško.

Next we visited the Mencinger house. During the years from 1882 to 1912 the cultural worker, politician and jurist Dr. Janez Mencinger lived in this baroque residential building. Janez Mencinger (1838-1912), writer, lawyer and politician, came to Krško in 1882. Five years later he chose two marvelous houses in old part of town to be his home. Mencinger is known as a writer of novels, and was among the founders of the Slovenian Writers’ Association in 1872, two years latter he was also a Mayor of Krško.

Both houses have indoor atrium and a number of interesting elements that bear witness to centuries of life in them. Southern house is particularly famous because today we know that this is the traditional Krško house in which has lived and died a famous polymath Janez Vajkard Valvasor. Today this is the site of some furniture memorabilia and also place for indoor gardens. Particularly important are the frescoes of early Slovenian Protestants.

But the real jewel of history and culture is the City Museum Krško. It has its premises in the Valvasor complex, where a permanent exhibition by the sculptor and medallist Vladimir Štoviček is displayed, who donated part of his artworks to the Municipality of Krško to be displayed in the Valvasor house.

There is also an exhibition dedicated to Josipina Hočevar, grand patron of the city, and famous Slovenian psychologist Mihajlo Rostohar. The museum also has a space exhibiting handicraft products of the border area as part of the ‘Path of honey-bread making’ project  between Krško and Zagreb.

Indeed, such a cultural wealth is only matched by excellent gastronomy offer, rivers and woodlands with rolling hills that offer many sport activities, and enjoyment in the sacral architecture and heritage.

Tourist information center Krško
Cesta krških žrtev 46, 8270 Krško
T: ++386 7 490 22 20
E: tic.krsko@cptkrsko.si
http://www.visitkrsko.com

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