Bear on Plate - Bijela Ruža, Ravna Gora
Since 1968 the owners of Bijela Ruža (White Rose) have been preparing venison, mushrooms, and forest fruits, among other gastronomy offer. This long tradition is a symbol of good quality, not only in the restaurant itself, but in its accommodation and mountain hut. We enjoyed the hospitality of Mr Romeo Marević, who welcomed us although he had two full buses of people arriving unexpectedly to his restaurant! After some introduction, we were first customers to get the lunch. On plate we had a mountain region’s classic: bear steak in blueberry sauce and homemade dumplings.
Bear is nowadays often on the highland’s menus in Croatia. Still, it is almost a masterpiece to make a good bear steak. Mostly you will find bear stew, as it is easier to soften the wild meat. To have a soft bear steak full of flavour is worth of praising. And the one we had in Bijela ruža was just like that. Today, in Ravna Gora one may find several good places to taste original dishes based on wild game. Of course, it is not what most people ate in past times. Wild was privilege of the local hunters, while other families’ diet consisted of less abundant calories. There weren’t many hunters, as the weapon for hunt was expensive.
The bear steaks are left in mix of carrots, garlic, onions, and spices from five up to ten days, to soften the meat as much as possible. What distinguishes the steak we tried is the sauce. It is made in rich and sweet blueberry sauce, with distinctive dark red colour, aroma of sweet venison, and with mild and soft flavour of bear meat. Almost every family had cows and gardens, so they had cheese, homemade milk, and fruits throughout the year. Pigs, chicken, and rabbits were often to be found in Ravna Gora gardens. Garden fruits as well as wooden berries were basis for juices, teas, and jams. From the garden came also sauerkraut, beet, beans. Lots of porridges were made, often with dried meat.
Additionally, homemade dumplings fit excellent with bear meat and sweet sauce. They are made according to an old recipe, using old bread. It is made with eggs, and pieces of bacon are added. Thus, it has a strong flavour of bacon inside. It helps greatly with the main dish, as the sauce may be a bit too sweet for some people.
But sweet tooth should not despair. Famous highland blueberry strudel is a must for anyone seeking to finish the lunch in ordinary manner! Sweet and sour taste of this cake is legendary and many people come to Gorski kotar just to taste it. Sweets in Ravna Gora consisted of sweet cheese, pies, strudel, and lots of berries in summer. They were used to make jams, juices, teas, and wonderful strudels, for which Gorski kotar is still famous today.
Apart from bear steak, there is also venison steak and schnitzel, wild boar steak, and deer steak. They come in various sauces, mostly blueberry, cranberry, raspberry, or mushroom sauce. For true hunting experience, one should try venison, bear and wild boar salami and prosciutto. Mushroom dishes abound, and especially interesting is wild mushroom stew, as well as some other mushroom ideas.
If you feel tired, Bijela ruža offers accommodation in the house, but more spectacular things are about to happen. New glass roof will be added to the swimming pool – who would resist to bath under the snow falling above your head?!
Bijela ruža (White Rose) I.G. Kovacica 16, 51314 Ravna Gora, Croatia Telephone: +385 (0)51 818 444 Fax: +385 (0)51 819 030 Mobile: +385 (0)98 442 358 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.bijela-ruza.hr
Photos by: Dino Džepina & Bijela Ruža