On the very edge of Ravna Gora, where streets turn into paths that lead to the woodlands and hills, stands a culinary paradise Breza. The name itself may be misleading, as there are not so many birch trees in the neighbourhood, considering the evergreen forest practically on the doorstep of the restaurant. And this is one of the resources for exquisite cuisine of Breza. The woods were abudant with mushrooms, and they still are. Morels and boletus are favourite mushrooms in the region. Except thick mushroom soups, they are side dish for many meat recipes. Every autumn, Ravna Gora organises Mushroom Days, when visitors can join the guided tour of woodlands and learn more about various mushrooms.
We were greeted by the owner Mrs Ivanka Jurković, whose stories about ordinary meals in Ravna Gora are a treasure of culinary knowledge. In Breza we got in touch with the really basics of Ravna Gora cuisine, as it once was, and as it is becoming popular again. One such thing is Ravna Gora gizzard, almost forgotten recipe of dried pork meat. Clear cutlet meat is minced and mixes together with finely chopped bacon and salt. Crushed garlic is mixed with two litres of water. This is added for three days to the mix. This mix is then used to fill the pork stomach. Here and there piece of black pepper is added. The stomach is then left to smoke. In a year, the stomach is ready for serving. Excellent appetizer, which we had as last stop on the menu.
Mrs Ivanka told us about the meals from the old times. Most traditional breakfast consisted of polenta and milk, sometimes blood sausages too. The vegetable was seasonal, but still everyone cared to have beans, sauerkraut and beet in the house, as well as potatoes. Potato stew without meat was a meal that most elder people still remember, and many dinners were centred on the baked potato halves (police). The meat was scarce and reserved for Sundays. Still, this was healthy diet for the time.
Our own starter was puff pastry filled with buckwheat, oatmeal, and mushrooms, with sour cream, cottage cheese, and parsley-and-rucola pesto on top. Full of buckwheat flavour and with great addition of sour cream, this starter is excellent balance of tastes. Barley is especially important here, as it is a heritage of old times. Today, more and more barley-based side dishes are available in our restaurants. Breza itself makes meat dishes with barley base.
Main dish was deer steak in blueberry sauce, with addition of red onion marmalade and raspberry-and-blueberry butter. The sauce is not too sweet, which is excellent, as the meat gets more attention and clear aroma of venison. Onion marmalade is ingenious combination which fits great in the balance of flavours, while indeed curious butter made of forest berries gives freshness to the deer.
Breza is indeed a perfect getaway in Ravna Gora. It boasts not only with excellent wine list, with superb continental red wines and glorified Istrian white wines, but also with whole accommodation package. Thus, you can sleep in Breza hotel, use conference hall, and enjoy the wellness after the trekking in the mountains or berry or mushroom picking in the woods. We have spent great time with Mrs Jurković, who is indeed knowledgeable about the old traditions and new innovations in the kitchen. After all, rewards on the wall tell this story far better.