Travellers passing through the Mirna Valley often admire the mighty Motovun, which is encamped on top of a hill above this Istrian river. How could it not, when the view on all other sides provides only a view of the great forest. This forest, named after St. Mark, however, is the area of one of the most sought after Istrian products - truffles. Once an inconspicuous tuber, today it is the pinnacle of Istrian gastronomy, and on the other side of the forest of St. Mark is a small place Livade. And in Livade is the famous place of the Dorjana tavern, where we found ourselves one winter morning and were delighted with breakfast!
The owner Dorjana Basanaže zealously adds firewood to the antique fireplace, although we do not lack heating: namely, we drink excellent homemade brandy of Erba Luigia, which enchants with its citrus notes and background of medicinal herbs, and regularly but cunningly calls for another glass. Ten o'clock in the morning has already passed (we don't want to be called drunkards in the early morning), so we decide to go for a local wine that is really local in Dorjana: it is made by Dorjana's husband Franko. Red coupage, they say, is good for blood, and Malvasia is already part of the cultural landscape of Istria!
Livade was once a trading centre for the export of potash, firewood and stone from this part of Istria. That has remained to some extent, thanks primarily to truffles, and Livade is also the world centre of truffles. This is part of the merit of Zigane's gastronomic feat, which put Istria alongside French and Italian truffle hits. Hundreds of people flock to Livade in the autumn, enjoying every taste and smell of this product, which is (rightly) said to be either love or hate at first sight. Or, better said, at first glance. We may not have developed as much flair as dogs that go truffle hunting with their owners (namely, truffles are hunted), but we are certainly aware that the smell of truffles can take over the whole area.
As part of the breakfast in Dorjana we got a frittata with black truffles. The beautiful colours of expertly sliced truffle leaves decorate delicious eggs and remind us of the importance of this dish, which has become so popular throughout Istria and beyond. Then came a new tour, this time with white truffles, which is especially popular in Istria. The flavours of black truffles are intense and aromatic, and depending on the species, aromas of garlic, hazelnuts or dried fruit can be felt. White truffle does not have as much offensive aroma and is, therefore, more sought after. And while we enjoy these flavours, it’s also time for a few legends.
Old stories tell that cities on the Istrian hills were built by giants. Sitting on the hills, they threw stones at each other and immensely enjoyed the white truffles they got in their heads every now and then. Jealous dwarves smeared truffles with black poison. Unable to resist, the giants ate until the last poisonous truffle and disappeared from Istria. But black spores have created a new type of truffle, the black truffle, which people today cannot resist just like the Istrian giants in legend. Surrounded by dense forests around the river Mirna, and especially on foggy winter mornings, we would not be surprised to see a few dwarfs, as well as Veli Jože, who is believed to have roamed this area.
Few truffles have always been given with potatoes and eggs, although the story of the significant use of these white and black tubers from the ground is still exaggerated. Most people did not like them due to the really intense smell, but the world story of truffles led to the flourishing of truffles in Istria. Today it can be found regularly with fuži, gnocchi, omelette, meat, although you should know that truffle leaves are the real thing, and various tartufatta are quite suspicious things.
We also tasted the inevitable cheese and prosciutto, an expression of the immense hospitality of every tavern in Istria, and every household, and the speciality was the excellent bread made with hemp. Instead of heavy dough that is not filling, this has the opposite effect. And while the sun is just breaking outside between the hills around the river Mirna, Dorjana feels a great warmth of warm welcome and kindness. Dorjana is also known for its snail dishes as well as phenomenal steaks, but these Istrian dishes exude autochthony and hospitality, so head to Livade:
Livade 4a, 52427 Livade