Spoiling your taste buds

For several years now, Slovenia has found itself on the must-visit list of the most demanding foodies. Without the high-quality soil enabling the growth of fresh produce and vines, and an abundance of spring water and clean air to allow the indigenous Slovenian Carniolan honeybees to collect the best nectar, Slovenia would not be as interesting to gourmets from far and near. Welcome to the European Region of Gastronomy 2021. Slovenia is a land of top chefs and genuine flavours, and an exciting mixture of European cuisines whose tempting aromas rise from Slovenian pots. The greatest stars in this culinary firmament are Ana Roš, the World's Best Female Chef 2017, and Tomaž Kavčič, the winner of the European JRE Award for Innovation 2017/2018. They both highlight their roots. Slovenian chefs are united in their loyalty to local traditions and the produce that reaches the plate from nearby gardens, forests, waters, meadows and orchards. Slovenia has as many as 24 gastronomic regions due to its position at the junction of various European geographical features and climates. We are proud of our full-bodied flavours, quality and the traceability of our freshly produced raw ingredients. Generous nature is the key to original creations in modern restaurants and the traditional offerings found in country inns and tourist farms. 

The land where honey and wine flow

In the land where honey and wine flow, we take care of bee colonies and nurture vines. The saying goes that Slovenians are as busy as bees and we have a special soft spot for these creatures. While continuing the work of the pioneer of modern beekeeping, Anton Janša, Slovenian beekeepers proposed to the United Nations that World Bee Day should be celebrated. The indigenous Carniolan honeybee is the second most widespread bee species in the world. Slovenian organic beekeepers strive for unspoiled honey that incorporates the sweetness of blooming meadows and vast Slovenian forests. They are joined in their efforts to preserve the environment by biodynamic wine producers who apply a sustainable approach when producing wine. Their vines are fertilised by farm animal manure and microorganisms. Nature shows us the right path to produce supreme wines. Slovenian wine producers who excite wine lovers around the world were among the first to start reviving the ancient natural wine producing methods. Their macerated or so-called orange wines and biodynamic wines were popular in Slovenia long before they became a global hit.

Fullness of flavours from Alpine pastures and forests

The most renowned Slovenian female chef, Ana Roš, has shown the world that it’s possible for a person to become a top chef based on their own hard work. Roš is a queen of culinary innovations, but always remains true to the traditions and ingredients of the valley of the Soča River. Living waters and mountain pastures characterise the most mountainous northwestern part of Slovenia. The World's Best Female Chef 2017 and the Ambassador of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation for Gastronomy Tourism cooks in Hiša Franko, which is currently 38th on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Roš swears by the zero-kilometre supply chain and allows her fresh ingredients to display their natural qualities. As many as 16 different wild mushroom varieties and numerous wild plants can be found in her creations. These are collected by her herbalists in nearby forests and meadows. She likes to upgrade her dishes with dairy products from high-mountain pastures with a thousand-year-old tradition, such as fermented curd and Tolmin cheese with a protected geographical indication matured in their own cheese cellar by her partner Valter Kramar, who is also the co-owner of Hiša Franko. Local trout and seafood can be found on the menu as well.

 

Mountain pastures and valleys are also an ongoing inspiration for chef Uroš Štefelin, who is situated on the other side of the Alps and creates in the Vila Podvin restaurant. He also strives to upgrade his dishes with dairy products and the home-made spicy Mohant cheese proved an excellent choice. In the home of the Carniolan sausage, which impressed the Austrian Emperor himself, devout meat eaters will be in for a treat. Štefelin likes to combine flavours and upgrades meat dishes with sweet Tepka pears. This old local pear variety is one of his favourite ingredients. After a meal, enjoy a shot glass of Gorenjski tepkovec, a natural brandy made from Tepka pear. The Slovenian tradition of making fruit brandies and other brandies from herbs is particularly popular in the Alpine region, making the elixir of health and strength unavoidable when travelling in the Gorenjska region.

Salt and rock in flavours from the Karst to the Adriatic

Chef Tomaž Kavčič creates in his kitchen while thinking of resourceful Vipava grandmothers who collect everything they put on the plate from their surrounding area. He is a member of the prestigious international gastronomic associations Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and Le Soste.

Kavčič is the first and long-time president of the Slovenian section of the Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe, and the winner of the European JRE Award for Innovation 2017/2018. Based on the selection by chefs, culinary professionals and social media followers, Kavčič was ranked among the world’s best 100 chefs by The Best Chef Awards. With four toques, his Gostilna Pri Lojzetu was named the best Slovenian restaurant by Gault & Millau in 2018. Kavčič is the fourth generation of hospitality workers in his family and sticks to the name of gostilna (inn). Just like his ancestors in the past, who had no other choice, Kavčič uses only local ingredients. He avoids exotic and foreign produce that is not available to the ordinary people of Vipava in their home kitchens. Kavčič is captivated by wild asparagus, persimmon and chestnut, which can be collected in the Karst throughout the year. From simple rural ingredients, such as turnip and cabbage, he creates a superb version of the traditional jota hotpot, but without any liquid since he likes to surprise. Kavčič’s restaurant at the Renaissance Zemono manor house is surrounded by vineyards. His dishes are further accentuated by high quality Vipava wines. The indigenous white variety, Zelen, is combined with light dishes, while the traditional Karst prosciutto is perfectly matched with the ruby-red Karst Teran, which oozes the intensive character of the Karst and its people.

 

On the other end of the Vipava valley, one of the ten most beautiful places in Europe in 2018 according to Lonely Planet, you can find the Dam Restaurant in Nova Gorica. Chef Uroš Fakuč creates there and he, too, is a member of Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe. Dishes of this avant-garde culinary master will satisfy your curiosity and adventurous spirit. Fakuč is a fan of raw seafood since he believes that fresh and traceable produce is the key to a perfect dish. He thus carefully selects suppliers who value quality over quantity. One of these is the Fonda fish farm, where excellent Piran sea bass, one of the most esteemed sea fish, are bred. Other fruits of the sea are also on his menu, which are seasoned with the traditional Piran salt from the Slovenian coast. Istrian truffles find their way onto the plate as well, including local virgin olive oil, which is his favourite ingredient. Superb wines go well with excellent cuisine and are plentiful in this most sunny corner of Slovenia. Malvazija wine from the coast makes a fantastic companion to Fakuč’s seafood, and so does Rebula from the nearby Brda Hills that rise above Nova Gorica. For more full-bodied flavours, such as dishes from the indigenous Istrian breed of ox, boškarin, it is advised to experiment with naturally produced biodynamic wines or macerated so-called orange wines. Slovenian wine producers are among the best in the world when it comes to the production of orange wines. The first festival of orange wines was organised in the Istrian town of Izola on the Slovenian coast.

Green gold and the mineral waters of eastern Slovenia

When travelling east in Slovenia, the fifth largest hops producer in the world, you can see endless plantations of this green gold. As a tribute to the hops heritage, the first beer fountain was built in Žalec, the centre of Slovenia’s hops production. It is also possible to learn about the brewing tradition in Laško, the capital of Slovenian brewing, where the oldest brewery is located. Chef Marko Pavčnik creates at Pavus Restaurant in the medieval castle in Laško and considers beer his inexhaustible source of inspiration. The menu offers bear ragout with dark beer and local trout marinated in beer. Pavčnik also skilfully exploits the bitterness of beer in his chocolate praline filling. His dishes are certainly perfected by beers from the local Laško Brewery and Slovenian mineral waters, which are bottled for drinking and exploited in thermal natural resorts due to the numerous therapeutic spring waters found in Eastern Slovenia. 

Further towards the south-east, you can find a restaurant with a peculiar yet fitting name. In Ošterija Debeluh (Fat Guy’s Pub) in Brežice, you are welcomed by the warmth that combines local tradition and global trends. The same can be said for the cuisine of chef Jure Tomič, which is both innovative and traditional. He is a member of the Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe and has received the prestigious award for best service in the category of European restaurants at the association’s congress in 2019. In the cradle of pasta, Italy, Tomič became the Pasta World Champion in 2016. He made pasta with traditional Slovenian pumpkin seed oil, the aromatic dark green oil characteristic of Eastern Slovenia’s cuisine. Tomič is a fan of Slovenian indigenous types of meat, such as the local Krškopolje pork, known for its exceptionally delicious flavour and healthy fat. His meat dishes are seasoned with a special salt flavoured by Blaufränkisch, the indigenous Slovenian red wine variety. Tomič’s Posavje region is a land of wine that is excellent for producing sparkling wines, an indispensable accompaniment for dishes designed by this Slovenian sommelier champion. Tomič likes to serve top wines from all three Slovenian wine-growing regions, including those of neighbouring Štajerska, the region where the oldest vine in the world has been successfully thriving in Slovenia’s second largest town, Maribor, for over four centuries.

The junction of good food in Central Slovenia

Janez Bratovž, one of top chefs in the capital city, Ljubljana, finds home-grown produce from all over Slovenia at the Central Market, and he also cultivates his own fields.

JB Restaurant is a boutique Slovenia condensed in one place and featuring flavours from the Alps to the Mediterranean. Bratovž produces many ingredients in his own garden and field. Everything he serves on the plate is prepared in his kitchen. His staff also make bread and pasta from scratch, carefully observing the quality and traceability of the raw ingredients. Bratovž is one of the first breakthrough Slovenian chefs and his restaurant was the first in Slovenia to be among the World's 50 Best Restaurants.

 

Bratovž’s student, Luka Košir, one of the youngest top Slovenian chefs, has a similar philosophy. The majority of ingredients used in his kitchen at Brunarica Grič near Ljubljana is produced at the restaurant’s own farm or purchased from neighbours. Almost every day, Košir goes to the forest to forage for mosses, herbs and other wild food. He is becoming a master of fermentation but does not shy away from game or large fish from the nearby stream. Sometimes he strictly limits himself only to the ingredients that are available, as this additionally stimulates his creativity. And so, Košir can surprise with unexpected forest lichen or even ants on his plates. Excellent game can be found in the forest of Central Slovenia, including deer and stag and even bears, which are a speciality of Slovenian cuisine. Košir’s food is explicitly seasonal and he especially cherishes the all-Slovenian tradition of food preservation. Various vegetable pastes, fermented vegetables and home-dried meat can be found in his pantry.

In Central Slovenia, at the junction of landscapes, cultures and cuisines, you can find and taste delicious all-Slovenian flavours. Come, sit down and enjoy at the table where Alpine, Karst, Mediterranean, Pannonian and all-Slovenian specialities can be found, made carefully from the best fresh seasonal ingredients. Bon appétit!

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