It has long been a matter of debate as to whether or not Slovenia is a member of the Balkans or not. According to many official sources, the Balkan region takes its name from the Balkan mountains, which run from the east of Bulgaria to the east of Serbia, and Slovenia is listed among the countries which lie within its boundries. However, opinions still remain firmly divided about this; some saying that the borders are hard to define and it may be that only parts of Slovenia lie within the Balkans; others state that despite Slovenia being part of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia’s economy, architecture, heritage, culture and numerous other factors, set it miles apart from other Balkans states. No doubt we could all put in our two-pennies worth about this, but I won’t be entering into the debate other than to say that Balkans or not, Slovenia can surely only be richer for its ties, geographically or otherwise, with its neighbouring countries.
It’s also these ties that leads Slovene cuisine to being so diverse. Over the years its own national cuisine has been influenced by both its neighbouring Balkan countries, and the other countries it borders; Italy, Austria and Hungary, with each region of the country also having its own specialities.
The restaurant Joštov Hram in Podnart is a shining example of this diversity. It could be described as offering ‘Balkan cuisine’, but its also so much more than that. I’d perhaps label it ‘Balkan cuisine with Slovene finesse’ – hmm, that could be a catchy new slogan!
Podnart is a small village at the end of the Jelovica plateau and Lipnica Valley, and beside the Sava river. From the outside the restaurant looks somewhat unprepossessing, and in truth the interior is perhaps slightly underwhelming and dated but this belies the ambience and the food, which is certainly far from unprepossessing. I have cycled past countless times, as the restaurant lies directly on the Lowland Cycle Route (http://www.radolca.si/en/lowland-cycling-trail/), and I had always said to myself that I would one day stop off to take a peek. However, since Jostov Hram is also now one of the 7 restaurants that participate in Taste Radol’ca, and as I am working my way around visiting them all, this gave me the perfect opportunity to go, albeit on this occasion I went by car as rain was forecast, and boy did it arrive too! Taste Radol’ca is particularly ideal for a restaurant such as Jostov Hram, as due to its slightly more remote location, it could so be easily overlooked, but by participating in this, as well as being one of the regular participants in the Ljubljana Open Kitchen (Odprta kuhinja), it has assured them greater, and deserved, recognition.
A friend and I visited on a mid-week evening and although the restaurant was quiet, the bar area was busy with locals partaking in a schnapps or two! We dispensed with the need for menus and surrended ourselves to the chef and owner, Miso’s, suggestions and recommendations i.e. a bit of everything! Miso is also ably assisted in the kitchen by his mother – and his bubbly wife Anja, who came to chat with us during dinner to – ensuring its a real family affair. I did also however take a moment to look at the menu just to suss out what else was on offer for future visits (of which there will certainly be), and its fair to say there’s something to cater for all tastes.
We began with roast red peppers, stuffed with cheese and coated in a light batter (and a glass of white for good measure!).
Followed by leskovački ustipaki. There really is no direct translation for these so I’ll describe them – small meat patties made with minced meat, bacon, cheese and seasoning.
The next plate of delights comprised vešalica (pork loin) wrapped in pancetta, served with šobska salad (cucumber, pepper, onion and white cheese – the usual accompaniment to grilled dishes), prebranac (akin to oven-roasted baked beans) and lepinja (a round flat bread).
Dessert was candy for the eyes as well as the palate. A whole apple, peeled and stuffed with apricot jam, in a vanilla and chocolate sauce. Need I say more!
In fact, the whole experience has just left me with one problem – how am I ever going to be able to cycle past again without diving in for sustenance!
Here are just some of the forthcoming events and news in the Radol’ca and Bled areas for the week ahead:
I am the bearer of some very good news for visitors to the area. Following February’s ice-storm, and the huge devastation it left behind, the ever popular Vintgar Gorge re-opened to the public on Friday 16th May. More about Vintgar Gorge can be found here – http://www.vintgar.si/gorge.html
Tuesday 20thMay – Bees and Blossoms (Cebela in cvet)
Opening of an exhibition at the Lesce Bee Centre at 6pm, to celebrate the birth of Anton Janša, a pioneer of modern apiculture.
Saturday 24thMay – Octet Lip Bled
A concert by the Lip Bled Octet choir will begin at 7pm in the Baroque Hall of the Radovljica Manor – entrance is free.
Saturday 24th May – Through the Alpine Valley by Bike or on Foot (Po alpskih dolinah s kolesom ali peš)
This event, organised by Triglav National Park, offers recreative cycle tours and walks for all the family. It begins at 10am at the Slovene Alpine Museum in the village of Mojstrana – http://www.bled.si/si/dogodki/2014/05/24/1841-Po-alpskih-dolinah-s-kolesom-ali-pes-v-Radovno-in-Krmo
Sunday 25th May – Magical Day in Bled (Čarobni Dan)
A day full of magical treats for the whole family. Sports activities, dancing, and a whole host of events and special offers including reduced price entrance to the castle, horse and carriage rides, boat trips, mini-golf, summer sledging and more. More information can be found here – http://www.carobnidan.si/
© AdeleinSlovenia 2014