A Taste Radol’ca Culinary Challenge!

Life in Slovenia is almost back to normal – tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, campsites, etc. are open, and there are even tourists to be seen here and there! That said, there has been a spike in new cases in the past week, so we aren’t out of the woods yet, and caution is still the name of the game.

As a result of COVID-19, now, more than ever, it is important to support local businesses and to look after our health – of which eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an important part. So, it seemed an appropriate time to set Taste Radol’ca restaurants a culinary challenge!

The background to my ‘challenge’ is the situation I find myself in these days since being diagnosed with coeliac disease, which is that going out to eat leads to feelings of: (1) anxiety, (2) apprehension, (3) embarrassment and (4) envy. The first two are due to never being able to be 100% sure that when I order gluten-free food it will really be gluten-free and prepared in a ‘safe’ way, the third is due to having to ask the waiting staff and/or chefs so many questions, and the fourth because invariably I can only ever order one or two things from the menu, which most often aren’t the things I would have previously chosen to eat, and I then end up feeling envious looking at fellow diners tucking into their tasty-looking meals.

Thus I decide it was high-time to be brave and embrace the great, local cuisine and to put my faith in the Taste Radol’ca chefs! I contacted 4 restaurants and asked them to prepare a selection of dishes – meat-based, vegan, and vegetarian – all of which needed to be gluten-free. I should add that I’m neither a vegan or a vegetarian, however, I know that these days an increasing number of people are turning to vegan lifestyles, and there are also those with coeliac disease who choose to additionally be vegan, which must be doubly difficult.

So, below you can see the tasty delights I devoured, beginning at Gostišče Draga in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem.

I used to particularly enjoy the various sweet and savoury štruklji at this restaurant, and up until now, I hadn’t found anywhere that offers gluten-free štruklji. I had kind of resigned myself to never being able to eat one of my favourite Slovenian foods again, well, unless I made them myself – and that isn’t about to happen!

So, I was more than over the moon to discover that owner and head chef Ales Tavčar finally lived up to his promise and prepared gluten-free štruklji for me! And, even better, they were such as success they will be featuring on the menu sometime in the near future.

Struklji can be eaten both as a savoury dish, for example with a mushroom sauce…

…or sweet, for example with cranberry sauce. I think my face tells the picture of how delighted I was, and, trust me, they tasted as good as they look!

Vegans are catered for too with dishes such as buckwheat with apple and almonds, which is also gluten-free.

Next up was Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce. Regular readers might recall that I held my celebration there on the occasion of gaining Slovenian citizenship last year. And at that time too it came up trumps with a gluten-free buffet for all my guests. You can read about my celebration here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2019/10/14/when-adele-in-slovenia-became-adele-is-a-slovene/

So, my visit was with less trepidation in the knowledge that they know their stuff in terms of gluten-free food and preparation.

This time I enjoyed risotto with prawns and truffles – gluten-free and also suitable for pescatarians…

…rump steak with roasted vegetables and potatoes – all naturally gluten-free…

…and rice noodles with homemade wild garlic pesto – vegan and gluten-free.

And all enjoyed on the terrace with a great view!

Next was the turn of Restavracija Center in Lesce, which is a new, and very welcome, addition to the Taste Radol’ca ‘family’.

Since being diagnosed with coeliac disease this place has become my ‘go-to’ restaurant, notably for their amazing gluten-free pizzas, which actually look, and taste, like pizzas – something that can’t be said for many a gluten-free pizza! The dough is made separately and the pizzas are cooked in special baking trays to avoid any cross-contamination. Eating here is the one time I don’t feel so hard done-by!

And this pizza ticks the vegetarian box too, though there are plenty of meat pizzas, too!

For meat eaters, a great gluten-free choice is the beef tagliata, potatoes, rocket and parmesan…

…while vegans can enjoy a seasonal risotto – this one with asparagus was by far the best risotto I’ve ever eaten and from now on will be my second choice in the event that they have run out of gluten-free pizzas, which does happen at times, so it’s always best to call ahead to check to avoid disappointment.

And I ended at Gostilna Kunstelj, which ranks among one of Slovenia’s most well-known traditional restaurants. Even the former Yugoslavian president Tito used to visit!

In fine weather the fantastic view makes the food taste even better!

Since Gostilna Kunstelj’s whole ethos is based on using local and seasonal produce, there is certainly no lack of choice for vegetarians and vegans, and many of the dishes are either naturally gluten-free or can be adapted to be so.

A big hit with me, and a revelation too, was the buckwheat with vegetables and pumpkin seed tempeh. Full of colour and flavour, indeed!

There are numerous salads on the menu, which use produce from the restaurant’s own garden.

Gostilna Kunstelj also has renovated guest rooms, all of which come with stunning views too!

Fortunately, Taste Radol’ca’s talented chefs came up trumps and I’m delighted that now I know I have a slightly wider choice of dishes when I go out to eat, though, of course, the worry is, and will be, ever-present, as even the tiniest grain of gluten sets off an autoimmune reaction. But one needs to also remember that there are people far worse off in life!

© Adele in Slovenia