Taste Radol’ca Goes Beyond Borders!

During the height of the coronavirus-related lockdowns, here in Slovenia we weren’t allowed to leave the borders of our municipalities; something that we would never usually even consider in ‘normal’ times. Fortunately that’s a (fairly) distant memory now – and hopefully one never to be repeated – and now not only we (the people!) but also Taste Radol’ca can go beyond borders!

This year, in addition to the Taste Radol’ca restaurants from the Radol’ca area, there are also two others from neighbouring municipalities, one of which – Restavracija MANU – has already won numerous accolades in the short time it has been open.

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The annual highlight of the Radol’ca culinary year takes place next Friday 28th October – the opening Taste Radol’ca event and dinner prepared by all the talented chefs!

Morda je slika naslednjega: 5 oseb, ljudje stojijo in znotraj

The focus of this year’s Taste Radol’ca is sustainability and, as usual, there is an emphasis on locally produced and/or locally grown, i.e. no, or minimal, food miles and supporting local farmers and producers. The 3-course (or more) set menus remain at the same price as last year – 26 euros – which, considering the price rises all around us, remains excellent value for money.

This year’s participating restaurants are: Restavracija Tabor (Podbrezje), Restavracija Manu (Žirovnica), Gostišče Tulipan (Lesce), Gostilna Avguštin (Radovljica), Vila Podvin (Mošnje), Hiša Linhart (Radovljica), Gostišče Draga (Begunje na Gorenjskem), Šmeks-Baffi House of Pizza (Radovljica), Gostila Pr’Tavčar (Begunje na Gorenjskem).

Further proof of Radol’ca’s status as the ‘culinary capital of Gorenjska’ is the Michelin Star recently awarded to Uroš Štefelin, formerly from Vila Podvin, and his team at Hiša Linhart, as well as a Michelin green sustainability star.

This year’s opening event kicks off at 4pm with a farmers market, which offers visitors a chance to chat to, and buy from, the suppliers to Taste Radol’ca restaurants. Entrance is free, so come along and join in. The more the merrier!

At 5pm there is a presentation of Taste Radol’ca restaurants, with entertainment from pupils from Radovljica’s Anton Linhart primary school.

This year’s gourmet opening dinner will take place at Gostilna Avguštin in Linhart Square – the heart of the historic old town. The restaurant is hugely popular due to it’s sunny terrace with views of the Jelovica plateau, the Lipnica valley and the Julian Alps.

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Reservations for the dinner, which costs 55 euros, are mandatory and can be made by contacting the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre.

Having just translated all the menus, I know you’re in for a treat, but I won’t let the cat out of the bag just yet. After all, there has to be some element of surprise in life!

© Adele in Slovenia

What’s New and What to Do This Summer in Radol’ca

It’s hot! Hooray!!! While those that aren’t lovers of the heat are already complaining, I’m in my element at this time of year when I get get out on my bike and in the hills and mountains, and when one doesn’t need to go out dress in multiple layers of clothing!

The tourist season seems to have started much earlier this year here in Radol’ca and elsewhere in Slovenia, no doubt such is the yearning among many for holidays after the long COVID-19 pandemic.

So, with that in mind, this blog contains a rundown of new features and events in Radol’ca this summer, as well as some of the great, existing, traditional events too! As you will see, there’s certainly plenty to choose from and something to suit all the family.

Thursdays in the Square

Thursdays in the Square are back this year with a series of concerts featuring a variety of music. The concerts take place every Thursday evening in July in the old town centre of Radovljica. The first concert will feature Slovenian hit songs performed by young musicians from the surroundings of Radovljica, followed on 14th July by the Argentian-Italian group SuRrealistas. The third Thursday in July Čedahuci will perform followed by Masharik on the last Thursday in the month. Taste Radol’ca street food will be available at all the Thursday evening concerts and, prior to that, visitors will have a chance to purchase arts and crafts from stalls of the ARTish festival.

Guided independent cycling and cycling-culinary tours

Why not set off on a culinary-cycling tour of the Radol’ca area? Guided e-Bike tours are available or just hire a bike (or bring your own), pick up a map from the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre, and set off on your way.

Cycling is an ideal way to get some outdoor exercise, enjoy the fresh air and see and taste the countryside. Along the way you can stop off at the Pr’Šlibar farm, where you can buy fresh strawberries, strawberry jam, juice and cordial as well as dried meats, and the Dolenc Farm where you can taste and buy some of the home-produced dairy products.

You can then cycle on to the lush Draga Valley, home to the Gostišče Draga restaurant. At the entrance to the valley you can stop and take a look at the magnificent ruins of Kamen Castle.

This year Gostišče Draga, which is part of Taste Radol’ca, was once again visited by Slovenia’s top food critics, who awarded it two hearts, thus confirming its place as one of the best in the Radol’ca area. The restaurant with rooms is also the holder of the Green Key in Green Cuisine sign as a result of its efforts to operate sustainably.

The Draga Valley is also home to the parkour archery course, which I can highly recommend.

Free guided tours

Special free guided tours of Radovljica, Kropa, Mošnje, Kamna Gorica and Kamen Castle will be held throughout July and August.

In addition to guided tours, from Mondays to Saturdays throughout July and August, half day Hop On and Discover bus tours, run in cooperation with the neighbouring destinations of Tržič, Jesenice and Bled, offer the opportunity to explore more of Radol’ca and the surroundings. The bus trips are free of charge for holders of a Julian Alps: Radovljica benefits card (see below).

Julian Alps: Radovljica benefits card

Discount cards are available free of charge for those staying in partner accommodation in the Radol’ca area for a minimum of three nights. The card is issued by accommodation providers and can be used to take advantage of numerous discounts and other special offers for activities in Radol’ca and the neighbouring destinations.

Iron Forging Festival

The village of Kropa sits nested into the far eastern edge of the Jelovica plateau and is crammed with interesting architecture and preserved technical heritage, which is showcased during the annual Iron Forging Festival. This year’s festival takes place on Saturday 2nd July.

The festival features demonstrations of hand forging of nails in the vigenjc Vice forge, a small local market, open days at the Iron Forging Museum and the Fovšaritnica Museum House, as well as at the headquarters of the company UKO Kropa, which specialises in all manner of wrought iron furnishings and fittings and is keeping the village’s iron-forging tradition alive.

Avsenik Festival

The hugely popular Avsenik Festival attracts lovers of Slovenian folk music from far and wide. This year’s festival takes place over three days from 26th to 28th August.

In addition to the above, there are also other events, such as the annual Radovljica Early Music Festival, Medieval Day and open-air cinema, as well as plentiful water sports, theme and hiking trails and more! Click here to get the full list of summer events.

As you can see, whether your a culture vulture or an adrenalin junkie, there’s something for everyone this summer in Radol’ca!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

The Radovljica Chocolate Festival is Back!

After a 2-year COVID-enforced hiatus, next weekend Radovljica will again rightly live up to its destination slogan – Honestly Sweet – with the return of the hugely popular Radovjlica Chocolate Festival!

While Radovljica itself hasn’t changed much in the past couple of years – in a positive way, I mean – there are some changes to the forthcoming festival, so I went along to the press preview this Wednesday to find out all the juicy, or rather chocolatey, details!

The opening event of the festival – the gourmet Three Chefs’ Dinner – takes place on Friday 22nd April at Hiša Linhart in Linhart Square. This year the stars of the show will be three young chefs, mentored by three masterchefs.

The festival itself then kicks off on Saturday 23rd April from 9am to 8pm and continues on Sunday 24th April from 9am to 6pm.

The ‘chocolate’ part of the festival will take place this year in Radovljica’s town park, which is just minutes from the main bus station, so ideal if you plan to visit by public transport (unfortunately, maintenance work will be taking place on the railway line, so this year it won’t be possible to come by train).

Chocolatiers from Slovenia, Croatia and Italy will feature at the festival. Among the chocolates available to try (through the purchase of tasting coupons) and buy will be the winning chocolates from the annual festival ‘Best Praline’ competition, which this year was judged by the owners of the prestigious Zotter chocolate factory in Austria.

And Radovljica has even more reason to be proud, since first place was awarded to the chocolate and buckwheat praline made by the new Radol’ca Chocolate chocolatier!

The new Radovljica chocolate hearts made by the Molinet chocolatier in Kropa will also make their debut at the festival.

Meanwhile, in Linhart Square – the heart of the medieval old town – there will be a jam-packed entertainment programme with something for all the family.

The main highlights of this year’s entertainment programme include cookery workshops (chocolate, of course!), live music and dance performances, a chocolate roulette wheel, a 100kg ‘bar’ of Gorenjka chocolate to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Gorenjska chocolate, stand-up comedy, face-painting, discount entry to the Museum of Apiculture, non-chocolate food from Taste Radol’ca (Hiša Linhart and Gostišče Draga) and more.

Click here to find the full programme for both days.

Hope to see you here in ‘Honestly Sweet’ Radovljica!

© Adele in Slovenia

A Perfect Radol’ca Party!

If you’re looking for the perfect place to hold a celebration or party, or just seeking some posh nosh and a unique experience, look no further than Radovljica!

I had spent quite some time trying to decide where to throw a surprise get-together for Aleš’s (the other half!) 50th birthday, when in the end the choice was staring me in the face – Radovljica!

Thanks to the new Radol’ca Chocolate chocolatier and the excellent Hiša Linhart restaurant and bistro, headed up by the Michelin star-recipient Uroš Štefelin, I managed to put together a perfect evening and everything went to plan, too! The restaurant, in Radovljica’s historic old town centre, is also part of Taste Radol’ca.

I started by sitting down and going through the menu to ensure that all the food would be gluten-free, which isn’t a problem when it comes to this level of food, where flour isn’t used as a thickener, everything is made from scratch and the chef(s) know(s) exactly what is, and isn’t, in the dishes they create.

I took a bit of a detour towards the old town – just a 10-min walk from home – to ensure that Aleš still didn’t have a clue what was in store! I’d arranged it all in advance with the team at Hiša Linhart and bought all the balloons and other decor. On arrival we were whisked upstairs where the others were waiting and then… SURPRISE!!! And I let out a sigh of relief that I’d pulled it off!

We raised a toast with tepka juice made from a traditional Gorenjska variety of pear, one of Hiša Linhart’s specialities. We then sat down to start our feast, which began with a cold starter of warm gluten-free bread with various flavours of butter, a mini salmon and caviar blini-cum-wrap, potato choux pastry, and the most amazing creation in an egg containing pork crackling.

The latter was ‘delivered’ to us by none other than the chef himself – Uroš Štefelin!

I had specifically requested parsnip soup as it’s my favourite, and also because I knew no one else would have ever tasted it, as parsnips are a bit of a novelty here!

We then had a hot starter followed by the main course…

…and then came the next part of the surprise. A visit to the new Radol’ca Chocolate chocolatier, where Iza – the daughter of the owners – took us through a guided tasting session, during which we learnt all about the history of chocolate, the different types of chocolate and how it is made.

First we had a chance to try different kinds of pure chocolate, as well as cocoa butter  – the latter, surprisingly, doesn’t resemble chocolate in any way.

After having learnt a lot about my favourite food, we were then given the chance to try some of the amazing and creatively flavoured chocolates…

….and got some to take home too!

But that wasn’t quite the end of the evening! We went back to Hiša Linhart (all of a 90 second walk away!) where we made sure we really were bursting full by indulging in a gluten-free birthday cake, which I had ordered from Lincer in Lesce, which offers all kinds of gluten-free (as well as egg-free, dairy-free, etc.) food.

So, as you can see, a great time was had by all, and with full stomachs, the birthday boy and I waddled our way home, both in agreement that Radovljica really is the perfect place for a party!

© Adele in Slovenia

Autumn Colours and Tastes of Radol’ca

Radol’ca, like much of the rest of Slovenia, is awash with stunning autumn colours at the moment, so if you get the chance, now is the time to visit and take a drive through the Gorenjska countryside.

This week and next will be the peak of the autumnal colours, as the leaves are dropping at a rate of knots now, so don’t miss out on this short-lived annual spectacular. Autumn is a time of mixed emotions for me; I love it because of the colours and still (usually!) relatively warm weather, but at the same time know that it means winter is on the way!

In addition to stunning colours, autumn is a time of seasonal tastes, and the annual Taste Radol’ca month of local menus, which takes place every November, is another good reason to visit. This Friday 29th October the opening event of this year’s Taste Radol’ca takes place at Vila Podvin in Mošnje, near Radovljica. It begins in the afternoon with a farmers’ market featuring local suppliers and tastings, whilst in the evening the opening dinner will be prepared by Taste Radol’ca chefs and served by waiting staff from all the nine participating restaurants.

The farmers’ market, which will run from 5pm to 7pm, is open to everyone – the more the merrier (though note that you must meet, and be able to prove, that you meet one of the RVT conditions (recovered, vaccinated, tested) – while the five-course opening dinner is a ticket-only event. Contact the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre to enquire about purchasing tickets and to find out more information about what to see and do in autumn in the Radol’ca area.

After the opening event, and right up until the end of November, you will be able to try one (or more!) of the specially prepared menus featuring local ingredients prepared by the talented Taste Radol’ca chefs at: Vila Podvin, Draga Inn, Lectar Inn, Kunstelj Inn, Gostišče Tulipan, Gostilna Avguštin, Gostilna Pr’ Tavčar, Restavracija Center and Restavracija Tabor.

On a side note, albeit still on the same theme, if you haven’t yet got round to visiting Vila Podvin – awarded a Michelin Star in both 2020 and 2021 – you might want to hot foot it there before the end of November (again, don’t forget RVT), when its eight-year chapter of exceptional success draws to a close.

But all is not lost, as one book closes and opens, as the entire Vila Podvin team will be moving to Hotel and Restaurant Linhart in Linhart Square, the heart of the old town of Radovljica, which Uroš and his business partner, Marcela, bought at the start of 2020 as a result of their offer being rejected to purchase the building in which Vila Podvin operated. The hotel, like many other places in Radovljica (Linhart Hall, Linhart Square…) is named after the well-known 18-century Slovenian playwright Anton Tomaž Linhart who lived in the neighbouring house.

So, now is the time to visit AND taste Radol’ca! Hope to see you there, or rather here, soon!

© Adele in Slovenia

Rock to the Rhythm of Summer in Radol’ca!

After almost a year-and-a-half of preventative measures of varying degrees, Radol’ca’s summer events calendar kicks off in style this week, with almost a year-and-a-half’s worth of events in just one week!

The first event, and one that many have been waiting (im)patiently for, is the Queen Real Tribute Band, who were lined up to perform at the 2020 Radovljica Chocolate Festival, and who were also on standby for this year’s festival – both of which were cancelled, though a somewhat smaller festival is scheduled for 11th and 12th September this year – and will now finally be on stage this Thursday 1st July in the first of a series of Thursday evening concerts throughout July. The evening is due to start at 8pm with a Taste Radol’ca culinary market in the Radovljica park, which is open to all, followed by the band at 9pm (ticketed event).

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Those more interested in traditional Slovenian folk music can head for nearby Begunje na Gorenjskem where live music evenings have now resumed at Gostilna Avsenik (ticketed events) – the home of Slovenian folk music – with the Avsenik House Ensemble and other guest Slovenian folk music ensembles.

Fotografija: Ansambel Saša Avsenika začenja novo poglavje.

During this current heatwave, for many a cold beer is bound to hit the spot, so the Radovljica Craft Beer Festival, which takes place on Saturday 3rd July from 12noon onwards, is the place to be. The festival will be held in the Radovljica park and feature a food market with Slovenian craft beers and Taste Radol’ca food.

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Okusi Piva Radovljica

The Kropa Iron Forging Festival takes place on the same day, Saturday 3rd July. So, be sure to plan the day well and, in fact, why not head for Kropa first then stop off at Radovljica on the way back, but remember: Don’t drink and drive!

The festival will run from 10am to 6pm and includes free entrance to the Iron Forging Museum throughout the day, a reenactment of the life of Kropa’s blacksmiths with the Cofta Drama Group at 12noon in the Vigenjc Vice forge, a small craft market, open day at the UKO wrought iron factory, a demonstration of smelting iron ore, and more.

Also on the same day – yes, there’s more! – the regular monthly Vila Podvin farmers market takes place in the garden of Vila Podvin (one Michelin Star) from 10am to 12noon, where you can meet local producers and suppliers, and sample and buy their products.

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Once you have recovered from all of the above, there are plenty of other events coming up through the month of July. Check out the events calendar for more details.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for somewhere (else) to ‘chill’, the Radovljica swimming pool is the ideal place to cool off at this time of year. I took this snap of it looking glorious in the sunshine earlier today from Obla gorica, the small hill behind the pool.

Note: many of the events are still subject to social distancing measures and are now ticketed, so be sure to check out the Visit Radol’ca website for the latest information.

© Adele in Slovenia

Radol’ca Re-opens!

Hooray, I am finally the bearer of some good news…it feels like a while since I’ve been able to say that!

Writing this feels a bit like groundhog day, as it was around this time last year that Slovenia began to exit its first lockdown and I published a similar blog on the subject. And here we are today, almost a year later and only now Radovljica, as well as the rest of Slovenia, is slowly beginning to re-open after three, seemingly endless, lockdowns.

Unfortunately, the vaccination programme is still going slowly – to date around one-fifth of the country’s 2 million residents has received at least one shot of a vaccine – but, notwithstanding, things are steadily moving in the right direction and finally, after 6 long months, the terraces of restaurants/bars etc. were able to re-open last week and as of yesterday (Monday 26 April) hotels and other accommodation facilities are able to open up to 30 rooms (regardless of the size of the property). Note, however, that a negative test or proof of vaccination is required to stay in an type of accommodation (camps included).

So, now you, well we if I include myself, can actually begin to start thinking about planning holidays, something that has seemed unthinkable for a long time now. And since most of us will no doubt – sensibly – prefer to avoid places overrun by mass tourism, it is destinations such as Radol’ca that come into their own with its boutique accommodation and numerous hiking trails and other off the beaten track attractions. So, here are a few ideas to help you in planning your visit to Radovljica – whether for a few hours, a few days, or even longer!

The Radovljica Tourist Information Centre has now, too, reopened, and is ready and waiting to help, whether you make contact by mail, by phone or drop in in person. The tourist office is at the entrance to the old town centre, which is the obvious place to start your visit to the area. Visit one of the museums or galleries in Linhart Square, admire the frescoes on the facades of townhouses, ‘Follow a bee through Radovljica‘, visit the Lectar honeybread workshop, see the baroque St. Peter’s church, and soak up the views of the Jelovica plateau and the Julian Alps from the viewpoint.

After taking in the sights of the old town, you can head off to explore the surrounding countryside. Take your pick from theme trails, hiking trails, the network of cycle routes, water sports, equestrian pursuits, mini-golf and more.

After record snowfall in some places, it’s still very much winter in Slovenia’s high mountains, fortunately here in Radol’ca there are plenty of hiking trails at lower altitudes. I’ve written about such trails on numerous occasions, so a quick search back through previous blog posts using key words will turn up plenty of info on hikes to, for example, Suharna, the Vodiška planina mountain hut, the Roblekov dom mountain hut, St. Peter’s church above Begunje na Gorenjskem, and more.

Of course, after all that fresh air and activity you will be in need of some sustenance, and you certainly won’t go hungry at Taste Radol’ca restaurants, the ethos of which is using seasonal, locally sourced, ingredients. At the time of writing, some of the restaurants have yet to re-open, since they are currently only allowed to serve customers outside on the terrace and for those with smaller terraces it is not worth their while re-opening. However, it is to be hoped that it won’t be too long until they are able to fully re-open. Radol’ca even has a Michelin-starred restaurantVila Podvin – as well as several other fine dining restaurants and numerous rural inns.

In terms of accommodation, there’s plenty to choose, from river-side camps to apartments, guest houses and other boutique accommodation.

In terms of events, it’s still a bit early to say what will and won’t take place this year. The Radovljica Chocolate Festival, which was cancelled last year and postponed this year, is provisionally scheduled to take place on 11th and 12th September this year, while the organisers are hoping that others events, such as the Craft Beer Festival and live music and food on Thursdays evenings in the square, will be able to go ahead in summer, in some form or another. But at the moment it’s a case of watch this space to see how things pan out.

Of course, all the above-mentioned are in the Radol’ca area itself, meaning there’s still a whole host of other places waiting to be explored in the surrounding areas; the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park are on the doorstep, Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj are close, Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana is just a cca. 40 minute drive, and even places such as the Postojna caves, the Soča valley, and Slovenia’s coast are all within a 1-2 hour drive – nothing is that far away in Slovenia!

So, I hope I have provided you with some food for thought and ideas to help your holiday planning and, as and when there is (even) more news about more things opening up, I’ll be in touch with more up-to-date info, or, in the meantime, do feel free to drop me a line if you need more info. Always happy to help, well, within reason that is!

© Adele in Slovenia

Taste Taste Radol’ca…at Home!

A follower of my blog in Canada recently wrote to me asking if I could write a post about Slovenian recipes, so how could I refuse to comply! So, Mary in Canada, this one is for you!

Since all the restaurants, bars, cafes etc. are (still) closed – it’s been like this here since the end of October last year – we (both the owners of such establishments and the public at large) have had to get used to cooking more at home whilst also taking advantage of the take-away food on offer at selected places. Many of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants have been offering take-away food and, in fact, it has actually been to my advantage in some respect that chefs have had more time to ‘play’ in their kitchens, and Aleš Tavčar, head chef and owner of Gostišče Draga in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem, finally found time to make me a glut of gluten-free štruklji to go in my freezer.

And since štruklji really are something unbeknown to most of the world, they were the first thing that sprung to mind when deciding which Slovenian recipe to first write about.

Štruklji at Gostišče Draga

The recipe and photos shown below are for gluten-free štruklji, which, due to gluten being what provides the ‘elastic’ in dough mixes, are slightly different to ‘regular’ štruklji. Therefore, I should stress that ‘normal’ flour will provide you with a better result and your štruklji will look and taste somewhat better too, so unless you have to avoid gluten (coeliac disease in my case, though others have an intolerance and/or choose not to eat it for other reasons) you can use the same quantity of regular flour. These days I’m just happy to be able to eat them, even if they aren’t exactly as I remember them in my pre-coeliac days.

The full recipe with quantities is at the end of this post.

First gather the ingredients for the dough – flour, salt, egg, vinegar, water, oil.

Combine them well but don’t overwork the dough.

Shape the dough into a round loaf shape.

Next, make the filling using curd cheese, eggs, sour cream and salt.

Mash (or mince) the curd cheese well, add the eggs and sour cream then season with salt.

Roll out the dough – after watching the ‘pro’, I was allowed to help with this part!

Spread a generous amount of the filling mix over the dough.

Next its time to roll the štruklji then lift them gently onto lightly oiled foil or a non-stick cloth before steaming or cooking into salted simmering water.

This is the basic, traditional way of cooking and serving štruklji, but these days, in terms of how you choose to eat them and what kind of fillings/flavours you add, the sky’s the limit. You can eat them as a main course, a side dish or even chocolate štruklji for dessert. I’ve yet to find a flavour I don’t like!

At Gostišče Draga you can try a savoury version with a mushroom sauce…

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…or, my preferred option, topped with cranberry sauce for a savoury/sweet taste.

Until the restaurant is able to reopen – and in fact also thereafter too as they have proved to be such a success – you can buy some of Gostišče Draga’s dishes and home produce from the family farm in jars. The range include goulash, jota, bograč and various pickled vegetables. Aleš and Tina have certainly not been resting on their laurels during this long lockdown – all credit to them. The jars can be bought direct at the restaurant (at weekends), at the Lesce farmers market (Friday afternoons/Saturday mornings), from the vending machine outside Gostilna Kunstelj, and at various local shops as well as further afield.

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Recipe

Dough:

370g flour (gluten-free or regular)

pinch of salt

One egg

10g vinegar

300g water

90g oil

Filling:

1kg curd cheese

6 eggs

200g sour cream

Salt

Method:

Make the dough by mixing together the flour, eggs, water, vinegar and oil then shape into a round loaf.

Make the filling by mashing/mincing the curd cheese then add the eggs and sour cream and season with salt.

Roll out the dough – it should be very thin – ???? then spread over the filling. Roll the štruklji into a Swiss roll shape then lift gently onto lightly oiled foil or a non-stick cloth and roll to fully encase the štruklji. Steam for 45 minutes or cook into salted simmering water for 30 minutes.

And that’s it – simple when you know how!

Let me know how you get on!

© Adele in Slovenia

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

Ten Top Insider Radol’ca Tips!

Since I think I have a right these days to call myself a ‘Radolčanka’ (i.e. a Radovljica local), I thought I would share with you some of my top insider tips, some of which are more obvious than others!

So, in no particular order…

YOU WILL NEVER GO HUNGRY OR THIRSTY IN RADOVLJICA…at the last count – in my head that is so I could have forgotten the odd one – I totted up 23 bars, cafes and restaurants in Radovljica itself – not to mention the numerous others within the municipality. So, there’s no need to worry about going hungry or thirsty whilst visiting! And now there’s an exciting new ‘kid’ in town too – Linhart Hotel & Bistro – in Linhart Square, the heart of the old town. The hotel opened a couple of years ago but has just been taken over by the hugely successful and popular restaurant Vila Podvin, with head chef (and celebrity chef these days!) Uroš Štefelin at the helm. Expect bistro-style food – Uroš style!

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THERE’S A VISIBLE TUNNEL... Okay, so it’s not an insider tip as such, but I’ve included it here since it’s easy to miss. The only preserved moat tunnel in Slovenia is found beneath Radovljica’s old town centre. It was renovated, and partly built-over, some years back, and is well-illuminated, meaning you can walk through it at any time as part of a visit to the old town centre. I’m rather lucky as I live just minutes from the old town and can therefore see it by day and by night, though the latter trumps it for me!

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AND AN INVISIBLE/HIDDEN TUNNEL TOO…well, that is if legend is true! It is said that there is a tunnel that runs underground from the well in Linhart Square all the way to Lipnica Castle. To date no one has actually found it, but the legend lives on…!

AND EVEN A ‘SECRET’ CHAPEL…the Edith Stein Chapel is hidden away behind the vestry tower of Radovljica’s baroque St. Peter’s church in Linhart Square, and surprisingly few people even know it’s there. Edith Stein was a German-Jewish philosopher, born on 12 October 1891 to Jewish parents, who converted to Catholicism and became a Carmelite nun.

Also know as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, she was canonised as a martyr and saint of the Catholic Church, and is one of six co-patron saints of Europe. Edith and her sister Rosa, who was also a convert and an extern sister, were sent to the Carmelite monastery in Echt in the Netherlands in 1938 for their safety, where, despite the Nazi invasion in 1940, they remained until they were arrested by the Nazis on 2 August 1942 and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they died in the gas chamber on 9 August 1942.

WE HAVE RATHER LOVELY CEMETRIES…bear with me on this one! I know it might sound odd but it’s true, Radovljica’s (and in fact in general throughout the country) two cemetries are so well kept. There is always an abundance of fresh flowers, plants and glowing candles, and a sense of peace prevails. You can admire both the cemetries as you pass on a walk towards the Sava river and the Fux footbridge.

RADOVLJICA REALLY IS A ‘SWEET’ TOWN…in so many ways! Not only is the town’s slogan ‘Honestly Sweet‘ but Radovljica is also the home of the biggest and best chocolate festival in Slovenia and a honey festival too. This year’s Radovljica Chocolate Festival – the 9th in a row – takes place from Friday 17th to Sunday 19th April.

WE LIKE TO STICK TOGETHERTaste Radol’ca is a great example of this. Rather than being in competition with each other, many of Radol’ca’s restaurants have joined forces and, in doing so, have realised and reaped the benefits of cooperation and collaboration. In doing so they are also supporting local farmers, beekeepers and producers of other goods, by including locally sourced ingredients on their menus. Each year there are an increasing number of events at which Taste Radol’ca restaurants are present, such as the Radovljica Chocolate Festival, summer Thursday concert evenings, the November Month of Local Cuisine, various Christmas and New Year events, and more.

WE LOVE OUR BEES…the Museum of Apiculture, the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, the ‘Follow a Bee Through Radovljica‘ family adventure, an annual Honey Festival, and numerous beautifully painted apiaries where hardworking bees, and equally hardworking beekeepers, ensure that we have a plentiful supply of local honey.

IT LOOKS GREAT FROM ABOVE OR BELOW…Wherever you view Radovljica from – whether up high in the mountains or down beneaths its terraces – Radovljica’s old town centre with its prominent church is picture postcard stuff! So, whether you choose a stroll beside the Sava river on the Sava River Trail, or one of the marked hiking trails, such as to St. Peter’s church above Begunje, or even higher to the Roblek mountain hut or the peak of Begunščica, you are assured of a great view and a totally different perspective of the beauty of Radovljica and its surroundings.

SEEK OUT BUNKERS FROM THE RUPNIK LINE…the Rupnik Line is a system of fortifications that were built during the 1930’s by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as a defence line on the border with the Kingdom of Italy. The strategically placed forts and bunkers were never actually used for military or defence purposes, but they at least brought residents a temporary solution to the unemployment and financial troubles which affected them due to the location of the Rapallo Border. In Radovljica there are bunkers on the Obla gorica hill, which is located behind the swimming pool, as well as on the grassy bank in the street Cankarjeva ulicacop. I recently read that, in fact, there are around 50 such bunkers located across the Jelovica plateau, Radovljica and Begunje na Gorenjskem, though, to date at least, I’ve only come across a handful. Hmm, an idea is brewing, how many (more) can I/you find?!

I hope this has given you plenty of ideas for exploring (more of) Radovljica and you’ll agree that’s there’s certainly more than meets the eye!

© Adele in Slovenia