Kunstelj Inn – A True and Tasty Tale of Tradition!

Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica is a family-run restaurant with rooms that has a long tradition and a great reputation. It is also one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, takes part in other culinary events such as Slovenian Restaurant Week and is featured in the Gault&Millau restaurant guide.

Five year’s ago, Maja Buden (nee Štiherle), daughter of Toni and granddaughter of Tone and the fourth generation to head up the family business, took over as manager of the inn. To mark this anniversary, as well as a certain ‘big’ birthday with a zero at the end, she threw a celebratory gathering last Friday! Happy Birthday and congratulations Maja!

And, of course, a Slovenian celebration wouldn’t be complete without accordion music and traditional entertainment!

Having recently translated a special edition newsletter to mark this special anniversary, I was keen to be able to share with readers of my blog some of the highlights and photographs of the inn’s long and fascinating history, and, fortunately, Maja gave me the nod to do so!

Kunstelj Inn was opened by Franc Kunstelj in 1873 and some years later handed it over to his son Rudolf. Rudolf was very ambitious and had a vision and belief that the small family inn could become the heart and soul of social life in Radovljica.

The Rudolf Kunstelj Inn in 1906. Photo: 110 years of the Radovljica Tourist Association

He set to work building a large lounge with a stage for celebrations, a wine cellar, a freezer and a veranda with views of the Julian Alps. The renovations placed Kunstelj Inn on the map of the most popular local restaurants in Slovenia.

Grandmother Jerica later took over the running of the inn. She had a reputation as a fearless woman who always knew exactly what she wanted and was not afraid to tell people to their face what was on her mind! She survived two wars, became a widow at a very young age, raised two sons, and took over and managed Kunstelj Inn all by herself.

Many of the dishes Jerica introduced onto the inn’s menu can still be found today, albeit with a modern ‘Maja twist’, as well as other traditional Slovenian food, including blood sausages, Carniolan sausage with sauerkraut or turnip, buckwheat polenta, homemade štruklji and more.

Meanwhile, grandmother Maria left home at the age of 14 to work at the Roblek dom mountain hut. Tone and the now legendary Slavko Avsenik – the founder of Slovenian folk music – used to visit the hut as rumour had it that there were a lot of pretty girls there! And it turned out to be true, since Tone and Maria met and later married, and Slavko Avsenik even played at their wedding!

Grandmother Maria (second from left) doing washing at the Roblek dom mountain hut

A particularly amusing tale is that of Grandad Tone and his golf ‘caddy’ Grol. Tone didn’t start to play golf until he was 62, when, due to his weak heart he gave up hunting as well as skiing and golf became a form of relaxation and enjoyment.

As the doctors had instilled in him that he must strictly avoid all forms of exertion, for some time Tone thought about how he could lighten the load of carrying his heavy golf clubs from one hole to the next and he hit on the idea that his faithful companion Grol could help!

Uncle Ivan made Grol a special trolley for transporting Tone’s golf clubs, and Grol adapted really well to his role as ‘caddy’.

Maja’s father Toni regularly went on exchange to Switzerland to “learn from the best”. It was there that he learnt skills from one of the most well known Swiss patisserie chefs, Hans van den Klinkenberg, in Hotel Eden in Lugano. Toni brought all the tricks and secrets he learnt from the patisserie chef to Kunstelj Inn’s kitchen, which led to Kunstelj’s strudels, pies, ice-cream and other cakes soon gaining a reputation as the best desserts in Gorenjska.

Like her father, Maja also has a passion for desserts and, also like her father, she went to Austria to learn her patisserie skills. Her role model, who she met on one of her culinary travels, is Lea Linser; at that time Lea was running an acclaimed restaurant in Luxembourg and was the first ‘tv chef’ on German television. To this day Maja turns to Lea’s cookery books for inspiration for her signature desserts.

Some year’s back Maja created the first Kunstelj ‘grizike’ (cake pops), which later became – and still are – one of the star attractions of the Radovljica Chocolate Festival!

You can also visit during the time of Slovenian Restaurant Week, which takes place twice per year for 10 days in autumn and spring, when you can take advantage of a 3-course menu for just 19 euros per person, the next edition will take place from 11th – 20th October (note: the website is currently only available in English, but menus will soon also be available in English and by next year the entire website too – working on that one too!).

Kunstelj Inn is also part of Taste Radol’ca and for the whole month of November all nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants offer special menus based on local ingredients also for a set price of 19 euros  per person.

So, now you know (some of) Kunstelj Inn’s history, why not visit to find out (and taste!) more!

© Adele in Slovenia

A Sweet Weekend in Store – Mošnje Days, a Roman Feast and the Festival of Honey

Next weekend promises to be a ‘sweet’ one in the Radovljica area – in more ways than one – since there are two events taking place, both of which promise to be tasty!

In fact, the first event – Mošnje Days – begins on Friday 22nd September. This year marks the 10th hosting of Mošnje Days and it promises to be bigger and better. This year it is particularly dedicated to Roman times, due to the Mošnje Villa Rustica archeological site – the remains of a villa dating from the 1st century which were discovered in 2006 during works to extend the Gorenjska motorway.

On both Friday and Saturday you can take a free guided tour of the Mošnje Ethnological Museum where you can see some of the artefacts found at the site including ceramicware, keys and jewellery whilst at on Friday at 6pm in the Mošnje Cultural Centre (Kulturni dom) you can see an exhibition of products from a 3-day mosaic workshop, which is also taking place as part of this year’s event, and watch a performance by pupils from the Mošnje primary school.

You can read more about the Mošnje Archeological Trail here – http://www.radolca.si/en/mosnje-archaeological-trail/

On Saturday 23rd from 1pm you can try Roman food as well as traditional Slovene dishes – there’s always something bubbling in the cauldron! – browse and buy local handicrafts, be entertained by live music from the PROJEKT ensemble, and there will be workshops for children.

Did you know that the Romans were very advanced in the field of cuisine? Why not treat yourself to the Roman-based menu available all weekend at Vila Podvin in Mošnje – one of Slovenia’s top restaurants – where head chef and co-owner Uroš Štefelin specialises in a modern take on traditional Slovenian food with a focus on local ingredients, and where you can always find something innovative to tantalise your taste buds! You can find more details about the Roman weekend menu, price and booking details here – http://goo.gl/u9m7xt

Meanwhile, at the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska in Lesce, this year’s Festival of Honey and Day of Honey in Cuisine takes place on Saturday 23rd September from 10am.

Come and find out more about Slovenian honey, taste honey and honey products, sample honey beer and honey cocktails, treat yourself or buy some gifts for friends and family, and take a tour of the centre and the apitherapy beehive.

The festival programme is below (in Slovenian only) and more about the centre can be found (in Slovenian, English and other languages) on the website – http://www.cricg.si/

From 22nd-24th September you can enjoy special honey-themed menus at selected Taste Radol’ca restaurantsGostilna Lectar, Lambergh Chateau & Hotel, Gostilna Kunstelj, Gostišče Draga, and Gostišče Tulipan, with 3-course menus costing just 15 euros per person (except Kunstelj Inn – 25 euros).

Pork fillet in honey-pepper sauce at Gostišče Draga

I’m looking forward to the ‘sweet’ weekend ahead. Do come and join the fun, too!

© Adele in Slovenia

Taste Radol’ca 2016 – The Final Party but Far From the End!

In one way I was pleased to see the back of November – 22 days of rain, with the odd bit of snow thrown in for good measure – but the end of November also brought the end of the month-long Taste Radol’ca 2016, which isn’t so much sad as time for a celebration of all the hard work put in by the chefs during the past month and the even harder work put in by the diners – including me – having the tough job of trying out all the menus! If nothing else, my waistline will be pleased it has come to an end, though, with the festive season all but here, there’s still plenty of gluttony to come, no doubt!

Each year different restaurants host the opening and closing events and this year the Taste Radol’ca Final Party took place at Draga Inn in Begunje na Gorenjskem. We began outside with hot punch, much needed on a chilly December evening, and food to keep us warm provided by Gostilna Tavčar and the Globočnik Excursion Farm.

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In contrast to the opening event, which is a somewhat more formal sit-down multi-course meal that showcases the talented chefs, the final party is more a relaxed, social, let-your-hair down party and a chance to hobnob with the chefs. Thanks Uroš (Vila Podvin) and Mišo (Joštov Hram) for helping keep me warm!

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The chefs from the 13 participating restaurants once again did a magnificent job, each preparing a small dish for us to try.

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Bite-size dishes, each of them delicious, and all made using local ingredients. Too numerous were the dishes to show them all, but here are a few photos to drool over! Gostilna Tulipan dished up smoked pork neck with curd cheese on a bed of barley.

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The ever-popular Joštov Hram mini-burgers were a big hit!

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I found my place next to the log-burner to keep warm and enjoy mine!

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Jože and chef Aleš from Lectar Inn had a great system going providing us with their homemade štruklji.

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And of course the desserts didn’t disappoint either. Chestnut cake prepared by Gostilna Avguštin.

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And a delicious creation by Maja at Kunstelj Inn – a winning combination of a gingerbread base with a caramelised walnut, apple and meringue topping.

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But, it’s far from the end of the Taste Radol’ca story. In addition to their regular menus, all participating restaurants also offer Taste Radol’ca dishes, prepared using local ingredients, throughout the year. You can identify these dishes on menus by the small coloured bee next to the name of the dish.

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So, what are you waiting for, you can now Taste Radol’ca all year-round!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Taste Radol’ca 2016: The Opening – Too Many Cooks DON’T Spoil the Broth!

Now in its 4th year, Taste Radol’ca keeps going from strength-to-strength and has really enlivened the month of November – a traditionally quiet month in the hospitality industry – in the restaurants in Radovljica and its surroundings.

This year there are 13 restaurants as part of the Taste Radol’ca ‘family’, all of which combined to cook up an incredible feast at the opening dinner held last Friday at Vila Podvin. It turns out that ‘Too many cooks don’t spoil the broth, they actually improve it!’

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The evening began with a local farmers and craft market, with tastings of food provided by the Globočnik Excursion Farm (Izletniška kmetija Globočnik) and Gostilna Avguštin.

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Live music was provided by the band ‘Suho cvetje’, who entertained visitors throughout the evening with their unique style of music.

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At 7pm we were ushered to our seats in the restaurant for the main event, whereby each dish was concocted and cooked by the Taste Radol’ca chefs, teaming up to create the culinary sensations you can see below.

The first course was chilled smoked trout, buckwheat ice-cream served on a blini, and beetroot and horseradish – prepared by Grajska Gostilnica and Tulipan Inn.

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Next came quail soup with a quail’s egg and julienne vegetables, prepared by Draga Inn and the Krek Restaurant.

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The third course was calves liver with onion, polenta, salad and edible flowers – prepared by Lectar Inn and the Lambergh Restaurant.

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To cleanse our palates in preparation for the main course we were then served a ‘juniper berry sorbet’, which wasn’t actually a sorbet at all, but a creamy and clever spin on one, courtesy of Kunstelj Inn.

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Finally, already fairly bursting at the seams, it was time for the main course! Cheek of pork, tarragon struklji and caramelised vegetables – prepared by Vila Podvin and the Avsenik Pri Jožovcu restaurant.

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And, the dessert was certainly worth waiting for! A unique and delicious take on a plum strudel with curd cheese, vanilla cream, served with cinnamon ice-cream – prepared by Joštov Hram and Gostilna Tavčar.

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But that was just the start! Now comes a whole month of eating and trying out the delicious-sounding Taste Radol’ca menus at all 13 restaurants!

Well, actually, I think 13 in one month might even be a bit beyond me, but I’ll give it a try, I’m always up for a challenge, especially where food is involved!!!

The participating restaurants are:

  • Gostilna Kunstelj, Radovljica
  • Gostilna Avguštin, Radovljica
  • Gostilna Lectar, Radovljica
  • Grajska Gostilnica, Radovljica
  • Gostišče Tulipan, Lesce
  • The Krek Hotel and Restaurant, Lesce
  • The Globočnik Excursion Farm, Globoko
  • Joštov Hram, Podnart
  • Draga Inn, Begunje na Gorenjskem
  • Gostilna Tavčar, Begunje na Gorenjskem
  • Gostilna Avsenik – Pri Jožovcu, Begunje na Gorenjskem
  • Lambergh Chateau and Hotel, Dvorska Vas
  • Vila Podvin, Mošnje

More information about Taste Radol’ca can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/kaj-poceti/dogodki/okusi-radolce-2016/83/2053/ (in Slovene), and here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/taste-radolca-2016/83/394/ (in English).

© Adele in Slovenia

The 5th Radovjlica Chocolate Festival – a New Guinness World Record!

Regular readers of my blog will know that I usually always post new blogs on Mondays. However, in a break with tradition, I’m posting today with BREAKING NEWS – and for two reasons.

First, I can’t contain my excitement that today, at 5pm today, it became official that a new Guinness World Record was set at the 5th Radovljica Chocolate Festival for the World’s Largest Chocolate Bar by Area.

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The chocolate bar was made by the Cukrček chocolatier and measured over 140 square metres, smashing the previous record of 102 square metres. It took over 300 hours to piece together the 28,000 pieces of chocolate.

After his speech, Slovenia’s Prime Minister, Miro Cerar,  became the first person to get a taste of the record-breaking chocolate bar. Visitors to the festival this weekend can try it too, through the purchase of tasting coupons.

The second reason for my early blog posting is that, since the festival has only just begun, there’s still plenty of time for anyone wavering as to whether or not to visit this weekend.

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There’s chocolate of every size, shape, and taste imaginable.

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Over 50,000 people visited last year’s festival; this year looks set to be a whole lot more. That means there are an awful lot of chocolate lovers out there – I’m not alone!

This year you can come and sit on the chocolate throne and be the King (or Queen) of Chocolate too!

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Visit Lectar Inn to see, and taste, the incredibly cute chocolate gingerbread men.

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There is a jam-packed, or should I say chocolate-packed, programme of events and entertainment taking place all weekend. Here are just some of the highlights still to come:

  • Watch the process of chocolate being made at the chocolate factory
  • Try a mini-planica ski jump (sorry, children only!)
  • Join a cookery workshop and make your own cup-cake
  • Listen to concerts, watch dance shows, stilt walkers, puppet shows and circus entertainers
  • Watch some of Slovenia’s top chefs creating chocolate-based dishes
  • Go to Kunstelj Inn’s Garden Party for cocktails, burgers and more

Find the whole festival programme here – http://www.festival-cokolade.si/en/programme/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

Spring Restaurant Week 2016

After a relatively dry and mild December and January, the weather seems to have been playing catch-up for the last few weeks and we’ve been experiencing alternating torrential rain and snow. Operators of Slovenia’s ski resorts will be rubbing their hands with glee as an extended ski season looks a dead cert now, since in the past week in some places there has been up to metre of fresh snow. So, if you are considering a late ski trip, consider Slovenia!

Despite the rain and snow, temperatures have been feeling more spring-like (though it was snowing when I woke up this morning!), there are plenty of spring flowers in bloom, the days are getting longer, and Spring Restaurant Week is here, yippee!

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Spring Restaurant Week 2016 takes place from 11th – 20th March. There are a total of 86 participating restaurants, and out of the 11 in the Gorenjska region3 of these are Taste Radol’ca restaurants. This is all the more impressive since the Restaurant Week team visit each restaurant to ensure it meets its strict criteria for inclusion, meaning only the finest are chosen.

Restaurant Week takes place twice a year – in spring and in autumn – and the concept is to make gourmet food affordable. Diners have an opportunity to try out some of Slovenia’s best restaurants, with 3-course specially prepared menus available for just 16 euros. It is incredibly popular, so bookings are essential. Since the website is only in Slovene I thought I’d give you a sneak preview of what to expect.

Kunstelj Inn, Radovljica – a choice of 2 themed menus. One is ‘All Things Vegetable’. Below you can see the main course – the 4th generation of Kunstelj štruklji.

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The other is named ‘From the Mountains and Forests’. The main course is fillet of mouflon with parsnip mash and kohlrabi.

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Vila Podvin, Mošnje – Uroš Štefelin, one of Slovenia’s top chefs, will be cooking up delights including carpaccio of rainbow trout with a herb and horseradish mayonnaise

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Lambergh Chateau & Hotel, Dvorska vas – there are 2 menus, meat-based or fish-based. Note – *this photo is from the 2015 Restaurant Week as photos of the 2016 culinary delights at Lambergh have yet to be released.

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Now, I just have the tough choice of deciding where to go and how many of the restaurants I can fit into one week!

More information here (in Slovene only) – http://tedenrestavracij.si/restaurant-category/gorenjska/

You can also read more about Restaurant Week here, in English, though it is only about Ljubljana-based restaurants – http://www.inyourpocket.com/ljubljana/Restaurant-Week_73983f

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

New Year in Radovljica / The Dornk Excursion Farm

This year I chose to spend New Year’s Eve (very) close to home at Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica, which is just walking (stumbling!) distance away! The family run Kunstelj Inn has a long tradition and is popular with both locals and visitors to Radovljica and is one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants.

The New Year’s Eve menu consisted of a buffet of cold starters including these tasty cheese bite-pops, followed by a hot starter of pureed spinach and potato with egg.

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The main course included probably one of the tasty pieces of duck I’ve ever eaten. It literally fell of the bone and I have no idea how they got it that succulent. The only time I ever tried cooking duck I ended up smoking out the whole kitchen!

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And the best bit, of course, the dessert buffet and home-made walnut potica. I was too stuffed to try it all – not like me I know – but took some potica home to try the next day, all in the name of research of course!!!

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Meanwhile, in Radovljica’s old town crowds gathered to see in the New Year with live music from the Avsenik House Ensemble from Begunje na Gorenjskem.

Last week I visited the Dornk Excursion Farm (Izletniška kmetija Dornk) in Mlino to see the nativity scene exhibition and museum collection. Wow, this place is a goldmine, crammed to the rafters with every kind of collectable imaginable, and more! The nativity scene exhibition, housed in the stable (note – it’s not heated so wrap up well!), contains over 100 nativity scenes of various sizes and made from various materials. I was also shown around the over 240-year-old house, run by three generations of the family, which still retains its original features including a black kitchen.

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The nativity exhibition is open for viewings daily from 12noon – 6pm until 6th January, then every weekend until the end of January, so there’s still plenty of time. The museum collection is also available to view year-round, by prior arrangement for groups.

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The other barn contains an extensive ethnological museum collection which also includes an amazing collection of handmade needleworkembroidery and crocheting – made by the family’s grandmother.

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The farm has an extensive orchard and the owners prepare all their own juices, spirits, tea etc. which you can sample, as well as delicious homemade food such as potica, strudel etc. in the cosy snug. Find out more about Dornk here – http://dornk-bled.com/?page_id=325&lang=en

According to my annual report from the nice people at WordPress, where I host my blog, the number of readers of this blog in 2015 came from 123 countries around the world and equated to selling out 19 concerts at the Sydney Opera House – isn’t that an interesting fact! Thanks to each and every one of you!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016