SO Tasty at Wine Bar and Restaurant Sova, Lesce!

In the almost nine years I’ve been living here I’ve eaten at a lot of restaurants; some average, some great and some outstanding. However, I’d go as far as to say that the meal I had last week in the new Sova Restaurant and Wine Bar in Lesce was the best yet and I haven’t stopped raving about it since!

Lesce has an incredible 12 restaurants – or rather 12 eateries – as a couple are more snack bars than restaurants. When I say ‘incredible’ I don’t mean that they are all ‘incredible’ – some are obviously better than others – it’s just incredible that Lesce, which is something between a big village and a small town, has such a wide choice. I can’t help but wonder if they will all survive, as competition is now fierce, however I certainly hope this latest addition is here to stay.

I must confess that I’m not a great gourmet when it comes to the type of cuisine which is culinary art but you, or at least I, am always left wanting more and leave the restaurant hungry. The team at Sova, however, seem to have found the perfect balance between food that both looks and tastes amazing, comes in decent-sized portions and at prices that don’t break the bank.

The restaurant is run by the team who run Fine Food at Penzion Berc in Bled which is closed during the winter thus they sought out somewhere for the team to offer their fine food – and indeed it is fine food – over the winter. In fact, I couldn’t find fault with a single aspect of the meal, which is a rarity!

Perhaps the only negative aspects, though these are not food-related, are that the restaurant doesn’t have its own car park, doesn’t have any outdoor space and is rather small inside, meaning as and when word gets out and the crowds come flocking (and I believe they will!) we will probably be fighting over tables!

I started my meal with creamy truffle soup with prosciutto chips and profiteroles.

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The main course was spicy slow-cooked and grilled pork rib with potato puree and garden vegetables.

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And the dessert – yes, you know that is ALWAYS my favourite bit – was mango tiramisu with white and dark chocolate, homemade ice-cream and lavender crème brulee.

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Since I enjoyed it so much, I went back again two days later! This time I tried the house pizza, which comes topped with aged gauda, basil pesto, baby onions, prsut ham, and more!

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And I somehow found room to try out another pudding too! The chocolate bomb with chocolate mousse and forest fruits, with an added surprise element, which I won’t divulge as it wouldn’t then be a surprise!

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All being well, we will hopefully see Sova joining the Taste Radol’ca collective and you will also find some of their delights at this year’s Radovljica Chocolate Festival in April – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/chocolate-festival/83/309/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

 

 

 

 

Down Mexico Way at Krčma Lesce!

Lesce is situated midway between Radovljica and Bled and is part of the Municipality of Radovljica. It is probably most known for the 5-star Šobec camp http://www.radolca.si/en/accommodation/camps/camping-sobec/212/92/, which is hugely popular during the summer months. Lesce is an important rail junction, as it is the station closest to Bled on the direct line from Ljubljana to Jesenice, and a passing point for trains running on the single track.

Considering its modest size, Lesce has quite a wide selection of cafes and restaurants, however, you probably wouldn’t immediately think of coming here to find (possibly) the best Mexican food in Slovenia!

Lesce is home to the noteworthy Church of Mary of the Assumption – http://www.radolca.si/en/lesce-church/, with its impressive interior and bell tower.

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There is also a sports airfield – which offers panoramic flights over the Julian Alpshttp://www.radolca.si/en/adrenaline-in-the-air/, and it is home to the factory of Slovenia’s largest chocolate producer, Gorenjka. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/lesce/

It’s fair to say that I’ve eaten at the Krčma Mexico restaurant more than a few times, my most recent visit however, just last week, was for a somewhat different reason. Let me explain!

Regular readers may recall that just a few weeks ago I appeared as one of the guest speakers at the Njam Zgodbe (Yummy Stories) bloggers’ event in Ljubljana. The other guest speaker was Isabel, a Mexican who, due to falling in love and subsequently marrying a Slovene, now lives in Ljubljana, though also returns regularly to her homeland of Mexico. Since moving here, Isabel has also starting writing a blog – The Sunny Side of This – where she publishes posts in Spanish and English, and since she has previously written about where to get great Mexican food in Slovenia, and since I was flattered that in a recent post she described meeting me as meeting ‘her blogging idol’, I invited her to come and visit Lesce and try Krčma so we could do a joint blog. And so here it is!

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We sat down with the restaurant’s owner, chatted about all things ‘Mexican’ and tried a variety of things from the menu, all of which were, as usual, delicious and plentiful. You certainly never leave Krčma hungry, even someone like me with a big appetite!

Anyone for chimichangas?

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Or how about steak in barbeque sauce with spicy rice?

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And as for the desserts, well, where should I start? Pancakes tend to feature heavily on dessert menus at many traditional Slovenian restaurants, however, I usually find them somewhat underwhelming as they are all pancake and no filling. The pancakes at Krčma, however, are far from underfilled and, though not exactly Mexican, are absolutely awesome!

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And since you can never have enough desserts, how about baked pineapple with caramel too!

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Isabel gave the food the thumbs up and since she’s a real Mexican, it must be good! But don’t just take my, or her, word for it, try it for yourself. But do book in advance, its no secret that great food can be found here, and ‘Buen apetito!’ – as they say down Mexico way!

Culinary Radol’ca & a Festival(ful) Weekend

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, there were a lot of events going on this past weekend, and I had some difficulty choosing which to attend. In the end I managed to fit in 3 in one day, such is the benefit of living in a small country. The weather also contributed to my decision as when I awoke early on Saturday morning the skies were looking ominously gloomy and so I decided that a day out to the coast to visit the Sweet Istra Festival and to see some sunshine and sea would make a change. It was like mid-summer there, so I certainly achieved what I set out too and I even managed to also squeeze in visiting the Festival of Honey in Lesce, and Mošnje Days in Mošnje.

The Sweet Istra Festival (Sladka istra) takes place in Koper every September, and for lovers of all things sweet i.e. me, it makes a great day out. It’s held right next to the sea in the old town of Koper, home to Slovenia’s only port. There were cakes, chocolates and sweets of all shapes and sizes. Even, as seen below, a giant fish made out of chocolate being sculpted by Blaž Habjan in the Land of Chocolate, where I recognised many of the chocolatiers from Radovljica’s Chocolate Festival.

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There were typical Istran dishes such as this koruzni šmorn – a kind of shredded pancake made from corn flour.

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On my way back I stopped off at the Festival of Honey at the Beekeeping Centre in Lesce where there were stalls selling honey and beekeeping products, workshops for children, honey drinks, ice-cream and other dishes, and a chance to look around the centre and see the various equipment available for beekeepers for processing wax, bottling etc.

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I was particularly taken by these cute honey pots!

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My final port of call was to Mošnje where the Mošnje Days event was taking place. There was an open-day at the village museum, locally produced food, stilt walkers, and much merriment. I arrived rather late after my long day out but fortunately there was still a little food left in the pot!

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Tourism Radol’ca have produced a new culinary guide to the Radol’ca area which includes details of all the restaurants that are part of Taste Radol’ca, and since the focus is on local food, the guide also include details of local suppliers. Additionally, the chefs have divulged recipes for some of their favourites dishes so you can try making them at home.

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Take a look at the brochure here – http://issuu.com/turizemradovljica/docs/kulinaricna_brosura_radolca

Grajska gostilnica – A New Era

In late spring this year the restaurant Grajska gostilnica in Radovljica was given a new lease of life when it was taken over by Borut Salmič, who previously worked as Head Chef at several prestigious restaurants in the Gorenjska region, including Lambergh Chateau and Hotel.

It’s great to have a new (albeit old) restaurant in the centre of Radovljica, with a view over the town park. It offers top-quality food at affordable prices – classic Slovene dishes as well as more modern cuisine ‘ all with an added twist from Borut.

I have visited quite a few times in the past couple of months and have been working my way through the menu. In addition to the main menu, there is a snack menudaily lunch specials and a wine cellar where special events can be held.

Starters include cold-cut boards and soups.

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Main courses include steaks, pasta, risottos, fish, salad plates and more.

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And my personal favourite, stuffed dough parcels (kruhki), served on a board with dips:

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Home-made desserts are a particularly speciality, and for someone like me with a very sweet tooth they are heavenly.

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Grajska gostilnica will be (re)joining the other Taste Radol’ca restaurants, and preparations are well-underway for this year’s opening event next month. More on that soon – watch this space!

More information about Grajska gostilnica can be found here – http://en.grajska-gostilnica.si/home.html

These days I spend quite a significant amount of time scouring the internet and other media to find out what events are going on in the local, and wider, area and have discovered that next weekend, 18 – 20 September, there is an awful lot going on. In fact, almost too much!

It’s a shame as, inevitably, with so many things going on, it will be impossible to get to all of them. Should any of the event organisers happen to be reading this, perhaps for the future it would be worth considering some kind of co-ordination ‘date-wise’ as it would mean higher attendance numbers at events and more opportunities for us i.e. Joe Public’ to attend them, since this past weekend, there were no such events.

Anyway, that’s just my two-pennies worth, though, I suppose its better to have too many events than not enough! So, here are just some of the larger events taking place next weekend. Now I must just decide which to attend!

The Beekeeping Educational and Panoramic Path

On Thursday last week I went to the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska* (CRICG) in Lesce where an exhibition was opened about the new Beekeeping Educational and Panoramic Path in Gorje. So, of course, I then had to go and check out the path for myself, and panoramic it certainly is. Even if you are not particularly interested in beekeeping, I’d highly recommend the path, the views alone make it worth the effort, and if you are interested in beekeeping too then it’s a win-win all round!

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The circular path begins in the village of Spodnje gorje which is on the road from Bled towards Pokljuka. There is an information board about the path (in Slovene and English) and a little further on also information about the Slovenian Carniolan honey bee.

The path is marked throughout with these yellow bee symbols. Occasionally the signs are a little sparse but, as I discovered, unless there is a sign to the contrary just keep going and sooner or later there will be another sign pointing you in the right direction.

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You can choose to walk either the shorter loop (approx. 2kms) or the entire path (approx. 6kms). The path leads through the villages of Višelnica and Mevkuž, where you can either turn right for the short loop, or continue to Grabče, Krnica and Poljšica, eventually returning to the start of the path in Spodnje gorje.

Along the route you will pass numerous beehives of varying shapes and sizes. They are not always easy to spot as they are often located in private gardens so keep your eyes peeled, however, there are also some that are right beside the path, such as this beauty below.

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And there’s even a wild bee and insect hotel.

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If you get lucky, as I did, you might find a local beekeeper out tending his garden and/or bees, who will be happy to show you or tell you more. I got even more lucky that one lent me an umbrella for the brief downpour that I encountered en-route – thanks!

The village of Grabče is particularly quaint with its wooden bridge, renovated Grajski mlin (Castle Mill), former sawmill and iron-forge, and the tall wooden shrine which stands like a tower on a rock actually in the river.

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I’ve driven past these villages on the way to/from Pokljuka hundreds of times but have never taken the time to stop and walk around. Now I know what beauty lies within, I’m quite sure I won’t be in such a hurry to pass by in the future. Well, with sights like this, how could I resist!

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* The Beekeeping Education Centre in Lesce is a one-stop centre for beekeepers and beekeeping and also offers guided tours of its beehive as well as educational events etc. The centre now has a new website – http://www.cricg.si/ or you can also read more about it here – http://www.radolca.si/en/gorenjska-region-beekeeping-development-and-education-centre/

On a final note in regard to beekeeping in Slovenia, this week it was nice to read some positive news about this year’s honey harvest, as you can see in this article – http://www.sloveniatimes.com/honey-harvest-improves-to-an-average-season-this-year

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

The Radovljica Festival / Završnica Recreation Park

The Radovljica Early Music Festival began on Saturday 8th August and runs until Sunday 23rd August. There is a rich programme of concerts, workshops and masterclasses which take place in Radovljica Mansion and St. Peter’s Church. More details can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/radovljica-festival/83/260/ and also here – http://www.festival-radovljica.si/en/

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Leila Schayegh

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Phoenix Munich Ensemble

As much as I love hiking and cycling in the hilly and mountainous surroundings of Radovljica, there are the occasional times – such as when I’ve already hiked for 5 hours and am tired but don’t want to be at home when the weather is so beautiful – when a nice leisurely bike ride is called for. Fortunately, we have that here too!

So, on Friday, after the aforementioned 5 hour hike (more about that another time), I cycled to the Završnica Recreation Park in the Završnica Valley which, from home, takes less than 45 minutes, taking the route Radovljica – Lesce – Hraše – Rodine – Zabreznica – Žirovnica – Moste – Završnica, and then to the Zavrh bar which has lately become one of my favourites places to sit and enjoy a drink beside the cool of the Završnica stream.

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Chilling by the stream!

The reservoir is also the start point of the 2km-long Završnica Trim Trail which leads beside the stream to the Zavrh bar and onwards, making it perfect for these sultry hot days when the cool of the forest offers some respite from the heat.

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The Zavrsnica reservoir (and me!)

The Recreation Park also comprises a football field, a natural climbing wall and beach volleyball courts. The Završnica Valley is also an excellent starting point for mountain biking, and for hikes in the Karavanke mountains, such as to Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke, or to the ski slopes and the spring of the Završnica stream at Zelenica. Fishing and horse-riding are also popular activities in the valley.

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The new bridge connecting the trim trail

In winter there is a cross-country skiing area and, if the snow conditions are right, the road which leads up to the Valvasor mountain hut is turned into a sledging track. More information about the valley can be found here – http://www.zavrsnica.si/?id=50 (Slovene) or http://en.zirovnica.eu/home/ (English)

But it’s not time to be thinking about winter yet. Still more good weather ahead this week to enjoy….

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Spring in Slovenia; cycling, flowers, chocolate and more!

In last week’s blog I wrote about the St. Gregory’s Day celebrations which take place annually on the eve of St. Gregory’s Day, in this case, last Wednesday 11th March, in the villages of Kropa and Kamna Gorica. I was a little disappointed that due to work commitments I was unable to go this year, however, as luck would have it one of the locals from Kamna Gorica, put together this short video so I, and now you, can have a glimpse into the custom and see the colourful creations made by local children. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABGRQ79oC7k&feature=youtu.be

What struck me initially on watching it is that it was still daylight, whereas last year when I attended on the same day and date -11th March 2014 – it was already dark. This year spring seems to have come early, and with it, longer and warmer days, and the forests are now carpeted with beautiful spring flowers. Ok, I know its a bit early to be celebrating spring ‘proper’, after all it could, and probably will, still snow. However, after last year’s washout of a spring and summer, this dry, mild(ish) period is much appreciated.

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So, with spring in the air, my thoughts have started turning to cycling and I began dusting off my bike this weekend. After month’s of not cycling, and with a nip still in the air, the first rides of the year are always gentle ones, on flat, easy surfaces, such as from Radovljica via Lesce and Hraše to join the 12km-long Imperial Road (cesarska cesta), a gravel road that leads towards Žirovnicahttp://en.zirovnica.eu/experiences/active-breaks/cycling/family-cycling-trips/along-the-imperial-road/

Another such flat(ish) and easy(ish), as well as being particularly scenic and traffic-free, cycle path is that from Bohinjska Bistrica to Bohinj Lake then onwards towards the villages of Stara Fužina, Studor and Srednja vas. The cycle path is well-marked and the views of the Julian Alps and the surrounding villages and lake certainly take your mind off the couple of short, but very steep, inclines. This section, seen below, leads from Srednja vas towards Studor. with the imposing Baroque St. Martin’s church on a small hill directly above the village.

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It’s worth making the short detour to see the church, which contains paintings by well-known Slovene artists, and also nearby is the Ribnica waterfall and the Bohinj Cheese Dairy (Bohinjska sirarna) where one can stop off to buy locally produced cheese (open weekdays 7am – 2pm).

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Preparations are now in full flow for this year’s Radovljica Chocolate Festival. This event just keeps growing and growing in popularity, and this year it will be even bigger and better. The Festival will take place over 3 days (instead of the previous 2) from Friday 17 to Sunday 19 April and will also be extended to take place not only in the historic old town centre and the Radovljica Manor (grascina), but also in the Town Park. Read more about the Festival here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/festival-of-chocolate/83/309/

I can’t wait!!!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

The Wonders of Slovene honey / Create a Drink for Radol’ca Competition

Being home to the Museum of Apiculture, Radovljica is synonymous with beekeeping and thus, honey. Additionally, Lesce is home to the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, or CRICG for short. The centre organise various events throughout the year, some more aimed at beekeepers themselves whilst others are intended merely for lovers of bees and all things honey. CRICG houses a beeswax processing plant, a honey bottling and packaging room, a tasting room, and a shop selling a wide range of honey and honey-related products. There is also currently a fascinating exhibition of bees’ honeycomb which will be on view until the end of December! You can find out more about CRICG here – http://www.cricg.com/eng.html

The centre is also visited by beekeeping enthusiasts from far and wide, such as this Indian beekeeper who recently came and made this short video about his visit – https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2K2vDAqcfz4

One of the events CRICG organises, is the annual ‘Honey in Cuisine’ workshop which was held last week in Radovljica and which I always eagerly attend. The workshop was led by one of the school’s professors whilst the dishes were demonstrated and cooked by some of the school’s talented and enthusiastic students who had given up their free time to do so. For us participants, we were able to help a little, watch, mingle, and then – the best bit – eat all the delicious dishes. In an effort to show it’s versatility, each dish, of course, included honey, even the savoury dishes where the honey acted merely as a subtle flavour enhancer rather than being instantly detectable or overpowering. These are just some of the dishes that were cooked up:

To start: Canapes and a duo of soups – Carrot soup & Fruited Barley Soup

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Main courses included Slovenia’s famous kranjska klobasa sausage cooked in teran wine, buckwheat krapi, štruklji, and baked polenta

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Finally, desserts included a specially concocted and very colourful, creative and original ‘bee’ drink, made using layers of honey liqueur, advocaat, ice-cream and cream.

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Slovenian beekeeping is also well-known for its colourful and unique painted beehive front panels, called ‘panjske končnice’ and the oldest one in the world can be seen in the Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica’s old town centre. You can also watch a DVD about beekeeping in Radovljica, the English version of which features my dulcet tones! More information can be found here – http://www.muzeji-radovljica.si/_eng/CM-introduction.html

With Christmas fast approaching, Radovljica’s residents gathered last week to help decorate the old town centre and turn it into a winter wonderland. The Christmas tree is almost finished, the lights up, and the decorations in place so we are now officially ready for the festive season! This year, each weekend in December, Radovljica will be hosting an Advent Market together with a full programme of accompanying events for all the family. You can read full details of the programme here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/festive-december-in-linhart-square/83/110/

Additionally, this year, Tourism Radol’ca have launched a competition to find a new winter drink; something to make a change from the usual bog-standard mulled wine which is usually on offer at this time of year. The drink must incorporate at least one typical local ingredient such as honey, chocolate, honey liqueur…. and may be alcoholic or non-alcoholic. The prize will be a luxury weekend break for two at Vila Podvin in Mošnje where the food is prepared and cooked by one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin. You can read more about Vila Podvin here – http://www.vilapodvin.si/

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More information about the competition, the rules, the prize etc. can be found here – http://radolca.si/en/radolca-drink-competition/

I actually feel that I’m beginning to lose the plot of late due to the constant rain, low cloud and lack of sunlight. Actually, right now I’d be happy to see the sky, let alone the sun! I used to make notes in my diary, to record the weather, where I’d been etc. so I could write here about it. However, these days I don’t bother since there seems to be little point in recording yet another soggy walk with my umbrella. So, dear readers, I do hope that at some point, in the not too distant future, I’ll be able to get back to blogging about all the great outdoors things there are to do in Slovenia; after all that was my original intention. However, at the moment, given the weather, glorious hikes in the mountains seem but a distant memory. Thank goodness then that I live in Radovljica where, whatever the weather, there is always plenty going on!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014