Taste Tepka Pear Perfection at Vila Podvin

The tepka pear is a rare variety of pear that is only grown in a few areas of Slovenia and, in recent years, has been coming back into popularity largely due to its unique flavour and versatility.

Flying the flag for the tepka pear is one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin, at Vila Podvin. Uroš’ ethos of cooking is based on using local ingredients to give traditional Slovene food a modern twist, thus, incorporating tepka pears into his dishes fits the bill perfectly.

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Curious to find out more about this rare pear, and, of course, taste it, I went along to Vila Podvin in Mošnje last week (luckily for me it’s only a few kilometres from where I live!) to try an entire menu based around tepka pears, with the aim of helping to spread the word about this gem of a fruit.

In their natural form, as seen below here on the left, one could be forgiven for thinking that the brown inside of the pear means it is rotten, but this is quite normal, though, for my taste at least, the texture is a little gritty. The tepka pear seen on the right below is the dried version and, and, as is the case with many fruits, drying or cooking them makes the flavour far sweeter and more intense.

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The tepka pear works equally well in sweet and savoury dishes – all that is needed is a little imagination, which Uroš has in spades! So, if you’d like to get to know this interesting little fruit, read on, and, if you like what you see, be sure to pay a visit to Vila Podvin to try some for yourself!

If you opt for the tepka-based menu, you can expect your table decoration to be tepka-based too!

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Menus at Vila Podvin are seasonal and based on locally available ingredients so, although there is usually always something tepka-based available, if you want the full tepka works, then be sure to book ahead!

The first of the 6 course tasting menu I devoured was beef carpaccio with sliced cooked tepka pear and horseradish mayonnaise.

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Next up was barley risotto with tepka pear, horseradish and goats cheese.

Vila Podvin also has its own in-house pottery workshop in the entrance lobby. The unique plates and bowls in/on which the food is served are designed by the house artist, Barba Štembergar Zupan, who transforms clay into Podvin ceramics decorated with motifs of Ljubno potters. It’s this attention to detail, both in the food and presentation, that makes all the difference.

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Although Vila Podvin is a superior-quality restaurant with a renowned head chef and excellent and knowledgeable waiting staff, the atmosphere is pleasantly relaxed and intimate and doesn’t feel in any way stuffy or formal. So, if you want to go into the kitchen, just ask – as I did!  I was just in time to see my third dish being served up!

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Carniolan sausage, otherwise known as Kranjska klobasa, with tepka, served with plum jam with mustard seeds.

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The next course was pasta filled with goose liver and tepka pear with a clear mushroom broth.

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The final savoury dish was saddle of roe deer on a base of red polenta with tepka pear, black walnuts with berries and a honey sauce.

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Fortunately I still had room, just about, for dessert – which is always my favourite part of every meal! A deconstructed apple strudel with tepka pear ice-cream – delicious!

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The final icing on the cake was the dried, soaked, succulent chocolate-covered tepka pears, which I opted to take home!

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You can also buy tepka pear treats to take home, including fruit juice, liqueur, and sausages, and there is a chance to sample them at the monthly Vila Podvin local market. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/09/05/shop-locally-at-radovljicas-farmers-and-craft-markets/

Find out more about Vila Podvin, which is also one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants and will this year host the opening event at the end of October, here – http://www.vilapodvin.si/EN/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Spas, Caves, Eats and Other Rainy (and Not So Rainy) Day Ideas!

Anyone visiting Slovenia in the last fortnight might be forgiven for thinking it rains here a lot! Please be reassured, however, that this much rain in June is not the norm. In the 9+ years I’ve been living here, I don’t think I can remember such a prolonged period of wet weather at this time of year. It really is turning out to be a strange year, weather-wise. After having very little snow during winter, we then had snow in late-April, and now, in the second-half of May and early June, it seems to be April! It’s been either raining torrentially or the clouds have been looming ominously, making it frustratingly difficult to go anywhere too far from home.

The good news is that it’s set to improve soon, just a couple more days of these storms then hot, dry weather is headed our way, yippee! In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of my ideas for how to spend rainy, as well as not so rainy, days in the Radovljica area and elsewhere in Slovenia.

VISIT A SPA

It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing outside if you are inside getting wet anyway! All of Slovenia’s thermal spas feature indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, jacuzzis and modern wellness facilities, offering something for all the family. You can read plenty more about spas and the facilities here and read some insider tips from me, here – https://spasinslovenia.com/

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DELVE INTO THE MAGICAL UNDERWORLD IN CAVES

A visit to one Slovenia’s caves, such as Postojna Caves or the UNESCO-listed Škocjan Caves, is ideal whatever the weather. There are over 9,000 caves in Slovenia, though only a small number of these are open to the public. The temperature in the caves is constant year-round so it really doesn’t matter if its snowing or there’s a heat-wave! All of the caves are fascinating and unique, and the current phenomena of the newly-hatched ‘baby dragons’ at Postojna Caves provides an additional reason to visit. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/06/01/the-phenomenal-postojna-proteus-phenomena/

Underground river Pivka in Postojna Cave_photo Iztok Medja for Postojnska jama

VISIT, TASTE & DRINK RADOVLJICA

Rainy days always bring an influx of visitors to the Radovljica area as the small town packs in quite a few sights of interest. You can visit the Lectar Gingerbread Workshop, the Museum of Apiculture, the Šivec House Gallery, and the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/

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I don’t know about you, but this miserable weather makes me want to eat, eat, and then eat some more! The participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants all offer home-cooked, and locally sourced and produced food. Or why not visit the Sodček Wine Bar for a wine tasting session. More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/taste-radolca/

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LISTEN TO SLOVENE FOLK MUSIC AT AVSENIK

Visit Avsenik in Begunje na Gorenjskem – home to the world-renowned legendary Avsenik music – a popular style of folk music. There are regular live events, festivals and workshops, and you can also visit the gallery and museum. More here – http://www.avsenik.com/en

TAKE IN SOME CULTURE AT SUMMER MUSEUM NIGHT

There are hundreds of museums and galleries in Slovenia and a lot of attention is placed on culture and cultural-related events and activities. Next Saturday, 18th June, is Summer Museum Night, when, from 6pm until midnight, museums and galleries throughout the country offer free entrance and host special events. More information here – http://www.tms.si/PMN/?page_id=67

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GO SHOPPING

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of shopping, particularly large shopping centres and especially when on holiday in a place where the great outdoors is so ‘great!’ So when I say ‘shopping’ I don’t mean traipsing round clothes shops, and getting hot, bothered and irritated in changing rooms (or is that just me?). Instead, when on holiday, I prefer to browse craft shops, visit local markets, buy and try local produce, and try to find unique buys. I particularly like foodie events such as Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen), which takes place every Friday (weather permitting) in Ljubljana. Closer to home at Vila Podvin in Mošnje a market takes place on the first Saturday of every month from 9am-noon, come rain or shine. You can meet local producers, buy food and non-food goods, and enjoy a delicious lunch cooked by one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin. More information here – http://www.vilapodvin.si/events

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I hope to have provided some ideas and inspiration, after all, the weather may mean some plans have to curtailed but there’s always plenty more to see and do until the next sunny day comes along!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Christmas in Slovenia; Markets, Food, Traditions and more!

Slovenia hasn’t been celebrating Christmas for that long, well not in the form that many of us know it. However, the country has certainly caught up with, and caught onto, the festive spirit and now there are Christmas-related events happening throughout the land.

So, how is Christmas celebrated in Slovenia? What is/isn’t open? What is there to do, where to go?

As in many other countries in Europe, the evening of the 24th is when most families celebrate and get together for a special meal, exchange gifts and/or attend midnight mass. If you are visiting Slovenia at that time it is worth noting that many restaurants may be closed on this evening or close earlier than usual. Shops are usually open on the 24th but close a little earlier than usual. All shops are closed on the 25th and again this is a family day, often for some recreational activities perhaps skiing, hiking or visiting relatives. The 26th is also a public holiday, ‘Independence and Unity Day’ and therefore again many shops and business will be closed although these days most of the larger ones are open, at least for a few hours in the morning.

There are Christmas markets taking place in all the major cities, the largest being in Ljubljana, where there are numerous markets. The main market is held alongside the banks of the Ljubljanica river, but there are also other markets spread across the city’s squares, with a vast range of events and entertainment taking place from now until the New Year. More information here – https://www.visitljubljana.com/en/activities/entertainment/77402/detail.html

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Festive Ljubljana (Dunja Wedam)

In Maribor, Slovenia’s 2nd biggest city, there are numerous events taking place including the Fairy City (Vilinsko mesto), a Festive Fair and a long list of concerts and other events. More information here – http://maribor-pohorje.si/festive-december-in-maribor0.aspx

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Maribor Christmas Market (photo MP produkcija)

In Celje, ‘Fairytale Celje’ (Pravljično Celje), including a Christmas market, runs from 29th Nov – 31st Dec – http://www.dezela-celjska.si/en/node/72073

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Festive Celje

Other towns with smaller Christmas markets include the Festive Winter Village in Bled – from 4.12 – 17. 1 – http://www.bled.si/en/events/2015/12/04/2264-Festive-Winter-Village

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Festive Winter Village, Bled

The Alpine Village in Kranjska Gora – from 28.11 – 3.1 – http://www.kranjska-gora.si/si/files/default/plakat%20dec.pdf

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Alpine Village, Kranjska Gora

And not forgetting the Advent Market in small, but perfectly formed, Radovljica – where I live – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/festive-december-in-linhart-square/83/110/

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Advent in Radovljica (pakt media)

If you’ve never been to Radovjlica, just watch this video of a Christmas commercial shot here 2 years ago to see how magical it looks – http://klip.si/video-reklama-za-bauli-snemana-v-radovljici-4484

Those in, or heading to, the Slovene coast will also find a Christmas market in Portorož (http://bit.ly/1jhWPkH)

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Christmas Market in Portorož

There are of course many more towns that have Christmas markets and events – too many to list here – and many of these, including those listed here also have open-air ice-skating rinks.

If you are looking for a festive event with a difference, every year, weather conditions permitting, there is a live ice nativity play held in the Mlača Gorge in the village of Mojstrana. With the freezing temperatures we have had of late, this year’s event looks sure to be going ahead and the performances are scheduled to begin on Christmas Day. The entrance fee also includes a walk through the ice kingdom, a gallery of nativity scenes and the nativity performance held in the frozen waterfall. Be sure to wrap up warmly! More information can be found here – http://lednoplezanje.com/zive-jaslice-v-ledu/

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Live Ice Nativity in Mojstrana

Turning to food, no Slovene home is complete over the festive season without potica – a traditional rolled and filled cake. You will find it everywhere; in cafes, supermarkets, and in almost every Slovene’s home. Potica come in many varieties, the most popular varieties are filled with walnut or poppy seeds, but there are also other fillings including tarragon or coconut, and special editions with dual fillings, such as the one below – named ‘potica of our roots‘  prepared by one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin, from Vila Podvin.

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Potica of Our Roots

Wherever you choose to visit and/or spend Christmas in Slovenia, I hope you have a great festive season!

All About Mošnje

After last year’s record washout of a summer, this year couldn’t be more different. Records are again being broken but this time for the number of consecutive day where the temperature is above 30 degrees. Currently, it looks like more of the same to come for the next week too.

If you are thinking of seeking water-based refreshment then currently the ever cool Sava river is a mere 15 degrees. the Soča river slightly warmer at 17 degrees and the Adriatic Sea at the Slovene coast a balmy 30 degrees.

I prefer to seek shade in the forest so, when I paid a visit yesterday to the newly renovated and remodelled Village Museum in Mošnje, I went via the Radovljica Forest Nature Trailhttp://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-forest-educational-trail/

For its size, the village of Mošnje packs in quite a number of sights of interest and things to do. The first place reached on entering the village is Vila Podvin where one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin, works his culinary magic. In addition to the usual culinary delights on offer, every Thursday during the summer Vila Podvin hold a Summer Steak and Chocolate evening, where, in the tranquil garden with a view of Podvin Castle, you can eat the finest steak and accompaniments, followed by chef Uroš’ heavenly signature chocolate dessert,

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Vila Podvin also hosts a local market on the first Saturday of each month where the focus is on local products and produce.

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Continuing through the village, passing Podvin Castle – which has sadly been abandoned for quite some time now – you pass the fire station and a pizzeria, before reaching the Church of St. Andrew, one of the oldest churches in Slovenia. http://www.radolca.si/en/mosnje-church/

Opposite the church is the Mošnje Village Museum which contains an ethnological collection and was recently refurbished. The museum can be visited by prior arrangement or, every Thursday during the summer, as part of the programme of the Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus. For further information contact – tdmosnje@gmail.com or damjanapangerc@gmail.com

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The best way to see the village and the sights of interest is to walk around the Mošnje Archeological Trail which leads around the village and to the Villa Rustica Archeological Sitehttp://www.radolca.si/en/mosnje-archaeological-trail/

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After leaving Mosnje, the next village reached is Globoko, home to the Barbana Lipizzaner Stud Farm, (http://www.barbana.si/en) where Lipizzaner horses are bred, and the Globočnik Excursion Farm, a traditional farmhouse – also a member of Taste Radol’ca – that offers home cooking which can be enjoyed in the authentic black kitchen.

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By prior arrangement, you can also arrive in Globoko by train, as the station is on the main line between Ljubljana and Jesenice, and be met by a horse and carriage from the stud farm for a ride to Mošnje and around the local area.

There are also several events that take place throughout the year in the village including the Midsummer’s Eve celebration, Mošnje Days Fete in September and Easter Games and Exhibition.

© 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