Saturday, September 26, 2009

Over the Mountains

On our second day in Slovenia, August 27, after a lovely breakfast and stroll, we set out for Idrija, a town about thirty or so kilometers away as it appeared on the map. What the map didn't show was the three mountains we had to cross to get there. Up and down, round and round went Sharon and Bill in the little Fiat. A flat, green space in the valley to catch your breath. Then again into the hairpin turns, so tight upon themselves that I said they were hairbow turns. "I think we're on a Möbius strip of road," Bill said.

We got hungry and ate some nuts I had brought along. We glimpsed amazing views too fleeting for the camera and cyclists with no fear of altitude. The trees and houses started looking more peaked and Alpine. Around 3:00 we reached Idrija and wandered around somewhat deliriously, looking for Gostilna Pri Škafarju where a wood-fired oven reportedly turned out lovely pizzas, and you can try the regional specialty, žlikrofi.

We found the restaurant just off the square and sat at a picnic table out front. We ordered a starter of pršut, cheese and olives, and pizza and žlikrofi with mushroom sauce. The server brought out some ketchup. For what? The pizza, he said.

The žlikrofi are small dumplings filled with potato and bacon and served with a variety of toppings. These žlikrofi were gorgeous, obviously handmade. The filling was fluffy, not at all gummy. The sauce contained fresh porcinis. Delicious. The pizza was wonderful as well. Perfect crust. We ordered far too much food, and wrapped up half the pizza to take with us.

Idrija is a lovely town, known for a history of mercury mining and lace making. We were a bit too late to visit the mining museums, but we did stop by some lace shops. We didn't have long to stay though. We were due back at the farm at 7:30 for dinner.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Life on the Farm

We arrived at Skerlj farm around 2:00 on Wednesday. Our day had started 11 hours earlier, so we decided to pass the afternoon at the pool. From the moment we stepped off the plane in Treviso, we were bathed in warm sunshine. We didn't eat a single meal indoors until we were back at the airport.

After a dip and some poolside reading, we took a nap. After our wonderful meal, we sat on the patio outside our room in the lovely evening.

Thursday we enjoyed a breakfast of fresh fruit, bread, honey, cheese and pršut and a daily baked fig item. All our meals were enjoyed under a grape arbor laden with grapes. After breakfast we visited the rabbit hutch and peeked in on our pig neighbors. We walked down the hill past grape vines and peach, fig and plum trees. Veggie patches were planted in any available spot. The chicory patch was clipped in places--last night's salad most likely! We walked to a church down the hill and sat in the cool breeze and enjoyed the view. I could have spent the entire day there with some bread, cheese, a jug of wine and a book.

See more pics in the slide show below:

We walked through the small village and back up the hill to our lodging. That afternoon we headed out for a drive to Idrija.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Dinner for a Tenner

In July Bill and I noticed an interesting tidbit in the New York Times about agri-tourism in Slovenia. After one glance at the slide show, we knew we had to go. We were looking for a destination for a short trip in August, and so we immediately made plans to visit the Skerlj family farm in Tomaj, Slovenia.

My mental picture of a farm is a white house surrounded by corn fields, and my expectations for a secluded farmhouse had been reinforced by the farm where we stayed in Tuscany, reached via a long, curvy drive. So I expected the Skerlj farm to be very remote, but in fact it is perched in the midst of Tomaj village. The area is hilly and the farm is terraced. The buildings are centered around a courtyard. The sloping hill below is covered with steps of grapes and fruit trees. Across the road behind the pool are more grapes, and vegetables and figs. Every available spot on the property grows some beautiful, delicious plant. In addition to the fruits and vegetables, the family keeps bees, rabbits and pigs. Our room was right above the pigs. Very farm-like!

Dinner at the farm is an unbelievable €10.00 per person. We planned to partake of the dinner offering the first night, but then thought we might try other restaurants on the subsequent evenings. But after that first night we were so taken but the fresh, beautiful food and dining under the grapes in the cool breeze that we had dinner at Skerlj every night.

Our starter on the first evening was a lasagna made with crespelle instead of lasagna noodles. Crespelle are crepe-like and make a wonderfully light lasagna. Each dinner featured a salad fresh from the garden dressed with a simple vinaigrette. Chicory, cucumber and cabbage were included almost every night, with a variation of tomatoes, apples, and beans. Yes, beans are common on Slovenian salads. I was happy to see that Slovenians love the mandolin slicer, as I love wafer-thin cucumber and salad veggies. We had several preparations of pork during our stay, and fried rabbit one night. We're not skilled at eating rabbit; I seemed to encounter a lot of bones, but it was delicious with the plum sauce. We had just visited the rabbit hutch that afternoon, so I was wondering if I would recognize my dinner. :( The vegetables with dinner were all terrific. We particularly liked the zucchini the first night that was cooked with garlic and pumpkin seeds. We had several delicious soups--a veggie soup drizzled with bučno olje (pumpkin seed oil), a classic Slovenian ingredient, and a wonderful mushroom soup. Dessert was homemade ice cream on two nights--honey flavored, with their own aromatic honey, and peach. It was wonderful to eat tomatoes and peaches grown in actual sunshine! We also had a wonderful panna cotta and a plum dumpling.

We drank Skerlj wine with dinner every evening, and in the end the wine tab was about €7.00. That with the €20 a night total for dinner is so affordable my mind is still spinning.

Take a look at the slide show below for pics of these amazing meals.