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As soon as I get to a new country the first thing I look up is food based cultural experiences. I love food and find it to be such an integral part of local culture that it truly is one of my favorite ways to learn about a new country. Normally this is in the shape of a cooking class, but in the case of Slovenia it was a food tour.
I had taken cooking classes all over Asia and Europe but my first food tour was set to be in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
I met Iva, the girl running the tours, in the center of the city and with the other two participants we set off. Iva has recently started running the food tours stemming from a passion for food and sharing the experience with others. She is a local and from walking around the city during the food tour you get the impression that everyone in town seems to know her. Iva runs her food tours in a way that you not only get to sample bites of food and drink from various places but you also get to interact with the masters themselves be it bakers, chefs, restaurant owners, coffee baristas, bartenders, etc.
Her goal is to teach you about the local food and culture all in one. Being able to talk with the creators of every dish and drink sampled was truly a pleasant surprise and added a real personal element to the activity.
Our first stop was gelato and cake. The gelato was truly silky smooth and I fully enjoyed samples of the exotic flavors including sesame and chili chocolate.
The cake itself was exquisite and we even got to meet the creator herself, Tania who has trademarked the recipe. As Iva explained the Ljubljana cake is a true representation of all things Slovenian, by incorporating the ingredients that are grown in various regions of the country, including buckwheat flour, honey, chestnuts, figs, pumpkin seeds, etc. As she said with one bite you get a taste of the whole country. I’m not normally a sweets person but I did enjoy the depth of flavors and light texture in the cake.
From there we strolled through the heart of the city to our next destination, a small local restaurant offering a set menu each day. We were greeted by the owners and chefs, a husband and wife team who took the time to explain the different food we would be served and how their restaurant came to be. Their focus is on simple local meals, where what you may lose in variety or lack of choices you gain in incredible rich flavors. They only cook for 35 people each day, on weekdays they serve only vegetarian food, but on the weekends they put together set meals (with meat).
That day we sampled their pork belly with mustard potatoes, stuffed artichokes with barly risotto, and elderflower juice.
Everything was spectacular but for me the pork belly and elderflower juice really shined. The taste of elderflower is like no other – mixed in with a bit of water it is just about the most pleasant taste you could every experience. Pork belly is one of my favorite cuts of meat and it was ever so lightly caramelized and just fell apart in your mouth.
With our bellies full our next stop was to the one of the only fair trade coffee shops in Ljubljana.
I can honestly say I have never met a man as passionate about anything, let alone coffee, as Tine the owner of this coffee shop was. His eyes simply lit up at the sound of the word coffee and you can see right away that for him this is a science, a way of life, an obsession, not simply the making of a caffeinated beverage.
He shared with us his thoughts on fair trade coffee and the coffee process from harvesting of the cocoa beans down to our cappuccinos. I’m not sure whether it was all the build up, the level of enthusiasm in the cafe or what but my cappuccino was downright delicious, quite seriously one of the best ones I’ve had in Europe without a doubt. I loved learning more about the coffee making process and Tine is definitely the man to teach you all there is to know about it.
After our coffee break it was on to another bite to eat.
The next stop was a restaurant specializing in Karst cuisine of which we sampled charcuterie and terran wine. The wine was a deep and rich red unlike any I had tried before. For the food we sampled a few different cuts of the local prosciutto, local cheeses, olives and young zucchini with the zucchini flowers still attached. A perfect variety of appetizers.
The restaurant itself had a real romantic darkish cellar atmosphere, perfect for an intimate group of close friends or a date night.
Our second to last stop was a local bar where we sampled some craft beer from the Human Fish Brewery. I loved being able to sample some of the local beer and learn more about the various breweries in Slovenia.
For our last stop we went to a vinoteca – a beautiful and private wine cellar where we got to sample a whole variety of both white, red and even an orange wine.
The entire experience was incredible considering that as Tine loved his coffee, Gregor loves his wine so there was no shortage of information to absorb. We sampled everything from Cvicek, Conrad, Furst, Pinela, Malvazija, etc. Oh and then the evening finished off with a light and delightful mousse cake. Starting and ending with cake — just the way the days should always go.
Overall Iva provided an incredible experience in Ljubljana, Slovenia which ended up being so much more than a food tour filled with food samples. Over the course of the evening we learned about the local culture, people, history and the food and wine environment in Slovenia. I didn’t have any eating restrictions but Iva is super flexible and accommodating and willing to work around any food restrictions or allergies which makes this perfect for any traveler.
I would highly recommend Iva’s Ljubljananjam Foodwalks not just for foodies but for anybody looking to learn more about the local Slovenian culture. Iva is incredibly personable and engaging and the food, drinks and conversations over the course of the evening were all wonderful. With this tour you get to know the city from a local’s perspective and walk away not only with a stomach full of delicious food and drink but also plenty of Iva’s tips for future meals out, as well as insights into the Slovenia way of life.
I received a complimentary food tour in exchange for this review but as always all opinions expressed here are my own