Tag Archives: Slovenia

Tomaž Kavčič, culinary genius of Slovenia

We love surprises. The less we know, the less we expect. And – at the end – if the ordeal is overwhelming – we remember such things for almost all of our lives. The last shock came from Slovenia. To be exact – from the restaurant Pri Lojzetu (it means “chez Louis”) situated at the Zemono castle on a hill in the middle of picturesque vineyards of the Vipava valley. I knew that, I knew what was going to happen, but my guests hadn’t a clue. Pri Lojzetu is one of the most renowned Slovenian restaurants. Located some 30 minutes driving from the Italian/Slovenian border at Gorizia (Friuli), it is basically in the heart of central Europe. From the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, you are there in less than an hour.

Tomaž Kavčič

Tomaž (Tomi for friends) Kavčič is the fourth generation of a family of restaurateurs. His mother Katja is the living icon of Slovenian gastronomy. She was the one who introduced Slow Food to Slovenian and Italian guests long time before the movement was “invented” in Bra by Carlo Petrini! Her mother (Tomi’s grandmother) followed the family tradition before WW2, by joining the nun’s cooking school in a monastery nearby. Her diploma work was to create a six dish menu which contained local dishes. This kind of culinary experience was strongly represented at restaurant Pri Lojzetu, which until ten years ago was situated at the family house in the village of Dornberk, in the middle of the Vipava valley. Following this heritage Katja began working with fresh local materials and seasonal dishes that she adjusted to modern times. Even during communism (Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia and gained it’s independence in 1991) they were lucky. Tito’s communists were not as harsh as their ideological comrades behind the Iron Curtain, you could have your own company, it was allowed, it had to be small, but it was allowed. And this was crucial for small traditional businesses like restaurateurs, winegrowers… it was the most important thing for the survival of traditional Slovenian cuisine. Therefore it is not surprising that the first official Slow Food dinner in Slovenia was held in December 1995 at the restaurant Pri Lojzetu, it was totally obvious and logical.

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Flavours of Slovenia

Vesna and Dušan ČarmanTraveling for work is much more enjoyable if you can fit in some gastronomic discoveries. This week in Slovenia I took my friends Harry and Vondelle to the Gostilna Pri Danilu, in Reteče near Škofja Loka, close to Ljubljana. I had written a few notes on my last visit there about a year ago on this blog. This time my friend Tomaž Sršen was away in Munich where he was attending a concert, so while enjoying my dinner he sent me an SMS from Munich: “Aerosmith rocks!”.

I am not sure if going to a place twice qualifies one as a “regular”, but that is certainly the way I felt when the Čarman family greeted us at the door. The new sommelier, Gregor, took care of us expertly as we navigated through the excellent gastronomic menu, theoretically a 5 course meal, but in fact three extra smaller dishes complete this generous panorama of traditional Slovenian cooking reinterpreted in a contemporary key. Of course, each dish is accompanied by a glass of Slovenian wine.

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A Night in Slovenia

On Tuesday evening the 8th of march, my friend Tomaz Srsen came to fetch me at Ljubljana airport, this was the beginning of a very tasty evening. Back in the ‘80s Tomaz used to be the bassist of Slovenia’s top rock group, today he is a wine and food critic but still looks like a bassist… he also write a guide of Slovenia’s top 110 restaurants; 110 in a country of 2 million people? It strikes me that this is the equivalent of citing the 3000 best restaurants in France. This evening we are going to one of the best, the Gostilna pri Danilu at Škofja Loka, a few kilometres outside Ljubljana.

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