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Slovenia Dinner

Žerovinci, August 30, 2013

Prlekija, the north-eastern part of Slovenia, is both geographically and culturally enclosed as a region. It is one of our best wine-growing areas with Jeruzalemske gorice at its centre.

The first event after the summer holidays was at the Tramšek Inn in Žerovinci. The Prlekija region’s preparations for the 2013 vintage coincided with our visit. Driving through the vineyards was pure joy. One could readily sense that the festively-dressed vineyards were ready for the imminent vintage; everything was so tidy and tranquil.

The Tramšek Inn follows the simple rule of good pubs and restaurants: not the number of tables, rather it is the quality of service is that counts. The menus are based strictly on local and regional specialities, namely the food cultural heritage which is interpreted with a number of extremely modern approaches.

The locally-grown food offers exceptional flavours. We began outside on the terrace with savouries entitled ‘greetings from the lady-chef Jelena Tramšek’. Among them were home-cured salami and bacon, local vegetables and three breads: buckwheat, rye and maize. However the star attraction at the reception was the superb Prlekija sireks (‘baby cheeses’). The sun-dried cones, made of soft cottage cheese and spiced with pepper, cumin and salt, are well known for being an excellent accompaniment to the Prelekija white wines.

For the cold starter, Chef Jelena prepared an excellent walnut terrine which was made from walnuts, walnut oil and Emmental cheese served on thinly-cut kohlrabi leaves. A distinctive and original Prlekija traditional dish followed: cold ribs from tünka, which may be described as roasted pieces of best pork meat preserved in zaseka (ground smoked bacon).

Two warm courses came next. First was a buckwheat pancake with chopped fillet of pork, accompanied by a delicious paprika, tomato and pea sauce (all the vegetables originate from the cottage garden of the mother of one of the service brigade!). The second warm course was a superb experience of tastes: sliced chicken liver wrapped in slices of roasted ham and poured over by swede sauce. The Prlekija cusine heritage offers rich creative possibilities which Jelena Tramšek uses to uniquely showcase her interpretation of ‘historical memory’.

Pheasant was offered as the main course. Having this opportunity was a welcome surprise given that game, especially feathered game, is rarely offered even at our Chaîne events. It might be that our chefs have forgotten the wonderful possibilities given by game although it is well described in recipes in older cookbooks. A cranberry and mustard sauce went well with the, of course, deboned pheasant. These ingredients are indispensable in serving game.

Our dinner concluded with another typical regional dish: the exceptional “prleška gibanica” – a thin round pie of strudel-dough, filled with cottage cheese and cream. It was served in the traditional manner, i.e. cut in elegant slim triangles. Sensitively chosen regional wines accompanied every course to complete the galaxy of taste sensations.

Prof. dr. Janez Bogataj, Conseiller Gastronomique
(Translated into English by Dr Mirjam Dular)                                                                     Photography by Tomaž Dular