I travelled all the way to the Slovenian Alps because of a chef – and then didn’t eat at her restaurant

2019-07-02 13:35 - Marisa Crous
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(Kobarid, Slovenia. PHOTO: Marisa Crous)

Sri Lanka? Vietnam? Turkey? Deciding where to travel to next can sometimes be as easy as stumbling upon a show on Netflix. 

READ: Ljubljana: City of green, parmesan gelato and graffiti 

I travelled to Slovenia and, more specifically, to the small, picturesque town of Kobarid in the Soca Valley flanked by the Julian Alps. All because of an episode of Chef’s Table.

Harsh in winter and lush green in summer, the town is known as an adventure-junkie den of activity as rafting and kayaking down the bluest blue you’ll ever see is at your disposal in the form of the Soca River, abundant with indigenous marble trout.  

READ: Hangry in Hungary: I went to Budapest and didn't eat the goulash  

It is also home to one of the world’s best restaurants, Hiša Franko. 

And I didn’t eat there. 

One of the very first episodes I watched of Netflix’s much-loved Chef’s Table, a series showcasing some of the world’s most renowned chefs, their deeply personal stories, inspirations and unique cooking styles, featured renowned Slovenian chef, Ana Roš.

I wanted to taste her food, so beautifully local and true to the valley, its Tolmin mountain cheeses, local trout and goat paired with the best Slovenian wine meticulously paired by in-house sommelier, and Ana’s husband, Valter.  

“The diet in these parts was always dairy and meat based, so expect a lot of cheese and all its by-products on our menu. The restaurant is closely knit with the community of foragers, shepherds, cheese makers, hunters and fishermen.“

It’s an area abundant with trout, deer, goats, fruits and wild plants that we incorporate in our plates on the daily bases,” says Hiša Franko. 

Unfortunately, with a food budget of around €15 (R240) a day, this South African couldn’t justify €200 (R3200) for one meal at Ana's restaurant. 

And don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the experience. My mom always taught me that when I’m somewhere special, just pay. You might never be there again. 

So, there was a small inner boxing match happening throughout my stay in Kobarid – should I, shouldn’t I? However, my decision was made for me as the restaurant books up months in advance, especially in summer.

But I got to eat at her husband’s more humbly priced eatery (€8-€16 for a meal), situated in the centre of the town, Hiša Polonka. Twice.

Also true and pure to the area, I had mountain sheep, aged Tolmin cheese, free-rage beef and roasted-beef, the signature dish for years at Hiša Franko.

wine, Slovenia

(Roasted-beef with bread and olive oil at Hiša Polonka. PHOTO: Marisa Crous) 

I did get a taste of the magic in the end.

But the best was still to come.

On my last morning in Kobarid, blissfully enjoying my 9am breakfast of coffee, bread, scrambled eggs and cheese in 26 °C heat, I experienced two wonderful things that rounded out my trip. 

I learnt that Kobarid folk enjoy a glass of wine with breakfast. I spotted at least a dozen locals ordering a glass of wine along with their espresso at am.

Really living, guys. 

wine, Slovenia

(PHOTO: Marisa Crous)

wine, Slovenia

(PHOTO: Marisa Crous)

And just as I was about to leave the café, Ana Roš sat down at the table next to me for her morning coffee. I kind of felt like that was a full-circle experience. 

Almost inappropriately epic.  

I didn't ask for a selfie. But I might just have to go back one day to taste that pricey trout.

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