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A wonderful summer in Slovenia

 

Summer serves us an abundance of fruits, and the warm weather invites us to events, celebrations and festivals. Seasonality and the "from the garden to the table" philosophy are a mandatory ingredient of summer, when the Slovenian bistro scene especially shines with its attractive, daring cuisine and socialising in the long summer evenings.

Fruit and vegetables are full of flavour in summer

In summer, gardens and fields, as well as orchards and even the nearby forest, serve us an abundance of fruits and vegetables. At this time, the fruit basking in the summer sun is fresh and full of flavour. Stone fruit is the true summer fruit. The first harbingers of summer are sweet cherries, followed by sour cherries, apricots, nectarines and peaches, as well as early varieties of apples and pears.

We go to the forest or to the meadows to pick raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries and currants. They ripen gradually, so they can be picked during the whole summer. Greengages, plums and prune plums ripen in the second half of summer. The prune plum is a Slovenian native variety, which is smaller and bluer than the plum. The latter is rounder and lighter, and they can even be yellow and have a light interior from which the stone is easily separated.

In addition to courgettes, cucumbers, green bean, peas, potatoes, Swiss chard, asparagus, rocket, aubergines and peppers, summer is the season of local tomatoes, while an orange carrot or two also start peeking out of the ground.

Slovenian fruit
Photo: Mankica Kranjec, Nea Culpa

Holidays, festivals and balls

Summer is a time of festive days, weeks and nights. From more traditional, peasant and urban ones, and those connected with religious rituals, to more modern ones. Summer invites you to wander, to discover new places, old traditions and delicious food and drinks.

In terms of the number of beekeepers, Slovenia is at the top among the EU member states, and can also boast the native Carniolan honey bee subspecies and World Bee Day, which is celebrated on May 20 on Slovenia’s initiative. All this, together with the centuries-old tradition of beekeeping in our country, is the starting point for the Beekeeping Holiday, which has been held in Gornji Grad on the third weekend in July since 1988. The beekeeping activity, demonstration of traditional beekeeping, honey products and the importance of honey are in the foreground.

Slovenian honey
Photo: Jošt Gantar

The Teran and Prosciutto Festival is the central holiday for people of the Karst region and all lovers of Karst cuisine and customs. In August, they attract crowds of visitors with their extensive programme. And how could they not, when the menu includes the best prosciutto and teran, two symbols of Karst. Every year they select the winners and organise a tasting tour along the Teran Circular Route, a wine exhibition, tours of prosciutto factories and more. A new Teran Queen is crowned every other year.

prosciutto and wine
Photo: Iztok Medja

One of the oldest ethnographic events in Slovenia is the Sheep Ball, which has been held since 1959. It is based on the native breed of sheep, the Jezersko-Solčava, which was registered and first presented in Paris in 1892. It traditionally takes place every second Sunday in August, when shepherds drive their sheep down from the mountains. At this event, they present the old customs of life in the mountains and the work related to the production of sheep’s wool. An obligatory ingredient of the Shepherd’s Ball is home-made dishes prepared in a traditional way, on a hearth: masunjek with sour milk and buckwheat žganci with cabbage. These are dishes that shepherds also prepare for themselves in the mountains. Freshly fried flancati (angel wings) illustrate the festive character of the event to this day.

At the other end of Slovenia, the coast and piers of Izola are occupied by the traditional Fishermen’s Fest. In addition to the music and sports programme, gastronomy is in the foreground, with typical Mediterranean fish delicacies, which go perfectly with local wines.

Photo: Ciril Jazbec, CJ Studio

News with flavour

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The Idrija Žlikrofi Festival at the end of August brings to the foreground the century-old story of the traditional miner’s dish, which also takes modern forms at the festival. Idrijski žlikrofi, made from dough with a potato filling and a characteristic shape, is the first Slovenian dish to be protected at the EU level as a traditional speciality guaranteed. Also featured at the festival are other gastronomic specialties, such as the smukavc stew, the ocvirkovca roll and meat sauce for žlikrofibakalca. The latter plays a very special role, as wild game chefs compete to prepare the best one in the “Jagerchef” competition.

The greatest poets and the best wines gather at the Days of Poetry and Wine at the end of August. The largest international poetry festival in Slovenia brings together the best poets and artists from all over the world and a range of top-level Slovenian wines in the charming medieval centre of Ptuj and, in recent years, also elsewhere in Slovenia.

Days of Poetry and Wine
Photo: Luka Karlin, Studio Virc

In the north-easternmost part of Slovenia, the Vinarium Festival revives the late summer buzz with two central events, the Bogračfest food festival and the Lendava grape harvest. Bograč, which is cooked at the festival by several competing teams, is a traditional Prekmurje stew with three types of meat, onions, potatoes and spices, and Bogračfest is considered one of the largest culinary events in Slovenia, traditionally taking place on the last Saturday of August in Lendava.

Like the Shepherd’s Ball, the Cows’ Ball has been held in Bohinj since the 1950s. It used to be primarily a holiday for the locals, who together with mountaineers and restaurateurs celebrated the end of the grazing season, while today it attracts many lovers of tradition and local delicacies, especially cheese. In mid-September, cattle herders drive their herds down from the high-lying mountains and carry a “basenga” on their shoulders – everything they need to make cheese and other things necessary for life on mountain pastures.

Cows' Ball
Photo: Andrej Tarfila

Making sure that summer ends in a sweet fashion is the Sweet Istria international festival of desserts, which invites you to the streets and squares of the centre of Koper at the end of September. It is the largest event of its kind in Slovenia, during which visitors can try various desserts, either those created according to recipes of Istrian homemakers, or modern desert masterpieces created by top-level domestic and foreign confectionery artists. They can also try sweet wines, beers and other sweet drinks and honey products. In addition, the rich accompanying programme offers confectionery workshops, cooking shows and guided tastings and lectures. Every year, they pick the most original dessert of Istria and the best Muscat and cake of the Sweet Istria festival.

Bistro specialties for long summer evenings

Dedicated gourmets also succumb to the pleasures of summertime leisure, and on warm and long summer evenings they like to hang out by the light of the stars and chat with friends while savouring attractive and daring cuisine on the terraces of bistros or inside them.

Under a mighty linden tree, inviting you to one of Ljubljana’s smallest squares is TaBar, a training ground for youthful creativity, but also a temple of natural wines, where chef Jakob Pintar creates top-quality signature dishes. Ljubljana’s bistro Breg, under the baton of Michelin star awarded chef Jorg Zupan, also attracts gourmets of all kinds.

Bistro Hiša Linhart
Photo: Hiša Linhart archive

There are also some excellent bistros outside the capital. One of these is the Grad Štanjel bistro, awarded three chef’s hats by Gault&Millau in 2022. In the fairytale-like village of Štanjel in the Karst, a gastronomic story inspired by the bora wind and the flavours of the Mediterranean and the Karst takes place in the castle garden. While you admire the beautiful architecture of the small village with the aroma of pine trees, you will be impressed by the colourful dishes of chef Simo Komel. Bistro Lalalu invites you to the other side of Slovenia, to Celje, City Terrace invites you to Maribor, and Hiša Linhart to Radovljica, to name just a few.

Wherever you decide to cool off, the food will be tasty and fresh, with a touch of boldness, as befits summer.

Taste more.

Learn about the story od Slovenian gastronomy. Discover local culinary and wine specialties.

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