After a long and intensive climbing day or during designated rest day the essential stuff like FOOD usually comes on our to-do list. Don’t worry, when it comes to food this part of the world can offer you great variety of meals suitable for every pocket. A mixture of Italian cuisine, Slovenian mainland dishes and Mediterranean culinary treats will help your hunger games end fast.
From past experiences the great advantage you have when passing trough our neighborhood are good meals at affordable price.
We have compiled our favorite dishes to make sure you can create your climbing experience in Istria memories at home.
Because of all the historical influences and the fertile soil this region is incredibly rich with culinary delights. Let’s stop first at local products, which are known and praised all over the world, starting with elixir of the gods, olive oil. They say that the toughest the conditions the olive tree has, the better the oil it makes and here it’s surely one of the best. Olives were brought here by the Romans and praised them in their works – here is the home of especially cherished sort, the yellowy-green „Istarska bjelica“. Most of the olive trees are in small orchards, picked by hand and pressed in small cellars in a matter of days.
Another famous liquid here is wine; growing on stone, red soil, bora wind and salty sea breeze – it could hardly be bad. The most famous types of red wine are Terrano and Refosco, while in the white department we have Malvazija and Vitovska, although you can find many other sorts (Glera, Muscat, Pinot). The best thing is, you can taste them directly at farmers homes, in small wine cellars, which are located in every village. They are connected with wine roads. One winds through Osp and Bržanija, while on Italian side the Terrano road goes in the hinterland along border with Slovenia.
Want something stronger? Well, this is also fruit tree country with perfect fruit spirits, like protected brands of plum schnapps from Brkini (Zajelšje) or gin from Karst, but you can also get nice cherry or pear schnapps. Or try the digestive from local grass – Ruta. You don’t like alcohol? Then bite directly into fresh plums, cherries, kakis or apples, or take a nice home-made marmalade with you. But that’s not all! The hard-working bees in the karst make wonderful local honey, where flowery or forest sorts stand out, along with Marasca – cherry honey with distinct amber color and gently bitter almond taste. The surrounding forests are also full of goods, from fresh mushrooms to wild asparaguses, wild garlic and truffles.
The farming isn’t far behind. First, there are many types of cheeses, which are especially rich in flavor due to the diversity of the flora, which animals eat. From Ricotta to more mature cheeses you will have trouble picking your favourite. Try local brands like Tabor, Mlet or Jamar. The other specialty are meat products and cold cuts from pancetta to the famous, gourmet-salty smoked ham called pršut.
It’s no wonder that food, based on such premises, is so rich. The tastes are strong, with big contrasts and the dishes everything but light, as they had to give energy to the hardworking farmers. They don’t fry much here. Most dishes are prepared in „padela“ (sort of a pan) or under „črepnja“, where they cook for long time under embers. At the first glance simple dishes are full of flavors, which intertwine. Try the typical stews, hotchpotches (like corn Bobiči), and goulash with venison. You can see Italian influences in polenta or different home-made pasta (fuzi, bleki, blečići, pljukanci), lasagnas or risottos. Another specialty are potato gnocchi prepared on different ways. And the queen of dishes here – jota, or štruklji and dumplings with different fillings from plums to cheese.
Then there’s seafood with fresh fishes (try brodet), shellfish or baked octopus. For breakfast you can learn to prepare fritaja, typical southern egg dish, that you combine with anything you have at hand (mushrooms, ham, asparagus, bacon, truffles…) For dessert try fried fritole or walnut potica and if you’re still hungry there’s no helping you. And you still tasted only tip of the iceberg.
Where can you find all these goodies? True, big cities are filled with restaurants – even the expensive ones or common pizzeria, but it‘s best to experience these dishes in the atmosphere of small villages, small taverns, village inns (agriturismo in Italy) or in osmica. You can be alerted about them by ivy branches. Their tradition comes from the times of Maria Theresia, who in 1784 allowed farmers to sell wine without tax for 8 days („osmica“ means eight in Slovenian language). Today they have to pay it, but they are open all year and offer a wonderful way to taste the southern-karst kitchen.
You can finish everything off with a cup of great coffee – did you know that Trieste is one of the oldest „coffee“ cities in Europe, with a rich tradition of this invigorating drink? In 18th century it became a free port and consequentially imported worldwide coffee beans for the whole Austro-Hungarian empire. Already in 1933 Francesco Illy founded his coffee empire here – they even have a coffee university. Even today Trieste is a top city in Italy by coffee consumption per capital.