Wherever you are in Slovenia, you always go to Ljubljana when you need something, says celebrity chef Ana Roš. Here, she takes High Life on a tour of the food stops she visits when she’s in town and the flavours that shape her menu at two-Michelin-starred Hiša Franko in the Soča Valley
The farmers’ market
Slovenia is pretty centralised; whether you go to an opera or the theatre or to a party as a student, you have to go to Ljubljana. The farmers’ market is the heart of the city. On Fridays and Saturdays, there is a really lively atmosphere. Small farmers come in from all around Slovenia and we can buy an incredible selection of very good fruits and vegetables. On Fridays, there is also the Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen; odprtakuhna.si), a street food market. And then, of course, there are plenty of small bistros and wine bars nearby where you can have a glass of wine and enjoy good food.
The most incredible street snack in Ljubljana is burek, a parcel of flaky filo pastry filled with cheese, meat, or even spinach. The cheese burek – made from a sour cottage cheese – is the best, especially with chillies on top of it. In Ljubljana, there are some incredible places like Burek Olimpija and Nobel Burek that are open 24 hours a day. When you go out to party, you always have a glass of salty yoghurt and a burek afterwards. It’s super greasy, like a bag full of calories, but after a night of dancing you’ll need it.
I’ve always drunk skin-contact wines (where the grape skins remain in contact with the juice during making). In this part of the world, drinking skin-contact and slightly oxidised wines is something that is completely natural. We have a big culture of natural medicine, and a natural way of eating and drinking, so drinking and eating things without additives was always cool for us. When I was a kid, I remember the Malvasia from the farmer was always slightly oxidised and orange. The wines from those days were really crazy – their volatility was super high and they were not balanced at all. Today, you can find things that are a lot more rounded, like those made by Aleks Klinec, Marko Fon, or Aci Urbajs.
Whenever I’m in Ljubljana, I always go to Skaručna. It’s a traditional restaurant with a hippy vibe just out of the city, serving tonnes of meat and a lot of skin-contact wines. You never order at these types of places – they decide for you and they just keep bringing you food until you die. It starts with the beef tongue salad and different pickles, and then pâtés, cottage cheese and smoked trout, followed by different types of soup. All that meat is enough for me for two weeks so I try to go a little bit less now, but it’s a very addictive place.
When I visit other chefs, I always give them fermented cottage cheese, which is a unique product from the Soča Valley. It’s fermented in the high mountains and has a very individual flavour as the fermentation process brings in sourness and spiciness – and it’s something you can’t find anywhere else in the world. You have to buy it directly from the farmers in Slovenia – you can’t even find it in the farmers’ markets here, you really need to know where to go. At Hiša Franko, we use this cheese in the corn beignets. It’s served with smoked trout roe and wild chives.
A little bit outside of Ljubljana, in Horjul, there is a beautiful place called Grič. The chef, Luka Košir, is an incredibly talented young cook. He just got his first star in the second edition of the Slovenian Michelin Guide. He’s very nature focused: he has his own gardens, his own ducks, his own eggs and he does a lot of foraging. The food is a little bit Scandinavian, but every year he is finding more and more of a personal touch. It is absolutely the best place for fine dining near Ljubljana, and the setting is very special.
As told to Qin Xie
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