Our travels take us next to the region of Dolenska. This area is primarily focused on agriculture and is also trying to cultivate a tourism industry. It is hilly and rich with magnificent views and interesting people. Our first stop is to the Gostilna Repovz.
This restaurant/inn has been in existence for 200 years, its operation handed down from generation to generation of the Repovz family. In addition to the restaurant and inn, they operate a farm which includes production of apples, grapes, spelt, buckwheat, produce and herbs. They have been using organic practices for the past 20 years. All of this is done by a relatively small team of folks: a family of five and a few additional employees (friends and neighbors) during harvest time and busy nights at the restaurant. The inn has four rooms, and the restaurant seats about 80. Grega Repovz is the oldest son (in his mid 20s) and our guide for this leg of the trip.
Gostilna Repovz is situated in the village of Sentjanz, with a population of about 1,000. After high school, Grega went to Ljubljana to get some more training and experience in modern restaurants. He also wanted to learn more about wines. He’s passionate about good wine and studied them by working with Gasper (who we met at his place eVino earlier in our stay). The Repovz family makes outstanding wine for use at their own gostilna, and complements that inventory with other wines carefully selected by Grega.
Cassie got a tour of the orchard and vineyard, which can be seen from the parking lot of the gostilna. Products from the farm which are not used by the gostilna are sold retail in the form of juices, grains, flour, marmalades, and vinegars. Grega’s mom is the chef in the gostilna, and she creates incredible food. Of course her specialties are the traditional dishes of the Dolenska region which highlight their homegrown ingredients: breads and risottos made with spelt, potica – a brioche stuffed with tarragon and scota (a fresh cheese like ricotta) and soups full of flavorful vegetables and a bit of meat purchased from their neighbors. Her dandelion green salad was one of the best we’ve had in Slovenia so far: it had potatoes, hard boiled eggs and bacon all very lightly dressed with Repovz vinegar.
One very popular dish, strukli, is a dumpling made by rolling out a thin dough and spreading a filling over it. The dough is then rolled and tied in a tea towel. The whole lot is poached, then cut pinwheel-style. The pinwheels can then be fried and further topped with a sauce or powdered sugar, depending upon the filling. Cassie learned to make this and put that lesson to work later in our trip.
From Gostilna Repovz, Grega took us to meet some family friends that has one of the oldest zitanicas in the area. A zitanica is a rustic “man cave” without a big screen TV. These small houses dot the hillsides all around Dolenska. They are generally plopped right in the middle of a vineyard and were used originally as a full-time dwelling. This one is over 100 years old, and was recently renovated.
In the lower level is tool storage and a winecellar, where the proprietor, Milan, makes the local specialty cvicik. This wine is tart and bright and is almost always served with food, but it is not often used to cook with. Upstairs in the zitanica is a wood fired oven. The design of these ovens is pure genius, and we have seen them in all the regions we have visited here so far. The baking hearth is in the kitchen (of course), and the actual body of the oven sticks out into a living area. It is covered by decorative cast iron plates and slabs of stone, which hold the heat from the oven and warm the entire room. Here, Milan’s wife shows Cassie how to make potica, the tarragon-stuffed bread served at Gostilna Repovz. She also learns how to make other breads on this incredible hearth, and we all get to enjoy them in the middle of the vineyard on a makeshift picnic table. Cvicik is flowing, and nobody can stop eating the potica, which everyone from the film crew agrees is the best they’ve ever had.
Fortified by cvicik and potica, we go next to another friend of Grega’s, Joze Livk. Joze is a farmer in Sentjanz who also makes baskets. The craft of making “dry goods” like baskets and wooden hand tools was the primary means of income for many men of this area in the last century. Their cropland was so damaged by war that they needed another way to make money, so they made these items to sell. Joze taught Cassie how to make a traditional-style basket and again, we ate and drank.
This time we enjoyed grappe made by Milan, who tends bees for his vineyard and makes this sweet, powerful liquer. Joze’s brother was there at the farm with us, and the two of them and their wives were a joy to be with. They loved the chance to share the family’s story and showed us a painting of their mama who passed away five years ago. She lived to 99 and like so many people here, endured a great deal of hardship brought on by war, occupation, and poverty. The house we were in, they explained, was burned down by the Germans during World War II Joze and his brother rebuilt it. Joze and his wife live there now and farm the land around it.
Weary from the day’s travels, we headed back to Repovz for an incredible dinner made by Grega’s mom, which featured beef shank soup with ravioli, dandelion salad, horse cutlet, spelt risotto, and struckli. Afterward, we enjoyed a walk on the quiet curvy roads around Sentjanz. Our rooms at the gostilna were simple and wonderfully comfortable. We relished the quiet and rested well.