December 13, 2017
When I first began running tours in Slovenia almost 14 years ago the whole craft foodie thing had not yet taken the world by storm. But even back in 2005 it was evident that there were folks making food and drink of the highest quality. So it’s no surprise to me that now there’s no shortage of ‘boutique’ producers making virtually anything you’d would want to put in your mouth. But rather than just focusing on one item, it’s rather amazing how many of these artisans branch out and offer up one high quality product after the other. The country’s best sparkling wine producer also happens to make one of Brda’s best red cuvees. Or the pinot noir guru in Vipava that’s now making one of the most talked about grappa.
Vistors to the farm with Tomaž and Jasmina front and centre
A perfect example of this is the Passero Farm in the country’s eastern most region of Prekmurje, or as I say to my guests, ‘the chicken head’ (look at a map and you’ll see Slovenia as a chicken running towards Hungary). Its idyllic countryside is filled with corn fields, small vineyards and traditional artisans making everything from black pottery, pumpkin seed oil, decorative gingerbread hearts and some of Slovenia’s finest chocolates.
Pears enrobed in chocolate
This is where I met Tomaž and his wife Jasmina. They own the Passero farm shop and vineyards. “I didn’t know what to study at first.” said Tomaž, “My mom was a pharmacist and my dad a chemist, but also worked as judge for salamis in Slovenia’s longest held contest, held in Sevnica.” So Tomaž choose to study food science and technology in Ljubljana. There he met Jasmina, just a study partner at first, but things between then blossomed in their last semester.
And so it was love that got Tomaž to start making chocolates. He was looking for a unique present to give to her and started work in his kitchen on one of his many food experiments. The results were chocolates that combined local flavours from the region: elderflower, Traminer grapes and everyone’s favourites – pumpkin seed oil with crushed seeds. Pumpkin seed oil, you ask? This ubiquitous dark green oil is essential part of Slovenia’s culinary world and its nutty, tangy taste is the standard for salads and dipping bread into. But when you pair it with a simple vanilla ice cream or infuse it into dark chocolate then you’re in for a delicious surprise!
But Tomaž and Jasmina’s work doesn’t stop just chocolates. They are also wine makers and pumpkin seed oil producers. They craft wonderful marmalades and juices from their orchards. Jasmina’s father takes care of sausages and dried meats, so if you need a place to crash after a wine tasting there, you’ll wake up to one of the best breakfast sausages around.
Their family shop serves as a Prekmurje 101 for Beginners, filled with traditional, hand-crafted foods. But like so many producers I meet in Slovenia, there’s always more on offer. Just a few kilometres from their store lies the couple’s private wine house tucked away on the top of hill surrounded by vineyards. Here you can sample a trio of white wines with plates of cold cuts: smoked ribs with bean salad and pressed sausage with pumpkin oil and onions. Simple yet delicious. And with views out to their vineyards it makes for a near perfect Sunday afternoon.