You cannot grow up in an Indian family and not be interested in food. As an integral part of the culture, marriages have been known to end over the thickness of a Chapati. As I grew up though, I realised that there were many other nations all over the world, equally passionate about their food. And yet, it has taken until 2014 for me to discover the concept of food walks – undoubtedly one of the best ways to simultaneously explore and learn about a place whilst discovering its best traditional cuisine. My first experience was at a London Food Tour earlier this year and I am now a total convert to the notion.
The Ljubljananjam Food Walking Tour
When I started reading about Slovenia, it didn’t take too much delving to discover that the Slovenes LOVE their food. And perhaps none more so than Iva, the brains behind the Ljubljananjam Food Walk, a fellow foodie, born and bred in Ljubljana and with a background in journalism; but Iva’s most inviting attribute is that long before any of these measurable achievements, she was the go-to person for her friends and family when it came to uncovering Ljiubljana’s food scene. After reading wonderful reviews, I knew she would be my passport into the gastronomic world of Slovenia.
One of the charms of this food tour is that each one is unique and flexible, depending on your tastes, dietary requirements, budgets and time. The details of the walk remain a surprise right until you are on it, (despite the tweets I sent digging for clues!) This retains an air of mystery, which is increasingly challenging in an era, where we turn up to restaurants all too frequently, having already made our menu choices at home. I liked the “not knowing” and it is for that reason, I’ll endeavour to keep the locations a secret. If you are heading to Slovenia and are intrigued by what you see, try it out!
Joining us on the tour was one half of travel blogging duo A Couple Travelers and the founder of Ljubljana by Bike. And so we started – with a dessert?! Iva and I clearly sing from the same hymn sheet. The Torta Ljubljana (a cake made from buckwheat flour, chestnut, almond, honey, fig and chocolate) has both a sweetness afforded by the chocolate and honey and an earthiness carried by the nuts and seeds, giving birth to little cubes of delight in our mouths. I liked it so much that I went back and bought a larger one to take back to England. Predictable much?
We met one of the original founders of the recipe and her welcoming nature and humility was apparent. But their business extends further than cake. The Slovenes love their gelato and here, it is creamy & full of flavour; we tried Kremsnita (a gelato version of the famous Bled cream cake with actual bits of pastry in it), Aztecana (chocolate with a tickle of chilli in the aftertaste) , cinnamon and a dreamy black sesame that you’ll either love or hate. BIG LOVE from me.
Much of Ljubljana’s tourist-heavy restaurants are located at the waterside, where the quality of the food can be mixed and prices inflated but on a nearby side street lies a little Bistro, run by a couple and only serving approximately 30 meals every evening before they move on to drinks and nibbles. This bistro, which is also a performance venue for musicians, has a loyal following and each day’s menu is different and fresh. It was here, where we had one of the best pork belly dishes I have ever eaten, tender and bursting with flavour with a side serving of artichoke with garlic and herbs, barley risotto and potatoes with mustard seeds and pumpkin seed oil. Pumpkin seed oil, I came to learn, is something of a staple ingredient in a Slovenian store cupboard. We washed down our meal with some refreshing, homemade elderflower juice.
Ljubljana’s best coffee?
I think most nations in the world can be divided into tea drinkers or coffee drinkers with perpetually blurry margins. We Brits are mostly still a tea nation but the Slovenes? They swear by coffee all the way. We visited Ljubljana’s only fairtrade coffee shop, where the coffee connoisseur Tine had a boundless passion and wealth of knowledge about both coffee and fairtrade in general, even giving talks to school groups on these topics. His conversation was as engaging as the aroma of the coffee was inviting. Tine is a purist. Purists drink coffee the way God intended; there is no place for milk and sugar, cappuccinos and machiatos. But he was sympathetic to my modernised ways and accommodated my request for a latte. I daren’t ask for the sugar and to be honest, the flavour of the coffee bean was so intense that it wasn’t needed.
The shot of caffeine propelled us back into turbo mode for our next stop, where we were getting down to deli business with traditional meats, cheese and zucchini flowers. The Kajmak, a Serbian soft cheese, was a creamy sponge, soaking up the olive oil from the plate on which it was served. It was so exquisite that the rest of the group could have walked off and left me and I wouldn’t have noticed and in fact, while they made their way to the door, I could still be spotted in the corner, cleaning the plate to pristine perfection. Someone’s got to do it…
I may be a teetotaller but this is no reason for Pumpkin to miss out and he was more than happy to swig my share of Slovenian craft beer including the famous Union beer from a local brewery, which is more than a hundred years old. A little word of advice – according to Slovenian customs, when you lift your glass to say cheers, you must make eye contact to avoid being considered rude!
Wine-tasting in Ljubljana
We ended the night with a wine-tasting session in an offbeat, underground wine cellar, a place which would have completely fallen off the radar had Iva not taken us there. Hosted by a sommelier, the space felt more like someone’s (very plush) apartment with a stylish interior, dim lighting and sociable, square dining table. This was just as well because aside from ourselves, we had picked up a few friends along the way – Iva seems to know just about everyone in Ljubljana and the more the merrier, especially on a Friday night!
Our evening had started as a food walk but by the time it ended, we felt like we had just left a dinner party with friends. But wait – wine tasting is about the wine right? Numerous varieties were offered including Slovenia’s national wine – Cvicek, Teran, which was Pumpkin’s favourite and a unique orange wine. Opinions were divided, each new sip generating its own controversy but the supplies were endless with as many glasses being offered as requested.
By the end of the night, I had forgotten we were even on a food walk. We had talked culture and food, politics and wine, travel and history and we had gelled like old friends. And five hours later, we finally called it a night. I felt a pang of anxiety, wondering where dessert was (had we peaked early with the Ljubljana cake?) But I need not have harboured any doubt because the surprise treat to end the night was a delicious, creamy, white chocolate and raspberry mousse cake. The pace of the tour reflected a perfect equilibrium of fine food, carefully-considered portion sizes, diverse range of dishes and plenty of “rehydration” with local produce.
Iva’s philosophy is that the key tourist places will be sought out without needing her assistance. What she does though, with a deep-rooted affection for Ljubljana’s best eateries, is to take you to those hidden gems, the ones you wouldn’t notice or know about, the ones that use quality ingredients, source ethically and have a story behind them. We meet the faces behind the food and learn about their lives, passions, visions and of course, we sample their divine creations. I dabble in no hyperbole when I say that this was one of the most enjoyable evenings I have experienced on my travels. If you are heading to Slovenia and are interested in food, this is an experience not to be missed.
- Food walk prices start at approximately 35 Euros upwards depending on preferences and duration
- Payment is made in cash at the end of the walk
- Walks usually commence at 5pm but timings may be adjustable if required
- Group sizes are usually restricted to 5 people but private food walks can be arranged
- The walks be customised to include any specific dietary requirements or preferences
- Each walk is individual, exhibiting the best of seasonal ingredients
Have you been on any food walks around the world? Let me know your recommendations!
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Ljubljananjam Food Walks but I am an opinionated, little lady and all views, good or bad, are entirely my own. I would like to thank Iva for such a wonderful evening of fine food, wonderful chefs and great company!
40 thoughts on “The Ljubljananjam Food Tour, Slovenia”
Looks like a great tour and so nice that the groups are kept so small!
It was wonderful and I agree that the small group size really adds to the experience! Thanks so much for reading 🙂
Oh how wonderful! I’ve never done a Food walk myself (yet) but they seem like so much fun 🙂
Yep, the concept of food walks was totally new to me as well until this year! If you love food and travel though, they are kind of addictive – I feel like I’ll be looking for a food walk everywhere I go now! But this one was absolutely fabulous and quite unique and quirky, which was great! Thanks for commenting 🙂
This is not so much a foofie walk, but a sugar walk! A diabetes walk! It all looks and sounds brilliant, but woah! Sugar overload. Hope you concentrated on the cheese and asparagus!
Haha! The torta cube was really quite small (I bought the bigger one from the same place later in my trip as a souvenir to bring home!) and the gelato samples were by the spoonful not the cup-full so it’s not as sugary as it looks! Do you think the dentist will be more forgiving now?! 😉
This looks fantastic and when I go to Ljubliana (I will one day!) I shall definitely take this tour. Love the look and sound of the torta. Fabulous write up 🙂
Thanks so much for the kind words Suzanne – I hope you do get to see Ljubljana one day – it’s turned out to be one of the most pleasant travel surprises I’ve come across! And you’ll love the food tour – the torta was probably my favourite item too – I bought a bigger box of it to bring home but as you might guess, it didn’t exactly last long! 😀
I’ve never done a food tour either, but after these pictures, I can’t wait! Sounds (and looks) amazing!
Thanks Heather 🙂 They are great fun, especially if you like sampling local foods and flavours. I have a feeling I’ll be seeking them out on some more of my travels in the future!
What a great idea, and a lovely way to remember a city too!
Thank you Laura! I completely agree! Food tours seem to be such a great way to walk around a new city, try the local foods and get talking to the local people. And the food on this one was so delicious!! 🙂
What a great culinary journey! These cakes and pastries look so yummy, I just can’t believe that! I’m literally licking my screen here.
I’m going for my first food tour next month in Lisbon. Wish me good luck!
Haha! Yes I frequently spend my time licking computer screens looking at great pictures of cake! 😀 Enjoy the Lisbon food walk! Look forward to seeing your post about it & thanks for commenting Agness!
I’ve heard so much about Slovenia lately and that food tour looks delicious, especially the cakes!
The cakes were my favourite part (they usually are!) And as it happens, I too really learned about Slovenia as a great travel destination mainly through seeing so many great blog posts about it! This is one of my favourite things about blogging – the way other bloggers have genuinely inspired me to see new places 🙂
That tour looked amazing; those cakes! Where do I sign up!? I think I seriously need to get my bottom to Slovenia xx
Hehe, I think you’d love it Kelly! And the whole tour can be done gluten-free too so I know you’d approve 🙂 Slovenia is just gorgeous – just can’t believe I had never visited it earlier! Great little hidden gem!
A fantastic looking food tour, and your description of what makes Iva make her choices is just what I’d love from a food tour; a chance to try local dishes, but without having to visit the locations that everyone else visits straight out of the guide book.
I loved Ljubljana when we were there last year, if fact, it was so nice for us that we seriously gave some thought to staying put for a while there.
Thanks Dale 🙂 It’s funny you say that because even when I visited, a little part of me was feeling like I could really live there!! I liked that it was quite offbeat too – some of the places we went to, I wouldn’t have even noticed if I had been walking past them myself!
My mouth is watering. I miss European food so much and can’t wait for my Eastern Euro Trip. Ljubljana, Slovenia is on my list!
I hope you have a wonderful time on your trip! I have a real soft spot for Eastern Europe and the food in Slovenia was definitely a highlight 🙂
Ok Ljubljana is now definitely on my radar, the food looks mouthwatering 🙂 I only visited Bled when I was in Slovenia last time, but I kiiind of regret my decision of not heading to the capital now.
That’s a tough call choosing between Bled and Ljubljana as both so gorgeous! But yes, if you head back, definitely try out the food scene – it’s great and the locals are so proud of their local specialties 🙂 Thanks for commenting Tiffany!
Shikha, Just coming back from a trip to Slovenia, we tried so many delicious foods. I haven’t made it to Ljubljana yet, but when we go, we’re taking this tour for sure! Yum!
Glad to hear you enjoyed the foodie scene in Slovenia as well – it’s such a beautiful country isn’t it?! Ljubljana is lovely and I’m sure you would enjoy the tour if you do make another trip. Thanks for reading Corrine 🙂
My mouth is watering just looking at all these lovely photos! What a treat! Love food tours and hope to be doing a few more myself this summer.
Thanks Kathryn 🙂 Glad you like the look of it – I’ve only discovered food tours this year and I think they’re just a great way to explore a local culture and cuisine in one go 🙂
Wow, this sounds like a super walk and I just love the way you write – I drank in every word in this post. I’m really keen on seeing Slovenia and this sounds like the right way to see Ljubljana.
I can’t tell you how much your comment made my day Mandy 🙂 Really appreciate your kind words and so glad you enjoyed the post. Ljubljana is a charming, little city with such friendly people and seeing how passionate they are about their food was a nice thing to be able to experience in a short time out there. Hope you get a chance to visit Slovenia soon!
Amazing. I did the same too Shikha. :).. Happy to chance upon your blog. I write on ITALY at http://www.ishitasood.blogspot.in
Thanks so much for stopping by Ishita and great to hear you took this fabulous food tour as well. Looking forward to popping over to your blog ☺
I am excited for you to stop by my blog 🙂