One of the highlights of my time in Slovenia was joining Ljubljananjam for a walking food tour of Ljubljana. I was excited to work with this particular company because they partner with smaller establishments rather than typical tourist spots.The company itself is a small company, established in 2013. The owner is in fact the founder, guide and manager!
I honestly had no preconceptions or expectations about Slovenian food before I arrived, but I was happy to learn about the phenomenal and varied food the country has to offer.
As we made our way to the tour’s first stop, our guide, Iva, explained that the country has 24 distinct gastronomic regions. In addition, we learned that a Slovenian, Ana Ros, had won the 2017 winner of the World’s Best Female Chef, as determined by the prestigious San Pellegrino competition. Her victory had brought a lot of focus to Slovenian cuisine, and I was eager to learn more.
Our first stop was at one of the city’s most popular restaurants, where we sampled a light dish to prepare our appetites for the day of eating we had ahead.
This dish was as delicious as gorgeous- the crisp vegetables and fresh herbs, combined with a raspberry sauce and sage syrup, perfectly complemented the red trout. I could’ve eaten much more, but I didn’t want to start out by eating to much and missing out on the rest of the day’s opportunities.
As we walked along, Iva explained a bit of the history of not only the city, but the country. For instance, did you know that the world’s oldest wheel and oldest musical instrument, a type of flute, were both found in Slovenia?
Interesting facts like these are another reason I love to enjoy a city by taking a walking food tour. I cherish the ability to learn a city’s history while trying authentic local dishes and avoiding tourist traps.
Next we visited the local farmers market, where we sampled local meats, cheeses and pastries.
Some of the choices were quite new to me!
We also tried an award winning cheese from the nearby Pustotnik farm.
While this cheese may not look different than most others, it was delicious– a creamy, just-salty-enough blend of sheep and goat milk. No wonder it took the silver medal at the Basque Food Festival.
Outside the indoor market, friendly vendors were selling fruits and vegetables.
We were lucky to come when we did- it seemed everything was in season.
Iva grabbed a small sampling of different fruits for us to snack on as walked to the next stop. Everything we tried was crisp, delicious and straight from the farm.
On the way, we saw a machine dispensing milk, and I asked about it. We learned that raw milk is a very popular local drink, and machines dispensing it can be found almost anywhere!
Our next stop was at a gorgeous venue that served as an art gallery, work space, and studio. They actually sold their art by the pound, which I found very interesting.
The shop owner prepared us a deconstructed sandwich paired with local wines and craft beers.
Although the sandwich looks simple, it was full of the highest quality ingredients- flavorful and delicious.
The sandwich was also served with a pumpkin seed oil. While it wasn’t an ingredient I’m familiar with, it was delicious. I literally dipped my sandwich into it.
The oil has a rich, nutty flavor and can be used in everything from dip to salad dressings and even desserts!
The wines and beers we had with the sandwich were also delicious. Slovenia’s wines have been famous for some time now (the country shares a border with Italy!), but they have only recently been recognized for their beer production.
Slovenia is actually the world’s fifth largest producer of hops and exports much of their production to Belgium.
After we finished our drinks and strolled around the gallery appreciating the artwork, we exited to the fish market.
The market smelled very strongly of seafood, but it was interesting to see the variety of fresh catches. It reminded me of when I visited my favorite fish market back home. I asked one of the vendors how he could work in that smell all day. “It smells like money,” he told me.
Next we stopped for a traditional Slovenian lunch- a variety of stews paired with home style sausage.
For this meal, we were served ričet, a barley stew and jota which a sauerkraut soup. They were both delicious, but my favorite was the barley stew.
They came with a side of homemade sausage you could add into the stews. I thought the sausage was a great addition.
We sampled more local wines and craft beers with the hearty lunch, including an IPA that, surprisingly, I didn’t hate. It also has an interesting name: Human Fish.
Growing full, we strolled through the old part of Ljubljana toward our next stop.
As we passed through the main square, we learned more about the city’s history. The area used to be where people would sell vinegar, loudly advertising their products. To this day there’s still a local saying, “you’re yelling as loud as a vinegar salesman!”
Our next stop was (thankfully) our last for actual food. It was perhaps my favorite stop of the tour.
The chef at this popular local restaurant sent several trays of food out for us to enjoy.
The first was pork tenderloin, freshly grilled anchovies with a fresh squeeze of lemon, a gorgeous charcuterie platter, and one of the best potato salads I’ve ever had (sorry Mom!).
I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed the sardines.
I typically eat them in dishes where that concentrate the fishy flavor too much, but grilled and with lemon, they’re amazing- a bit salty and tangy. The perfect dish to pair with beer!
We were also able to try the wine a few of the restaurants produced themselves. For the most part, I had tried local whites, but this restaurant also had a flavorful red wine.
Ending on a sweet note, we made our way to the local gelato shop.
This shop had many flavor options and combinations I had never seen before. They even took advantage of some of the unique local options by incorporating the same pumpkin seed oil I mentioned above.
Other options included Bailey’s Irish coffee, chocolate with coffee, Earl Grey, and more!
The shop prides itself on using traditional Italian techniques but fresh, local ingredients and Slovenian flavors.
Even though I don’t typically enjoy sweet foods, I found several flavors I really enjoyed- especially this salted chocolate scoop.
On our last stop before we finished for the day, we visited Ziferblat, a coworking/community space for tea and coffee. I was impressed by how integrated Ziferblat was into the community and the awesome work they’re doing. Definitely stop by and check out their calendar when you’re in town; they’re always arranging some type of event. If you work while you travel (like me), this is the perfect place to spend the day working.
Full to the point of needing a nap, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. No one needed dinner that night!
I was so impressed with this tour that I sent three people on it in the following few days I was in town, just by raving about it to them. If you only have a limited time in this city, I suggest you definitely do this tour along with Open Kitchen — the once weekly gourmet street food event that happens every Friday.
Practical Information: To book this tour for yourself visit Ljubljananjam’s website by clicking here.
Disclaimer: I would like to thank Ljubljananjam for having me as a guest on their tour. All opinions remain my own, as always.
Which dish from the Walking Food Tour of Ljubljana looked best to you? Let me know in the comments section below!