Eating And Drinking In Slovenia

Slovenia
Sean McLachlan

Historic sights, art galleries, beautiful countryside – all these are important in a vacation, but one thing you absolutely can’t go without is the food. You have to eat, after all, and a country with poor local cuisine just isn’t going to get many repeat visitors.

Luckily, Slovenia has a distinct cuisine that takes influences from Slavic traditions and its Austrian and Italian neighbors.

The food has a Slavic heartiness to it, with lots of heavy meats, soups and breads. Sausages come in a limitless variety. Pork seems to be the favorite meat, with beef a close second. You can also find venison and game birds on the menu. Despite only having 27 miles of coastline, the Slovenians sure do like fish. Every restaurant I went to had an extensive fish menu. In the mountains you can also get fresh fish from the lakes.

For fast food there’s kebab (no thanks) and burek (yes please!). Burek is a flaky baked pastry filled with various ingredients, usually cheese and/or meat. It’s a bit greasy and heavy, but cheap and good for eating on the go.

Pastries are big for dessert too. A traditional favorite is potica, a rolled up pastry filled with sugary fruit jam and sprinkled with more sugar on top. Walnuts often make it into the mix too. Messy and delicious! Thanks to nearby Italy, gelato is universally available.

%Slideshow-668%Slovenia produces various beers, the most common being two lagers called Union and Laško. Both are good but not particularly notable. There are various microbrews too, including Human Fish Brewery, which produces an excellent stout as well as a Zombie Goat Lager. More interesting are the various liqueurs. I especially liked borovničevec, a blueberry liqueur that’s strong and fruity. Mead is also available thanks to a long tradition of harvesting honey.

Although Slovenia is a wine-growing region that’s beginning to get noticed, I knew nothing about Slovenian wines before I went. Wine writer Rachel Weil recommended Vinakras 2010 Sparkling Teran as a red and the 2011 Pullus Sauvignon Blanc as a white. She also mentioned that the reds were “grape-forward.” Like with most wine terminology, I had no clear idea what that meant. Once I was in Slovenia I discovered that meant the reds often had a pronounced grape flavor, especially the Magolio Zweigelt I brought home for my wife. While these weren’t to my taste (I prefer Rioja) they were well made and I suspect we’ll be hearing more from Slovenian wine in the future.

Being a small country, Slovenia is influenced by its larger neighbors. The Italian presence is especially strong, and you can find pizza and pasta in many restaurants. From Austria you can find strudel filled with nuts, fruit or cheese. This is good news for vegetarians who want to avoid the meat-centric Slavic dishes.

Speaking of meat, the Slovenians love horsemeat, something not very popular in English-speaking countries. When I was in Ljubljana I set out to try some horsemeat. More on that next time!

Check out the rest of my series, “Slovenia: Hikes, History and Horseburgers.”

Coming up next: Horseburgers: Slovenia’s Unusual Delicacy!

Mastering the culinary experience on Benelux trains


Hitting the rails around Europe can be a blast, and I particularly enjoyed it in the so-called “Benelux” countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg). The scenery in the Netherlands was a bit thin, but the Belgian towns were incredibly cute, and it was fun to watch the Dutch signs yield to French as we approached the Luxembourg border.

And let’s face it: any alternative to air travel is a welcome one.

While the trains were a bit slow, they did offer plenty of space, and the ride was comfortable. The only downside was dining: some had a cart that was pushed around periodically, but that was the best available. In other cases, there was nothing at all.

So, if you’re going to hop the train to places like Amsterdam, Bruges, Brussels and Luxembourg, you’re going to want to pack your own grub. You can always pick something up at the train station, but packaged sandwiches and snacks pale in comparison to what you can accomplish with a little planning.

You can do better!

Below, you’ll find tips for giving yourself a better dining experience when you ride through Benelux:

%Gallery-129425%The Netherlands: let’s focus on Amsterdam; after all, it is the country’s major destination. You might be tempted to pick up a “spacecake” while they’re still available to tourists (the fun, for those who indulge, comes to a close at the end of the year), but that only appeals to one type of audience. Instead, head into town and pick up some of the local cheese – one of the few areas where Amsterdam truly excels in food and dining. You’ll wind up spending $10 to $15, but you’ll walk away with enough cheese to feed a village on a three-hour train ride. To make it a bit better, add some spicy mustard to your order (it complements the cheese nicely).

Plan ahead: the cheese and mustard will stay edible for a while, so spend the extra cash to get enough for several long train rides. You’ll be happy you did.

Belgium: in Bruges, there’s a great farmers market in the main market square. Visit it. While the vegetables look delicious, they do have a fairly short shelf life (unless you happen to travel with a refrigerator strapped to your back). So, you’re better off heading to the sausage stand. Pick up a few sausages, and make it interesting by selecting from a variety of animals. You’ll be able to dine on pig, bull and ass, among others. Bring some variety into your on-train meal, and you’ll have a better experience.

Remember the cheese you picked up in Amsterdam? And the mustard? If you bought enough, you can add some awesome sausages to the experience. The meal builds on itself! Again, plan for future train rides, and buy some extra sausage.

Luxembourg: you have cheese and mustard from Amsterdam. You just picked up sausages in Bruges. And, you’re Benelux trip will likely end with a trek from Luxembourg to Brussels or Amsterdam to catch your flight home. What’s missing from your meal on what could be the longest leg of your Benelux train experience?

Wine!

Luxembourg’s local white wines are nothing short of delicious. Skip the Alsacian, French and German options in favor of what the locals produce. If the imbibing experience matters to you, spring for a few cheap wine glasses that you’re fine with tossing at the airport (or losing to breakage in your bags). Otherwise, a few plastic cups will do the job just fine. As you ride back to your final stop before leaving Benelux, you’ll wash down your accumulated sausage, cheese and mustard with something crisp, tasty and unlikely to be on the shelves of your local liquor store.

U.S. Open: Chomp on a Hotdog

Hotdogs and sporting events belong together, so when I went to my first U.S. Open tennis match, I knew I’d have to see what the Arthur Ashe Stadium had to offer. Given a delay caused by matches earlier in the day, the Nadal/Gabashvili pairing started late, so I wasn’t able to take my first bite until darkness had descended over Queens.

I left my seat and ambled over to the concession as the players battled into the night to see what a U.S. Open hotdog would taste like, and I found three alternatives I could use to satisfy my hotdog jones. There was an Italian sausage, which would have been too upscale for me if it hadn’t spent what looked like an eternity under the heating lamp. That left traditional hotdogs in two sizes: regular and foot-long. Obviously, I chose the latter … wouldn’t you?

Carefully balancing my cardboard tray – laden with my two foot-longs, water and a beer (Heineken Light, my feeble attempt to make sure there was something healthy on the tray) over to the condiment counter, where I added ketchup and mustard.

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%Gallery-101120%Back at my seat, I took my first bite. Simply maneuvering the monstrosity to my mouth took two hands, and I had to be careful to ensure my shirt remained clear of the red and yellow adorning my dogs. As two models of physical fitness sprinted, grunted and heaved under the lights on the court below, I pierced the casing of an American tradition.

I was not disappointed.

The Arthur Ashe Stadium hotdog was exactly as unimpressive as I’d thought it would be. It didn’t quite snap when I bit, and the temperature was only lukewarm, in part my fault because of a detour to the smoking area. The taste wasn’t bad, though. Some stadium dogs can resemble warm bologna too closely, but this one was the real deal. I munched mercilessly and quickly.

While the U.S. Open’s hotdogs don’t compare to those I’ve had in Iceland, Montreal or Antigua, they get the job done when you’re baking in the hot city sun (or if you’re suffering through a sweltering New York night). It’s not the taste that matters when your back is pressed against the hard stadium seats. Rather, it’s the fact that you’re participating in a uniquely American institution that’s important. If you’re among the masses headed to New York for the U.S. Open, be sure to grab a dog –and make it a foot-long!

[Photos by Laurie DePrete]

Disclosure: I was a guest of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, Andrew Hickey and Laurie DePrete. My opinions of these Queens hotdogs were not influenced in any way by the Caribbean destination.

You have to eat sausage in Vienna. You have to.

SAUSAGE.
I don’t know your life, but I do know you need to eat sausage in Vienna. If you are a vegetarian, I get that, and there are options for you at some of the finer purveyors, so you are included in this. Weiner schnitzel is delicious and all, but it actually originated in Milan. You should probable have a Sacher Torte at some point, but none of this negates the fact that you absolutely must eat some sausage — or wurst, as they call it — in Vienna. You have to.

Overview

Sausage in Vienna is the customary fast food. It’s what people eat on the go or when it’s a nice day for hanging around outside at one of the stands. The Viennese go for sausages after the opera, on their lunch breaks, before clubbing, after clubbing, and basically anytime they feel a little peckish. It’s delicious. It’s protein. It’s sausage, all day, readily available, whenever you want it.

Sausages in Vienna are generally served sliced up and with mini forks. You will be asked whether you’d prefer a roll or bread with your sausage, and from what I understand, the correct response is “bread” (makes you sound like you know what you’re doing). Also, you will uniformly be given mustard, even if you’ve ordered currywurst (sausage doused in curry powder). If you’d prefer a different sauce, you can certainly ask, but you’ll probably look silly. The appropriate beverage to consume with your wurst is a beer — and yes, it is perfectly acceptable to drink beer in the street in Vienna. Nobody does it much, at least not further than a few yards from a sausage stand, but it is, in fact, legal. I found this to be a killer cheap thrill:
Drinking in a crosswalk
Not all sausage is made equal. There are three particularly well-known sausage slingers in Vienna. Two are stands, and one is a micro-restaurant with some crazy, inventive flavors and art from local university students. We’ll cover that one first.Kiosk
Kiosk
Kiosk is the city’s best-known indoor sausage stand (for lack of a better term). The cozy corner shop has a Lower East Side, NYC vibe, from the layout to the music to the staff. The blackboard serves as the menu, and you can order sausage, wine, beer and bread, and a few other options are available in case you go with lame friends. There is a vegetarian sausage option here, but the true star of the menu is the “Bosna.” Kiosk is notoriously tight-lipped about how they make their sausages, and which kinds are made of what, but you know what? We don’t really want to know how sausage is made, do we? No. In addition to their well-beloved Bosna, their currywurst is also extraordinary, and probably the best sausage I’ve ever had anywhere.

Kiosk also, as I mentioned, displays art work by local art students. In the gallery, you’ll see a photo of the current display of portraits. Each one is available for just 100 euros, in case you’re interested in investing in promising young artists, or would like a piece of local art for a souvenir.

The One By the Albertina
Eat here.
The Albertina is a historical museum/event space which we’re not going to talk about; we’re going to talk about the legendary sausage stand outside of it. Also known as “the one behind the State Opera,” this stand offers all the standard sausage fare, and the patronage is half the fun. You’ll see everyone from slumming students to opera-goers in full evening gowns at this stand, drinking beer and eating sausage with mini forks. You can try sausages of the same names at stands all over Vienna, but this one just packs a little extra magic.

The One by the Bermuda Triangle

Sausage is good.
Did you know there’s a Bermuda Triangle in Vienna? There is; it’s what they call their confusing little district of clubs just off the city center in the northern part of the Ring. While it’s not a “cool” area, it’s always full of clubbers and drunken teens wandering around and getting lost (thus the name). There’s an especially good sausage stand right in front of it to serve said houligans, and you don’t have to walk through any complicated streets to get there from the main drag; it’s on the southern part of the area. By day or night, you’ll find some of Vienna’s tastiest offerings here, and if you map out your day correctly, it fits perfectly into a shopping or sightseeing schedule.

Check out the gallery below for more pics of these sausage destinations and, of course, more sausage.

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My visit to Vienna was sponsored by the Vienna Tourist Board and Cool Capitals, but the opinions expressed in the article are 100% my own.

The supersized English Breakast

Hungry? You’d better be if you plan to dig into this monster breakfast. This plate makes the famous “Grand Slam” look positively tiny.

For a mere 10 Pounds (about 16 Dollars), you get 10 eggs, 10 strips of English bacon, 10 pork sausages, 10 slices of toast, 5 pieces of black pudding (fried blood and sausage), tomatoes, beans and mushrooms.

You’ll need to be in (or travel to) the UK for it, but if you are a breakfast fan, it may be worth the trip!

You’ll find it at Mario’s Cafe in Bolton, check the source page for more information as well as some other photos of this really bad way to start your day.