Halfway up the hill in the town of Šmihel, a scattered settlement in western Slovenia, close to Nova Gorica and the border with Italy. Kmetija Vrban (‘kmetija’ is the Slovenian word for ‘farmstead’) is unmissable if you follow the clear, red ‘Osmica‘ signs. Head up the road flanked by vineyards till you come to a spacious parking area below the house. Climb the wooden stairs leading to a wooden extension in front of the house, and sit down to a heart-warming meal.
Ready? Let’s eat! You may choose from a variety of starters: prosciutto, salami, cured pork neck (you might know it as ossocollo), pancetta, or you could have all these in one mixed platter. You could even have a portion of cheese soaked in olive oil, or fried prosciutto served in vinegar. I’ll go for the latter as I’ve never eaten this before.
For seconds: Farmer’s platter comprising pork steak, sausage, sauerkraut, and potatoes fried together with pork cracklings, referred to in Slovenia as ‘pražen krompir’ or ‘tenstan krompir’.
We’ll definitely have to make some space for dessert, we can’t leave this place without having the štruklji!
Let’s order: Dober dan! My husband takes over at times with his native Slovene. The waitress knows a bit of English and Italian. We’re having the fried prosciutto for starters, the only main course on the menu—the farmer’s platter (osmicas typically never serve more than one or two main course dishes), and the štruklji. And half a litre of the red house wine. The woman takes the order and hastily takes off.
She’s soon back with a monochrome serve-up of cooked cured meat that is the fried prosciutto served in vinegar. The colour of the meat blends very well with the surrounding wine-coloured juices. The first forkful gets my taste buds to pleasantly stand on edge. That’s what you get when you eat something vinegary: that sharp, tangy punch. But the juiciness mellows out the punch and makes the dish altogether very appetising. This is such a great twist on serving prosciutto, I might even try making that at home (not sure it will be half as good though.)
I’m now ready for the main dish that I can now enjoy with the wine, it being less acidic than the starter of course. All meat is cooked to perfection, not dry at all, and the sausage is flavourful due to the garlic, yet not overpowering. You can never go wrong with the fried potatoes mixed with pork scratchings. They’re always tasty and belly-warming.
And now for the dessert: Walnut štruklji, here they come. They’re the typical Vipava region version as their dough is yeasty, making it more fluffy or sponge-like as against the unleavened dough used in štruklji found in other regions of Slovenia. Vrban’s štruklji are sauce-free, simply adorned with a sugar dusting. Slightly too dry for my liking, but still a good ending to our meal, particularly as we are sipping the home-made cherry liqueur that we ordered to accompany the dessert.
Belly contented? Let’s walk out and admire the outdoor area: Two wine barrels serve as drinks tables on the terrace above the stairs, surrounded by colourful flower displays in their garden—picture-perfect, we take in the view of the vineyards and the hills behind the house…
Before we get into the car, let’s visit Vrban’s goats at the side of the parking area. There are at least ten of them, some young, some older. They certainly seem to be enjoying the sun and the view of the vineyards below. Our little one tries to get their attention by throwing a few strands of hay through the fence.
We’re having a relaxing time taking in Vrban’s surroundings, but we’d better get moving on to our next destination, which is the Olive Oil and Wine Festival happening in the nearby town of Šempas.
Vrban’s prosciutto with a twist will certainly linger in my memory. Hmmmm…