Category Archives: Slow Journey

Travels of the week

The Windows of Italy


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Filed under Another slow moment, Slow Journey

‘Tis Trout Season

10:00 am…..all the little fishes are stirring….

3:00pm……I’m clocking out of work, hopping on the bike, and headed for home….

3:03pm, I am hopping off the bike and in to the car where my husband has already packed up our waders, water, and snacks—–off to the river!

4:30pm…..

guess who is reeling in the big one of the day??!!…….

This time last year, my husband and I were fly fishing in Slovenia.

Trekking through the Julian Alps and fishing the Soca river was one of the most memorable experiences I have had.

Slovenia is a hidden gem.  This country has is it all; amazing culinary experiences, wine, gorgeous mountains rich in history, and rivers so clear and so turquoise that you would think you were in the Caribbean!

The reason for the  bright blue color in the water is all the limestone in the area.

And the Grayling seem to be very happy swimming in such a clean and clear water source…

We stayed at Hotel Hvala in Kobarid, which is about 2 hours from Venice, Italy.

This family run hotel was a pleasure to stay in.   The young brothers and sisters that run this hotel are eager to please.  Sitting at our table, the oldest sister would come over to take our order, then go to the table next to us and take their order in German, then the next in Italian, Slovenian, and French.  Because Slovenia is surrounded by so many different countries, they would learn all the languages in school as youth.

Every day, when we would come down to the dining area, our reservation cards sat patiently on our table awaiting our arrival.  Baskets of pastries, honey, and jam, platters of cured meats and cheeses, and fresh yogurt were dancing around our plates.  Breakfast was a traditional ‘ham and eggs’ plate that consisted of two large slabs of local  ham, seared in the pan, topped with fresh, bright orange -yolked eggs steamed to a perfect ‘over easy’ and garnished with peppercorns.

Lunches and dinners, in-house or out, were always five courses.  Thick rich soups, crisp garden fresh salads, tender pork with fresh peppercorns,  local venison stew, cured local meats, seafood, and intricate desserts…need I say more?

When we went on our all-day fishing trips, the restaurant packed our lunches for us.  Once again, five courses and a bottle of local wine; which was amazing by the way.  After eating fried chicken, various salads, meat and cheese courses, dessert, fresh bread and drinking wine in the middle of our fishing day, I could hardly manage to keep up for another 5 hours!  After all that amazing food and wine, I was ready for a nap!  I quickly learned that the Slovenians like to keep their guests’ glasses full as well.  After my first three glasses of wine, I started to wise up and began to drink slower.  On one of the rivers we were on, there was a huge fig tree that lent to a sweet afternoon snack—not that I needed more food!

This town is tiny, clean, and very walkable.  The houses are all very picturesque with flowers spilling out of every orifice. There is also an amazing pizza place and bakery there in town as well.The bakery made the largest cream puffs I’ve ever seen—and I enjoyed every moment of stuffing one in to my face!

 

Kobarid is rich in history.

Hiking through the Julian Alps, was like we had traveled through time. The Italian-Slovenian war of 1917, battle of Caporetto, took place here.  We had hiked through old barracks, up extremely steep and narrow mountain steps, across the Napoleon Bridge, and passed by old rock huts that the soldiers stayed huddled in for months on end through the cold barren winters.  Back in town, we visited the museum which has a numerous amount of memorabilia and floors of photographs, maps, and geographical layouts of the war.  The museum told the story in full and the caretaker could tell you even more, if you had any questions.

This is one country I would definitely like to go back to and explore some more.  If any of you get there, drop me a line and let me how you like it.

 

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Filed under Slow Journey, Your weekly mouthful

oh yeah, car camping

Last weekend was my friend’s birthday, so we packed up ‘the girls’ and went to the lake for the weekend.  It is quite a hefty ways out there, and winds through the mountains pretty good, but boy is it worth it.

Now, as we all know, I am more than happy to strap on the back pack and get deep in the mountains, but there is something to be said about car camping as well.

Just look at these pictures!

Nothing stirring but some large mouth bass…see his ripples in the water?

I love the early morning calm

So nice and warm to swim in too, like my own private spa

At about 6:08am the next morning a large woodpecker decided to sound the morning alarm

…right above our heads I might add!

Wearily, we decided to get up and fish a little while the others were still asleep.

Fresh press coffee in the woods always tastes so much better than at home, why is that???

I decided to make a batch of butter biscuits the day before and bring them for breakfast sandwiches….you can see how much is left after we got to them

I believe there was a large platter of bacon floating around somewhere too..mmmm

As far as the birthday cake went, I was trying to figure out what type of cake I could make her that would be stable enough for camping

I finally decided on my sourcream coffeecake recipe, that way I could keep it in the bundt pan for protection.

I made some lemon curd, which got dropped in the center by the dollop full, and picked a bowl of raspberries from the garden, that got heavily sprinkled throughout the batter.  Topped it with a lemon almond streusel and viola!

(I am more than happy to share this recipe if anyone would like it, just let me know)

Having very full bellies, we decided to go for a hike (with the exception of my husband who went fly fishing).

We drove over to the Joyce Kilmer National Forest.

This place is full of old growth Poplars and Hemlocks (which I am terribly sad to announce that the hemlocks are mostly all dead due to the Woolly Adelgid ).  None-the-less, the sights are quite amazing if you have the chance to make it over that way.  The loop is short, but there is another trail that connects at the beginning and has hours worth of back forest hiking to be had.

I apologize for the dark pictures, it was very shady in there.  It was also VERY humid and I couldn’t wait to go jump in the river on my way out when we went to pick up my husband!

…actually, we decided to stay a bit longer and fish the river

….I caught my first small mouth bass on the fly!

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Support Your local Farmers’ Markets

This weekend, I went to the farmers’ market in Raleigh.  It is a very nice market, with many, vegetable growers, cheese makers, local free range meet vendors, organic salsa makers, authentic German pastries, North Carolina wines, and jams and jellies galore!

After walking around, looking at all the fresh, spring vegetables, and tasting more than my alotted  amount of strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers, I decided to treat myself to an old fashioned lemonade!

It was terribly hot outside…mind you…..and I just needed something refreshing, and….well, I just couldn’t resist……

A large beautiful cup full of yummy lemons, limes, and oranges with just the right amount of sweetness! Perfecto!

Spring is such a wonderful time to go to the markets.  After a long winter, it is nice to see the fresh produce spread across tables, and spilling out of baskets just begging to get bought and made into a healthy, local meal.

One of my favorite signs attached to the vegetables read: “the dirt is free!”

MMMmmmm…..sweet berries, grown right here in North Carolina!! There were also ‘seedless’ blueberries!  Have you ever heard of such a thing???

One fun thing I came across, was a papaya squash.  It had a beautiful golden yellow color that shouted out from the table to me, so naturally, I had to get some.  The flavor was nice.  It had more of a squash flavor than the regular summer squash does, yet remained sweet.

Another table, of great interest to me, was the one with the beautiful German pastries on it.

A coincidence that I just happened upon this beautiful pastry table?????….

I think not   

Annelore Gstattenbauer, chef of Annelore’s, brings over 30 years of tradition in to the pastries.  I tried the, oh so classic, Linzer tart(who could resist?)… and the traditional Oktoberfest pretzel(with mustard, of course!).  The pretzel is not a soft pretzel, but a hard one that has a nice after-taste of malt.  The Linzer had very nice texture, not too sweet and a hint of cinnamon.  This was not just your regular old cinnamon either, Annelore’s cinnamon taste like fresh cinnamon oil with a hint of clove…a very distinct flavor.  They really take pride in their pastries there, and make sure the product is done correct and to tradition…..and we all know how I support tradition and culture!

I think the word is out on Annelore’s. As you can see from my pictures, there wasn’t much left!!

There was also a large amount of goat cheese.  Every flavor you could want!!  The fruity ones; strawberry, mango, cranberry, and honey & fig are wonderful, nice to spread on your toast in the morning.  The horseradish goat cheese lends a nice spicy kick and would go wonderful on a fat ham and gruyere sandwich!

Last, but not least….the locally made breakfast meats!

Ah yes, the smell of sizzling bacon in the morning, salty country ham getting stacked between fluffy butter and lard biscuits, and……well, do you see that large white pack in the middle?  That is fatback, a southerners’ pride and joy when it comes to cookin’—just throw a little of that in your green beans and viola!

I urge all of you to seek out your farmers’ market, support your neighbors who work so hard to bring you a local and seasonal crop, take the kids and visit the farm, know where your food comes from and be thankful for it!

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Early morn mountain hike

This morning I woke up at 6:30, exhausted from working long days on my feet at the bakery.  I rolled around for a while, and then got up at 7:00.  Rounded up the girls, Tala and Yana (AKA Nanners and Fuzz) our beloved doggies, and took them out.  As the cold chill of the morning stung, I quickly went back inside. Stumbling to the Gaggia espresso machine, which my husband and I praise every morning,  I make a ‘shot in the dark’ which quickly opens my eyes to the beautiful crisp early morning that is awaiting me.  The sun is lighting up the mountains like a spot light on a stage and I realize that I can’t wait any longer——the woods are calling.

Throwing a farm fresh egg in the pan with some local sausage and copious amounts of butter (only for non-sticking purposes of course…mmmm), toasting some fresh-baked bread, from yours truly ( and the help of Lionel Vatinet’s French recipe), I scarfed down breakfast, packed my pack, threw the girls in the car, and headed to the trail.  Tala could hardly wait; with paw on the top of the seat, head out the window, and tongue a flappin’ in the breeze!  15 minutes later and we are all running out of the car.  Aaahhhhh…..the quite mountains.  Nothing but bubbling creeks and birdies…..that’s what I needed.

It is nice that trails are everywhere around here.  You can go 5 minutes away or an hour away and find an amazing outdoor world here.  My husband, who felt the call of the wild earlier in the morning than I, was off fly fishing for the day.  I like to fly fish as well, but have seldom gone this spring due to not having waders—I need some warm sunshine if I’m going to stand in that 50 degree water all day!!

On my hike this morning, I had a goal:  to pick Branch Lettuce.  In the early spring, Branch Lettuce and Ramps are local fare here.  It is very exciting to the locals when these delectable little items are ready for the pickin’!  I hit one spot that I knew the lettuce grew at and picked a small amount.  Coming upon another small creek, I decided to follow it for a while, and BINGO…..mother load!  There were plants crawling all over a tiny, sandy beach in the middle of the creek ripe for the pickin’, so that’s what I did.  After picking a brimming gallon of tender leaves, we headed back to the car.  Wet doggies in the back and windows open, we were on our way back to the house with visions of recipes dancing in my head!

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