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By Andrew Villone

Slovenia’s tourism board likes to make it known they’re the only country with LOVE in its name, and although it’s a bit cheesy, it certainly rings true when it comes to the country’s multitude of boutique artisans, food producers, and winemakers.  You can really taste the love and hard work they put into their creations. It’s quite evident in the eastern most part of Slovenia, known as Prekmurje or to tourists ‘the chicken head.’ (Look at a map and you’ll spot Slovenia looks like a chicken running towards Hungary). It’s idyllic countryside is filled with corn fields, small vineyards, and traditional artisans making everything from black pottery to decorative gingerbread hearts.

{{ image(2803, {“class”: “flor round”, “width”:”300″, “height”:”200″, “method”: “img”}) }}This is where I met Tomaz and his wife Jasmina. They own Passero Farm Shop and Vineyards. “I didn’t know what to study at first,” said Tomaz. “My mom was a pharmacist and my dad a chemist, but also worked as a judge for salamis in Slovenia’s longest held contest.” So Tomaz chose to study food science and technology in the country’s capital of Ljubljana. There he met Jasmina, just a study partner at first, but things between blossomed in their last semester.  And so it was love that inspired him to start making chocolates. Tomaz was looking for a unique present to give to Jasmina so he started work in his kitchen on one of his many food experiments. The results were chocolates that combined local flavors from the region: elderflower, Traminer grapes, and everyone’s favorites – pumpkin seed oil with crushed seeds. Pumpkin seed oil you ask? This ubiquitous dark green oil is an essential part of Slovenia’s culinary world and its nutty, tangy taste is standard for salads and dipping bread. But when you pair it with a simple vanilla ice cream or infuse it into dark chocolate – watch out!

But Tomaz and Jasmina’s work doesn’t stop with just chocolates. They are also winemakers and pumpkin seed oil producers. They craft wonderful marmalades and juices from their orchards. Jasmina’s father takes care of sausages and dried meats while his wife makes the king of desserts from Prekmurje – gibanica. Gibanica is a multi-layered cake filled with poppy seeds, cottage cheese, walnuts and apples and of course it finds its way into their truffle fillings as well.

Their family shop plays like a Prekmurje 101 for Beginners filled with traditional, hand-crafted foods. But like so many people I meet in Slovenia, there’s always more on offer. Just a few kilometers from their store lies their private restaurant. Here you can sample a trio of white wines with plates of cold cuts: smoked ribs with bean salad and pressed sausage with pumpkin oil and onions. Simple yet delicious. And with views out to their vineyards it makes for a near perfect Sunday afternoon.

Passero is featured on numerous Savor The Experience Tours, including the Savor Slovenia & Istria Slow Food Tour (Oct 28 – Nov 4) – designed for those looking for a unique experience post-Terra Madre.

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We’re grateful to Savor The Experience Tours for being a Small Business Supporter of Slow Food USA. With their help, we’re building a world where everyone can enjoy food that is good, clean, and fair.