This was not good. We crossed the border from Croatia to Slovenia when we noticed all the passengers from the bus in front of us going through customs and every single piece of luggage being opened and examined. We groaned thinking of all the time it was going to take when all we wanted to do was get to Italy, have dinner and get a good night’s sleep. We heaved a collective sigh of relief when a few minutes later after a cursory check of our passports we were waved through. A few hours later, all was good again as we were given a warm welcome at La Subida in Cormòns, Friuli, Italy.
We had been in Zagreb, Croatia for the International Wine Tourism Conference, many of us jet-lagged from lengthy travels. La Subida is a charming restaurant. A crackling fire warmed us as we sipped Prosecco and ate prosciutto carved from the bone. After we had our fill, we adjourned to the cozy dining room for the first of several Fruilian feasts. While proprietor Joško Sirk told us the history of La Subida, the first course was presented, a stunning combination of cheese, pears and nuts topped with onion rings. They were light as a feather. This was the first of many dishes I had never seen before. A “dry soup” followed – small pasta with sausage and radicchio with pomegranate arils, both beautiful and delicious. That course was followed by gnocchi with roast beef sauce and then an “intermezzo.” Grape vinegar sorbet. The main course came up next, veal shank with peas, potatoes and cabbage. We ended the evening with not one, not two, but three desserts. Homemade cookies, a crème brûlée trio with a lavender flavored one and chocolate mousse. Wines with dinner were Carlos Pradis Merlot and Verduzzo Friuliano Giallo. The family established the business in 1947 and their philosophy is to re-discover forgotten dishes and they believe cuisine should change with society.
La Subida isn’t just a restaurant, they also have lodging. I stayed in a cabin across the street and just a short way down the road. This two story cabin featured a fireplace and a kitchen and I’d describe it as rustic modern. It was extremely comfortable and the next morning when I woke up, I looked out the window to see deer grazing in the vineyards. I walked down the hill and back to the osteria for breakfast. A warm fire, fresh fruits, prosciutto and cappuccino and I was good to go. I could get used to freshly made cappuccino on a daily basis and I think I ate more prosciutto in three days than I have in the rest of my life.
It was a brisk morning with grey skies and we arrived at Liz Neris Winery in the Isonzo wine region and met director Alvaro Pecorari who told us the history of the winery and the vineyards. It was lovely to hear the nearby church bells tolling while he talked. We toured the modern winery and it was interesting to see a barrel with a clear plexiglass head to witness a demonstration of the stirring of the lees. We adjourned to the tasting room to sample the end result. Lis Neris produces exceptional wines. I especially enjoyed the 2011 Pinot Gris.
Our next stop was to a local cheese producer, Agriturismo Zoff. Owners Laura Zoff and her husband and father gave us the grand tour, showing us the cheeses in various states of aging. We went out and saw their Pezzata Rossa Italiana cows that they have been breeding for three generations. We walked inside for a cheese tasting. The wood burning stove was providing much needed warmth and we also learned they operate a bed and breakfast. It’s a totally charming spot and I will certainly book a room there next time I’m fortunate enough to find my self in Friuli. We ended the tasting with a delicious dulce de leche that they mixed into their homemade yogurt.
From there it was off to lunch at Terra & Vini. The charming Elda Felluga made us feel most at home, and again, plate after plate of sensational food came to the table accompanied by the magnificent wines of Livio Felluga. The Refosco was sensational as was the Friuliano and Pinot Grigio.Bread, rolls, cheese, polenta and prosciutto got us started, followed by a savory gnocchi with the first herbs of spring, bread crumbs and cheese. For the main course we enjoyed Stinco di Vitello, a braised Veal Shank with peas and potatoes. Dessert was a simple vanilla bean gelato with fresh strawberries. Fresh, simple and tasty is the key at Terra & Vini. The menu changes daily.
We strolled the colorful streets of Cormòns taking in the sights, smells and sounds. As in nearly every small village you visit, it’s rich in history and steeped in culture. After a good, much needed walk, we stopped at the Enoteca di Cormòns for a glass of wine.
Next stop, Villa Russiz Winery and a bit of an adventure. We arrived at the property, the skies still grey and a chill in the air and we waited. We waited a bit longer and then finally after a few frantic cell phone calls the gates opened and we were led into this beautiful 1868 estate. Giovanni Genio led us through a tasting and we enjoyed yet more prosciutto and the fine wines of Villa Russiz. Villa Russiz is a foundation run by a board of directors. A portion of the proceeds from the estate goes to the Children’s Home on the property.
As the rain started to become more steady, we concluded our day with an incredible dinner at Lokanda Devetak in Savogna d’Isonzo. We were welcomed with 2010 Vitovska Carso “Castello di Rubbia – Grad Rubije.” The Slovenian influence is clearly felt here. A leek and sausage tartlett with saffron sauce was paired with a 2011 Friuliano. Risotto with Karst cheese was paired with an ’08 Malvasia. For an entrée we enjoyed Guinea fowl breast in herb bacon with a purée of stewed savoy cabbage and pan-cooked potatoes accompanied by 2009 “Il Carpino” Cabernet Sauvignon from San Floriano del Collio. Dessert was a Karst honey semifreddo with apricot purée in a puff-pastry basket. This is a wonderful restaurant with heavenly food and a very homey atmosphere.
My most sincere thanks to Vino e Sapori – Friuli Venizia Giulia and their amazing hosts.