Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dinner at La Subida

We were at the Radikon winery, a visit which is very well documented here. After an excellent and wine soaked lunch with the family Sasa Radikon inquired if we had ever been to La Subida, and we all said no. "Well then you have to go," Sasa replied, and it was decided. As night started to fall, we arrived in Cormons, at the border of Europes. Cormons is in Italy, but Slovenia shares the same brisk air. It can be hard today to notice the change, if you do find yourself in Slovenia, as we had earlier. The radio stations are different. Cars drive with their lights on during the day, as per Slovenian law. Men wield large hands and might shave their hair close, but they do so on the Italian side of the border as well. In other words, the chasm between the worlds is not vast, despite the spent artillery casings dotting the landscape and lost genealogies blotted out by past wars.

At La Subida, the influence of two cultures is clearly felt, and as if they were one.

Josko Sirk is the kindly keeper of this place, the restaurant and inn he runs with his family. His own parents resided in Yugoslavia, before leaving there to move to Cormons. Josko greeted us as we arrived with frico lollipops and a large cured ham leg that he sliced with a long knife. Both were delicious. In the hall were the various bottles of Ribolla Gialla vinegar and high quality olive oil that Josko produces and sells here.

As we turned towards the dining room, a boisterous and lush palette of flowers welcomed us.

The more permanent decorations made reference to the natural world as well.

A setting the inhabitants here never seem to be far from.

The poised maitre d' greeted us and showed us to our table.

The servers offered up kind smiles.

And were humble in a disarming manner.

The tools of this place were also its decorations.

Here a plate might be many colored. A world in itself.

The dining room was full on the night of our visit, and the guests radiated a quiet contentment.

The wine list - entirely devoted to the wines of Friuli - began with an invocation to friends. It was very much a thrill to read, and a trove of local names and back vintages.

Here we could try wines rarely seen outside of this place, such as this one that was new to us.

The Paraschos winery was founded in 1998 by a family of Greek origin. This wine was aged for 6 months in beeswax lined clay amphora from Greece and Crete. It was a blend of mostly Ribolla Gialla and then Chardonnay, partly sourced from the same Slatnik vineyard that Radikon also works. For me the wine showed that simplicity that Chardonnay can lend when macerated with its skins, and also less clay influence than you might think given the amount of time it was aged inside amphora. Clearly the wax lining is not terribly thin. But the wine was entirely pleasant, very drinkable, and went wonderfully with our first bite of food.

Which turned out to be a blend of cheese, polenta, and a spring herb that may have been the single most delicious restaurant dish I have been served in quite some time. Really good and it pretty much set the tone for what would be one of the best meals I have ever been served in an Italian restaurant.

The salt here was delicious, and the celery water was a good condiment as well. Of course the meat was excellent.

As the glasses were now empty we gladly returned to the wine list, and we chose, after an initial misfire on my part which was held against me for pretty much the entirety of the rest of the trip, a wine from our friend Sasa, this magnum of 2001 Ribolla. This wine was utterly fantastic, and just became more so in the glass as we enjoyed it for over an hour. Really a triumph for Radikon, and more credence to my own contention that 2001 can be the best of recent vintages in Friuli, a grouping which would also have to include 1997, 2000, and 2004 for consideration.

The wine was soon joined at the table by more spring herbs, the simplicity of their look belying the complexity of their flavors. This was also accented by the Sirk vinegar.

A spaetzle like noodle dish with grated cheese and edible flowers soon followed. Everything about this was tremendous to eat.

Another pasta brought deeper, more savory and bitter tones. Spring herbs again had a large influence.

And then a surprise blind tasting, which turned out to be Radikon Pinot Noir 2003. Yes, Radikon makes a Pinot Noir, but only for their own consumption, as sort of an experiment. The grapes are sourced from a vineyard in Slovenia owned by Sasa's grandfather. The vines were planted in 1995. The heat of 2003 was of course felt here too, so I don't know how typical this Pinot Noir is for Radikon's production, but I would say that the wine held more of the ripe fruit whallop possible of Pinot and less of the elegance. There was a decidedly rustico quality as well. Still, a treat to try, and totally unexpected.

It was nice to have a glass of rustic red to pair with this dish of deer meat.

And red certainly wasn't out of place here, either.

Desserts were heralded by this small offering in a jam jar.

Which was then followed by this oversized platter of cookies, of which I ate several, er, most (ok, almost all, I admit it).

And many several desserts, of which I was only able to get a picture of one before the battle of competing forks consumed my full attention.

La Subida was included in this book, should you wish to track it down and explore the food further. The chef of the restaurant is Alessandro Gavagna, who is Josko's son-in-law. I certainly would not hesitate to cite his food as being some of the very finest I have had in Italy.

But really it is the whole atmosphere of the place, how it is run in all its aspects, that is so wonderful. Details have been seen and attended to, but fussiness has never crept in. The sense of concern is tangible, but it manifests itself in your well being, not in their showiness. You might never wish to leave.

And of course we didn't leave before first partaking of the fruits del distillato.

And again enjoying something delicious from the Sirk family.


Alex said...

Great post, one of my favourite places in the world. Looking forward to revisiting this year. One thing, the vinegar, though amazing, is not balsamic.

Levi Dalton said...

Thanks for pointing this out, Alex. I appreciate it. I've gone ahead and made the correction.