Intro by Gabriele Stabile

Text by Roberta Virgilio

Video by Ari Takahashi

Gabriele says

When Mazzo and Roberta Virgilio first gave me a hint of a new joint effort I was immediately curious. I had seen chefs turning closet sized restaurants to fried chicken shacks before but after all this is Italy and in the kitchen we do it better. The crumb mix Francesca, Marco and Roberta came up with has the power of conjuring up memories of lost childhood and the excitement of modern day refreshment. Food, sometimes, can be reassuring and comforting and relevant and exciting at the same time. This is one of those times. If you make it to Legs ( please open one downtown, or an ape truck, I can drive! ) you’ll probably go for the fried chicken sandwiches ( featuring dark meat ), but also the wings and the fries ( old fellas they pick themselves ) are equally satisfying. Great beers and all in all, solid summertime hang. 

Roberta @ Legs

Legs, as often happens, has its birth from nightly chats at a counter between friends, friends belonging to the world of food, to the world of beer, but also – luckily – able to be completely transversal to different sectors, worlds and passions. It seeds in a relationship with the guys of Mazzo, Francesca and Marco, built up in the last two years to a friendship, made of evenings in Via delle Rose 54 imagining worlds and ways of contaminating and nourishing the sphere of cooking with other interests and paths.

So while Francesca and Marco outlined the idea of the tour and of Mazzo Invaders, we talked about what could happen of Via delle Rose 54, how many transformations it could undergo and how it could become the scene of other and different catering realities. We imagined ghost restaurants, deliveries but also the opportunity to say goodbye to the space that had hosted the lucky 6 years of Mazzo and its life. Then one day they talked to me  about the idea-meeting Mazzo&Artisan, good beer and crispy fried chicken, and, given my experience, it was completely natural to turn ideas and images into numbers, procedures and methods that could be realized even without their hands.

That’s how the possibility of translating this new Mazzo&Artisan combo into Legs was born. Since the definition of the idea I played the role of Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar offering a different point of view from that of both, planning  operationally and numerically the sustainability of the format.

It was very interesting to take a dish that is a symbol of Mazzo and the Italian spirit , which belongs to their cuisine and has always been made according to the highest quality criteria, and making possible for  it to be reproduced in almost total fidelity without compromising its replicability and standardization, over time and with the idea of opening it in different stores and therefore locations.

So, in addition to having studied with them a business plan that could make them imagine what life they could expect in Via delle Rose 54, I had the opportunity to express the two main souls of my training and my life choices: food product engineering and the procedure definition 

I also had the pleasure of helping Francesca and Marco with my presence in Rome, while they took off and landed with the first stages of Mazzo Invaders. Respect and mutual trust did the rest.

Afternoons of overdosing on fried chickens and marinated cabbage were the scenarios of the discussions, if you can call them so, on what techniques and tricks could make life easier for Legs. And so we arrived to the choice of boned thighs, the famous and juicy brown meat, tastier and with a more interesting texture compared to the breast  (among other things already in the process of being included  in the offer for other uses, as well as the skin – because the philosophy of nose-to-tail-eating remains fundamental – to name one of the places of the heart that I share with Francesca and Marco). We selected suppliers of potatoes that could give us  old potatoes which have the right moisture content and perform best in frying.

We studied what we shared as one of the elements that most of all bore the identity of Mazzo and the Italian identity of Legs: bread for the coating. It has been produced by hand for years by Marco to obtain a coarse grain but perfectly balanced with its finest components, the breadcrumbs used to coat  Mazzo’s fried chicken was also included as a souvenir in the tote bag of gifts of the 5th anniversary of Mazzo, seasoned with the historic onion powder that gives it a spicy note. How to make it in quantity and in a more agile way was one of our first concerns  and then the epiphany in a memory: as a child my mother made me use the meat grinder to make  breadcrumbs at home. And so, between amarcord and tradition, the trick was done

Standards, procedures, replicability, many words that often move away from the concept of quality, freshness and fun. Not for me; in fact I imagine and see a path in the opposite direction in these same words.  I aim to apply these concepts to projects aimed at  sharing and quality, without forgetting fun and economy, sustainability in all its forms.

Video by Ari Takahashi who, after a recent visit at Legs, came with me for a centocelle shoyu ramen. More on that soon, hopefully. 

Legs

Via delle Rose, 54

00171 Roma (RM)

Tel: +39 06 6496 2847

Words by David J Constable

Photos by Richard Haughton

Authentic cheddar, consumed with voracity around the world, is made by only a handful of artisan producers in the south-west of England, passionate cheese-makers who keep the ancient traditions alive, satisfying the cravings of ardent cheese connoisseurs.

HOLY COWS

It’s a beautiful spring morning in the south-west of England. The sun is shining (a rare thing to happen here), and the cows move across the plains in slow, purposeful movements. I can see a multitude of breeds, predominately robust and healthy British Friesian and Swedish Red-and-Whites. These thick-set, wide-hipped, large-breasted females appear perfectly in tune with the rhythm of the countryside; eating, sleeping and farting merrily.

Returning to the fields from their morning milking, the heavy-hanging udders wobble like a fat man’s chin, emptied of their milk they are now ready to swell-up all over again. These cows are the starting point for so many things we enjoy every day, from milk, butter and yoghurt to ice cream, eggnog (ewwww – blame the Americans) to, of course, cheese. So, let us move over to the cheese part of the story.

Yes, beautiful, wonderful, delicious, varietal cheese in all of its many forms. Cheese. Cheese. Cheese. It’s one of the great culinary evils, and I can’t stop eating it. Who eats a little piece of cheese, ey? Have a think, I’ll wait. No one, you see. I eat slice after slice after slice, before realising that I’ve eaten the whole fucking wheel. If I’m not cutting chunks and eating it directly, then I’m grating it on my morning eggs, melting it in soups, baking it in the oven. I dip my bread in it, dip my finger in it, I even stick my tongue in it, licking up all of the deliciously gooey, addictive drug that is the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, booty-shaking, earth-quaking, goddam fucking joy that is CHEESE. And it’s these beasts in the field, these fat, sleeping, farting, cows we have to thank for that.

This is the idea: I wanted to work in reverse. Beginning with a single wheel (or truckle) of cheese, I’d take the necessary steps backwards to discover its origin; back to the curd, the churning, the milk, the milking, the cows, the fields. I wanted to go behind-the-scenes of the cheese-making process. I wanted to meet the cows, the farmers, the cheese-makers, so I decided to travel to one of the oldest dairy and cheese-making regions in the UK, to Cheddar in Somerset. Here I’d visit the ancient caves where wheels of cheese are aged, and I’d visit those people responsible for making it, the people who keep the old traditions alive. If you’re going to explore and write about cheddar, there’s only one place to start.

A JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF CHEDDAR

Richard (my travelling photographer companion) and I took a road trip to Somerset, a rural county of rolling hills, famous for the Glastonbury Festival, its cider and its  cheese. Province is essential; in fact, it’s everything. Think balsamic vinegar of Modena, Chianti Classico of Siena and Florence, Sabina oil of Lazio. In terms of Italian cheeses, there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, all proudly bound by province and their DOP status, but the story of cheddar is different. Yes, there is a place and a cheese called Cheddar, but it is not about the province, but the process. Still, to learn the full story there is only one place to go, and so

There are many stories about how the now iconic cheese came into being. There’s the one about the milkmaid who left a bucket of milk accidentally in the caves, returning to find it had transformed into something more interesting. Another, that the Romans may have brought the recipe to Britain from the Cantal region of France. What is known about the area of Cheddar is that it has been at the centre of England’s dairy industry since at least the 12th Century, with the earliest references to cheese dating from 1170. With the absence of refrigeration or adequate transport, there was a problem with surplus milk. That problem was solved by turning milk into cheese. Cheese-makers discovered that if you pressed the fresh curd to squeeze out the moisture, the cheese lasted much longer. This method of cheese-making along with other refinements was perfected in the Cheddar area, and so the first authentic cheddar cheese was born.

THE CAVES

Our first stop on this cheddar pilgrimage, was to the famous caves, a place of ancient myth and quite possibly the birthplace of cheddar itself. It was in these caves that the oldest complete human skeleton ever found in Britain was discovered; aged at around 9,000 years old. He was named, rather appropriately as “The Cheddar Man”. 

The Caves of The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company

The caves themselves are located in a vast gorge, a long, narrow valley between the mountains, which weaves its way like a flowing river through the Somerset countryside. The area is underlain by Black Rock slate and formed by meltwater floods during the cold periglacial periods. Of the many caves, the two most accessible and open to the public, are Gough’s Cave and the smaller Cox’s Cave – which are said to have inspired Helm’s Deep in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers (1954). Luckily for us, it’s after-hours, and the tourists and school buses have departed, leaving the caves open for discovery.

Along with our guide, John Spencer, Managing Director of The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company – a family-owned, independent small artisan producer, and the only company making cheddar in Cheddar – we enter through a wide passage, into the cold, dank, grotto-like cavity. Sharp, pointy stalagmites and stalactites hang from the ceiling, dangling above me like shark’s teeth. On the walls, dark splotches of mould help to create an environment John describes as “perfect for maturing cheese”.

Cheddars aging inside of the caves at The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company

The influence of the cave environment is remarkable in terms of texture and taste; creating the perfect temperature, with zero interference. The cave-ageing treatment has been used for hundreds of years, although, in more recent times, maturation and ageing rooms closer to the dairy have taken over. The use of the caves to aid in the maturation process was reintroduced by the company in 2006 and resulted in the cheese developing a deeper creaminess and a flavour profile that sets them apart.

We walked deeper into the cave and further into the darkness. It’s eerie, almost impossible to see except for a few small bulbs that pop on like stars in the milky way. A series of tall cages become visible towards the rear, each housing truckles of cheese, wheel upon wheel upon wheel, wrapped in muslin to protect any foreign bacteria coming into contact and messing up the perfectly balanced probiotic cycle. On closer inspection, I can smell the slightest tinge of ammonia mixed with a nutty scent, and it reminds me of winters in London and the men who roast chestnuts on Westminster Bridge. Up close the round truckles are blotchy with mould, splatters of green, grey, purple and orange. It’s a beautiful display of vivid colours, like ink splashed across a canvas or an art installation honouring Jackson Pollock.

Cheddar Moulds

The wheels are only a few months old, having been produced in the dairy by The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, down the road. Upon leaving the dairy, they are taken to the maturation room where they’ll be stored for 12 weeks, before moving to the caves, where they are aged for six months (Mellow Cheddar); 12 months (Mature); and between 18 and 24 months (Vintage). By the time we depart the caves, stepping back out into the light, my nostrils have been consumed with the smell of old cheddar. We make our way down the gorge towards the process room, where the milk arrives each morning before being turned into curd and eventually, cheese. Around 70 tonnes is produced annually – a small figure compared to the bigger, corporate cheese producers – and last year won prizes in The British Cheese Awards, The Global Cheese Awards and The World Cheese Awards.

While the likes of Montgomery’s, Westcombe and Keen’s – who together, created one of the first UK Slow Food Presidia, for ‘Artisan Somerset Cheddar’ – are the only three producers in Somerset making farmhouse cheddar, The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company are the only people making and selling cheese in Cheddar itself. Producers the world over follow a similar recipe, but the differences between their cheeses are vast, and the style and quality labelled as cheddar vary greatly, with some processed cheeses being packaged as “cheddar” while bearing little resemblance.

CHEDDARING


Coagulation – cooking the curds during the manufacture of cheddar cheese. The curd is stirred constantly during this step to avoid uneven cooking or overcooking.

Returning to province, we have established that there is a place called Cheddar, but that the cheese itself does not hold PDO status. Instead, I learn that “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar” can be applied to those cheeses that have been produced from local milk within Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, and manufactured using traditional techniques. The techniques required include ‘cheddaring’, and it is this process which has become the most essential and defining process of producing cheddar.

Taking all of the above into consideration, none of it has stopped other countries making cheese and labelling it “cheddar”. In 2007, a French-owned cheese company based in Scotland called Lactalis McLelland was named as Supreme Champion by the British Cheese Awards for their “Seriously Strong Cheddar”, beating 867 kinds of cheese. Those in the aforementioned English counties using local, unpasteurised milk and applying the ‘cheddaring’ process are the only cheese-makers who can officially call their product authentic.

To witness the cheddaring process, Richard and I make our way over to Keen’s and their Moorhayes Farm. When we talk about cheddar today, the first name that springs to mind is Keen’s. Here you have a proper, bonafide cheese-making family, five generations of award-winning producers who have been making unpasteurised cheddar since 1899. In 2013, they won the UK Supreme Champion at the World Cheese Awards, although they were already popular and well known to cheese connoisseurs prior to this, the award thrust them onto the world stage.

We’re meet by George Keen, the man responsible for the day-to-day operations of the farm and who, along with his brother, Stephen, and his son, James, continues the traditions of the family who have made cheese on these premises for decades. Their mother, Dorothy, learnt cheese-making at the Somerset Farm Institute in Cannington, and it was their Great Aunt Jane who pressed her first truckle in 1899 and set the wheels in motion for the family business. The farm itself presents a careful process of bovine care, with large cattle shed set up like a day-spa with soft-hay sleeping partitions, bountiful troughs of food and designated massage areas where the cows can press their rumps against spinning brushes.


Draining the curds – The curd is broken into small granules then whey is removed from the curds by allowing it to drain out of the vat. When most of the whey is gone, the curds are raked to either side of the vat, allowing whey to drain down the middle of the two piles.

George and James work in a happy, symbiotic partnership. It’s a process and a routine they have done over and over. The farm and dairy give off a relaxing atmosphere – once you get past the smell of cow shit – and offer a happy-go-lucky environment nestled in quiet seclusion within the Somerset countryside. For instance, cows are not urged to leave their pasture, but instead, return to the dairy for milking whenever they feel. It’s a simple, mechanically run operation in which the cows approach a machine themselves for self-milking. Each cow is fitted with a 5G smart collar which controls the robotic milking system and records the time and volume of milk so that everything is monitored and recorded. I watch as they install themselves for self-milking – it takes 250 litres of milk to make one whole cheese – while others sit sprawled across hay, a farting choir of cows producing a loud morning chorus. The milk here is not stored or transported. It is not tampered with at all. Only unpasteurised milk will do. This can sometimes mean the milk is difficult to work with and unpredictable, which is why it is even more essential that the cheese-makers at Keen’s are experts at making excellent quality cheese.

Cheddaring – Cheddaring is a unique process in making Cheddar cheese that involves the cutting and stacking of curd to squeeze additional whey out. It is a multi-step process that reduces whey content, adjusts the acidity, adds characteristic flavour and results in a denser and sometimes crumbly texture.

James demonstrates the all-important cheddaring process, during which the curds are cut and pressed together into slabs. The slabs are stacked on top of each other, the weight of each pressing out any moisture. They are then cut, pressed into slabs again and re-stacked. The process continues until almost all of the whey is expelled. When the ‘cheddaring’ process is over (it takes about an hour), the curd is passed through a mill to cut it into smaller, even-sized pieces. Salt – another crucial ingredient – is added to stabilise the curd and to stop bacteria growing. Then, the cheese is put into moulds and left to drain before it is pressed for three days, bathed in hot water and then smeared with hot lard and wrapped in three layers of muslin, a permeable coating that allows air to get to the cheese and moisture to evaporate. As James testifies it’s a long, tiresome and laborious process, a gruelling workout, day-after-day-after-day, like lifting weights in the gym. The result is James having shoulders like a battering ram and biceps that pop like Popeye on steroids.

Cheddaring –The curd is constantly cut and turned in a repetitive process that lasts one hour.

As the cheese ages, the surface becomes gradually colonised by those wonderful splotches of multicoloured mould. Looking at a well-aged cheddar cheese, you could be forgiven for thinking that its looks rather rank and is well past human consumption; however, some of the most prized cheddars are aged over 18 months, covered in mould and dark spores. The ideal maturation time, according to George, is between 10 and 12 months, though cheese here can mature for up to two years. Keen’s also produced a 29 month aged that has a nutty flavour and long finish – something I could quickly develop a severe habit for. “What we don’t want is a sharp, acid cheese,” George explains. “The cheese should promote the intricate range of flavours that exists in a raw milk cheese.”

Milling the curd – The mill will cut the cheddarised curd into about 1.3 cm pieces. During this process, the milled curds are constantly stirred to avoid re-matting.

THE GREAT CHEDDAR BOOM

Back at The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, John takes me to the back of the processing room, where a small museum is dedicated to the history of this special cheese. Black and white photographs adorn the walls and show the old men with medieval farming tools alongside off-duty workers enjoying cheese sandwiches and drinking milk from sloshing jugs. I’m able to gain a better understanding here, not just of cheese-making, but the importance of farming in the region and how it contributed to the industry, both in Somerset and across wider Britain.

Salting the curd –Then, salt is added to the curd slices and stored by hand in order to distribute the salt evenly.

Central to the modernisation and standardisation of cheddar was the 19th century Somerset dairyman, Joseph Harding. For his technical innovations, promotion of dairy hygiene and volunteer dissemination of modern cheese-making techniques, he has been dubbed “The Father of Cheddar Cheese”. Harding stated that cheddar cheese is “not made in the field, nor in the byre, nor even in the cow, it is made in the dairy”.

It was Harding and his wife who were behind the introduction of the cheese into Scotland and North America. His sons, Henry and William Harding, were responsible for introducing cheese production to Australia and facilitating the establishment of the cheese industry in New Zealand, where today, it is still produced en masse. Cheddar had gone global, competing with big cheeses on the international scene. What better way to stick two fingers up to the French, than be rivalling them and their egotistical, nouvelle nonsense fromage.

Packaging and pressing – The curds are placed into moulds lined with muslin cloth that will be used to press the curds and form the blocks of Cheddar. This is to ensure that the last of the whey residue and any water retained is reduced.

In more recent times, Britain has moved to the very top of the international league table of cheese producers, overtaking France. As of 2018, the UK was producing 750 varieties of cheese, 100 more than France, despite the French eating twice as much. According to a United States Department of Agriculture researcher, and a 2014 article titled “The Biggest Cheese” in The Boston Globe, cheddar is the world’s most popular cheese and the most studied type in scientific publications.

Before the 19th Century, however, cheddar was already having an influence, notably in the courts of kings. Both King Henry II and Charles I publicly announced their adoration for the stuff with administrative records showing that both kings made purchasing the very first batches of its production a priority, wanting to ensure that it was only available through them. These kings were, it would seem, the supermarket buyers of their day, the upper-crust suppliers and go-to cheesemongers of Britain.

James & George

Even the great writer Daniel Defoe wrote of the cheese in his book A Tour of the Islands of Great Britain (1724), describing it as “the greatest [cheese], and best of its kind in England.” Defoe wrote, “It is called our English parmesan and brought to the table with the mites so thick around it that they bring a spoon for you to eat the mites with, as you do the cheese.”

And, the British explorer Captain Scott took 3,500lbs (nearly 1,600 kg) of cheddar with him on his famous expedition to the Antarctic in 1901. Enduring months of freezing temperatures, Scott and his men, along with English cheddar, also dined on seal meat, penguin blubber, turtle soup and drank pints of lime juice. Cheddar was becoming a necessity for many and was an identifier of England, becoming one of the essential products the English produced and consumed. Here was a cheese growing in status, building on reputation, collected and consumed by writers, poets, explores and even royalty. Not only was it growing in popularity, but it was symbolic, a defining slice of English and British culture. All cheeses are nationalistic when you think about it; they are nation-defining artefacts: English Cheddar, French Camembert, Swiss Gruyère, Italian Parmigiano.

Aging – The aging room of the Keen’s: they press the cheddar for 3 days, then smear with hot lard and wrap in three layers of muslin, before taking the truckles of cheese to the ageing room.

ALL HAIL CHEDDAR

What was once all farmland and dairies in Somerset, is now only a few farmsteads, as land is sold to overseas investors and the profession of farming appears less than appealing to a new generation. Hundreds of cheese-makers dwindled to only a few, a few select people who work to preserve and keep ancient traditions alive. While cheddar continues to be produced and consumed across the world, only a small number can be found in Somerset. As for those cheese-makers producing cheddar actually in Cheddar, only one remains.

Cheddar is a hard cheese though, literally and metaphorically, one that will fight the fight and continue on its journey. It has already led a fascinating history, influencing the lives of writers, explorers and royals. Even now, it creates buzz and excitement, and has the cheese-world talking. Now, it’s moves forward, forging t a new future and a new story, one that began all those years ago, by accident, in the caves of Somerset, within the Gorges of Cheddar, to eventually ending up on kitchen tables and cheese boards around the world.

George inside Keen’s aging room

The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company Ltd.

The Cliffs

Cheddar

Somerset BS27 3QA – Regno Unito

Tel: + 44 1934 742810

www.cheddaronline.co.uk

Keen’s Cheddar Ltd

Moorhayes Farm

Verrington Lane

Wincanton BA9 8JR – Regno Unito

Tel: + 44 1963 32286

www.keenscheddar.co.uk

Words by David J Constable

Photos by Suzan Gabrijan

An exploration of the Soča Valley – a place of sleepy villages, dairy farms and rolling fields – proves a happy hunting ground for Ana Roš’ new cheese-centric menu.

Just as you can’t choose your family, you can’t choose your neighbours either. Bad neighbours can lead to Shakespearean dramas, dissent going back decades. But, if you’re fortunate enough to have good neighbours, then your life can be positively rosy and both sides of the fence benefit. Take Slovenia. The tiny speck of a country in Central Europe, entangled by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, sees neighbours positioned often miles apart. It is a place of sleepy villages and dairy farms, of spring-sprung meadows, dense forestry and crystalline rivers. Communities are made up of half-timbered houses and family-run operations. Slovenians produce an impressive amount of victuals: stockpiling mulberries, collecting pollen, turning over gallons of homemade beer and buckling cellar shelves under the weight of Alpine cheese. There’s a robust agrarian mentality, an understanding that the land is part of nature, a slice of everyone’s life.

For Ana Roš, everything is here. She draws the bedroom curtains to reveal a bulging allotment, spilling over with produce. It’s this that influences her and what will play a pivotal role in the new cheese-centric menu at Hiša Franko. The current menu consists of around 70% cheese already, but she has plans to up this percentage to create a 100% cheese and vegetable menu. “It’s a natural move,” Ana tells me during a visit in April, “this garden-to-table approach is what Slovenian people do, it’s not a gimmick or a trend. This isn’t new for us. It’s our life story”.

Ana Rôs e Valter Kramar

The cheese story begins in Slovenia’s villages, where families breed dairy cows – predominately the Braunvieh breed – and pass cheesemaking habits down the generations. “I know all of our suppliers personally,” Ana says. “If I need some of this stuff or extra of that, then I’ll speak to them directly. It’s a community of fisherman, butchers and cheesemakers. Dairy is so important in this part of the country, and the quality of the cheese is so high because the landscape is so green and healthy. We have products you can’t find anywhere else in the world, and that is something to be celebrated. My kitchen team knows how to stretch an ingredient and use it to its maximum, and cheese is so versatile. We use Bovec sheep cheese, produce fermented cottage cheese and house-smoked our own salami cream.”  

Such was their interest with cheese, that Ana and husband, Valter Kramer, rechristened the honour at home, which just so happens to be Hiša Franko. They buy around a ton of local cheese and age it in their cellar for up to five years. As well as Tolminc and ricotta, the cellar features formaggio di fossa, a pit fermented cheese Valter is taking to Emilia Romagna, where he ages it for four months in underground pits with the assistance of Joško Sirk – a Slovenian restaurateur at the helm of the Michelin-starred La Subida trattoria in Friuli, near the Italian border with Slovenia – then brings it back to Hiša Franko. “It was always a dream of mine to have a cheese cellar,” says Valter, who also ages meats and salamis. “I can have fun down here in the cellar and experiment. Fun, food and family, right? That feels like a pretty good life to me”. The restaurant’s website posits that the cheese in Valter’s cellar is “Not only the most important part of our local diet” but “the GIFT for all the people of the Soča Valley.” It’s no surprise that along with vegetables, the cheese will play such an important role in the Hiša Franko menu because it plays such an important role in the day-to-day life of each and every Slovenian. “It’s about infrastructure and knowing your strengths” Ana tells me. “We struggled to survive, but it was about education and perseverance. This teaches you to be humble. Application is key, knowing what you have around you and how to apply it means we can use a product to its full”.

Using a product to its full potential is how Ana builds her menus. In this mountain region, nothing is sown before May 1st when the threat of snow is finally over. By June, it is hot and humid. The farmers will then move their cattle into fresh pasture where they make cheese. Ana’s food is heavily influenced by the seasons and is flavoured by the wild; from summer flowers and pollen to garden vegetables from her backyard plot. In fact, more than 90% of the Hiša Franko menu uses garden ingredients, pushing Ana to the fore of the Slovenian culinary movement in which she is almost solely responsible for elevating the country as a gastronomic destination. “We have the Alps, Mediterranean and the lowlands,” says Ana. “Some of the most beautiful and unique ingredients come from my backyard, so why not use it! If you take all of that away from me, you take away my expression, my voice”. The creation of a purely cheese and vegetable offering to diners, however, is a brave one.

That said, she also produces fermented cheese lollipops. It’s fair to say that those who know Ana, know that she’s not a person to shy away from a challenge. Moving to a solely cheese and vegetable menu could be her biggest challenge. But name a great chef who never took a risk. I’ll wait… “Creativity is finding your way out,” said Ferran Adrià. For Ana, she has all of the tools of her trade around her. Cheese is a high value product in Slovenia and along with her neighbours and local farmers, she and Walter have their own stock too! Indeed, you could say that Hiša Franko is built on cheese, a castle of dairy, a restavracija of deliciousness. It seems only right that the menu pushes and promotes homespun cheese. When it’s this damn good, why keep it for yourself?

Hiša Franko

Staro selo 1

5222 Kobarid – Slovenia

www.hisafranko.com