>> Martinovanje - Slovenian Feast of St. Martin | Eat the World NYC

13 November 2017

Martinovanje - Slovenian Feast of St. Martin


The Slovenian Church of St. Cyril takes up exactly the same space as any of the walk-up buildings on St. Marks Place in the East Village, almost hiding in plain sight. This home of Slovenia's small New York City area congregation hosts an annual gathering for the feast of St. Martin, a holiday without much of a following in the states. For many countries in Europe, and Slovenia in particular, this celebration of the harvest, food, and wine is a very important day and celebrated with as much vigor as we celebrate Thanksgiving.

While Cleveland and Chicago have larger populations of Slovenians, this area probably only retains a few hundred, and we are unfortunately not graced with restaurants and culture. Many thanks to Charles Bibilos for the connection to the event, where I met the organizers Father Krizolog and Aleks Jakulin, as well as the head chef Mia Branc and Slovenian wine guru Emil Gaspari, who was sharing some great bottles with everyone.

After morning mass in the church, the congregation moved downstairs and others started arriving hungry for the feast. Dancing and singing to commemorate Slovenia and the holiday were performed, and I learned that the national anthem of the country is actually a drinking song.

On this note, the wines started getting passed to each table and the spirits of everyone were very high.

Afterwards, the hungry parishioners grabbed plates and loaded them up with a little bit of everything. For reference, Slovenian food can be most closely related to that of Istrian, which more commonly is associated with Croatia although the peninsula is shared by Italy and Slovenia as well. A couple Istrian clubs in Astoria, Queens (United Miners S.C. Rudar and Istria Sport Club) are open year round if you would like to sample this cuisine.

The most important parts of the feast of St. Martin are the goose and mlinci, a thinly sliced flatbread that is boiled and served in gravy. These two dishes are blending together centrally in the plate below.

Some vegetables and breads rounded out the selection that also included fried chicken cutlets and pork loin.

A group of people that started as strangers when I took my seat at their table had become much more after 30 minutes or so, and were happy to tell me about their traditions and foods. Mlinci (below) was new to me, but was my answer when someone asked what my favorite part of the meal had been. To my surprise, the maker was sitting with us and this made her day.

A wide assortment of sweets were also on offer, including delicious potica seen below. This nut roll would have been worth the price of admission alone, and came in three varieties including walnut, chocolate, and another that was unidentified.

On the top half of the plate, kifeljcki.

At the very end, with sweet teeth already satisfied, a treasure chest full of horseshoe-shaped cookies made of crushed hazelnut arrived. These too were crowd favorites and went fast.

My sincere thanks to everyone involved in setting this event up and preparing the foods. The hospitality of everyone and all the new friends I met was very memorable and I look forward to seeing everyone next year!

[Correction: This article was updated to show that Father Krizolog was the main organizer of this yearly event]

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