Where: TOZD

What: cafe au lait

Classics: five years ago, she came for schooling, and stayed for love. Rebecca Ehalt Svetina from Pittsburgh, USA, found job, apartment and husband-to-be in Slovenia: living in Ljubljana, working as a foreign English teacher at Domžale high school, and doing creative work with her hubby at Hungy Dog Design studio in Bled. Of course by now she knows how to bake potica. And goodie bags from US are a must.

You’re torn between Ljubljana, Domžale and Bled. What’s at the top of your priorities?

Actually, all of them. I work in Domžale, I have my social life in Ljubljana, and my fiance and our design studio in Bled. Five years ago, when I came here, all I wanted to do was learn Slovene and travel, since one of my ancestors was Slovenian. But then … I started splitting my time. Before Domžale I worked in Ljubljana at Berlitz, and last year in the ministry for education’s EFLL  (Enriched Foreign Language Learning) project. I taught English and did some freelance design work, including both SILA cookbooks.

How did you end up designing these books?

Randomly. When I first came here, and I was trying to make international contacts, my friend Demara Ivanič suggested I go to SILA. At the very first meeting with them I heard they were doing a cookbook, and I asked if they needed a designer. And that was it. So I did the second one as well.

Wine or beer?

Wine. In Slovenia, I default refošk or teran. I really love Virus wines by Sosolič.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee. Kava z mlekom.

Favourite cafes or restaurants in Ljubljana?

Whenever I meet my friends, need to kill some time or do some work, it’s usually Bi Ko Fe or Maček as another default. I also like Le Petit Cafe and Kavarna Rog, but more for breakfast or brunch, and TOZD is great too.

Coming from US, is there any staple you miss? Do your friends and family bring anything over?

Unfortunately, one thing people cannot bring back is Chipotle burritos and good Mexican food. The only thing I found here for Mexican I can vouch for is Joe Pena’s guacamole. People always bring stuff, but it’s prepackaged, like peanut butter, BBQ sauce, Frank’s hot sauce, sriracha sauce, maple syrup. It’s all available here, but it’s so much more expensive.

What about the whole dining scene and coffee culture?

Service is definitely not as good here, but I also hate paying tips in the US, so I guess you get what you pay for. I am not too picky with personalised drinks, but on the other hand when I first got here I really missed pumpkin lattes, caramel macchiatos and other Starbucks drinks. But I grew accustomed to the things here. It’s definitely not a take-away coffee culture, so I hate paying extra for the cup when I do opt for a take-away coffee, although it makes sense environmentally. Overall, the whole scene is so much more relaxed. When I had friends visiting from the US here, they said: „It might sound strange, but what are all these people doing out in the middle of the day at 3pm, doesn’t anyone work?!“ The work schedule is different, you often get paid coffee breaks whereas in US you get unpaid lunch breaks, everyone is generally off at 3pm, walking with their dogs not on leashes and their kids (thank goodness not on leashes ;) ) running around the city which you don’t see as much in the States. Also, people often have business meetings in cafes. Or just to hang out and catch up. That culture isn’t there as predominantly in the States.

And urban gardens?

I love seeing loads of potted plants on balconies in the city. I started my own herb and potted-garden, but I’m not having much luck yet. Miha and I may jerry-rig a mirror to deflect sunlight. I haven’t lived in a city before Ljubljana, so I can’t really speak for how Ljubljana compares to US cities in urban gardening. Though many may disagree, I love the squatted gardens where people have taken it upon themselves to plant really cute, well-maintained garden plots in the city’s „no-man’s land“ along roadsides, river banks, etc.

Do you cook by yourself? Have you mastered the art of baking potica yet?

When I’m in Ljubljana, I eat out, and when I’m in Bled we cook by ourselves. Of course, Miha’s grandma taught me how to make potica, but I prefer štruklji.  It’s the one Slovenian dish I really like and we’ve requested it at our wedding.

If time and money weren’t an issue, is there a restaurant in Ljubljana you’d like to dine at?

I haven’t been to JB for that reason but would like to try it. Otherwise, every time we go to a restaurant and I think it’s going to be expensive, it’s actually not really outrageous. One of the most expensive restaurants I’ve been on a date with Miha was Sushimama but it was justified as the food was really delicious. I’d also love to try some of the slow food restaurants in Slovenia.