As we sat down for dinner on the first night, someone at the table spoke about how their friend had gone to bed ‘uncomfortably full’ every single night of the holiday. On hearing this, I was very excited.
We were skiing for a week in Bansko (one of Bulgaria’s ski resorts) and staying in one of Snomads’ chalets – Diana Ross to be exact. Earlier that day, we were welcomed with a choice of complimentary Bulgarian beer or mulled wine and a slice of chocolate orange cake. Then, post-travel showers done and slippers on, we obediently followed the amazing smells to the source and headed downstairs where we found a roaring fire and a set table (complete with candles, red patterned, traditional Bulgarian tablecloths and baskets of homemade bread). On the first night we were served slow-cooked beef knuckle stew with buttery mash potato in giant traditional Bulgarian ceramic pots, which were rust-coloured with beautiful, intricate, almost tapestry-like patterns on them. With unlimited wine and beer (every night) it wasn’t long until we hit the sack and were up early to start the day with hearty homemade porridge (served in more Bulgarian pots) and on the slopes by 8.30am.
This food and drink nirvana continued every morning and every evening and the chalet never ceased to carry the wafts of freshly-made, thyme-infused bread or walnut veggie burgers, which would continue to draw us all downstairs to sit and wait patiently by the wood-burner (usually whilst enjoying a bottle of Bulgarian beer from the honesty bar). I wish had taken photos of every single meal we had but the communal aspect, the flowing wine and the desire to just eat and enjoy the moment overcame this every time. Everything was always fresh and always homemade and eating in one of Snomads’ chalets was just like enjoying family cooking back at home. It was everything you needed and more, after a long day of skiing. Sea trout with spinach and crushed potatoes; succulent pork belly with crispy skin; chicken flaky pastry pie with apple and carrot slaw; sticky toffee pudding; a bread and butter pudding that actually changed my life by converting me to actually liking bread and butter pudding; pumpkin salad with feta cheese; pepper bruschetta; and the absolute feast we had on the final night, which included: crispy rosemary bread, olives, tzatziki, beetroot sauce, Mexican bean salad, lentil moussaka, a mountain of burgers and sausages and for dessert: a warm, rich decadent brownie with light, foamy cream. It’s fair to say we definitely went to bed ‘uncomfortably’ full that night.
Pumpkin salad with feta cheese; pepper bruschetta; sea trout with spinach and crushed potatoes
Our Snomads’ hosts were also the ones who recommended the best places to eat on and off the slopes. Two places off the beaten track (you had to walk through a forest for one and ski through a forest for the other, following a path lined with upside-down beer bottles) included Shiligarnika and BBQ Restaurant Picnic. The first was an idyllic cabin surrounded by tall, thin pine tress – totally tranquil and secluded. We ordered a simple lunch of Bulgarian sausage and chips with beer – exactly what was needed that day to warm us up and restore some much-needed energy. There’s nothing better than nibbling on chips, sipping a beer and tucking into a juicy sausage – you know, one where grease flies into your eye when your knife pierces the skin open – that’s the telling of a truly great sausage. The second hidden gem was BBQ Restaurant Picnic, an open, rustic shack hidden off the side of a slope. At this BBQ destination, we enjoyed more sausage, lamb skewers, Kapama (a Bulgarian specialty which consisted of three meats, rice and cabbage) and the most incredible garlic bread. Seriously. Everything was cooked on the open, very visible grill and all the meat was fresh.
Bulgarian sausage and chips at Shiligarnika
Lamb skewers, Bulgarian sausage and garlic bread at BBQ Restaurant Picnic
Beer at BBQ Restaurant Picnic
BBQ is a culture in Bansko. Dill and garlic also kept cropping up on menus everywhere (no complaints). I can’t believe the concept of sliced potatoes, fried and covered in dill and garlic only just entered my life during dinner at The Log House (at the bottom of the gondola lift) where we also enjoyed a giant Bansko-style sache, served still sizzling. It reached a point where we walked into the old town to Tavern Restaurant Chevermeto simply for beers and chips sprinkled with fried garlic. This was after we’d spent the afternoon at the hot springs where the G&Ts were dangerously strong and dangerously cheap.
Bansko-style sache with sliced potatoes at The Log House
As with all ski holidays, there were lots of 11am hot chocolates on the slopes; pesto pasta and chicken soup for lunch at Bla-Bla; alpine pizzas at 180 (along with a lot of beer) and then aprés at the 2Bridges bar (half way down the ski road – don’t forget to get a chocolate crêpe there too) or bars in town. Then, back to the chalet for a post-ski hot tub, sauna, cold beer and much-anticipated feast.