By Kaja Korbar Olcott
For many years, the Dalmatian coast was the gem of Croatia’s tourism industry. In the past decade, visitors have spent more time exploring various parts of Croatia’s mainland. Luckily for those who are visiting or living in Zagreb, there are many exciting destinations that can be experienced during a short day trip.
Just 45 minutes away from the capital lies Kezele Farm—a family-run restaurant, farm, vineyard, and guesthouse. Kezele serves both as a relic and a living celebration of the tastes and traditions of the Moslavina region.
Most notably, Kezele grows an indigenous wine varietal—Škrlet—and is known for a hearty countryside dish called kotlovina. The name derives from the unique vessel in which the foods are prepared, resembling an upside-down, broad-brimmed hat providing all the benefits of a grill and a cauldron in one. Cooks patiently stand for hours over the hot coals, watching for the exact moment to add or remove various meats and vegetables.
We spoke with the current owner, Janko Kezele, about this unique agritourism destination and what it offers visitors looking to escape from fast-paced city life into a more bucolic setting.
Share with us the history of Kezele. When was it founded? Who runs the business today?
Kezele Farm was founded on a family tradition of cooking a local dish called kotlovina. My grandparents used to prepare this dish in the 1960s and 1970s every Saturday morning at the local market. Some 20 years ago, my parents opened a restaurant and built a winery. Today I run the farm, and my parents are still active in wine-making, gardening, and pottery-making. On the farm, we’ve preserved ten traditional country houses and stables in which we can accommodate almost 50 guests. There is also a big souvenir shop where we sell local products, a walking trail to the lake through the forest, and a stable with horses and other animals.
What is it about the culture and cuisine of the Moslavina region that set it apart from the rest of Croatia?
Moslavina is a small region, it is not famous, but I believe it has great potential. In the middle of the region, there is Moslavina hill, probably the oldest hill in Croatia. We have a unique indigenous grape variety called Škrlet, the biggest protected swamp in Europe, and beautiful wooden architecture. The cuisine is mostly influenced by Austro-Hungarian traditions and local countryside customs. The people of Moslavina are very active in farming. I think it has a strong effect on local cuisine.
How has agritourism evolved over the years?
Agritourism in Croatia started some twenty years ago mostly on farms surrounding Zagreb and in Istria. In the beginning, these farms were considered day-trip destinations, but recently the number of people interested in spending their holidays on the farm is growing. The quality of service is improving and tourists are more oriented towards experiences connecting nature, health, and unique local traditions. I hope the Croatian tourist board will soon recognize these trends and help us further promote agritourism.
The seasons and the climate are changing. How has that affected Kezele? What sustainable practices do you employ?
Climate change is affecting our wine production. Summers are hotter and drier. Extreme weather conditions are more frequent—frost, ice, and longer periods of wet or dry weather. Our harvest is at least two weeks earlier than before. Generally, we have less water which also leaves our meadows dry in some parts of the year.
We try to be efficient and sustainable, but there is still a lot to do. We do sort our waste and partly use water from our wells. We don’t use fertilizers in our farming, but horse manure instead. We raise our animals free-range. In the future, we have plans for installing solar panels for electricity.
Tell us about your vineyard and the wine that you grow. How would you describe Škrlet to people who are not familiar with the variety?
In our vineyard, we have planted 21.000 vines. We not only produce wines for our guests, but we also sell our wine in Zagreb and on the coast. White grapes are more common in this part of Croatia, so we mostly produce white wine. Škrlet is the star of the whole Moslavina region and it has become a trendy wine in the Croatian wine market. It is a light wine with flowery and fruity aromas. People enjoy it on their first try. It’s a gentle and well-balanced wine for many occasions.
What other products come directly from your property that visitors can enjoy?
Wine is our main product, but we also make our own brandies and liqueurs, pasta, sausages, jam, bread, and pottery. We raise horses, pigs, sheep, and goats on our farm.
What is your Moslovački Stol?
Moslavački stol is a special regional style of buffet service. It is moslavački because of three reasons: the food is served on kotlovina plates, ingredients come from Moslavina and dishes served are traditionally prepared in Moslavina. We serve it for lunch every Saturday, Sunday and on national holidays. It includes two types of soup, some 15 main courses, and a dessert. The price is 135 kn per person.
What are your most popular dishes?
The most popular dish is kotlovina, then wild boar, duck, and of course our buffet, Moslavački stol. People also ask for carp roasted on sticks and pork from a special type of black pig that we raise on the farm.
Do you offer any vegan or vegetarian options?
We always try to make our guests happy, so we are ready for all different diets. There are many vegetarian and a few vegan dishes on our menu. Our most popular vegetarian dishes are buckwheat burgers with dill sauce, local pasta with mushrooms, zucchini polpettes, roasted sweet potato, and more.
Aside from dining, what activities do you offer on your property?
The most popular activity is not so “active”–it’s wine tasting. We also offer cooking and pottery workshops. Guests can go horseback riding, rent bicycles, or go for a treasure hunt throughout our property. On the farm, we preserved many old countryside items that we present in our small museum. We try to preserve tradition and keep it alive for our guests to enjoy firsthand!
For more information on Kezele and for details to help you plan your visit, visit their website.