Tuesday, July 10, 2007

El Bulli experience - part three

I’ve had some extra time since I’ve arrived from my trip so I decided to finally post part 3 of my El Bulli experience blog. So far what you have seen until now were just appetizers and few other courses. Now I will explain about the main courses we had and the desserts.

After the “Fondant de frambuesas con wasabi y vinagre de frambuesa” was served, I thought that that was it…just a few dishes left. They do not give you the menu while you are in the restaurant, so you really don’t know what to expect when you are there (unless you read blogs like this..)..Before I continue, I’d like to give you more facts about this restaurant that I found interesting:

* El Bulli means “Bulldog” in Catalan.

* The restaurant was initially put up for the fishermen of the area. When they asked Ferran
Adria why haven’t they increased their prices for the degustation menu (This year is 185 Euros per person) he said that he would like to still maintain the prices “affordable” so that anybody could have a chance to go. His prices are still fairly reasonable compared to other 3 star Michelin restaurants.

* The other 6 months that its closed, Ferran Adria and his team head to Barcelona and there, they spend the other 6 months of the year researching and creating the new dishes that will be served during the new season. His “lab” is called EL BULLI TALLER.

* During the season that El Bulli is open, Ferran Adria lives in a house walking distance to the restaurant. There is not a single day that the restaurant is open and he is not there

* El BULLI HOTEL is a Hotel they operate in Sevilla. The hotel is called Hacienda Benazuza and there they serve all of the past dishes that has been served in El Bulli during the past seasons. I am not aware how easy/hard it is to get a reservation there.

Ok..ok enough of this...lets get on with the food:

Yogur de ostras on pedro ximenez en tempura or Oyster yoghurt with a grape of Pedro ximenez tempura style. It was a creamy, frothy, foamy and had a perfect oyster flavor, only there was no oyster. The pedro ximenez was to be taken after the oyster which gave a good counterpoint to the oyster taste. For those who don’t know, Pedro Ximenez or ‘px’ is the name of a white grape and also an intensely sweet dessert sherry.
Yogur de ostras con pedro ximenez en tempura

Judion con panceta Joselito – or Haricot bean with Panceta Joselito – This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. It was a big haricot bean (done the same way the spherical olive was done) covered with a thin film of gelatine made with the fat of the Jamon Joselito (Joselito is one of the best producers of Jamon Iberico in the country)
Judion con panceta joselito

Dashi con caviar de Miso or "Dashi with miso caviar." Apparently "dashi" is a broth that's used in miso soup. The "caviar" were not, in fact, caviar... it was more like a cream made of miso.
Bizcocho de sesame y miso

Cascara de gorgonzola, nueces , apio y manzana or Gorgonzola shell with nuts, celery and apple. This was a frozen gorgonzola shell. Inside was the mixture of the 3 ingredients. The celery and apple were some what cold while the nuts were a bit warm.
Cascara de gorgonzola

Risotto de citricos or Risotto of citrics – As expected, this wasn’t a traditional risotto (there was no rice in it). The main ingredients were coconut powder, sesame seeds and the pulp (which was made to look like rice) of grapefruit. They asked us to mix everything before eating it. Very interesting mix of flavors.
Rissotto de citricos

Empanadilla de padron – Padron is actually a type of pepper that grown in spain (pimientos del padron). They are medium sized peppers and the traditional way they are served its lightly fried with olive oil and sprinkled with rock salt. They are not spicy but there is usually one in every batch that is very very hot. The empanadillas were actually served wrapped in a transparent wrapper and inside were the seeds of the pepper. They combined this with “regaliz” or liquorish.
Empanadilla de Padron

Esparragos en diferents cocciones - "Asparagus in different cooking times." Five little white asparagus tips (about 2-3 Inches long) all cooked to different degrees, and all with different flavors/sauces. It also had a foam of sea salt and they sprinkled small frozen egg yolk balls over It.

Navaja con Laurencia or Razor clams with laurencia. Fresh and huge razor clams served with some kind of sea/salt water foam. Very tasty and fresh.
Navajas con laurencia

Won-ton liquido or Liquid won-ton of mushrooms - These were small soft won-ton wrappers filled with liquid that tasted like won-ton. What was interesting about this dish were the small mushrooms thinly shaved. Apparently they are grown in the pais Vasco (Basque region) although I cant remember the name right now.
Won-Ton liquido

Esperdenyes rellenas de Kalix con empanadilla de lechuga or Sea cucumbers with kalix - sea lettuce and salicornia." - Surprising delicious..at first I was a bit skeptical to eat sea cucumber. I also asked what was kalix and they told me they were eggs from a certain type of fish only found in Norway. Again, this was a very interesting and tasty dish.
Espardenyes rellenas de Kallx

Aguila-Tuetano de Ternera con hojas de mostaza or Eel-beef marrow with mustad leaves. We were supposed to eat the eel first followed by the marrow. As seen on the side of the pictures there was also a flower that was supposed to eaten in between both as a cleanser. It’s the first time I try eel and beef marrow and truly they were both superb. The mustard leaf put everything together to make this dish near perfect.
Anguila con hojas de mostaza

Sopa de mantequilla noisette con sesos de Conejo – or Noisette butter soup with rabbit brains. They asked us in the beginning of our meal if we wanted this dish, Obviously we both agreed since we thought to give it a try. How can I say no to one of the creations of Ferran Adria?? Surprisingly the rabbit brains were very good and had a resemblance to foie. The butter soup was very think and was topped with some sort of cream (maybe sour cream). The dish also had some gelatin squares, which seemed to have a hint of Lea and Perrins taste.
Sope de Mantequilla noisette con sesos de conejo

And now for the dessert:

Sweet frost fruits. They were blackberries in a light meringue pillow that had been cut open to reveal the fruit. Then at the side there was a little eyedropper of concentrated blackberry liquor. They told us to drizzle the liquor all over and eat it in one bite.
Frosted fruits

Tangerine jelly square with green tea crackers and mint. This was a cracker made with green tea with a tangerine/jelly square on top with a small leaf of mint. The green tea cracker was a curious and tasted very good.
Morphings - with green tea crackers

La Lana 2007 or Wool 2007. A ball of pure white cotton candy, with cream and ice cream beneath, which was a nice surprise. It also had some kind of chocolate on the plate which added more taste to the dish.
La lana 2007
DSC_0062 copy.jpg

As Anthony Bourdain said: What is a meal? What should a meal be? What should your experience be during a meal? What can a meal be? Should food be science? Should food be art? The truth is I don’t know, but I’m sure Ferran Adria asks himself these questions everyday.

He challenges traditional cooking with his innovative techniques and he does this in a fabulous, strange, creative and some what scary way…

Truly an experience I’ll never forget.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

El Bulli experience - part two

El Bulli - The Bulldog
Well, I have had some time to edit more pictures and to recall all the appetizers we had, but before we start, just another anecdote. Just as I was finishing my sherry, I started sweating uncontrollably. I was probably so nervous/stressed/happy to be there that I couldn’t stop sweating. I had to request for the staff to crank up the air conditioning and I stood up to go to the rest room. The rest room had a huge window facing the sea, so the breeze was exactly what I needed. That regulated my body temperature and after a couple of minutes, I was fine.

As soon as I got back to the table, they immediately served us the appetizers. The first one was called “Pepitas de oro”. I would translate this as “Golden nuggets”. They were gold colored curry crunchies (like a mini Ferrero Rocher) and we were asked to eat this immediately as it would probably melt. I was not able to take any picture of this dish.

Next was the “Aceitunas verdes esfericas” or spherical olives. These olives look exactly like a regular green olive but in fact they are gelatin balls filled with a very intense flavor of olive oil. As I ate the first one, the olive burst in my mouth releasing the entire flavor that was inside. I wanted to ask for more, but decided to wait since this was the first few of many dishes we were going to have that night. My mom, who had already tried this in her last visit, offered hers to me so I gladly ate her share.
Spherical olives

After the Olives, they served us 6 small dishes all at once. They told us to eat them in any order we wanted:

“Fritas de Frutas” or Pineapple French fries. These pineapple "fries" tasted better than the best pineapple I’ve tried. If I’m not mistaken its cut and freeze dried, giving it a hard texture.
Frutas fritas

“Catanias Saladas” or Salty catanias. Catania is a popular Catalan chocolate almond candy, but these ones were salty. Very interesting with a little bitter taste at the end.
Catanias saladas

“Teja de maiz y platano” or Corn/banana tile. A very thin ‘tile’ made of grilled corn with a hint of banana taste.
Teja de maiz y platano

“Airbags de Parmesano” or Parmesan Airbags. They were small fried pillows. As soon as you bite them it releases a burst of Parmesan powder in your mouth.
Airbags de Parmesano

“Merengue/profiteroles de remolacha y yogur” or Yoghurt/Beetroot meringue profiterols. Light and airy. The combination of the beetroot and the yoghurt were perfect.
Merengue/profiteroles de remolacha y yogur

“Chocolate salado de cassis, yogur y pistacho” or Salty chocolate in 3 flavors: cassis, yoghurt and pistachio. None of these chocolates were actually sweet. The most interesting one was the cassis, which is a European type of black currant.
Chocolate salado de cassis, yogur y pistacho

After all the dishes were removed from the table, it was the time for more food. They asked us what wine we would like to drink. I asked the sommelier to recommend a good white wine since I was the only one drinking (my mom cannot drink any alcohol). He asked me how I liked my wine so I told him I liked Albarino type (this is a type of grape from Galicia) so he recommended a bottle of Veigadura 2000. They immediately served the wine.

We had been in the restaurant for almost one hour since we arrived. The service was impeccable. The staff was very courteous and the service was superb. There were many waiters moving around very gracefully around the room. I will elaborate more on the service later on the part 4 of this blog.

More dishes were served to us shortly after they served us the wine:

“Bizcocho de pistachio con mousse de leche acida” or Pistachio Sponge cake with cream, and “Bizcocho de sesame y miso” or Black sesame cake with Miso. We were instructed to eat the sponge cake in 2 bites, with the cream. Then we were told to immediately eat the black sesame sponge cake with miso/The sponge cake was my preferred of the two.
Bizcocho de sesame y misoBizcocho de pistachio con mousse de leche acida

“Flores de Horchata” or Horchata flowers. Horchata is a popular drink in Spain (originally from Valencia) which is sold/consumed during summer time. It’s a very refreshing drink made from chufa which is a kind of nut. This was served frozen in the form of a flower…very refreshing.
Horchata flowers

“Bombones de mandarina, cacahuete y curry” or Peanut and curry and Mandarin bombons. These were very flavorful. The curried peanut tasted like peanut butter and the bombon was very refreshing and a bit tangy.
Bombones de mandarina, cacahuete y curry

“Fondant de frambuesas con wasabi y vinagre de frambuesa” or Raspberry fondant with wasabi and raspberry vinegar. For me this was one of the highlights of the night and one of my favorites. The staff suggested us to take one bite of the raspberry, then take the spoon of vinegar, then eat the other half. The combination of the Raspberry and the wasabi was just awesome, plus the vinegar which made the whole dish perfect.
Fondant de frambuesas con wasabi y vinagre de frambuesa

The fondant was a good cleanser and was the last dish of the appetizers..in the part 3 of the blog I will write about the main dishes and the dessert…till then, I hope you enjoyed reading this.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

El Bulli experience - part one

El Bulli
Finally !!! my dream came true. After 3 years of trying, I have succeeded. To give a brief history, 3 years ago I tried making a reservation in El Bulli - to no avail. The year after, I tried again and to my surprise, a man by the name of Luis Garcia replied to my email telling me I had a reservation confirmed for 6 people on August 22 (just 2 days after my birthday) - I couldn’t believe it. For one reason or another I was not able to go, so my family and friends went instead so as not to loose the table.

This year, I thought I was going to be in Spain by end of August for the wedding of some friends in Ibiza, so I tried my luck again. I emailed them and to my surprise, they confirmed me another table, this time for 2 people only. Again, for some reason or another, I had to cancel my reservation. First week of june I had a scheduled trip to Barcelona so I decided to buy a book on Philippine Cuisine which my friend Nena recommended, to send to Luis Garcia as a token of appreciation and for having cancelled on them twice. Then to my surprise, I receive an email from him telling me there was a cancellation and that I had a table for 2 for June 18, 8 PM. I could hardly believe it. So much so, that I had to read the email 2-3 and up to 4 times just to make sure that it was correct and not an optical illusion.

So, on June 18, my mom and I drove 150 kilometers to the town of Roses(in the Costa Brava), which is where El Bulli is located (Actually El Bulli is in Cala Montjoi, a cove 10 kms away from Roses). Here are a few facts about El Bulli which I learned from my visit there:

* They are only for dinner open from April to September
* Through out the season, only 8000 seats are available.
* Every year there are almost 500,000 people who try their luck in getting a table for dinner, less than 1% succeed
* Its one of the few (If not the only) restaurant that has more staff than actual clients having dinner (they currently have a staff of 85 people
* They hardly break even from operations since meals are set at 185 euros (Approx 12,000 pesos)
* The head chef (Ferran Adria) is now to considered one of the best chefs in the world, started working in El Bulli at the age of 22, He joined the kitchen staff of El Bulli as a line cook. Eighteen months later he became the head chef.
* El Bulli is a 3 star Michelin restaurant and has been voted best restaurant in the world several times in the past 9 years
* The average number of ingredients used per tasting menu is 185

Anyway, we requested for a Taxi from our Hotel to the restaurant. We arrived a bit early so we took some pictures and admired the view of Cala Montjoi. As soon as we entered, Luis Garcia, restaurant manager was there to greet us, as if he had been waiting for us the whole day…he knew exactly who we were. After a bit of chatting with him he asked us if we wanted to see the kitchen…of course we said yes.
El Bulli with my mom

As we entered, there was Ferran Adria, talking to his staff and assistant cooks, preparing for the night. We got to see the four separate areas of preparation and all the fancy equipment they use - it was incredibly clean and organized, quite lab-like.

We were then seated at a table by the window, from where I could watch the entire room easily and we had a great view of Cala Montjoi. The decor was surprisingly unpretentious and there are all kinds of odd and interesting things displayed. Right next to us was a table of a Spanish couple who had already started their meal, so I got to spy on their food as we enjoyed our drinks. We were not given menus, as el Bulli prefers to keep the dishes a surprise. I chose a glass of sherry to start the night. As a teaser and so as not to make this too long, I will end the first part of this blog with the first dish they served us:
The cosmopolitan-mallow
The cosmopolitan-mallow. A perfectly chilled blend of vodka, Cointreau and possibly cranberry was served in a sleek, stainless steel martini glass dotted with tangy and foamy lime marshmallows.
Till then…I will continue part 2 of this experience in the next few days,,,,