Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mercat de La Boqueria, Barcelona

More posts from my last trip to Spain. The Boqueria market is a must see if you are in Barcelona, although flocked with tourists, you really can't miss it.Located in the Ramblas near the Liceo, the first mention in the history books about the Boqueria market dates 1217 - although the structure that you see now still existing was constructed in 1914.

The first thing you will see when you enter the Market is Bar Pinotxo. A place made famous by Ferran Adria of El Bulli when he mentioned in one of his interviews that he often is there for lunch when he is in his Taller (very near the market) preparing for the new menu of El Bulli. A very small place serving tapas. Its recommended to go there for a late breakfast or brunch. Ingredients are at its best since its bought fresh directly from the market.

The whole area I'd say is around 4000 to 5000 sqm., divided in to areas...the first area that immediately caught my eye was the deli/chorizo/meat area. Stores lined up one after the other with legs of Jamon serrano/Jabugo/Iberico just hanging - ready to be sliced and packed... Also all kinds of Chorizos, Salchichones and butifarras...after seeing this - I was in heaven...

Next was the 'Bacalao' section. Bacalao is very widely used in Catalan cooking and that's why there were more than 10 stores just selling Bacalao. All kinds of cuts, sizes, shapes, etc...they even had Bacalao that was already soaked in water and was either ready to use, or needed one or 2 more days before cooking. Bacalao normally has to be soaked 3 days before cooking and water changed every 8 or 12 hours to remove the salt. Here they have it ready for cooking in case you don't want to soak it anymore.

There were many other 'sections' in the market, like the fruits section - all kinds of fruits, including tropical ones that you would rarely see in Spain. There were also several stores that sold all kinds of nuts and dried fruits - all kinds of nuts, dates, raisins, etc...

Other areas worth mentioning is the seafood area. I failed to document this because of an annoying american tourist who started taking pictures while holding the lobsters, crabs and shrimps of one stall - so the owner, very angry - shooed everyone away. There are several other small Bars/restaurants inside like Pinotxo which we saw but without doubt Pinotxo is the most popular.

To end this post, 2 more pictures : Fresh Pimientos del Padron, which I spoke about here and a store selling mini chorizos and Fuets (Fuet is a Catalan type of Salami very popular). Ive tried this minis and believe me, once you start you cant stop.

I hope you enjoyed this post and like I said in the beginning of this post, if you happen to be in Barcelona - do not miss this place.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Celler de Can Roca, Girona Spain

I have been delaying this post as this would be the longest of all the posts I have from my recent trip to Spain, but have found some time to do it already. During my yearly trips to Barcelona, I try to make it a point to have one "stellar" dinner. Last year it was EL Bulli and this year its Celler de Can Roca. The restaurant is owned/operated by the Roca Brothers , each with their specific role (Joan is the head Chef, Josep the sommelier and Jordi the Pastry Chef). It currently is a 2 star Michelin (will probably get the third this year) and is in the list of 50 best Restaurants in the world (ranked number 26).

Its not that easy to get a reservation in this restaurant (not quite as hard as El Bulli thou) but we were able to get a table for 6 for dinner. Since the restaurant is in Girona (1.5 hours away from Barcelona) we decided to move our reservation for lunch instead. We also rented a van with a driver to take us there, since they are very strict in Spain with the "drinking and driving" and obviously we all wanted to drink....

We arrived at around 2 PM and they lead us to our table. Very nice decor with hints of minimalism. Our table was in a corner by the courtyard (all enclosed in glass) so we had plenty natural light. We all decided to have the 'large' degustation menu - anything less and we would have probably regretted it. They started by serving us the 'snacks':

Lavender crackers, Caramelized black olive, Carrots with orange, "Sferification" of Cockles (Berberechos) with Guava juice and Campari, Skin of Cucumber soup wth popcorn made of garlic soup and Pigeon Bombon with Bristol cream. What I remember most was the sfera of cockle which went great with the bitterness of the guava and campari. Also interesting to note the 'popcorn' made of garlic soup.

Next was the Fig with Majorero cheese, guava Granita, arugula and green asparagus juice. Majorero cheese is goat milk cheese, similar to manchego cheese but a bit nuttier. It comes from Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. Great combination of the cheese and the guava Granita. They immediately served us the Melon with cured Jamon de Jabugo, which is a classic dish from Spain. Although I liked the melon puree/foam, the star of this dish was the Jamon Jabugo, which was 5 star quality.

After a short break, they served us Chablis oysters and Green Olive Parmentier. The oysters were wrapped with a very thin raw mushroom, mushroom foam. They then poured a cream which I cant remember but what stood out aside from the oyster was the little white balls, which were  sugar balls with a light liquor. It gave a good contrast to the dish. The olive Parmentier was a large green 'sferification' with foam. Inside the green olive was  a warm liquid which was made to taste exactly like a 'ensaladilla rusa' (russian salad, which is a salad that has egg, carrots, potatoes, peas and mayonnaise. Indeed a very creative way to serve an ensaladilla rusa.

Next came the Amontillado-steamed King Prawn and the Porcini Souffle. The King prawn is steamed/infused with Amontillado wine, a variety of Sherry from a town called Montilla. A very simple dish but very intense and fresh favors. The Porcini Souffle was probably one of my favorite dishes and the best souffle I've had in a while. Wrapped with a very thin porcini mushroom was a porcini-souffle-cream. Very tasty and the crunchiness of the mushroom gave good texture to this dish.

Then we had the 3 main dishes of the menu: Lenguado with grilled onion leeks (Lenguado is a type of fish), Kid belly fillet with goats milk Parmentier and Goose terrine with apricot compote.My favorite was the kid Belly Fillet (Cabrito), perfectly tender with the crispy skin on top, with a slight hint of mint. The Goose with Apricot compote was a good way to end the meal. with slight hints of sweetness to prepare us for the dessert.

For Dessert, they served us 2 desserts each. 'Foie Gras Nougat with soy sauce' and 'Anarchy'. The Foie Gras Nougat was a contrast between sweet and salty, crunchy and fondant, toasted and raw. An ode to the Chaos theory. Anarchy was more Chaos in the plate. 40 ingredients made up this plate. If I could remember all of them I'd list  them down but the mixture of all ingredients blended so well that not one of the ingredient really stood out. Simply great. We had a third dessert which is one of their specialties: 'A Trip to Havana'. A Cigar made of ice cream and chocolate, with ashes and a mojito. You had to dip the cigar in the ashes, bite it and take a spoon of the frozen mojito. I can still taste the flavors of the cigar in my mouth as I remember this dish now. Simply another masterpiece from Jordi Roca.

For wines, we had Gramona white wine from Penedes, Ctonia, a white wine from the Emporda region of Catalunya (Costa Brava) and for red we had a bottle of Terramoll, a Cabernet from a friends vineyard located in Ibiza. All were great wines and combined very well with most of the dishes we had, most specially the Terramoll with the Cabrito.

This is probably my second best dining experience after El Bulli. The creativity and use of the best ingredients by the Roca Brothers has really stood out and have earned them International fame with their innovative cuisine. After the meal we had a chance to speak to the Chef and he was very open in explaining some of his techniques. I do hope I can come back again. Just as an anecdote, we started our meal at 2 PM and finished at around 6 PM...4 hours of one of the better dining experiences I've had.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cinc Sentits, Barcelona

I read about this restaurant on one of the food forums ( and I've always wanted to go and try it. Its relatively new in the Barcelona restaurant scene (2-3 years) but has had lot of great reviews already.

The Restaurant is owned by Jordi Artal, who is also the Chef. He is a Canadian Born Catalan who once worked is SIlicon Valley as an executive. His passion for cooking brought him back to his homtown Barcelona and open his own restaurant, Cinc Sentits. He describes his cooking as 'Contemporary Catalan', following the trend of the famed Ferran Adria of El Bulli. We had lunch reservation and as soon as we got there we were welcomed by the mother of the Chef and his sister (who both work and run the restaurant). We decided to have the 'esencia' degustation menu so as to try as many dishes as we could.

We started off with his signature CS shot. Starting from the bottom up - warm maple syrup, chilled cream and cava sabayon, with a few crystals of maldon salt. Great way to start a meal.

Next was a deconstructed pan con tomate. Served in a big dish came a tomato sorbet on a bed of toasted bread, green tomato cubes,garlic foam and arbequina extra virgin olive oil. It also came with the typical fuet/llonganisa (typical Catalan salami). Another great way to start a meal.
Our next dish was the Scallop with sunchoke puree and escalivada sauce and. Escalivada is a typical Catalan dish which consists of several types of grilled vegetables (eggplant, sweet red peppers and tomatoes). Once cooked , it is peeled and sliced in strips and seasoned with olive oil and salt. The Scallop was huge and very fresh and blended very well with the escalivada. The small piece of crunchy bacon gave the dish a bit more of contrast and texture.
Next Dish - CANELONES - Roast Chicken, Bechamel and Black Truffle. Another Catalan classic/typical dish served with a little twist.
Then came the fish plate: Mediterranean Denton with wild rice risotto, squid ink reduction and 'allioli'. Denton is a typical fish from Catalunya and is only found in the Mediterranean sea. From this dish, I particularly loved the wild rice risotto...something I have never tried before.
The main dish was Magret de Pato (Duck breast) with apple compote. For me this was the weakest of all the dishes since there was really nothing special about it. I would have preferred to have had the other option which was the ox tail. Nevertheless the duck was a great dish too.

For dessert, we had Strawberries from Maresme (a region in Catalunya), Milk Ice cream, fennel and rose.

Over all a great tasting experience and well worth it. I would like to go back soon to try the other signature dishes like the Coca de Foie Gras and Iberian Suckling Pig which I think is only served for dinner.