Castell d’Emporda: A relaxing get away near Girona, Spain

Hello hello friends,

I have been quite quiet…..I know.  You see, I went away.  Far far away. (Not really)  I went to a castle, and there were dragons everywhere.   Really….there were. (Not the real ones though)  There was this moat, and damsels in distress. (Read: fabulous pool, and ladies who needed sun-cream.)  I am not just dreaming up some hyped up fantasy.  It is a fantasy.  My wonderful boyfriend discovered this magical place after searching on horseback far and wide. (Google search.)

So, anyhow, we went away.  And it was mahvelous darling, mahvelous.  If any of you have the opportunity to go to the Costa Brava, do not miss out on making a side trip to the interior, called L’Emporda.  From the moment we walked onto the grounds, I knew we were in for a treat.  The front entrance to the castle was full of blooming flowers and there was a gorgeous pond.

As soon as we walked in, I noticed the menu, the name of the restaurant “Drac” which means dragon in catalan, and the chef.  The menu was ok at first sight, but I knew that the food would be surprising, if not good, at least, because the chef hails from Oud Sluis in The Netherlands, which is the no. 21 top restaurant in the world, according to the San Pellegrino list.  We lazed in the back courtyard, which has these wonderful sofa-beds for you to read, sleep, sunbathe etc. next to the fabulous pool.  Made reservations for dinner, but before that I had a massage which I thought was pretty cheap, 35 euros.  It was brilliant.  The best was the view from the room.

Now on to dinner.  The decor I thought was beautiful.  It really captured and complemented the old world feel, the gorgeous large stone walls were flanked by wrought iron dragons everywhere.  It was sparsely yet extravagantly decorated, but the dragon motif followed us everywhere!

We decided on the tasting menu, as we always do cause I am a hungry hungry hippo.  No, really, as a chef I think it really gives you a feel of what the chef de cuisine wants you to try.  It could fail completely, but this night, it was perfect.  And, I thought after I ate, that the price, 50 euros (not including wine) was a steal!  I’m used to paying exorbitant prices for more disappointing meals.

We started off with the amuse bouche, a small sampler of teeny bits to whet our appetite:

At the very top end, there were some catalan olives, the small plate in the middle had “olive sponge cake”, and then an olive mayonnaise, and a black truffle mayonnaise.  In the glass was a taster of gazpacho, and on the spoon, was marinated salmon with a dill and lemon mayonnaise. I was hesitant about the sponge cake, since black foods is not something I am used to, the same goes for the olive mayonnaise.  But they were sublime.  Incredibly flavorful, yet delicate, with a final punch on the palate.  And the truffle mayonnaise.  Well…..I love truffles, so you can imagine me and my boyfriend duking it out with our pieces of bread to sop up the last bits of the stuff!  The gazpacho was perfect, but I eat gazpacho a lot, so it wasn’t something that I was super excited about, the same goes for the salmon for the same reasons.

Our first starter was a Corvina Ceviche.  I was so pleased with the little green ice scattered around the plate.  My first guess would have been basil ice, but they were made out of parsley.  And as you moved the beautiful leaves and fish around, you would find little surprises of dill mayonnaise drops.  The different textures and temperatures of this dish made the difference to a very well-known appetizer where I come from (South America).  I have never been presented with a ceviche that mixes iciness and crunch, with the smooth bursts of the dill sauce and then the perfectly acidulated fish.  The touches of the baby spring lettuce gave a welcome freshness to the dish.

Our second started was pretty monochromatic, considering the vibrancy of the previous dishes.  This was a Cabernet wine meringue, with a foie gras and wild mushroom mousse, with a fig marmalade.  I have never been so surprised at something in my life.  I surely thought, vinegar, mushrooms, foie and marmalade……uh huh.  But boy, was I in for a ride!  Again, the play on textures and flavors, acid, sweet, umami……sumptious!  Decadent!  Rich, without  being heavy.   I now was thinking, this guy knows what he is doing!  And…….then…….

Turbot with two types of asparagus, truffle potatoes, poached egg yolk and “migas” which is basically a spanish fried bread crumb.  I was bowled over by the poached egg yolk and the truffle potatoes.  But to be sincere, I NEVER would have thought that fish and egg would work together.  Needless to say, this was my HANDS DOWN FAVORITE DISH of the night.  I can’t explain how amazing this was.  So, I am going to let you in on what I was actually saying, or more like sounding.  Ummm.  Ohhhh. MMMMMMMMMMM!  Grunt grunt.  “This is amazing”  (Imagine me saying that with my mouth full and eyes open wide then closing.)  Ahhhhh.  Nuff’said.

I had to put the two pictures in.  I had to take separate ones.  I am in love with this presentation.  Look at that lamb.  Look at those zucchini rolls.  Look at the tomato mousse.  And the eggplant mousse.  Now look at the Jus below………

The lamb was *perfectly* cooked.  The zucchini was crisp, yet tender.  The eggplant lent this dish a smoky flavor, while the tomato tempered the bitterness of the eggplant.  And the Jus….Oh the Jus!  I couldn’t get enough of it.  I wanted to tip the bowl and drink it instead of my wine.  I wish I could muster up some fancy words to describe this, but hey, all I am going to say, DANG THIS WAS GOOD.

And then there was dessert.  I wish I could tell you what this was, apart from chocolate mousse, chocolate crumbs, lime sorbet… was good.  But, I am not really a dessert person unless it is ridiculous.  But, it was a great ending to an amazing meal.

I kid you not, YOU HAVE TO COME HERE.  It is the perfect place to lose yourself and RELAX.  Do nothing, swim, read, get a massage, ponder years of yore……..and eat like you’ve never had food before.  You’ll love it.  It’s simply perfect.  Have I said that before?  Yeah, I have.  I know.  Hey, if you’re still not convinced, the owner of the castle is a model fanatic.  Apparently his ancestors were in the battle of Waterloo.  They have not one, but two display cases of battles.

Oh, and did I mention how gorgeous it is at night?

I hope you can come to this magical place.  You won’t regret it.