Peretallada, Spain and Collioure, France

As you all know, I have had some visitors in town.  On Saturday we rented a car, and got on the road.  It was two magical, whirlwind days driving up the coast of Spain to get to Collioure, France; our destination for the night.

Peretallada is a small, very well-preserved Medieval town in the Baix Emporda, Girona.  It’s only about an hours’ drive away from Barcelona, but you feel like you have stepped into a completely different world, untouched by time.  It is just absolutely breathtaking, every corner you turn more beautiful than the other.  It was a hot, hot, hot afternoon.  So our first stop was obviously to eat, and somewhere in the shade, if possible.  We passed quite a few quaint little restaurants, that had almost doll-house like decoration.  My family wanted to eat in one of those, but me being the foodie that I am, was reading the menus of each, and settled on one that had a recommendation from the Guide Routard.  For those of you who don’t know, the Guide Routard is kind of like the Michelin, with recommendations of restaurants, routes and hotels.  The restaurant itself was a charming little space with an indoor courtyard, but we were luckily offered a table on the outside terrace.

It was cool and breezy, perfect for our escape from the searing Iberian sun.  The menu was also really interesting, all tapas, but a mix between traditional and more unusual fare.  The best part is that each plate was worth 3.3o euros, and it included wine and dessert.  We each chose 3 tapas.

The dish on the left, was Boquerones (white anchovies) with avocado on toast.  You can see a little piece of my aunt’s Smoked Salmon on toast as well.  On the right is Chorizitos a la Sidra.  This is a typical Basque dish, that is chorizo sausage cooked in Cider.

Here are two more of our dishes, on the left, seared ahi tuna with mashed potatoes and a wasabi soy sauce.  It was so tender and flavorful, and the mash was super creamy.  The sesame seeds were the perfect addition.  On the right are my Porcini mushroom croquetas…….what can I say?  Porcini mushrooms in a delicate béchamel sauce, then coated with breadcrumbs and fried?  Yummy.

On the left was one of Maggie’s dishes, A Sobrasada and Brie “Pizza”.  Sobrasada is a cured meat from Mallorca, it is more of a spreadable consistency, so it’s especially lovely on flat bread like this.  It’s chock-full of paprika, so super tasty.  And melted brie?  Yah, you know what I mean.  Then on the right is my aunt’s simple and delicate Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette.  So beautiful, so delicious.  You don’t need anything else in it.

On the left is my super refreshing Watermelon “Soup” with mint.  It was a perfect starter for this hot, sunny lunch.  The mint just made it that much more refreshing.  And on the right…..Oh Lord.  Too delicious.  Codfish with a tender garlic Mousseline.  We could not stop sopping up this sauce after my uncle devoured (well, poor guy, we all devoured) the fish.

These two dishes, one traditional one not, were, in my opinion, the show stoppers.  On the left is the traditional “Gambas al Ajillo”, basically prawns in garlic-chili oil.  Ok, you can imagine.  So simple.  So perfect.  Sauce on bread with oil dripping down our chins while we groan like little piggies.  On the right, Salmon with a Coconut Cream sauce.  Who would’ve thunk????  Oh my God.  Fantastic!  The coconut sauce was so light and delicate.  Neither flavour overpowered the other.  Can you see a theme?  Dipping sauces.  We were all about dunking and dipping our bread in each other’s plates.

This was the last of our savoury dishes.  Very, very traditionally Catalan.  It’s meatballs with Cuttlefish, and it is one of the classic “Surf and Turf” dishes that graces menus all over Catalonia.  This was homey, comforting and again, dippable!  Now, we just prayed we had enough room for dessert!

We did.  On the left, chocolate mousse and Tiramisu, on the right, Crepes with Violet jam.  Fantastic end of our meal.  We could not have chosen any better, and were absolutely amazed by the quality of the food, the preparation, the presentation of each dish.  And it was so CHEAP.  We were so happy, with our bellies full.  We took a stroll through the town after lunch to help us digest this mini-feast.  Here are some pictures of Peretallada.

The Menu at our restaurant

major 10   |   peratallada   |   girona   |   17113   |   +34 972 63 50 30   |   info@papibou.com

Tomorrow……Collioure!

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…..it 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.

Carla

http://www.castelldemporda.com