A night in Collioure, France

So after our post-lunch walk and a bit of shopping, we hopped back in the car to our final destination for the night, Collioure, France.  Funny thing is, I wasn’t even going to take them there.  My original thought was to take my family to Cadaques.  But on the Thursday night after we had rented the car, I got on the internet and tried to find a place to stay.  There was NOTHING in Cadaques.  By this time I was getting nervous.  All the websites kept on offering us rooms in Roses, which is a seaside town 25 km from Cadaques, but not exactly the place you want to stay.  The only draw Roses has, or had, I should say, is that it is home to El Bulli, which is now a center for investigation and learning,  Culinary investigation that is.  Then I remembered that my business partner had talked about this little town right across the border of Spain.  He was always waxing poetic on its beauty, so I thought I would give that a shot.  And we got lucky!  We found an incredible hotel for 170 euros per night, for four people!  At that price, (43 euros per person) we didn’t care if someone had to sleep on the floor.

So, anyhow, we began our drive up, and were pleasantly surprised on how near it was to Spain.  This region of France is called Pays Catalan, although it is in the Languedoc-Roussillon.  Between the 10th and 17th century, France and Spain fought over this region like rabid dogs.  So although it is undecidedly French, it has many Catalan influences everywhere.

We finally arrived at the hotel, and were amazed at its beauty.  Les Mouettes is a wonderful place to stay out of the hustle and bustle of the main town, but only 2km away.  We had 180 degree views of the ocean, and there was a fantastic pool to boot.  But, we wanted to head into town to explore and then grab a bite to eat.  So we drove in, and were “oohing” and “aahing” at the beauty of it.  Little did we know.

As my uncle and I were waiting for my aunt and her friend to finish shopping, we continued to walk towards the port.  We came across this little square, that was just spectacular.  The photos do not do it justice.  Behind us (from this vantage point) there was a large stone arch.  We could see the water, so we slowly meandered down towards it, and as we passed through the arch, we both looked at each other with mouths agape.  The port of Collioure is one of the most breathtaking vistas I have ever seen.  Its half-moon beach flanked on either side, to your left by a church, whose bell tower dates back to the middle ages.  And on our right, was this massive Fort, that housed the Kings of Majorca from the middle ages until French occupation.

I was flabbergasted.  I couldn’t stop turning my head, akin to a tennis match, and thinking to myself, we are really lucky.  Walking a little further on to the beach, you realize there is another half-moon bay behind the fort, and high up on a hill behind it there was an old windmill, and higher up another fort with a watchtower.

Then if you turned completely around, in the distance, on two mountain peaks, were another two other watch towers.  It was truly, truly amazing.  I’m not going to get into the history of it, but if you want to browse and read a little about it, you can look it up here.  We ran back to grab my aunt and her friend like two excited school children to show them the sights.  After a round of 1,000 pictures, we began to look for our restaurant for the night.

I had been warned that Collioure was expensive in terms of food, but nothing could be farther than the truth.  We decided to eat in the little square above, and found a great little place, which I don’t remember the name of, and had a menu worth 14.90 euros.

It was a simple dinner, but exactly what we wanted.  We got a salad to start, unfortunately, we all tucked into our salads so fast that no picture was taken.  But mine was Salade Collioure, which had anchovies, white anchovies, olives, tomatoes, rucola, lambs lettuce, and a gorgeous balsamic vinaigrette.  It was simple, but delicious.  My aunt chose to have an incredible salad, whose name again I do not remember, but it was full of orange slices, white asparagus, hearts of palm, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, avocado, tomatoes, and of course, tender lettuce.  Then along came our mains.  Oh heaven!  We all chose to have the Bavette a L’Echalote avec Pommes Frites.  That’s basically flank steak with a caramelized shallot and red wine reduction sauce, and of course, french fries.

It was perfect, it was exactly what we wanted on that wonderful, magical, oh so Francaise night!  The meat was cooked to perfection, Au Point, and the fries were crispy without being greasy.  Needless to say, we didn’t eat our side salad.  I mean, how much lettuce can a girl have?

Dessert was amazing too, there was a choice of Ice Cream, Fruit Salad, Crema Catalana (which in my head I wailed, NOOOOOOO!  I prepare crema catalana on almost a daily basis for my classes, so it is so not what I want to eat.) and Ile Flottante.  Of course I chose Ile Flottante, which translates to Floating Island.  It is beaten egg whites, or meringue, that is quickly poached, and then placed over Creme Anglaise, basically custard.  It was all topped of with a caramel sauce.

It was delicious.  I was so happy, humming between bites.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had this dish, and my belly was congratulating me on such a wise choice.

After dinner, as per European custom, we took a long walk along the seaside, walked around the Fort to the other half-moon bay.  We meandered, taking in the sights and sounds, of families and couples strolling just like us.  It was a magical night.  It was exactly what we were hoping for, but more than we expected.

The next morning, we woke up to rain and choppy wind.  It was COLD.  I did not bring anything to warm me up, since the week before we had been in a heat wave, and ended up having to buy a sweater so we could visit the fort.  Here are some pictures of the fort, and the only history note I will leave you with is this, cause I think it’s super cool.  The fort was briefly occupied by Louis the XIII and his musketeers, and D’Artagnan fought in the battles with him here.  Now how cool is that?

This is a must see for any traveller.  Collioure is absolutely worth a visit for longer than a day.  And if you are looking for somewhere to stay, I recommend Hotel Les Mouettes.

 

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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!

Negro Carbon: Cute litte Argentine Burger Joint in Barcelona’s Born

After our event, and then last night’s barbecue for St. John’s Eve……I did not feel like lifting a finger.  I feel as if  I’ve washed enough dishes to be able to treat myself to having lunch prepared for me.

So, I was craving a burger.  To me, a well prepared burger is one of the most divine dishes ever.  EVER.  I always think of Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, and I think to myself, I could probably dedicate a song to quite a number of foods, and a good Cheeseburger would be on the top of my list.

But, even though burger places are cropping up like weeds here in Barcelona, I truly do not think not one of them have a) tried a burger in the US, or b) asked someone American to teach them how to make a burger.  You see, my benchmark for burgers is when you bite into them, you get that teeny little bit of grease on your chin.  There is nothing worse than a dry burger.  Here though, they seem to think that you should make burgers with lean beef, so you never get that juicyness.  But Negro Carbon has made a good effort, and I give them a B+.  Their burgers are made with Argentine beef, which is amazing, and they are substantially better than all the other burger places that abound in my neighborhood and others.

But, the service is terrible.  We waited 35 minutes for our burgers……I mean, were they picking up the beef from the airport?  Thank God they brought us out the fries and onion rings, because I was about to have a mini-meltdown!

The fries are definitely home-made, they remind me of the ones my mom would make when I was a kid.  I am not sure if the onion rings are made there or not, but they are really, really good!

My boyfriend ordered the “La Gringa” burger, which if you don’t already know, Gringa and gringo means American.  The “La Gringa” is made with cheddar, pickles, bacon, lettuce tomato, barbecue sauce and an onion ring.

And I chose my favorite, “Pipi -Cucu”, which has Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms.  When I first came to this restaurant, I wondered why on earth they would call a burger by that name.  And the waiter told me it’s a story about an Argentine boxer who did a press release in France, and all he had to say was Merci Beaucoup, but instead he said “Pipi Cucu”.  Anyhow, funny story or not, I love it.  I have a thing for mushrooms and onions, so I can’t go wrong with this burger.

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten dessert here, because I am usually so stuffed after the burgers.  But I am sure they will have something nice, maybe next time I should try something else……nah!

So, if you’re in Barcelona and are in the mood for a good burger made with excellent quality beef, come to Negro Carbon!

Negro Carbon

Pla de Palau 16

Barcelona, 08003

+34 93 319 1123

http://www.negrocarbon.com

Final Hurrah to Brit Week: Barcelona’s One and Only Fish and Chips in the Raval

5 years ago, Fish and Chips in Barcelona was born.  Two lovely young ladies and good friends of mine, opened up Fish and Chips, after having a hankering for their countries’ ubiquitous food.  Barcelona is full of Doner Kebap shops, Pubs, and Burger Joints, but there was nary a Chippy in sight.  So, after travelling to Leeds to complete their National Fish Fryer’s Association course, they came back to their new home town and embarked on a new path in life.

Yesterday I went down to the Chippy to have some Fish and Chips, because how could I possibly have Brit Week without having probably the most English of dishes other than Chicken Tikka Masala? 😉  The Raval is an area of Barcelona that is chock full of Kebap joints, making the chippy stand out if you are in the mood for something that is completely different.  I grabbed a friend, and we plonked ourselves on the terrace, under the shade of Acacia trees and hungrily waited for our food.

Which took a while, since the chippy was plagued today with a group of British students having their lunch.

But no worries, it was such a gorgeous day that with a beer in hand, and idle chatter with good friends, I didn’t mind waiting. We ordered the fish and chips menu, with all the sauces, because my friend is Catalan and he had never tried any of them.

Baked Beans, Mushy Peas, Curry Sauce, Onion Gravy

My favorite is the curry sauce.  If you are missing all your typical chippy food, well you are so in luck.  They have just about everything an expat Brit’s heart can desire.

They also serve a Full English Breakfast, and an American one, all day long.

And now….for the Food.  I have tried Fish and Chips maybe once or twice in London, and was not impressed.  These ladies, to me, make hands down the best fish and chips this side of the english channel, and probably on that side too.  They only use flash-frozen fresh Cod fillets, and they made sure they got the highest quality potatoes that have very little water content, which are perfect for frying.  And I was not disappointed!

It was perfectly crispy on the outside, and juicy and tender on the inside.  We both ate everything off our plates.

But, those of you that have been there before, and those who haven’t will have a big surprise.  This year marks the Chippy’s 5th Anniversary, and they are having a big blowout this Sunday, 10th of June, from 3 pm onwards.  There will be mini-canapes of yorkshire pudding and roast beef, all sorts of baked goodies, and lots of the usual stuff too!

But, the best part is that they are unveiling their new menu items.  I will certainly be going there really soon, to try all the new yummy things!

Apart from the regular menu, they are doing a Burger menu, with 100% beef, Chicken, Fish and Veggie burgers; a Hot and Cold Sandwich menu that will have the regular Sausage, BLT, Bacon…..and then Egg and Cress (LOVE),  Cheese and Pickle (LOVE LOVE) Chicken Salad and Ham and Mustard.

And for those who want something completely different, there will be Lasagna and Veggie Lasagna.  And another option of sides will be the coleslaw!  Can’t wait to try it all.

So, if you want to have a great time on Sunday, with some great British grub, drinks, music and fun, go down to the Chippy for their 5th Anniversary!  And if that weren’t enough to make you want to go, all their bestseller’s will be sold at a discount!

Fish and Chips
Rambla del Raval 26
08001 Barcelona.
Tel: 93 4411134
info@fishandchipsbarcelona.com

Say hi to Julia while you’re there!


Tomorrow, I am off to Switzerland and Italy for my 20 year high school reunion,  so will be photo blogging all my wonderful eats and sights!

Ciao e ci vediamo Lunedi!

Anfiteatro: A hidden gem in Barcelona’s Vila Olimpica

This last friday was my second visit to Anfiteatro, a marvelous little restaurant in Barcelona’s Olympic Village.  This area is particularly full of tourist chain restaurants, pandering what the unassuming traveler would deem “authentic spanish cuisine”.  But not so….what you get is mass market food that has little to no quality, banged out in less than appetizing fashion.  If you cross the road from the two towers (Hotel Arts and Mapfre building) you will find this gorgeous and tranquil spot, where from the moment you enter you feel like you are in another city completely.

Anfiteatro is a small, inviting space, with large windows overlooking a water fountain and pond.  You are greeted warmly and taken to your table and immediately you can just sit back and relax and let the night roll out in a wonderful way.

As usual, we had the tasting menu, and every bite was delicious.

To start off we had a cold pumpkin cream with rosemary sorbet.

On its own, the pumpkin cream is good but not surprising.  The rosemary sorbet made the difference, turning around this classic into something worth writing about.

Then we had prawns in a parsley sauce.

I love this presentation.  The prawns look so in love!  The delicate taste was balanced well with the parsley oil.  Prawns here in the Mediterranean have a more “briny” taste than our American counterparts.  Ladling them with sauce would do them a huge injustice.

Our third appetizer was an Avocado, Salmon Roe and Shrimp cocktail.

This was by far my favorite dish of the night.  The colors were beautiful, and the addition of the Salmon Roe transformed this dish into what would be an entirely creamy puree, into bursts of ocean flavors.  I am not sure what the puree on the bottom was, but to me it seemed like a very lemony and light hummus.  I was yearning for seconds!

Our starter was Lobster “Ravioli” with a Shellfish Beurre Blanc.

Ravioli is in quotations, because this wasn’t actually pasta….this was very thinly sliced cuttlefish that was wrapped around the lobster to make these mouth-watering morsels.  I love the innovative way in which they presented a classic.  It was extremely light, and the filling was dotted with crispy veggies.

And finally, our main was a Slow braised beef with Crispy Pan-fried Potatoes

I absolutely adore demi-glace.  It needs to be used much much more, and it is often overlooked here in Spain because of all the molecular gastronomy, thanks to our local chef/scientist Ferran Adria.  I am more of a classics girl, I want to eat food, not have it in a bubble or a foam, or air…..  The beef was fork tender and juicy, and the potatoes were just perfect, crispy but not oily at all.

And finally, our dessert was a Mascarpone Cream with Raspberry Sorbet.

This was a perfect dessert to our meal.  It was sweet without being overpowering, tart enough to counter balance the creaminess of the mascarpone.  All in all, this was a splendid meal, that was not too heavy, but just enough to make you full.

If you are wandering through the Vila Olimpica and don’t feel like getting swindled by “El Rey de La Gamba”, cross over and try Anfiteatro.  Definitely worth it.

Anfiteatro

Parc del Port Olímpic  Avinguda Litoral, 08005 Barcelona

+34 659 69 53 45

http://www.anfiteatro-restaurante.com

VILA VINITECA: My little slice of paradise in Barcelona

I recently moved into an area in Barcelona called the Born.  It is one of the oldest neighborhoods, with gorgeous cobblestone streets, lively bars, a simply awe-inspiring church, and my favorite part, the most decadent delicatessen and wine shop.  Whatever I am saving on rent from my previous apartment, I am spending it in here!  And you can also have lunch, or a snack in the store, and sample all the gorgeous cheeses, “jamones” and just about anything else they have in stock……which is a lot.

Recently I went in and grabbed a bite, ok a big bite, to eat.  And I was in heaven.  The menu is basically a list of cheeses, cured meats, some seafood (all canned, but the best quality) and a few salads.  I can never decide on the cheese, so I always ask for the 5 cheese sampler.

But I also wanted something fresh, so we asked for a plate of their tomatoes and tuna belly (ventresca)

In Spain, the canned tuna is exceptional.  It is nothing, I mean nothing compared to what I used to get in the USA when I lived there, that was this dry, sand-papery kind of thing that you had to add mayonnaise to it.  And the tomatoes!!!  Look at them, my mouth waters just from thinking about it.  It was a plate of “Corazon de Buey” or Bull’s heart due to their shape, which is large and full of ridges, and Kumato tomatoes.  The bull’s heart are a fleshier, jucier more delicate type of tomato, whereas the Kumato is round, small, and has a greenish-brown tint, and has a more pronounced flavor.  I prefer the Kumato.  All drizzled with some extremely high quality extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkled with some salt from Ibiza, you can see it in the background in the light blue tin.

Then, of course we had some ham, “Joselito” ham to be exact.

This is not your normal Iberian ham.  It is truly a gift from the Gods, or from some very delicious piggies.  If you aren’t familiar with “Jamon de Bellota”, it is ham made from Black pigs, that are only fed acorns.  And it produces this beautiful dark red hue, with just the perfect amount of fat on it.  When you put it in your mouth, it basically melts and delivers an incredible “umami” sensation.  It is best eaten with “pa amb tomaquet” which is country bread spread with tomato, olive oil and salt.

Then on to our cheese plate…..EUREKA!!!!!  I love cheese.  If I were stuck on a desert island, I hope there are some goats or sheep or cows, cause I need to have my cheese.  As I said, we chose the 5 sampler plate.

From the bottom to top :

Tou de Tillers – A mild and creamy (delishhhhhhhh) cow’s milk cheese from the Catalan Pyrenees

Tome des Coucherins – a firm, mild cow’s milk cheese from France.  This one was just ok, but hey, they all can’t be stars!

Comte- a strong, firm cow’s milk cheese, aged from 2009, from France.  I really liked this one, but you can’t have too much, it really has a pronounced flavor.

Tome de Savoie- this was a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese.  I really enjoyed this one, it had a more pronounced flavor than the first one, and it paired really well with the jam that they gave us, which I will tell you about later.

And last but not least, or basically my favorite,

Shropshire Blue- This is the king of all cheeses.  The big kahuna.  The bees to my knees.  Ok, it’s a cheddary-blue cheese from England, reminiscent of Stilton, but softer, more melt in your mouth feel.  This is my go-to cheese.  I absolutely could eat this everyday.

And all of this accompanied by this incredible violet jelly.  I was a bit unconvinced at first.  I have tried cheese with rose petal jelly, but never violet.  It was delicious.  It wasn’t as “perfumey” as I thought it would be.  It was a very delicate taste, and it combined perfectly with the fattier cheeses, giving it a completely balanced taste, none of the flavors overpowering the others.  And it was so beautiful to look at too, it’s pinkish-lavender hue looked extremely beautiful on the white cheeses.

If you are ever in Barcelona, and you want a fabulous glass of wine to wash down all this food glory, or just do some shopping to take back home, you need to make your way to Vila Viniteca.  It’s just perfect.

Carla

Vila Viniteca

http://www.vilaviniteca.es

Carrer de Agullers, 7

+34 902 32 77 77

Barcelona

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

Xemei – Venetian cuisine in the hills of Barcelona

There is this little gem of a restaurant here in Barcelona called Xemei.  I was turned on to it by a fellow school mate and chef who works here in Barcelona.  I am so happy that she did.

Xemei means twins in Venetian dialect, because of the owners, who are……(drum roll please) TWINS!  I go there as much as I can, because the food is just amazing.  My boyfriend actually goes there almost once a week…..and he doesn’t get tired of it.  The menu is quite short, but it changes often, always making it seasonal and fresh.  The last time I went there, I had these amazing bay scallops, just sautéed with a bit of garlic, butter and parsley.

I loved the simplicity of this dish, because it really let the scallops shine…..as they should.  The time before, when I was starving, I had their starter Tomino cheese and rosti potatoes,  topped with a poached egg and crispy leeks.  It. Was. Divine.  I wish I could explain with words how good this was, but there aren’t any to be able to describe it as well as mine and my friends orgasmic moans.  I mean….seriously.

Tomino is a small, brie-like cheese from northern Italy.  It begs to be wrapped in bacon and cooked, like how my friend Miki’s boyfriend did when I first tried it.  This version was incredible.  Lightly pan-fried, to get the inside to melt……well…you can see from the picture….I bet you’re salivating now!

For seconds we shared the pasta, which was with mussels and clams in a spicy tomato sauce.  That is one of their specialties, that is always on the menu.

Again, how I love to cook and eat, very few ingredients to let the stars shine….which in this case were the freshest mussels and clams.

And for dessert we had Apple Strudel.  Since the Veneto region has been influenced by Austria…..well, Alto Adige (northeast region of Italy) formed part of Austria until the beginning of the last century….so you will find Apple Strudel in a lot of menus there.

It was the perfect end to a perfect meal.  With just a tiny dollop of custard on the side…..yuuuuuummmmmmy.

So, if you are ever in Barcelona, or you live here, and are hankering for some excellent venetian cuisine, I recommend Xemei.

Restaurante Xemei

Passeig de l’ Exposicio, 85

+34 93 553 5140