Saturday, February 11, 2012

Return to Tarragona

I was invited to my bosses birthday bash and took about 30 seconds to accept. So.....internet....easyjet.....hirecar later I arrive at my friends house in Torreforta. The bonus is that the weekend coincides with the annual Calçotada festival in Valls. Those who know me know I'm obsessed with calçots but had neve managed to get to the festival before.
It was cold and icy but with bright skies.
Valls is a lovely historic Catalan town and this festival is ....mark my words..... going to become a highlight of any gourmand's calendar.
For those who still don't know, calçots are similar to leeks. They are roasted over a wood fire until black and charred. You strip the charred leaves with your fingers and dip the sweet, smoky, caramelized centre of the onion into romesco and lower into mouth. The feast also includes wine, grilled meats and vegetables, and it is eaten standing up, with a bib for protection. I intend to showcase one in Bristol soon.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Adéu for now

Well my two years have come to an end and I have decided to return to Bristol. People keep asking me why. And I don't completely understand why myself. I love living in Spain. I feel very 'at home' here and yet I will always be a foreigner. But I love conquering all the obstacles presented by being a foreigner. I love it when I realize I have moved up a level in the language, or when I have assimilated a local custom and adopted it as my own. But I have unfinished business in Bristol. I have ghosts to exorcise, dragons to slay. Then I will return stronger and in peace to start the next chapter.
In the mean time follow me on Ant's in Bristol.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bilbao and San Sebastian

Went to Bilbao and San Sebastian at the weekend.
Stunning green mountainous scenery covered with forest. More like Switzerland than most people's idea of Spain.
Very cool, sophisticated and friendly. Where else can you experience Gehry, Foster, Koons, Kapoor, Balenciaga, Gernika, Castles, mountains, beaches all in the same area.And that's just scratching the surface.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Abel's invention

My friend Abel came up with this impromtu late-night snack after a hard day of Tapas eating. By midnight we were peckish if you can believe that.
The result was amazing beyond its simple appearance.
Baked sobrasada and cabra cheese croutes.
Sobrasada is a speciality of Mallorca and is a kind of spreadable paté, yet it is not made with offal.
It has similarities in texture to French rillettes, yet the meat is not cooked.
It is heavily spiced with sweet, smoky paprika and garlic and has a bright red/orange appearance. Usually it is spread, cold, on bread but the genius stroke here was to bake it with the semi-cured goat cheese topping.
Slimming it is not.
Delicious it definitely is.
Well done Abel!

Can you see the irony in this?

I saw this on a Spanish Train and immediately thought of one of those 'impossible drawings' by Dutch Artist MC Escher.
It is the glass-breaking hammer which is locked in .....yes, you've guessed it...... a glass safety case. To get the glass-breaking hammer you need to.... erm..... break the glass...........

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Quick, Essential Giude to The Tarragona coastline

What's to like?
1. Tarragona coast lovely.... city beach beautiful to look at despite railway and commercial Port. Especially if you look at it from above the Roman Amphitheatre where they just did a re-enactment of Gladiator fighting for Roman Week. (see above) But five minutes to the north are my ideal kind of beach. They are populated, but not at all commercial. Golden sandy coves protected by wild rock headlands at each end. Local families in moderate numbers (see below). A great chiringuito at Savinosa and Platja Llarga. Wonderful.

2.North. La mora and Altafulla i Tamarit.
La Mora ....beach nice. Town a bit forgettable. But the best bit is the wild pine forest which hugs the precipitous cliffline. Take a walk on the wild side and follow the barely discernable paths into the woods and discover drop-away cliffs with turquoise seas below, sometime calm, sometimes crashing with waves. Continue the nature walk and you stumble across Tamarit Castle which these days is a wedding venue. Lunch at the beach is also great.

3. What to avoid.
Salou to the South. Unless you're looking for Blackpool-in-the-sun. Also you have to go past the chemical works which despite providing so many jobs and so much wealth to the area are a real eyesore. I'm afraid I couldn't stomach taking any pictures of Salou.....use your imagination. Overweight, pink Brits in football kit, little girls with hideous hairbraids and flamenco outfits etc....

4. Southern gem.
Once passed Salou and you have resisted the charms of "full english breakfast and karaoke" you can breath easier, safe in the knowledge that a little gem is not far away.
Cambrils is also a seaside resort town, but it oozes style and class. The superyachts glisten and wink at you from the marina, the front-line terraced restaurants include a couple of Michelin-starred ones. And I recently discovered these new pieces of public sculpture which were thrilling. There's also a great park (Parc dels Pescadors) for kids.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tapas week in Tarragona 2

Second hit of the Tapas tour of Tarragona went as follows:
We started at L'Etoile on Calle Union.
Dau de bacallà sobre brownie de botifarra negra amb compota de verdures i pols de pernil ibèric.
Cube of Salt Cod on black pudding brownie, pea and asparagus puree and ham dust.

Very striking and vibrant. When eaten all together the flavours were interesting. But have to say it was all disappointing. A classic bit of 'style over substance'. The black pudding didn;t benefit from being turned into a chewey brownie, and the overall taste experience was quite unmemorable.

The next place, however, heralded a contender for BEST TAPA of our entire experience:
"Cómete el Rabo" "Eat the tail"
Braised Oxtail wrapped in sliced ham with crispy artichokes and leeks and vermouth reduction.
It was FANTASTIC. Like the best steak pie filling you've ever had with a great presentation, (ie. it looked like delicious food, not art) We all wanted seconds!

Next was Ramon's, an unassuming local workers bar. I had actually tried this tapa when the owner was deciding what to serve, so I knew what to expect. He called it Black and White and it consists of Morcilla (black pudding) form Jaen and scrambled egg with aioli sauce and raspberry ketchup (!?)
Sounds a bit wierd but it was my all-time second favorite. Served warm, the cinnamon and allspice flavours of the sausage matched really well with the earthieness of the dish. The two sauces together just really worked. Bloody lovely! Who would have thought ..... raspberry ketchup..... and they say Tarragona is provincal!

The last tapa we tried turned out to be our all time favourite, and I think it will win the overall competition. (you can vote online for your favorite)
Cruixent de guatlla amb bolets
Filo pastry parcel of guineafowl with porcini mushrooms and a herb salad. (the first time I have seen anyone use dill in nearly 2 years here) and a light soy sauce.
We had to wait a bit but it was worth it. Fragrant, moist and tasty guineafowl with the rich accent of the awesome boletus wild mushrooms and the savoury soy for extra umami and a modernist nod.