Monday, March 28, 2016
I wake up with the sure knowledge that THIS will be a great day. Janel has planned for us to go to a Calçotada. Ever since I saw my friend, Tony Bourdain, eating the fat, char-grilled overgrown green onions I knew it was something I wanted to try. Calçots are in the same family as onions. They are grown using a special technique: during their growth process, they are covered with earth so that the white part of the plant (the one that you end up eating) is very large. After harvesting, calçots are charred over an open flame and steamed in newspaper to make them tender. They are only in season during the winter and every time I have visited Janel, the season has just passed. Not this time, baby!
Note: If you have not seen Tony’s “No Reservations” show on Spain you can check it out HERE. The Calçotada section starts at around 3:13 in the video and is well worth a watch to get the idea.
It is very convenient that Isam has a car, because the place we are going to is out in the countryside (again). We zip along in order to meet our 1:00pm lunch rez. When we turn off the main road we find ourselves in the middle of an olive grove and heading directly into the foot of the mountain Montserrat along a gravel road. Yes. This will be good.
. Restaurant Vinya Nova looks way cool. It is a huge place with seating both inside and out. We were hoping for a nice sunny day to sit out, but it is a bit chilly and we are not sure we can do it. We choose to suck it up and soon we are rewarded with warm sun and red wine.
Soon a porro of red wine is placed on our table. We indulge.
These photos make it look pretty easy. Actually, there was a moment when Isam tried to show off his skills at drinking from the vessel and poured red wine all over his face! After that little fiasco we started using glasses.
The Menu Calçotada is ordered (of course) and we sit back to wait for the action.First comes the Pan Amb Tomàquet (otherwise known as what I have been referring to as “Pan Con Tomate.”) However, we are deep into Catalunya – Barcelona is its capital – where the language is Catalan – not Castilian. This topic is far too confusing for me to go into especially since I don’t know much about it. If you are interested you can research more HERE. If you visit Barcelona, you may be surprised to find a language that is not Spanish!
Anyway… as I mentioned, first comes the Pan Amb Tomàquet. According to Isam, this is the true form of what we have been served in most restaurants. It is a “do it yourself” version.
First you break open a garlic clove and scrape it along the crusty bread. This must be done first while the bread is still crispy.
Next you cut a tomato and rub it all over. This starts to make the bread a little mushy.
Then you drizzle on the (good) olive oil. Follow with a sprinkle of salt.
At this point our bibs are busted out and put on. This is going to be serious business.
The highly anticipated calçots arrive. We are each given our own newspaper-wrapped package of the chargrilled treats. There is an art to eating them which Isam deftly demonstrates:
Janel and I quickly follow suit:
We “strip, dip (into the lovely Romesco sauce) and slurp” our way through the piles until our hands are black from the charcoal. Wow. Just wow. This is everything I dreamed it would be and more. We chatter on about how everyone in our family would go crazy for this. How can Janel import calçots the next time she visits the states?
But wait. There’s more. Just as we finish and attempt to clean our hands of the soot, our server plunks down a casserole dish of garbanzos, white beans, hunks of lamb and thin lamb chops.
They are not kidding around here. We dive in and make a valiant attempt at the meat When we can’t go any further we note how it would be a shame to leave the rest. Asking for a “doggy bag” is just not done in Spain. However, we notice the next table has a plastic container with their leftovers in it. I decide to speak up (as the American who doesn’t know any better) and ask for a “tupper.” The server obliges. Ahhh – tomorrow’s breakfast is ready.
A small basket of mandarinas and pears along with some crispy almond cookies and nuts round out our feast. A couple of cortados (coffee with a shot of milk) later we are super satisfied and ready to head back
The ride home is not too long and once again Janel entertains by reading a short story. Today’s pick is “The Last Question” by Issac Asimov. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you try it HERE. We are thoroughly engrossed and are in the city before the story is finished. It will have to be tabled until this evening.
We have no big plans for tonight and want to just spend a quiet evening together. After a bit of a rest and a little organizing of my things to get ready to fly tomorrow, we reconvene at Janel’s apartment. The weather outside at 8:00pm is simply lovely. It is still light outside and we take a nice stroll around the neighboorhood before ending up back at Janel’s place where we share a last bit of cava and make good use of Janel’s new wine glass markers (tiny birds).
The evening is low-key. We take a good look at the Christmas book I made for family. I also am given the opportunity to listen to some of Isam’s music and am very impressed. I just know that he and John could collaborate on something great.
The evening ends with Janel playing her lovely ukelele.