My visit to the gastronomical Walhalla: El Celler De Can Roca (2)

Sorry, I just had to split the post, but I won’t keep you guys up any longer. Please feast your eyes on the menu and the pics I took (fyi, a few pics are missing as I sometimes was so under the impression of the food that I forgot to take a picture 🙂 soooooorry)

ECCR Appetizer (1) Conquer the World

Conquer the World:

  • Mexico: Guacamole, tomato seeds, tomato water with cilantro (the green ball)
  • Peru: Ceviche broth (the white pearl) -> this was one nasty ball, the flavors exploding when you ate it were mindblowing 🙂
  • China: Pickled vegetables with plum cream (the one looking like a ice cone)
  • Morocco: Almond, rose, honey, saffron, goat yoghurt. (looks like a tiny pie)
  • Japan: Nucleo miso, dashi cream and a nyinyonyaki tempura (the one that looks like a tiny patato) -> My favorite, it looked like a tiny patato

Accompanied by Albet i Noya Cava Brut (one specially made for El Celler)

ECCR Appetizer  (2) Olive Tree

Olive Tree: Caramelized olives filled with anchovy. Accompanied by Albet i Noya Cava Brut (one specially made for El Celler)

ECCR appetizer (3)Black truffle bombon ECCR Appetizer (4) The rock ECCR Appetizer (5) Black Truffle Brioche

Black truffle bombon, The rock: Carpano bonbon with grapefruit and black sesame and Black truffle brioche.  Accompanied by Albet i Noya Cava Brut (one specially made for El Celler)

ECCR Olivada

Olivada: Spicy gordal olive mousse, black olive donut, manzanilla olive ice-cream, toasted vinegar bread, savory jelly and picual olive.  Accompanied by: 2011 Marques d’alella Pansa Blanca

ECCR Contessa of white asparagus and truffle

Contessa of white asparagus and truffle.  Accompanied by Marfil Generoso Seco

ECCR Toda la gamba

Toda la Gamba: Palamós Shrimp in its bisque, crispy shrimp, seaweeds, plankton velouté and shrimp water. Accompanied by a 2007 Joh.Jos.Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr

Oyster with Hollandaise sauce. Accompanied by a 1998 Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanc (Rioja) (sorry no pic :-()

ECCR Grilled sea bream

Grilled sea bream with blood orange sauce, grapefruit, tangerine and endive with gentian flower. Accompanied by Guitierrez Colosía Palo Cotado (Jerez)

ECCR Iberian piglet

Iberian piglet in the Riesling Blanquette, terrine of mango, melon and beets, beet puree, black garlic, onion and orange concentrate. Accompanied by a 2010 Pedra de Guix (Priorat)

ECCR Mullet

Mullet cooked at low temperature with 3 types of gnocchi. Accompanied by a 2007 Dr Burklin Wolf Pechstein (Pflaz)

ECCR Truffle Soufflé

Truffle Soufflé. Accompanied by a 2011 Sarnin Berrux (Beaune)

ECCR Ventresca and lamb sweetbreads

Ventresca and lamb sweetbreads with white eggplant, licorice, coffee and oak grilled smoke. Accompanied by a 1995 Gran Reserva 890 (Rioja)

ECCR Liver

Liver with onions caramelized torcaz nuts, curry juniper, orange peel and herbs, sourdough ice cream with cocoa pulp and balsamic vinegar. Accompanied by a 2010 Anima Negra (Mallorca)

ECCR Fair apple

Fair apple (like you would eat at Coney island).  Accompanied by a 2009 Pétillant Natural Sydre tendre of Eric Bordelet

ECCR Cream of maple syrup

Cream of maple syrup, pear, walnuts and cardamom. Accompanied by a 1997 Lustau Oloroso Abocado (Jerez)

AMAZING, that is the only thing I can say! Everything nicely balanced out and always seasoned how it should!  There might have been a few dishes that were not really my cup of tea (but that is personal). I did love the contessa of asparagus and the truffle soufflé and the Iberian piglet if I have to name a few of my favorites. Don’t get me wrong all the dishes were wonderful and the portions were more than sufficient. After 15 dishes and 15 accompanying wines we were really happy we could walk back to our hotel and get some fresh air, I can tell you that 🙂

When I thought they couldn’t top it anymore they came with this 3 or 4 deck cookies cart (like the old manual ice cream carts) from which they gave us an assortment… I’m ashamed to say that we didn’t finish them all as we had already eaten quit enough. But the ones we tried were great 🙂

ECCR sweets for with the coffee

The cherry on the cake of my evening was when they invited me in the kitchen and wine cellar and meeting 2 of 3 Roca brothers (Brother n°3 Jordi was in India) was simply the cherry on the cake for me! I have already met and been on stage/backstage with lots of Rock ‘n roll legends, musicians and heroes (Pink, Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, ZZ Top, John Fogerty, Steve Gadd, etc… ) but for me guys like the Roca brother’s fit perfectly in that list of legends as for me they really Rock 🙂 (you see what I did there Roca – Rock 😉 ) One nice looking kitchen. It was funny to see that in their huge cupboard filled with cookbooks there were also some of Belgian chefs. FYI, I can also say for a fact that the Roca brothers are some really nice guys and I hope I didn’t talk too much (I tend to do that)

Carlos, Josep Roca, Me, Joao Roca

ECCR Kitchen (1) ECCR Kitchen (2) ECCR kitchen (3)

I can only say to every foodie they just have to try El Celler De Can Roca at least once in their life (I know I’ll be back).  In case you’re wondering how much I’ve spend for my amazing dinner at El Celler, it was around 250EUR pp which looking back to all I got and knowing they have over 60 people working at this restaurant is a reasonable price.

If you remember  the first thing I said in my post yesterday, the reason for me coming here was to see and find out why this is the second best restaurant in the world. Did I ? Well I think I’d have to try all in the top to compare why El Celler is only second and Noma 1st 🙂 (are my intentions too obvious? 🙂 ). I already know which one I’ll be trying next year, but I’m not yet telling you guys… What I think that makes the difference with the other Michelin star restaurants is besides the beautiful location and interior (which actually reminded me of the one at Pure C)  the wine – food pairing and renewed/inventive cooking with traditional ingredients in modern ways (and the pampering by the army of waiters)are what makes this an even better experience (but that’s what my opinion). I do wonder what the jury from San Pellegrino’s reason is to make this the 2nd best and not THE best?

Thanks to the very friendly staff of El Celler, the Roca brothers for this amazing night and last but not least my buddy Carlos for doing this with me!

My visit to the gastronomical Walhalla: El Celler De Can Roca (1)

Eating is an important part of my life (in case you missed it) and in all those years I’ve eaten at some great restaurants that spoil you from the second you walk in until you go home again. So what could those in the list of 50 best restaurants in the world have more to offer that puts them in that list (or at least I couldn’t imagine)… Only one way to find out and that was trying one of them, but which one?

50 best restaurants

Believe it or not, but it was actually faith that pointed out the restaurant I had to do. About a year ago I was at the gym and while running I was watching a Michel Roux Jr. show (this keeps me motivated to run, watching food 🙂 ). On this show they showed a restaurant called “El Celler de Can Roca” not knowing at that time it was a 3 Michelin star restaurant and 2nd best on the San Pellegrino restaurant ranking  (they probably mentioned it, but I forgot my headphone so I couldn’t hear what they were saying).  Anyway to make a long story short I liked the restaurant and found somebody crazy enough (Carlos) to go with me to Spain for a day and try “El Celler de Can Roca” and see what makes this restaurant the 2nd best restaurant in the world!

Michel Roux Jr

I have already done lots of things in my life, but travelling to Spain just for dinner and come back the next morning was a first for me 🙂 🙂

Of one thing I’m very sure, I’m glad I did it! This one amazing gastronomical experience! And on top of that feeling the sunshine on my face the moment I walked off the plane made it even better. FYI Girona is one very nice little town!

Girona (2) Girona (3)

Girona (1)

Was it the best food I have ever had? A lot of people asked me when I came back… I honestly have to answer that I don’t know, as every time I ate  at a restaurant of this level I always had great food! So I’m not sure to call it the best I ever had….  What I do think is that this is the most inventive, experimental, renewing and exploding food tastes I have ever tried! All presented in ways I really have no clue how they were able to make the dishes (and I’m not talking about molecular food). On top of the great food they prepared they had the PERFECT matching wine with every dish, definitely the best food-wine matching I have experienced. Don’t get me wrong, not that all the other restaurants I’ve been to didn’t have good wines, but at “El Celler de Can Roca” it was just that “little” extra that really gave “wow” effect during our dinner 🙂

El Celler De Can Roca

The first difficult part when sat down is deciding if you’ll be taking the “small” or big menu (11courses + appetizers + refreshments with the coffee)… as we did such a big effort getting there we just had to take the ‘big’ aka Festival menu. After they arrived with wine menu or better a wine cart with 3 huge/ massive books in it which make the bible look like a children’s book. What I liked when I eventually opened one of the “books” was that there were also wines one it under 30EUR. As it was too difficult to decide which one we just went for the matching wines picked out by Josep Roca and his team, which (I know I’m repeating myself) was the best pairing I ever had!!

The winelist cart

To be continued….

I know you guys are anxious to know what I ate :-), you’ll read about it tomorrow 🙂

Citrus, sweeter than lemons

Citrus, a restaurant you can find on in between the fancy shops on the Passeig Garcia. I got this tip from a colleague of mine aka Judith (who I thank for her tips), who works and lives in Barcelona, so I was pretty sure I could trust her choices. What didn’t know upfront is that restaurant is also from the Angroup, just like Piscolabis that I mentioned in my previous post (a tip I received from another friend). Here again a very good quality-price value, but this time in a more fancy surrounding.

For a meal in at restaurant you have to count around 30EUR per person for a whole meal including drinks… we drank glasses of cava during the whole meal… (it just felt more festively 🙂 )

We started our meal with for me some cannelloni Barcelona style (not sure what made it from Barcelona) and my beautiful fiancée took a salad with shrimps.

This got followed by some tuna and avocado for my fiancée and sea bass for me and we finished our dinner with a chocolate dessert.

Overall a good meal and next time I’m in Barcelona I will be here again. We enjoyed the whole meal so much that we also tried 2 other restaurants from the angroup Attic and Qu Qu… It is true that you can see some dishes come back on the menu in all restaurants, but nevertheless they serve it with the same good quality and correct price. (I have never paid more than 65EUR for 2 all in in their restaurants)

The bonus on my table was, besides the good food, without any doubt my gorgeous fiancée (well this is a bonus I have every time I sit at a table)… she always makes everything even better!

Me versus tapas in Barcelona

Who says Spain has to say tapas, they go together like a horse and carriage 🙂 Finding a place where they sell good tapas and for a good price (because at some places they can get expensive) isn’t easy, especially not in a city like Barcelona, where you also have the classic tourist traps.

The word “tapas” comes from the Spanish verb tapar which means “to cover”.  Initially people just took tapas as an appetizer, until one day they wanted to cover more then only a small hunger and decided to put lots of appetizers on a table 🙂

To make it easier to choose where to go, I decided to call in some help… Who better to ask then somebody who lives, has lived or has been there looooots of times?! One of these people was Beatriz a Spanish friend of mine who now lives in Antwerp and knows Barcelona really really well. One of many great tips she gave was to try Tapas restaurant Piscolabis.

Piscolabis has 2 locations in Barcelona, one on the Av. Diagonal (on image above) and one on the Rambla Catalunya. FYI they are both in great shopping areas. The fact that we tried both of them, might already tell you how much we liked it! This restaurant has it all, great tapas, good location, nice interior and last but not least friendly staff!

I personally like eating tapas as this way you get to taste lots of different dishes and at the end have eaten whole meal (sometimes more). Another good thing is that you order a few and if you still feel hungry, you can always order some extra tapas… And the best drink to accompany it is Cava, as Catalunya is THE cava region from Spain. The biggest problem (like always) was actually to choose what to eat, but lucky for us the menu also has images of the dishes (the only disadvantage in my case, I wanted to eat it all when seeing the pics)

A few tapas we ordered: Pan con tomate, patatas bravas, tortilla de patatas (classics),vegetable tempura, asparagus with melted brie, little meatballs, croquettes with Iberian ham filling and we also tried some salady dishes… and there are many more, but all of them were great!!!

I would also recommend you to try their desserts (you do the desserts tapas style, by taking a few different ones). The moelleux they serve is one of THE best I ever had! (Really and I tried a few of those in my life)

Basically I really recommend this restaurant!

P.S.: Thank you for this tip Beatriz!

Addresses:

Rambla Catalunya, 27

08002 Barcelona, Spain

Phone n°: +34 (0)93 306 96 69

Av Diagonal, 593

08006 Barcelona, Spain

Telephone: +34 (0) 93 410 54 95

And the winner is…

Elena Arzak, this name maybe doesn’t immediately ring a bell. Elena Arzak is the 4 generation of her family to head up restaurant Arzak that has already existing since it opened in 1897. This on itself it already quit remarkable

On top of that she managed to get her restaurant be in the top 10 of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and was the first Basque restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars.

You could really say Elena is really gifted, but she didn’t get it from a stranger, as last year, Elena’s father Juan Mari Arzak was honored with the esteemed Lifetime Achievement Award at last year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants ceremony.

This year it was Elena’s turn and she won the Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef award at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards! So better be quick to book a table! (FYI, a menu would be 170EUR pp)

An Italian in Spain part 2

During our stay we also enjoyed  lots of great restaurant/ tapabars. Some of them were from Tragaluz, but you read about this is a previous blog post.

Restaurant Les Quinze Nits was another true discovery (thanks to friends of mine), heavenly desserts! This restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so you’d better be quick to get a table, as always a whole row of people waiting to get a table … So we got lucky. When sitting outside, watch out for the pickpockets!

Another must do place to have a drink and tapas before y ou have dinner is  Can Paixano (la xampaneria) in Carrer de la Reina Cristina, crowed but a ‘must do’ in Barcelona.  FYI, the more napkins you see on the floor, the better the tapas J  (a Spanish rule). There of course many many other great tapa bars, restaurants, etc.. in Barcelona.. So let me know if you discovered some nice places in Barcelona! I’m always happy to try new places

When we went to Barcelona, we were really lucky that we had some beautiful weather, so we could actually go to the beach every day. What we usually did was walk in the city and around 4 p.m. (sometimes earlier) go to  the beach and enjoy the last sun of the day …. This worked perfectly as dinner starts very late. So we still have time to get back to the hotel and to the restaurant.

We even had one day we staid an entire day at the beach  and believe it or not, but we had stir-fried food for lunch. It might seem like not done in Spain, but this was the closest to our spot on the beach . This place was called Woki market, there are specialized in organic food :-). That was actually some good eating for a day at the beach, we could have done worse.

Something that really surprised me, was the good public transport in Barcelona… something I wouldn’t have expected from a southern-European country/city. The busses and metro trains ALWAYS came on time.  In some cities, taking the subway or bus can be hell, just finding out the route it is taking, but not  in Barcelona! Honestly. We used it the whole time we were there!

Another way to get around in Barcelona (besides bicycles ) is the little Yellow Go cars… We didn’t do this, as I thought it looked silly, my Girlfriend liked it…  You be the judge…

We stayed at the Diagonal hotel in Barcelona, at that  time we had a good deal via booking.com . overall is was a nice hotel , they had a nice choice of breakfast, the rooms were nice… the only thing some people might find less, it that it is not right in the heart of the city center, but it only took us a 15 minute walk to the Barceloneta/ Port Olimpic and when taking subway, you are in just a few minutes at Plaça Cataluña, Passeig Garcia (where the fancy shops are) or sagrada familia. I would also always know there the hotel was, just by looking at the building next to it, which was a giant sausage shaped building (some give another word to it 😉 . I would just suggest to find a good deal on Booking.com if you decide going to Barcelona.

I could go on and on about this city, but I think the best way is to explore this city yourself. Like I said before, this city has something to offer for everybody!… I k now I’ll be going back! Hope you will to?

An Italian in Spain part 1

You might think it is not easy for an Italian (ok, half Italian) to admit he likes Spain? Well it isn’t…. not that I have already travelled a lot to Spain, but what I have seen so far I liked. Although Italy will always be my nr 1 country to visit 🙂

My favorite city in Spain until now is without any doubt Barcelona. Barcelona is one of the few cities in the world where one immediately feels like coming home. This city has something for everybody for food lovers, art lovers, beach lovers, etc…. the list is endless.  Last year I took my girlfriend to Barcelona as a birthday gift… why Barcelona well, this city combines everything you expect from a city together with sea and a beach. So this way (if the weather permits it) you can enjoy both, which worked out perfectly for us and we  had the best 5 days ever.

Like in every city, there are always a few ‘mandatory  ‘ visits you have to do. Funny enough that most of these sight in Barcelona are designed by Gaudi :-). One of the most famous is  the Sagrada Familia,  it is indeed an impressive cathedral…Although we didn’t enter it, as I found 13EUR pp.  a lot to visit a ‘church’.  Another ‘Gaudi’ sight was Park Güel. Simply beautiful with impressive entrance and this park was bigger than I had imagined it…  The most famous piece  at this open air museum is without any doubt the mosaic bench. You also have a great overview over the whole city from here A tip, first visit Park Gel and then  Sagrada Familia, as it is on your way back to the city center.

There are of course much more must see museums and parks (for who likes it of course), like the National Museum of Art of Catalonia , Montjuïc park, Palau de la Musica Catalana, Liceu opera house etc…

But as I was here, only going museums (especially with great weather) isn’t the only thing one wants to be doing 🙂 . One of the things you can also do in Barcelona is shop until you drop 🙂  and you guys know how much the ladies like to see all those shops, so better put on some good footwear! Like in every city, usually the men are waiting outside of the shop. I also have never seen soooooooooo many Zara’s in my life.

The central place in Barcelona is Plaça de  Catalunya , from this square you have roads leading you to all the sights, La Rambla,  Passeig Garcia (this is where you can find all the fancy shops) , …  La Rambla was actually one of the places in Barcelona I liked least , it was too busy, lots of pickpockets and I don’t know I just didn’t like it. Only 1 exception, what did like on the Rambla was Mercat de la Boquiria! I have never seen so much food displayed in one place, so foodlovers and maybe even nonfood lovers… This is maybe one of my favorite sights in Barcelona ;-). FYI, they all cut the fruit, etc… if you want to eat it siting at the beach or on a bench in one of the parks …

I know this trip was for my girlfriend’s birthday, but food was still a very important part of this trip! The Mercat de la Boqueria is something you really have to see, but for people who don’t like this crowded places, you can find covered market places like this  all over Barcelona. A great alternative is  Mercat de Santa Caterina, with one of the most colorful rooftops 🙂 and a very nice little restaurant Cuines Santa Caterina in this Market  (you also a a tapas bar, sushi bar, take away, …).

 

To be continued….

Tragaluz

Ever been in Barcelona? No? What are you waiting for??? Ok, it also took me some years to get there, but I really fell in love with this city. I’m not going to talk about this wonderful city, but about a great restaurant group you can find in Barcelona.  The group is called Grupo Tragaluz which in English would actually mean “Skylight”. My girlfriend and I have tried the Bar Lobo, Agua and Bestial. But I’m sure that the next time that we will be in Barcelona , we will go and try the other restaurants of the group. J.  The Group actually has all kinds of restaurants and they all have their own specialties. From a small tapabar to the Michelin star awarded Tragaluz restaurant. They now even have a hotel and I have to admit, it is quit tempting to go there as well.  Both Agua and Bestial are at the beach in Barcelona (Barcelonetta), although from both restaurants I would rather return to Bestial than to Agua.  I liked the food at Agua, and the restaurant is also mentioned in a lot of travel and restaurant guides, but  I think you pay more because of its location (but for Belgian Standard it is still in an affordable price range).  To start we  had the Iberian Ham (I really love ham) and some tapas. Followed by the  “Arroz con bogavante y butifarra” (rice with lobster and botifarra) and the “Langoustines” . We also  had a great regional wine. And I finished with my preferred dessert,  Tarte Tatin andsome coffee, basically a great meal.

 

As mentioned above, I preferred restaurant Bestial.  Maybe because of the great setting where all the trees were nicely illuminated and because had a table outside or maybe because of the nice service? It could have also been the really great food!!  We again started with some nice tapas  one of the “tapas” was a small wood oven backed pizza, some Iberian ham, tempura of vegetables, etc… after that we had the day suggestion  and we finished with these woooooonderfull pies.

 

And this leaves us with Bar Lobo , just a few minutes from the Mercat de la Boqueria. Sitting on a little square,  under an umbrella (as it was so hot at the time) enjoyed an endless choice of tapas with some local rosé and white wine (I think the picture below speaks for itself)and I think we almost tried all the tapas they had (besides the anchovies)… I got more hungry while eating, that’s how good it was