Last week I was back in the Catalan capital for the annual Mobile World Congress. The evenings become an opportunity for magic culinary discoveries in this city so rich in food culture. Once again I am guided by the advice of my friend Joan Gómez Pallarès, linguist and author of the blog De Vinis and connoisseur of all things good in Catalonia (and elsewhere…) .
It is not easy to find a table on Monday evenings in Barcelona, but on Monday 16 February 2009 I found a table at Gresca (c/ Provença 230, Barcelona – Eixample, +34-934516193). The minimalist website does not mention opening days, but it seems that the place closes on Saturday noon and Sunday. The chef Rafael Peña presents a very interesting combination of traditional and contemporary cuisine, focused on the accuracy of the cooking and presentation rather than on molecular techniques … The beauty of the dishes is impressive, especially entries like “Anec fumaţ amb llagostins “, a lobster wrapped in thin slices of smoked duck in order to imitate the shell of the crustacean, delicious and well presented. Another is the “Carpaccio de Pop amb butifarra negra “, a mosaic of white slices of octopus on a background of black pudding with a frame of herbs. For the photos I “borrowed” some images from the excellent photo-blog Encatadisimo because my Blackberry decided to empty its batteries for the day…
by Martin Field
Noosa is one of Australia’s premier tourist destinations and most Noosa visitors we know stay at condos in or near the famous Hastings Street strip. They tend to dine at nearby upmarket restaurants but being unfamiliar with the greater Noosa region, will often ask me where they can eat out in surrounding areas.
Here are my Top Ten recommendations – in no particular order of merit.
At Sunshine Beach you’ll enjoy Alegria – their Spanish oriented tapas are excellent and the staffers are friendly. The stylish Wasabi serves modern Japanese and is one of the highest rated restaurants in Queensland – top service and presentation. Don’t miss the Sunshine Beach Surf Living Club – go for a surf then have a decent feed on the club’s balcony overlooking the ocean – you might even see whales. Beer and wine prices are very reasonable.
by Martin Field
Australian Cheesewhiz Richard Thomas told me of his recent visit to France as a participant in the International Caseus Award competition.
‘Hi Martin, Amazing time in France. Found THE food street of Paris, Rue Mouffetard, with an M. Androuet Fromagerie plus two others. Ninety per cent of the cheese was ‘lait cru’ so it’s still the cheese at the top end, that’s for sure. So I was charging around like a Mad Cambodian Duck Strangler eating all the cheese I could lay my teeth on. Plus, the shops were awash with all kinds of foie gras, of truffled items (like an Italian salami with tartufo), of ready meals, of apple pies, etc. All amazing.
‘We took off to Getaria, a little Basque fishing town just west of San Sebastian, a place I started visiting in the early ‘70s, hasn’t changed, great restaurants, grilled fish, crab and foie gras etc. Fabulous.
by Martin Field
The chief boffin in our R&D department is about to patent a design for an electronic menu.
Basically, the E-menu (as she likes to call it) is designed to increase efficiency of ordering, to provide detailed information to diners, to minimise the unwanted attention of pushy waiters and sommeliers and thereby to reduce the number of floor staff. There are obvious cost savings related to this latter aim.
The wi-fi menu can be permanently installed in dining tables, one at each setting or, as a less expensive alternative, can take the form of a menu folder to be handed out to individual guests.
El Celler de Can Roca is one of my most memorable dining experiences, up there with Troisgros. At 279€ for 2 people with 19 courses and 9 wines by the glass, one could also call it a bargain (the top menu is 100€ per person).
To read more about this experience, please visit Vinix, the wine social network site run by my friend Filippo Ronco. My complete article is there with some pictures taken on the cell phone.
by Martin Field
A group of us dined at the Spirit House in Yandina, a short drive south of Noosa. A spectacular setting, just like walking into a tropical restaurant in Bali or Thailand; complete with exotic flowers, bamboo, palms, and a central lake dotted with lotus leaves.
Standout entrée ($19.50) was the ‘Buddha’s Delight’ a trio of beautifully presented savoury dishes, described accurately on the menu as ‘Potato, pea and spinach samosa with coriander yoghurt; eggplant and banana chili salad with cassava chips; and Son-in-law Egg with sweet, salt and sour sauce.
Address: 20 Ninderry Rd, Yandina, Queensland. Phone (07) 5446 8994.
This past week I was in Barcelona, attending the Mobile World Congress exhibition. I looked up fellow blogger Joan Gómez Pallarès, who invited me for tremendous Galician tapas at a Braserìa right beside the fairgrounds, on the Carrer Lleida. Joan is a polyglot professor of greek and latin who travels frequently to the best wine regions of Europe and reports on his findings on his excellent blog DE VINIS CIBISQUE. Joan abides by his own variation of what in Spain is referred to as the three Bs, only he adds a fourth one: Bueno, Bonito, Bastante Barato. I would have added a fifth one: Barcelona! This city truly lends itself to finding places that are nice, good and reasonably cheap. Joan’s writing is an invaluable guide to what is truly exciting in wine in Europe, wines that are not yet on Robert Parker’s radar screen.
We love surprises. The less we know, the less we expect. And – at the end – if the ordeal is overwhelming – we remember such things for almost all of our lives. The last shock came from Slovenia. To be exact – from the restaurant Pri Lojzetu (it means “chez Louis”) situated at the Zemono castle on a hill in the middle of picturesque vineyards of the Vipava valley. I knew that, I knew what was going to happen, but my guests hadn’t a clue. Pri Lojzetu is one of the most renowned Slovenian restaurants. Located some 30 minutes driving from the Italian/Slovenian border at Gorizia (Friuli), it is basically in the heart of central Europe. From the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, you are there in less than an hour.
Tomaž (Tomi for friends) Kavčič is the fourth generation of a family of restaurateurs. His mother Katja is the living icon of Slovenian gastronomy. She was the one who introduced Slow Food to Slovenian and Italian guests long time before the movement was “invented” in Bra by Carlo Petrini! Her mother (Tomi’s grandmother) followed the family tradition before WW2, by joining the nun’s cooking school in a monastery nearby. Her diploma work was to create a six dish menu which contained local dishes. This kind of culinary experience was strongly represented at restaurant Pri Lojzetu, which until ten years ago was situated at the family house in the village of Dornberk, in the middle of the Vipava valley. Following this heritage Katja began working with fresh local materials and seasonal dishes that she adjusted to modern times. Even during communism (Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia and gained it’s independence in 1991) they were lucky. Tito’s communists were not as harsh as their ideological comrades behind the Iron Curtain, you could have your own company, it was allowed, it had to be small, but it was allowed. And this was crucial for small traditional businesses like restaurateurs, winegrowers… it was the most important thing for the survival of traditional Slovenian cuisine. Therefore it is not surprising that the first official Slow Food dinner in Slovenia was held in December 1995 at the restaurant Pri Lojzetu, it was totally obvious and logical.