All posts filed under: Culinary Art

Costa Brava GastroTour 2010

GastroTour on the Costa Brava

There has been a major reshuffle as far as the finest restaurants are concerned. For many years, the Spanish Costa Brava had been the centre of attraction for gourmets. It was the El Bulli restaurant in particular that had gastronomers all over the world in excitement. London-based “Restaurant Magazine”even nominated the restaurant in Roses as the best of the world – in four consecutive years! This year, however, it was the “Noma” restaurant in Copenhagen that won the prize. Ferran Adrià has already told us in advance that he was planning on taking two years off cooking – a creative break – and is thus going to close the restaurant in 2012. Gourmets need not fear or change their bookings for Spain in the time between 2012 and 2014 though. There are plenty of other culinary highlights at the Costa Brava and in the surrounding areas with tapas, anchovies and Cava only representing a very small fraction of the infinite possibilities indeed.

Mar i muntanya

Mar i muntanya

Menue with flowersSmall fishing villages turn out to be a source of culinary delicacies, dreamy towns tucked away in the mountains are known for their Mediterranean treats prepared in the traditional stone ovens, and where the oceans kiss the mountains internationally renown wines and Cava are grown. The kiss of the mountains and the sea, or Mar i muntanya, is a common topic in Catalan dishes. Chicken and giant prawns for example, or Catalan Paella, a dish of meat and seafood.They also like to combine the sweet and the spicy, as in “pork and peach”. A people prone to experiment with tastes and textures the Spanish are thus not easy to surprise. The chefs in Catalan hotels and restaurants are constantly performing a balancing act between the old and the new, between tradition and modern ideas. In a big number of restaurants, the guests are offered unique dishes and innovative menus known as “Cocina de Autor”.
The dishes are as diverse as they are unique and entertaining. Ranging from simple Tapas, there is ample scope for more daring dishes, such as “Mar i muntanya”. There are no limits to what is possible – just think of Ferran Adriá and his famous molecular gastronomy.
The Guide Michelin has known this all along. For many years, the Costa Brava has been featuring a very high number of Michelin stars as well as an equally high number of young, keen chefs. Joan Roca in Girona was awarded his third star last year, and there were plenty of other chefs in the back country work magic using the region’s freshest and most tasty products. They also aim for internationality: traditional dishes are combined with eastern notes, while the most well known Mediterranean dishes also are given new aspects.
Cooking has been considered a beautiful art in Catalonia for a long time. Indeed, the first cookbook published in a Roman language has been around much longer than Ferran Adría and much longer still than his participation at the Documenta. Said cookbook was published in Catalonia in the 14th century: El Llibre de Sent Soví”.

Giant prawn in dark chocolate

Jamón and Cava nice TapasIf you ever spot steaks and giant prawn in dark chocolate on the menu – do not be too surprised; this is just a tribute to the master of surrealism, Salvador Dalí.
His appetite is almost proverbial in Catalonia and even made it into a book: “Salvador Dalí – delightful Catalonian dishes”. At the age of six, little Dalí already claimed he wanted to be a cook when he grew up. Later, as the genius became an artist, and a mastermind of marketing who knew very well how sell himself, he also become known for his love of good food. Rumour has it that he used to say, “you can go without eating, but you cannot go without eating well.” One of his favourite meals used to be giant prawns in dark chocolate!!
Gourmets visiting the Costa Brava well get their money’s worth. Firstly, the upscale restaurants with their world famous chefs and extraordinary service are comparatively inexpensive and secondly, some of the less well-known restaurants tucked away in a corner of the countryside offer just as many culinary treats. The region’s excellent wines are also good value for money. Most restaurants offer a three course lunch throughout the week, water and wine included, for about 9 to 19 Euro. In the evenings and on weekends, there is more to choose from on the menu, but dishes are also more expansive and drinks are not included. After supper, there are plenty of pubs and Chilinguitas to go to. It is summer after all!
Meat and vegetables form the EmpordáTravels including cuisine, sports and culture are all the rage these days. The Costa Brava offers all of this and more. Accomodations are easy to find and just as eclectic as the rest of the country. There are Masia- Hotels in the back – country, lovingly restored to their former beauty. They invite the guests to stay and relax in the spa. Luxury hotels near the sea are more international, offering high-quality service and stunning views onto the ocean. On the other hand, there are cosy, family-run houses. Those are very friendly places with a convincingly personal service.
The families are always happy to provide detailed information on excursions and day-trips. Furthermore, the Costa Brava is also known for its well-kept golfing areas.
On the Costa:Live pages, we would like to show you more about all the Costa Brava and the back country have to offer in terms of food, drinks, parties and accommodation.

-> Gastro special Edition –  Costa- Live International Magazine

Evening at the Marina Roses Costa Brava

A wide range of Empordà wines to taste in Figueres

26ª FERIA DEL VINO – wide range of Empordà wines to taste in Figueres

Figueres: 9. – 12. 9. 2010

At the end of august, the vintage begins. Enthusiastic young oenologists, all of them with experience in international wine growing, have brought new ideas to the traditional world of winery and help establish the Emporda’s wines on the international market. The Emporda’s yearly wine fair is taking place at the beginning of September. The Ramba in Figueres is where the region’s finest wines can be tasted.

All the Emporda’s famous Bodegas are their

The event’s location is the Rambla of Figueres, and all the Emporda’s famous Bodegas, as well as some of the delicatessen-sellers are going to participate in this unique event, which has been taking place annually ever since 1985, and which includes direct sale, presentation and degustation. The Empordà’s winegrowers are striving for quality, and benefit from the ideal regional premises: the soil is great; the Mediterranean climate between the sea and the mountains is characterized by warm, sunny summers and mild winters. Strong winds are frequent a perfect combination.Thus, it is not a surprise that most of the wines labeled D.O. Empordà are actually among the best. There are great red wines with their strong expression. There are fruity-fresh white wines and there are rosé wines tasting like summer, sun and south, as well as regional wines that go along best with the dessert – for example the well-known Garnatxa.
The fair is going to be opened on September 9th, 6 pm. On the following days, opening hours are from 11 am to 1.30pm and 6pm to 10pm – a perfect opportunity to try out new wines on the Rambla with friends or colleagues.

Costa Brava Wine Tour D. O. Empordà

Wine, sea and more: The D.O. Empordà region is a part of Catalonia, and more precisely the Costa Brava. It is indeed located quite close to the Costa Brava’s popular beaches. Most travelers do not know yet that wines produced in that region are very well worth the try. Our journey begins just behind Rosas, along the mountains of the Sierra de Albera, a chain of hills spilling into the sea like a secret.

To our right, the town’s houses stand huddled against the mountain, to our left olive groves stretch out far into the countryside. Dolmes and menhires from times no long gone by are hiding in the undergrowth. The first bigger town on our route is called Palau – Saverda. The Roman sant Joan church is situated in the town’s center, old and withered it towers above the other buildings. The vegetations is opulent, immodestly green.Butterflies trundle on the breath of the wind; thunderflowers in dark blue, lupines, thistles, bright red viper’s bugloss and white and pink wild roses (Cistus albidus) form a picturesque backdrop, especially in combination with the breathtakingly beautiful view onto the sea. Bottles of old wine, Costa-BravaAbove the town, half-way up the mountain, the Ermità Sant Onofre glows white in the midday sun. The ruins of the Castell de St Salvador can be seen on the mountain top. The view is crowned with oddly twisted branches. Big granitic rocks, willful in their bizarre shapes, add to the air of surrealism. In the D.O Empordà, each village has a cooperative of its own. The inhabitants buy their wines directly at the producer’s, either fresh from the barrel or packed in boxes or, as far as the young and fruity wines are concerned, in bottles. Most vintners also sell self-made high-quality olive oil. This is also the case for the next village on our journey, Pau.
Pau, as many other small villages, also features a church (Sant Martí de Pau) which is well higher than all the other buildings. The gardens are vivacious with ancient citrus and orange trees. The old fig trees are budding again. Pau is an old village, with some of the buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th century.

Pau and the next village, Vilajuiga

The modern Bodega Espelt (www.cellerespelt.com) is located between Pau and the next village, Vilajuiga. The bar offers wine tastings, and of course, tourists and commercial customers alike are also welcome to buy wine directly.
Winedeposit on the Costa-BravaThe Empordà, formerly known for producing sweet white wines (rancio) has now specialised on the production of fresh and fruity light reds. Many different grapes can be found here. As for whites, there are Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Chardonnay, Moscatek, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer. Red grapes include Garnache Rinta, Carinena, Carbernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Ull de Llebre and Merlot. The Vilajuiga cooperative offering wines and fresh olive oil. Vilajuiga however, does not only offer wines, but also water. The Vilajuiga springs are free for anyone to fill their water canisters. This still, healthy and tasty water is also available at supermarkets all across the Costa Brava. Rumor has it, that the only mineral water Dalí would ever drink came from the Vilajuiga springs.
Another village, Garriguella has several vine yards and a cooperative (www.cooperativagarriguella.com). Again, a church (Santa Eulàlia de Noves de Garriguella) is the village’s heart and soul. It also has a very fine and surprisingly unknown hotel and restaurant La Plaça (www.hotelgarriguella.com). In this relaxing setting, guests come to enjoy the Chef’s creative and individual style expressed through the medium of a French Mediterranean cuisine based on quality local produce.

Sant Climent Sescebes

Vineyard at the region of the Empordà on the Costa BravaIn Sant Climent Sescebes, we visit the modern Bodega Terra Remota (www.terraremota.com). The minimalistic building is just what wine growers Marc and Emma Bournazeau wanted: a combination of modernity and tradition in combination with the Empordà’s unique and fascinating landscape. Passing Sant Climent Sescebes , we drive through more live groves, wine yards and blossoming poppy fields until we reach Capmany, a town known for several good Bodegas. The Grup Oliveda sells fine wines and Cava. There also is a museum of wine and armature, where anybody interested in the Bodega’s history can certainly learn a lot. They also offer wine tastings there (www.grupoliveda.com). The church of Capmany has been built Roman style in the 12th or maybe 13th century. In the upper part of the town, there is a small chapel, constructed in the 17th century, named after patron saint Sant Sebastià.
The wine growers of the D.O. Empordà have clearly noticed the times of the signs, and now count on quality as well as on a witty combination of the modern and the traditional. After all, this is Spain’s oldest wine growing region: The Greek brought the first grapes to Spain as they went ashore near Empùries – more than two thousand years ago.

3 Star | El Celler de Can Roca

Joan, Josep and Jordi: the brothers Roca and their “Celler” 2 of the renowned Michelin stars, Gerona

El Celler de Can Roca”, located in Girona, is one of the most famous restaurants in Spain, and has been awarded two of the renowned Michelin stars, as well as a variety of other mentions. The brothers Joan, Josep and Jordi are third generation gastronomes: In 1920, their grandparents founded a restaurant in Girona, and the brothers kept the business with a fine tradition. They opened their restaurant in 1986 and called it “El Celler de Can Roca”. It is situated in the Carretera de Taiala, directly beside the Roca’s small inn.

One of Girona’s best restaurants

The brother’s concept was an immediate success. They kept the traditional Catalan cuisine in mind, gently adjusted it to today’s recipes and took this as a base for exploring new senses of taste and fragrance. In a lovingly detailed way, the brothers set off for a quest for perfection and the experience of senses. Excellent service and style soon made the Celler known as one of Girona’s best restaurants.

The brothers are internationally famous

Today, the brothers are internationally famous for being true masters of their trade. Joan is the Chef, carefully enhancing the family’s tradition and responsible for leading the restaurants to its current top position.Josep, the wine connoisseur, takes care of the guests. Jordi is not only an excellent cook; he also is brilliant at being a confectioner. He is responsible for the exquisite desserts, which lead to the res­taurant’s fame. “Using fruits and flowers, my desserts are like perfumes,” he explained when we met him. Thus he has served “Eternity” based freely upon Calvin Klein, with a mixture of tangerines, oranges, bergamot, vanilla yogurt and a jelly from oranges’ blossoms. “Trésor de Lancôme” is another one of the famous desserts, this one with apricots, vanilla, lily, a hint of pepper and cinnamon. A journey to Havanna inspired him to create a mojito-biscuit and chocolate cigarettes, complete with fumed vanilla ice cream and an aroma resembling that of a Partagas N°5.

“Espai d’Art” – by the Bodega Espelt in Vilajuïga

The brothers recently shared the experiences, secrets and anecdotes gathered within the last 20 years during a festival – “Espai d’Art” – by the Bodega Espelt in Vilajuïga.

In addition to their Celler, the brothers also own the “Mas Marroch”, which can be found in a Gothic building that dates back to 15th century. It can be rented for feasts, banquets and congresses. The brothers gladly share their experience with different hotels and restaurants all over Girona and Barcelona.

The legend of the brothers Roca will continue soon. They are moved into the nearby modern building “La Torre de Can Roca” and  gained the third Michelin star.

Xiringuito Beach Bar – Sant Pere Pescador

Chill near the sea

A long time ago, the Chiringuito (Spanish) or Xiringuito (Catalan) used to be somewhat of a drawing room at the beach, with tables and chairs almost reaching the sea. Back then, people sometimes used to bring their own tables and chairs, and even food. Cooled drinks were served all along the shadowy parts of the beach in the Chiringuito – dolce far niente and a license to chill near the sea whilst sipping a drink. Unfortunately, things changed rapidly. In many places, the creative improvisation that was typical for the original Chiringuito was replaced by uniformism. How very boring! It is a pity that more and more communities along the Costa Brava try to squeeze their pubs at the beach into a uniform look. A few years ago all the bars of l’Escala were standarised and now other towns along the beach are also doing this.

The saloon on the Beach by Sant Pere PescadorIndividual pubs on the Costa-Brava

In Sant Pere Pescador, however, they still do exist, these lovely individual pubs. We really hope that we are not going to lose them anytime soon.One of them is aptly named “Che” and can be found close to Gaviota Camping. It is famous for its unique beach design, the palm trees and painted surf boards, the big awnings and cooled bear. A charming mixture of improvisation and creative usage of the surroundings is what makes “Che” so special, even more so in times of general standardization. A few Chiringuitos stay open far into the night, for example the Marlin-Beach-bar, which is situated just behind Camping Aquarius. It is a hidden little place, tucked away behind palm trees and especially lovely at full moon. By the way, on September 4th this year, the full moon is going to rise directly from the sea. We will be there to watch!

Hotel golf Perelada – The world of wine

Wine and winegrowing have always had their place in the history of the Empordà, being a paradise for wine lovers and bon vivants. The team of the Hotel Golf Peralada has recognised the potential of wine tourism and developed surprising new concepts. Situated in the heart of Alt Empordà, in the middle of a golf course, surrounded by nature reserves and 15 minutes away from the best beaches on the Costa Brava, this 5-star hotel offers singular and individual luxury. It offers two large suites and 53 luxury rooms with magnificent views over the golf course, two restaurants providing local and Mediterranean food, a large first-class conference area, a fully equipped gym, two swimming pools (indoor and outdoor) and the Wine Spa, both original and exclusive.

Wine Spa wellness centre

The Wine Spa is the first wellness centre of this kind in Spain. A wide range of facial and body treatments are based on wine and other grape by-products, while a modern aqua zone with swimming pools, sauna, steam baths, jacuzzi, hot marble slabs and barrel showers allows its visitors to literally immerse themselves into the world of wine.

Recently, the Catalan government awarded the project with the TÀSTUM 2008 price, for being the best destination of wine tourism. A recognition of Hotel Golf Perlada’s labor in investigating and developing the effects of wine on health and wellness, as well as in creating aesthetically appealing concepts of this new form of quality tourism.

Wines in the Castell de Perelada

At the moment, the hotel is preparing a new package for wine tourists together with Castell de Peralada, including a night and dinner in the Hotel Golf Peralada and another dinner in the castle of Peralada. Furthermore, various Wine Spa treatments, a visit to Peralada’s wine museum, a winetasting at Castell de Peralada and a visit to Celler Espelt in Vilajuïga.An offer that wine lovers shouldn’t miss!