Story and photography by Manos Angelakis
El Celler de Can Roca
Can Sunyer, 48
Another extravagant meal at El Celler de Can Roca
No matter which position the Brits place El Celler de Can Roca restaurant of Girona, either the best or the second best restaurant in the world, I still think that dining there is an experience that no self-respecting gastronome and oenophile should eschew.
During my recent wine trip to Catalonia, we had our farewell dinner again there. One more time, the Roca brothers did not fail to surprise and delight this rather jaded palate.
We started with the usual “tastes from around the world”; a group of appetizers that represent international dishes that have impressed Joan Roca. This year, the tastes were from Mexico (a miniature burrito with mole poblano and guacamole), Peru (ceviche broth), China (pickled vegetables with plum cream), Morocco (a goat yoghurt with almond slivers, honey, saffron, ras el hanout, and rose petals), and from Korea (panco fried bread, bacon with soja sauce, snow peas, kimchi and sesame oil).
The caramelized olives hanging from the bonsai olive tree appeared again this year.
Then came a Carpano Bonbon with Grapefruit and Black Sesame; Crispy Shrimp; Caviarâs Omelette; Truffled Bonbon, and Truffled Brioche.
The next item was truly exceptional; a Timbale of Roasted Apple and Duck Liver with Vanilla Oil.
The plate following was Squid Parmentier with Smoked Paprika and Squid Stock (a dish reminiscent of the Merquén Squid served at the Jacaranda Restaurant in Santiago de Chile).
Last year’s sole dish with 5 tastes appeared again. The sole is lightly grilled, enough to have an exceptional smoky taste, and the 5 sauces on the plate impart tastes of olive oil, bergamot, fennel, orange and pine nuts with green olives. The citric flavors work exceptionally well with the smoky fish.
Then came another outstanding fish dish: iridescent, pink skinned Red Mullet stuffed with red-mullet liver, red-mullet stock, potato gnocchi, orange, chervil and saffron. A very Eastern Mediterranean dish, as red mullets are a very desirable fish in Greece, Turkey and Syria.
Subsequent was Goose la Royale; a torchon of goose flesh. What an incredible flavor-packed mouthful!
A palate cleanser showed up; or was it a rather elaborate joke?
On a granite slab, stuck on wooden skewers, was what looked like someone’s nose made from pergamont-and-lime ice. When we inquired, it turned out to be made from a mold of the nose of Jordi Roca, the pâtissier brother!
The first dessert’s description was: Lemmon Cloud; Bergamot Cream, Lemon Compote, Lemon Distilled-water Granita, Muffin Ice-cream, Lemon Sugar. To say it was scrumptious would have been an understatement. It was indeed light like a cloud and full of flavor.
Then, another dessert: Sourdough Ice Cream with Cocoa Pulp, Fried Lychee and Sherry-Vinegar Macaró. An unusual taste nestled in a hand-made pottery bowl.
The final offering was trays of petit fours and sugar coated fruit jellies.
The wines we had with this incredible culinary extravaganza were all top bottles from local winemakers. Many of the top Catalan producers, accompanied by their spouses, were at the dinner and their wines flowed freely throughout the meal.
We started with an Albet i Noya Brut Cava El Celler, from Penedés, as an aperitif. A light sparkler that set up the tone for what was to come.
The first bottle on the table was a vintage cava from the same producer, a 07 Reserva. More substantial than the aperitif, it worked well with the “tastes from around the world”.
Agustí Torelló’s Kripta Gran Reserva Cava was next. One of my favorite Cavas; we made sure to finish a couple bottles with the truffled pieces and the apple timbale. Exceptional!
La Garriga 06, a single vineyard red from Castillo Parelada, made from Samsó grapes (this grape is also known as Mazuelo, Cariñena and Carignane) was light enough to pair well with some of the fish and seafood dishes.
Then came Saó Expressiu 08, another tasty red from Mas Blanch I Jove’s Costers del Segre estate; an elegant red from the mountainous parts of Catalonia. It is a blend of 55% Garnacha, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Tempranillo.
From Priorat came Galena 2009, a 40% Garnacha, 20% Cariñena, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 10% Syrah, aged for 12 months in French and American oak barriques. It is full-bodied with mouth filling fruit, dense, fat and layered. Not easily available in the US, but if you are a Catalan wine aficionado it’s worth looking for it.
Also from Priorat, Perpetual 2010. Old Garnacha and Cariñena vines, planted on steep slopes of slate, form the essence of this wine from the Torres family’s El Lloar winery. Dark and fascinating nose; long on the finish. It is an exceptional red wine.
To anyone who still believes “Red with meat; White with fish” trust me... it ain’t so anymore!
A white, Advent 08, 100% Xarel.lo from the Penedes D.O. was served to accompany the desserts. That is the only pairing decision that I have reservations about. I thought that the final wine, the honeyed Pecat Noble 2010, a late harvest wine made from Malvasia that was attacked by botrytis (noble rot), was a much more fitting end to our fabulous dinner, which by the way lasted about 4½ hours.
I guess when in Spain, you do as the Spaniards do!
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