Monday, 2 April 2012
4Foodies in a Fiat 500 - Day 3, last in Burriana
An hour later and fresh seafood, cava and meat safely in the fridge with a few quails eggs and the obligatory bread and tomatoes on the counter we headed for a beach stroll, a beer and waited on our lift for lunch. There's something marvellous about a walk along the beach looking out to sea to connect you with the wonderful bounty that lies within, and also to give you an appetite. A couple of beers in our favourite little cafeteria only served to enhance that appetite and it was with great anticipation that we headed along the little windy roads out of Burriana to the restaurant.
This was the meal that I was most eagerly anticipating since arriving in Spain and even more so as soon as I opened the door and smelled the burning wood. Magnificent. Jugs of beer safely delivered it was onto the starters. A delightful little taste of the sea. Anchovies on tomato bread with olive oil and a tapenade drizzle, salty sweet with a little olive background. This was followed by sepia, little cuttlefish chargrilled whole with lemon olive oil and a little tapenade. The taste of the wood perfectly offsetting the seafood flavour with the aromatics intermingling.
Then onto the main event. The men all sat at one end of the table. Traditionally this was done as the ladies were served on plates and the men ate straight from the paella. I was slightly gutted when the 3ft cooking pan was placed in the middle of the table contrary to this fine tradition, but relieved to discover I have long arms! So what was in this Valencian speciality? Rabbit, duck, chicken, pork, snails and artichokes. All cooked to perfection in a paella with al dente rice and a hedonistic coating of oil, saffron, pimenton and tomato.The closer you got to the edge of the pan the more the smoke flavour came through, the closer to the centre you got the 'crust' from where the paella has had most heat. This lived up to every expectation I had. Snails rich in liquor and a woodland mushroom flavour, meltingly tender gamey rabbit and duck on the bone, artichokes giving intense vegetal flavours. By the end of the dish everyone was serving themselves direct and the crust was being sought after by all.
For dessert several options jumped out at me, none more so that Requeso y miel which was a kind of goats cheese panna cotta with honey and a honey ice cream. To me goats cheese and honey is a match made in Heaven. To have it as a dessert took these two complimentary flavours a step further. So much so that I finished half of M's as well. The obligatory cortado to finish and I was ready for a siesta! However we asked if we could possibly see the kitchen having been able to smell the amazing burning wood aromas all afternoon. The waiter and chef were more than happy to oblige which I felt was a great credit to them, and very typical of the easygoing nature prevalent in this wonderful place. Inside just looked so simple, several cooking frames above piles of charred wood and paellas of every size hanging up. Stunning in simplicity, execution and flavour. Definitely one of my most favourite meals for setting, ambiance, flavour and real family enjoyment. Very little beats 8 people sitting around one pan in my mind, that to me is friendship.
Now it was time for siesta. I can totally appreciate why the Spanish go for a lie down after a huge lunch with a couple of beers in the heat. The other thing that a lie down does is make the day longer allowing you to eat late into the evening. By around 5pm we were awake and ready for a little glass of cava and by 7 o'clock to hit the kitchen for dinner. K and MM were also coming round so there would be six of us. Myself and J disappeared into the kitchen to create some flavour. For two people who like to have complete control of the kitchen generally we actually worked quite well as a team which was great.
But what to cook? Well J taught me how to cook tortilla properly as she'd been shown by MM. Finely sliced onion and potato covered in olive oil and cooked over a low simmer, olive oil drained and then eggs added and cooked to that amazing consistency where you can slice it. I cooked clams with serrano ham and white wine, lovely little sweet jewels of the sea with salty ham and tangy wine. Simple but delicious. M had wanted a big bowl of prawns all holiday and these were duly delivered, what the Spanish call langostinos, not to be confused with langoustines. A kilo of them simply steamed and served with lemon and allioli. Finally some little tostato of serrano ham with fried quails egg on top. K and MM brought a wonderful selection of chorizo and fuete and we served everything with Catalan bread and salad. I have to say that eating outside as the sky darkens and the temperature dips and knowing that you've helped serve a meal that everybody has loved and has exceeded expectations for me is a joy, it's one of the things that I live for most. It's why I think food has a magical quality, it brings people together round a table, it encourages conversation, it has the power to amaze and it instills passion.
We would enjoy tonight. 5 o'clock the following morning would come quickly and it would be a long day. Unknown to myself and M, Barcelona had a little gem waiting for us.
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