Adventures in Spain: part 3

23 Jul

We visited Alicia’s private garden that supplies Alicia and the local restaurants with fresh produce. Headed by a tall man named Bernard, this organic garden is run according to a biodynamic philosophy and features a vast array of species, most of them from Catalonia. While you can find anything from white peaches and potatoes to quinoa and native nuts, the by far most impressive selection was that of tomatoes. The garden features over 20 different tomato species, each one with a distinct taste and look. We picked a fair amount of tomatoes and had a small tasting in Alicia. People loved it. But my favorite was something else. Even though tomatoes tasted really good, they could not compare with the white peaches. I lack the words to describe how fantastic they were; so pure, so fresh, so sweet, without any visual or sensational irregularities. It was as if you could taste the beautiful love and philosophy behind the garden.

I made a mimetic banana. Read the post below for more details.

Spherification: the quintessence of modernist cuisine. This simple yet advanced technique is as beautiful as it is sensational. By combining a liquid with a gelling agent named sodium alginate and then dropping the liquid into a solution with a calcium salt, you are able to create spheres and contain the liquid inside a soft protecting gel layer that explodes as soon as it enters your mouth. In other words, it allows you to create caviar with basically anything. This was first pioneered by Ferran Adria, and has become commonplace in today’s haute cuisine. Common or not, I am always amazed when I get to use this technique and taste the result. In the picture above, me and my colleague made mango caviar.

Two interesting creations made during during the past week at Alicia. To the left you see a mango-hazelnut mermelade served with a chilled grapefruit gel. Really interesting play with contrasts in flavor and texture. To the right is a drinkable rosemary chocolate, made from a recipe adapted from fantastic chocolatier Enric Rovira. The recipe surprisingly simple, the result was very interesting, – the chocolate had a texture somewhere in between melted chocolate and regular hot cocoa. The taste was least said bold, the subtle rosemary flavor being surrounded by the fruity dark chocolate. Incredibly easy to make.

Every year, the ALicia interns go to visit a food factory that produces high-quality fried food sold to restaurants in Catalonia. The visit allows the interns to see the industrial kitchen; how it works, how the food is produced, and how professionals work to balance the ubiquitous dichotomy between quality and quantity. Even though the visit was highly interesting(the company has really strong ties with Alicia), the most exciting part was probably the funny clothes we had to wear inside the factory. Wrapped in plastic, just like the food we later ate, we joked around and pretended we were penguins and polar bears. So much for that visit.

Me and Gashaw had a small presentation about the texturizer project that we have been working on for the past seven weeks. This day, all interns at Alicia were to present their projects. Me and Gashaw, however, went first. As such, we had prepared a very elaborate presentation about the science and practice behind everything from gelling agents to emulsifiers. It is important to note that the presentation was in English. In addition, it is important to note that hardly no one at Alicia speaks English. As you might understand, this was a small problem; the conditions were not ideal for making a great impression on our qualified and attentive audience. As always, though, things worked out very well for us, and in my opinion, the first presentation also turned out to be the best one, even though half the people did not have any idea what we were talking about. Whatever… If they could speak Catalan 24/7 for 7 weeks, I could speak some good ol’ English during 30 minutes… haha

Got visitors from Sweden.. Pelle, a great friend of the family, showed up at Alicia and tried to flip some gluten-free crepes in the pan.

We went to Andorra over the weekend. We climbed a 2800 m high mountain, had a fantastic dinner, and saw a surprisingly large amount of tobacco plants. This was by far the best weekend during my stay in spain. A perfect mix of food, fun and fiesta, the weekend in this tax-paradise featured everything from a local drum-festand a twisted ankle to grilled salmon and late-night singing in “spanglish.”

We visited the fish market in Girona. They had ugly and pretty fish. Whatever the looks, the quality was fantastic, as the fish is delivered fresh everyday from the local fisheries along the Brava coast.

El celler de can roca – the world’s second best restaurant.

This three-star restaurant is  located in the gastronomic city of Girona. It’s owned by the three brothers Josep, Joan, and Jordi Roca, each of wish have different roles inside and outside the kitchen. Privileged as we are at our job, we got an exclusive visit to its wine cellar and kitchen. Those who could afford the 200-dollar tasting menu got to dine at a table that normally requires reservations a year in advance.

Chef de cuisine David gave us a private tour and told us about the machinery behind one of the world’s most interesting kitchens. The senses are at the center of this 3-star restaurant. In the organized kitchen, meticulous preparation takes place in every corner. But, in spite of its high status, the restaurant is very relaxed, surprisingly so indeed.  Both inside and outside the kitchen, everything is carefully calibrated. It’s a place in equilibrium, a place that strikes a perfect balance between the subtle and the profound.  Observing the kitchen and the work taking place therein, I recognized a large amount of equipment and techniques that I have used in Alicia. Together with my growing interest in modernist cooking, this knowledge and understanding really allowed me to make the best out of my visit to the restaurant.

Two recent creations: truffles and decomposed nutella with milk.

Rosemary chocolate from Enric Rovira.  A vanilla-cinnamon frozen pannacotta.

I spent the weekend in Manresa, the small town where we all live. Doesn’t have much to offer except from this massive gothic cathedral. It’s a true beauty, and even more so when situated in an ugly town like Manresa.

Josep Roca visiting Alicia, checking out the freeze-drying machine.

Lately I have been very inspired by the Sempio Jang project at Alicia. This project aims to introduce traditional korean products to european cuisine; to spread knowledge about how and when to use the products. The two dishes above are good examples of what you can use the products for. To the left: pasta Vongole made with a shrimp broth and jang essence. To the right: Norwasian prawn salad with gochu jang marinade.

Fun during work, and after. To the right: me with legendary pastry chef of El Bulli, Marc Puig-Pey, who worked at the world’s best restaurant for 17 years. Amazing chef and personality working full-time at alicia to improve the lives of cooks worldwide. To the left: me and Laia, a food scientist at Alicia, at a gathering after work. The group is becoming really really close now, and I think we are all anxious to leave. I think I might have the most axiety, as I have not been this happy in ages.

One Response to “Adventures in Spain: part 3”

  1. vayumi July 31, 2012 at 9:57 PM #

    Reblogged this on FireBellies and commented:

    New post! A fantastic one indeed…

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