Our PFA International trips take quite a bit of planning. For 2016, we planned a Spain trip that was very different than the one we did in 2015. Instead of Barcelona only, we developed an itinerary that started in Barcelona for four days, and then gave us the opportunity to visit Chef Jose Chesa’s family home in Aragon, meet his father, and continue on through the La Rioja wine region for a couple of days of wine tasting, to San Sebastian, for three more days of incredible dining there.
While I do love the opportunity to head to Europe and eat some of the best food in the world with wonderful people, leaving behind my beloved doggie Oakley is really the only hard part for me. Here is Oakley outside of my house, knowing exactly what that suitcase means. I’m sorry to start off this blog with this picture, but I just have to. Please indulge me. These blogs take forever to put together!
Here’s Jose Chesa trying on potential gifts from Oregon for his Barcelona friends. Last year he brought Jacobsen Salt, BEFORE the TSA check, and that cost him about a half hour to meet me at the Country Cat. This year, he was a wiser traveler.
Jose and I arrived a day before our guests. Jose had some business to attend to, and so I had the day to myself. We didn’t have Bar Canete on the itinerary this year, but it’s been one of my favorites since Jose first recommended it to me when I came to Barcelona with friends and my son a couple of years ago. Having heard that my friend Meg Rulli and her husband Tony would be in Barcelona just days before we left, I suggested we meet and enjoy this wonderful place on my first night there. We ordered a quite a bit, from the sardines to shrimp a few ways, to a delectable delight, aged beef with foie gras. They split it up nicely for the three of us.
Impromptu staff meeting at Bar Canete.
After Bar Canete, we wandered through the Gothic Quarter and stopped for some xurros and xocolat. Why not? Excellent, but not as good and fresh as Chef Chesa’s 180 back in Portland. But who’s thinking about Portland now? Not I. Not us.
We started out the proceedings at the bar at the top of the Gallery Hotel. Here, Chef Jose passionately welcomed our guests to his home city. We had the pleasure of hosting four delightful couples, three of which had moved to Portland in the past five years , largely because of its incredible food, and another who had been in Portland for 30 or so years, and once owned a great restaurant on Broadway.
Our first dinner was at a new restaurant, Louis 1856, which was under the Moritz brewery. A truly beautiful spot that was a wonderful introduction to Barcelona.
The first bite of the smoked salmon drew raves from everyone there. Quite possibly the best we’ve ever had.
Anchovies over a waffle! Better than fried chicken, believe me.
Did my father suddenly appear to do the slicing?? Eerie. This is how he dressed in the 70s. I will find proof. Nonetheless, and more importantly, this is our insane pork shoulder.
The menu appears above, but as a public service to those of you who don't speak Catalan, here is the translation for our main course: Pork shoulder baked with roasted pineapple, potatoes roho mojo, citric chopped anchovies, jogo roast, fresh salad leaves and carrot and crunchy crust of his own
Then came the incredible roasted pineapple. Sliced by a guy in plaid pants. (Someone in Portland, take note.)
The interior was beautiful. Everyone was made to feel as though they had the whole restaurant to themselves. Utterly enjoyable, and what a beautiful, unique spot. The feng shui of the restaurant was like nothing I’ve ever enjoyed.
The menu and wine lists were projected on the ancient walls. What wonderful design touches to bring out the flavor of the architecture.
Gin & Tonic station. Enough said.
Our second day featured a visit to El Celler de Can Roca, named the best restaurant in the world on S. Pellegrino’s list for ’14 and ’15, tumbling all the way down to #2 this year. Somehow, I think the experience will be just as good!
It was about an hour drive by luxury bus to the restaurant. Everyone was primed for this incredible lunch.
We had a tour of the kitchen.
And Jose exchanged thoughts with the Roca Brothers along the way.
Our menu. I will ask you to refer back to it to note exactly what these meticulously prepared dishes were that you will see in these images.
Second was a playful one. Featuring a diorama of the three Roca chefs in their particular stations. Many of us cited the second from the left ______ as particularly memorable. For me, it is really hard to remember dishes that were one or two bites a week or so after the experience. That doesn’t diminish their deliciouisness; it only means my food memory just isn’t that good. Live in the moment, I say.
No whites for Allen!
One of my faves of the day.
Joan and Bob marveling at what’s before them.
This dessert may have been the best chocolate dessert I’ve ever had.
Jordi Roca gets his nose pinched as a thank you from Joan for the joys of what she just experienced. (See his nose dessert, above).
Chefs took their time to thank us for coming to El Celler de Can Roca.
Then it was out to the garden for coffee and more bites.
“Look!! Over there!” Joan didn’t fool Allen. He got his chocolate.
Allen Schmertzler, our resident artist, embarks on his journey of drawing caricatures of our chefs along the way.
Here’s Jordi Roca.
We walked down Passeig de Gràcia, to Catalunya Square to La Rambla to the Boqueria for breakfast.
And of course, what trip to Barcelona can happen without a visit to Pinotxo?
Jaunito is world famous. And always with a smile. Take note, USA baristas.
Chef Jose brought us about ten different items to share, of course, ending with the xuccos, after which he was inspired to make his at 180.
“Holy shit, Jerry. Isn’t that delicious?”
This is Maria, who, along with Jose’s friend Joan, did an incredible job getting us into places like Can Roca, Disfrutar, and others.
Next up was meeting chef Oscar Manresa, one of Barcelona’s most celebrated and succesful chefs. In a space above the Boqueria, he was to take us through the market, choose the ingredients for the paella that he was going to demonstrate making for us. Joan and John enjoying some time with Chef Oscar, who really commanded a room.
In the market, there’s Jose, Ann-Marie and Chef Manresa.
We just loved the look of these Montserrat tomatoes, so Chef Oscar ordered up a bunch and incorporated them into our lunch.
Chef shows us how to slice the Iberico. Here, Barbara takes the knife…
While her husband begins sketching our chef.
This is so cool. On a balconly overlooking Las Ramblas, Jerry takes it all in, while Joan enjoys her time with Chef Oscar. And it appears, vice versa.
In goes the rice.
The view of the Boqueria from our space.
Two of the three paellas.
There’s a simple preparation using the Monteserrat tomatoes with tuna, along side paella.
Chef Manresa gets a big kick out of Allen’s work.
Then Chef Oscar took us to a new project he helped with, a fantastically fun bar called Opera Samfaina. Here is the entrance. After you affix your digital wristband that keeps track of what you order, you descend some stairs and enjoy a 15 minute diorama presentation on the evolution of the Barcelona food world. I challenge any Portland restaurateur to tackle anything so grand.
Here’s how this works: You throw a ball into the clown’s mouth. If you hit it, he takes a shit.
And there you go. Your chocolate reward!!!
All conjured up by Jordi Roca. There’s his masterpiece shit under glass.
Pinxtos from some of our chefs! There’s one by Nandu Jubany. And another from our visit to Tickets last year, Albert Adria. Seriously, we’ve visited the best of Spain.
After a rest, before dinner, the rains came, and we headed over to Disfrutar, which is a very popular Barcelona restaurant for good reason. It’s the work of three former El Bulli chefs.
Here’s our menu. Again, you enjoy connecting the menu to the images.
This one was my favorite this evening.
Jose and Dorothy digesting what just happened.
And Allen and Barbara. This is the point where Allen exclaimed that he might be losing his teeth soon, because he almost had yet to bite down on anything other that puffy, aerated food, all incredibly delicious, but not much working chewing!
Chefs Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch flank our Barcelona star, Jose Chesa.
We began day 4 with a great tour of the area. It was a holiday, La Merce, so the Gothic Quarter was packed with revelers.
Off to Montjuic, these two take it in.
Then we had a tour of Segrada Familia.
And rested for the day to prepare for our finale in Barcelona at Can Jubany, where Jose once cooked under Michelin Starred Nundu Jubany. They are still great friends, and that allowed us to feel the love all through this incredible meal.
Once again, I leave it to you to match the menu descriptions to the items that follow. Of note, the foie gras dish. And the paella!
Cheese!! (And I don’t mean for the picture. Check out the selection.)
Dessert wine choices.
And here comes Chef Jubany.
Chef Nandu examining Allen’s handiwork.
Real buds. You can see it in their eyes. This is why there’s nothing like these trips.
We headed back to the hotel at 2am. Up the next morning to head to Aragon and north. Please check back soon for blogs of Aragon, La Viura, San Sebastian, and maybe even my personal time in Madrid.