We felt like judges on the "Iron Chef"


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Europe » Spain
August 30th 2007
Published: September 30th 2017
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Leaving Valencia - on the way to the train station to pick up our rental car.
Geo: 41.9818, 2.8237

Up for breakfast - toast, croissants, lots of yogurt and TONS of juice to combat my dehydration. Off to Girona by car, with a stop in Tarragona. We took the long, scenic route (i.e. - I got us lost). It should have been simple getting out of town, but it wasn't. We finally made our way to the oceanfront and according to the map, the ramp to the highway was right at the end of it.

After getting some directions, we crossed our fingers and set out to get on the highway. There was potentially a quicker way to do this, but we decided to play it safe and stick to the main roads. After driving for a few hours we arrived in Tarragona. Got a little lost trying to get down to the waterfront.

Grabbed lunch on a beautiful terrace overlooking the Costa Dorada (gold coast). A café con leche tastes even better with that wonderful view. Our waiter was a friendly, but forgetful guy from UK (had to remind him about our drinks). Mary-ism #7: "What is ice made of here?" Uhhh ... I can't say for sure, but usually ice is made from water ... "And
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Lost in Valencia - we drove and drove, but couldn't figure out how to get on the highway to Girona. We ended up at Valencia's beach, so we stopped and took a few photos.
where do they get the water?" Uhh ... uhh ... no comment ...

The weather was gorgeous all day - warm, sunny, hardly any clouds in the sky ... too bad we were stuck in a car the entire time! It was tricky navigating Girona because we only had a map of the city centre. We got directions from the Spanish Celine Dion. But perhaps this is a little rude to the lady - she's nowhere near as anorexic or as annoying as Celine. Interesting fact - Girona is the birthplace of Kabbala.

Off to the hostel for a quick shower and then we were off for dinner. Originally, we wanted to go to El Bulli in Rosas (near Barcelona) but couldn't get reservations. They only open from April until the end of September, and close the rest of the year to experiment with new techniques. You need to reserve in October to get a spot for the next year, barring a last-minute cancellation. El Bulli is ranked the #1 restaurant in the world by a panel of distinguished international food critics and gourmands, and is one of less than 60 restaurants in the world awarded the highest rating of 3
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Check out the digital sign - over 1800 traffic fatalities in Spain since the new year!
Michelin stars. Even obtaining a single Michelin star is a huge honour in the culinary world.

Unable to get into El Bulli, we booked a few months ago with El Celler de Can Roca - the #11th ranked restaurant on the same list, and recently awarded a second Michelin star. Its chef Joan Roca once worked under the tutelage of El Bulli's Ferran Adria - considered the best chef in all of Spain and also considered the leader of a new wave of gastronomy that is iconoclastic in its rebellion against traditional culinary techniques. Branded "molecular gastronomy", it adopts a scientific approach to cooking (yes, yes, I know that I'm a food geek!) Anyway, this was the next best thing to El Bulli.

First, we stopped at the TI to get directions - I didn't want to miss out on this experience by getting lost. We quickly picked up a pair of flip flops for Mary and left WAY early for the restaurant. We were so excited! We arrived almost 35 minutes early and patiently waited in the car. Yes, we definitely are food freaks!

We splurged and went for the surprise tasting menu for 95 Euros each. Yup, it
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View from the terrace in Tarragona, where we ate some kebabs.
was expensive - but not too bad when you consider that a tasting menu back in Calgary could easily cost $100 CAD, and you'd end up paying tax on top and a larger tip. Throw in the fact that there is essentially a one-to-one currency ratio between Europe and Canada (i.e. - a bottle of water costing $1 in Canada costs 1 Euro), it's a relative bargain. At least, that's how I justified it to myself! Anyway, check out the pics for a complete play-by-play.

It wasn't quite what we expected ... but still an unforgettable experience. The best way to describe it is to say that it felt like we were on an episode of the "Iron Chef". At times, we did find ourselves wondering when the dinner would be over - it took close to 3 hours to finish everything. And we also kept wondering "Are we ever going to get any cooked food?"

Completely stuffed, we hobbled back to the car and drove back to Girona's old town. It was pretty tranquil so we took only a short walk before returning to the hostel. All in all, a very memorable night.


Additional photos below
Photos: 30, Displayed: 25


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Mmmm ... I spilled kebab sauce on my swim trunks. Normally this would be a bad thing, but I realized that if I got hungry later, I could simply lick it off.
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The beach in Tarragona. Not too shabby, but there wasn't much to see in the rest of the town.
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If you look carefully, there's a guy in the middle of the picture carrying a case. Mary couldn't take her eyes off of him and kept commenting how his "package" looked so big in his hand.
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Some Roman ruins. Nothing special.
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The hostel in Girona. Nothing special.
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Waiting in the car for El Celler de Can Roca to open. The clock reads 20:55 ... only 5 minutes to go!
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The door to the restaurant. A pretty unassuming place from the outside, but very upscale on the inside. Not quite the gateway to culinary bliss that I had hoped for, but it was still a portal to a very memorable experience.
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Check out the wine list - huge! The most expensive bottle I saw was 2600 Euros.
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That was only one book - one for red, white, and sparkling. There was no way you could pick a bottle without help from the sommelier, unless you were a true oenophile.
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Some little starters to get us going. Neat presentation - inside the pot are baby carrots with coconut and orange, but really, I don't think I'd really appreciate it unless I was Bugs Bunny. Crunchy cod fish on the far right - at first the texture is like Chinese shrimp chips, but then it magically becomes chewier and meatier as it disssolves in your mouth. Cool! Cucumber with vinegar (it was actually a baby zucchini), stuffed with some sort of jelly that tasted sort of like Chinese dried plums? There was also Black olives crunchy (this isn't my english - these names are taken directly from the menu), inside a crisp sort of sugary box. Decent considering that it was olives. There was also a peanut caramel.
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Some of the best bread I've ever had. Crisp, chewy, flavourful ... One type had nuts and grapes, another sunflower seeds, tomato, and there was a traditional bread. Very talented pastry chef. The only disappointment was that there was no selection of flavoured butters. Though the presentation in the little copper sauce pan was nice. I wanted to steal it.
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In the cup - fennel veloute with sea water. Very fishy tasting, served with a clam. Almost like a sea jello. In the dish - pigeon parfait, Bristol Cream, orange, and spices. Tasted almost like orange chocolate. In the spoon - fig's terrine with bitter tender almonds and foie gras. Yummy. First you tasted the almonds and then the foie flavour kicked in. Note the dish - who knew that Bulgari made plates??? Better not break one of those ... the cutlery was Guy Degrenne. I have no idea who the hell he is, but I'm guessing that it's pretty expensive cutlery.
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Oyster with Agusti Torello Cava with pineapple, cumin, curry, and species bread. Unique presentation, served inside half of a bottle. Nothing special. The dish was overpowered by the Cava, which was added at just the last second.
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Cold cherry soup with prawns and ginger ice cream. Very interesting contrast. The prawn was served raw. The ice cream was a revelation and the best part. So far, I must say that I'm more impressed with what they've attempted to do, rather than the actual taste.
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Mussels with riesling. 6 distinct preprations: 1) Bergamot - ok. 2) Apple - fragrant. 3) Rose - nice. 4) Sour citrus - a little "blah". 5) White truffle - over powering. 6) I can't remember. Mary looked like she was going to puke halfway through. It was simply too many mussels, and too many preparations.
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Artichokes with sunflowers and orange. It had a sesame taste, and almost tasted a bit like peanut sauce too. The fried artichoke slices were the best part. This dish was a nice change.
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Eggplant souffle cooked on embers with sardines. The sardines acted like a dish, holding the souffle together. Not a souffle in the traditional sense - its texture was more like a light, structured pudding. The sardines were very good. The dish was creamy and rich, and I'm not sure if it's for me! The dish arrived with a transparent glass cover that was clouded over. When they removed the lid, there was a puff of smoke. So far, this has been unlike any other culinary experience I have ever had. We felt like frauds - everyone dining here was probably returning to a 5 star hotel, while we're going back to a hostel!


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