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Travelblog: Foodies Gone Wild Spring Break '07


BryanZ
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Well I think what I read was for the "collection" of black truffle dishes. Each was well over €100 and there were approximately 10 on the menu. That makes the 1,35 seem feasible. I can't say for certain, though.

I think I will speak to comparisons between European and American fine dining when I'm done uploading everything. Patience, friend.

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Wow, some trip!  My credit card is in spasms just reading about the prices, but it all looks so delicious and genuinely fun.

I know, my wallet is crying as I read this … as is my stomach

Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

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Nice work so far.

I have a question. It looks like most of your "Michelin" meals were lunches. Did you go this way because it is less expensive than the dinner menu? I am planning a Paris trip for May, thinking about restaurants. The idea of a formal multi-course tasting menu in the middle of the afternoon is the not the way we usually eat, whether at home or travelling. Normally I would rather eat this way in the evening. Were the lunches a deliberate choice, or is it more common in Paris to eat this way?

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3/15/07 part 2

After l'Astrance we found ourselves just steps from the Eiffel Tower. L'Astrance is located on the opposite bank of the river of the Eiffel Tower so we decided to check it out. Eschewing the elevator, we climbed to first two levels, as high as one can go via stairs. It was a nice way to burn off some of our lunch.

Feeing not the slightest bit hungry, we decided that this would be a good time to try some Parisian macaroons. Gregory Renard caught our eye because its window display case was pretty. I'm not sure if this place is reputed to be "good" or not. Nevertheless we tried about a half-dozen mini-macaroons. They were absolutely delicious, far better than any I've had in the States. I think we tried chocolate with fleur de sel, citrus, raspberry and a few others. Pictures were not taken. I apologize.

Dinner that night would bring us to Chez l'Ami Jean, a very popular Basque bistro.

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The room is full of incredibly closely packed tables, people from all over the world, and a certain joviality. There were also vaguely pornographic cartoons in the bathroom hallway, including a delicious looking pig with rather large breasts. Good times.

The menu here is quite large with mains in the mid-€20 range. They also offer a three course menu for €30 (though it may have been €45, but I think the former) that allows for diners to choose any three courses off the menu: starter, main, dessert. We asked our waiter to just pick some of his favorite dishes and just let it ride. We also had him choose an inexpensive bottle of red wine for about €25, too.

The meal starts with some hearty bread, butter, and a yogurt-like spread. I'm not sure what it was, kind of strange but not objectionable.

Portions here were absolutely huge, to point of being comical. The quality of the food was very good and I really loved this meal. I just wish I was hungrier for it, as I would have enjoyed finishing everything.

Cured fish with warm potatoes

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Fillets of cured fish were served with cured onions and carrots in the huge terrine dish to the left. That dish is not miniaturized in any way, it'a full sized terrine dish. The potatoes were warm and served with a light pickled salad. The dish was simple, oily in a good way, and full of strong flavors that had melded together in a very satisfying manner.

Chicken stuffed with foie gras

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Again, this is just a starter. In my mind that's a substantial main course. Anyway the chicken was pan roasted and served with a couple types of cured vegetables and meats. One encoutered salty speck, smoky sausage, acidic preserved tomatoes. And a couple nice pieces of chicken with a surpise of oozy foie in the middle of the breast portion.

Pork with lentils

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A dish that filled both the stomach and soul. Presented tableside in a large Staub cast iron cooking vessel, some of the its contents were then spooned out for easy consumption. This is only about 1/2-2/3 of the dish. There was still another hunk of pork belly and loin and a smaller piece of sausage in the pot with a whole bunch more lentils. So simple, so hearty. I loved it but was simply too full to eat as much as I would've liked.

Braised beef wrapped in cabbage

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Shredded braised beef was wrapped in a cabbage leaf almost like a sausage of sorts. This was served with pureed potatoes.

Chocolate parfait

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Sorry about the quality and composition of this image. This was essentially a parfait of chocolate mousse and nuts. It was fine but too heavy for me at this point in the meal, day, trip.

Rice pudding

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For perspective that smaller bowl filled with the light brown substance is the size of perhaps a small cereal bowl or Japanese rice bowl. The vessel holding the rice pudding, is about five times the size. You can see it is effectively filled with rice pudding. It was enough to feed a group of six yet somehow we managed to eat almost the whole thing. It was really, really good. Nothing frivolous about it, just good pudding, a nice sauce, and some nuts for texture.

Incredibly full we wandered over to a Canadian sport bar to meet up with a friend studying in Paris for the semester. Seeing the host of drunk students and young adults contained therein made me glad I was not doing the typical spring break. After a short walk to see Notre Dame, unfortunately not lit up at night time, we caught the last metro back to our hotel.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Nice work so far. 

I have a question.  It looks like most of your "Michelin" meals were lunches.  Did you go this way because it is less expensive than the dinner menu?  I am planning a Paris trip for May, thinking about restaurants.  The idea of a formal multi-course tasting menu in the middle of the afternoon is the not the way we usually eat, whether at home or travelling.  Normally I would rather eat this way in the evening.  Were the lunches a deliberate choice, or is it more common in Paris to eat this way?

That's a great question. It was a very deliberate choice. I'm extremely type-A and research and plan and research more to the extreme. My budget for this trip was predicated on not walking into some restaurant and blowing $300 for one meal when I could rationally get two meals of similar quality for the same price. Therefore I had a host of American Express conceirges attempt to get me completely accurate lunch prices, as I knew at some places they would be half, or even less, the price of dinner. The success of this plan was limited but I think it shows the type of time you have to invest if you're looking to truly maximize your dining budget. I had also considered more expensive locations like Guy Savoy, l'Ambrosie, Ducasse but found that the prices remained prohibitively expensive for an experience that was not guaranteed to be that much better. In addition, my tastes slant toward the modern, that's why Gagnaire and l'Astrance were relatively easy choices. There are cheaper options like at Taillevent or Le Cinq, and I'm sure that they are wonderful restaurants in their own right. When I heard they were losing a star each, however, that further locked in my determination to get in at Gagnaire and Astrance. Obviously, my dinners represented cheaper and more "value-driven" options.

Indeed taking 3 hours out of the day can be tough if you plan to sightsee. I didn't so much care about that stuff, so my days were built around meals with walking around to famous sites as completely secodary. Also, I consider myself a very prolific eater so I can put away multiple tasting menus in a day, only a few hours apart. For some that just spells death. This would become a very real threat in the Spain portion of this trip. Well, perhaps not death, but discomfort.

Finally, if you're really anal you can actually plan your sightseeing around great meals, something even I didn't proactively attempt. Want to experience the Les Halles experience? Make an early reservation at a bistro in the area and see Notre Dame before. Book lunch at l'Astrance and spend the afternoon by the Eiffel Tower, as you'll be right there. Most people do it the other way around, but that's not nearly as cool.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Wow. :shock: OhMyHolyOats. How did you manage to eat all of that in such a short time? Are you and your lovely g/f bulimic? I'm quite able to binge eat, yet even I feel sick, just imagining the timing and size of these meals! :wacko: The food is just relentless, one course after another, one meal after another. Kudos to you, for managing it all, so far, without any serious problems. I'm noticing that a lot of the dishes seem VERY highly decorated and garnished. Did you feel this way when you were experiencing them?

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...

Foie gras and mushroom terrine

gallery_28496_4375_96425.jpg

A realy cool dish combining a luxury ingredient, foie gras, and a basic one, white mushrooms.  What made this dish excellent was, again, the fact that the sum was greater than its parts.  Fundamentally it was very simple, just foie and mushrooms but the mushrooms almost blended with foie giving the whole dish an uncommon toothsome quality not ususally associated with foie.  The nut oil and lemon sorbet played opposite sides of the flavor spectrum as fitting accompaniments.

...

This sounds and looks very interesting--the main construction and the garnishes.

Can you remember any more details of the dish?

Was the foie gras and mushrooms at room temperature? It almost looks like the mushrooms are simply thinly sliced and not cooked in anyway. Was there any other spicing or saucing with the foie or mushrooms?

Thanks for anything else you can add!

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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3/16/07 part 1

Now the story of the Amex conceirges from hell.

The previous afternoon I had received a friendly letter from one of my Amex Conceirges informing that my reservation at Alkimia, a modern one-star restaurant in Barcelona, could not be found at the restaurant. Of course, they chose not to call me to inform me of this change. I wrote an email asking them to call ASAP. Of course, this did not happen either.

Needless to say I was not pleased. Later that evening, after a series of international cell phone conversations that depleted upwards £20+ from the g/f's pay-as-you-go international phone, it seemed all was well. I had just finished up putting in alternative reseravtion requests at Sauc, Abac, and Hisop and was hoping for the best. Just as I was saying my goodbyes her prepaid minutes were depleted thanks to Vodaphone's exorbitant int'l rates. Aweseome. Amex would have no means to reach me, unless of course they were smart enough to look up my cell phone number that they had on file. Of course, they were not.

Not knowing the conceirges name I wasted several minutes on my phone trying to get any information as to whether a reservation had been made. The individual I spoke to had no idea and would try to call me back. Of course, she did not.

More phone calls ensue over the next day. Finally, many many many international cell phone minutes later I am informed that I have a reservation at Abac. To my parents who are likely reading this, this month's cell phone bill could be a little, ummm, high.

Let's just say that if I was choosing a personal conceirge service, Amex would not be at the top of my list.

End rant.

Anywho, before leaving Paris we grabbed the aforementioned banana-Nutella crepe. After an Easy Jet flight from Orly, I was able to share a cab from Barcelona Airport to Plaza Catalunya with a Duke classmate in my freshman year dorm who happened to be on the same flight. Small world. After dropping our bags off at the Antic Espai, an equally parts creepy yet quirky yet cute hotel/hostal, we headed off to eat.

But first, Hostal l'Antic Espai

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A highly unique but entirely enjoyable lodging experience. The bed, the terrace, the excess of ceiling molding and chandelier-age, and that's just in our room. Also, the entire staff seemed to be young homosexual men, or maybe they were just European. My gaydar is usually right on in distinguising between the two camps, much more so than most of my peers. Here, however, I really wasn't sure. Really nice guys though. The location was great too, just a couple blocks off of Passeig de Gracia and Plaza Catalunya.

Pretty much every single chef or foodie I respect has sung the virtues of jamon Iberico, a special type of Spanish ham made from pigs who forage for acorns during the last months of their lives. This ham is expensive, very expensive.

We headed to Jamonisimo, a highly recommended ham shop in Barcelona.

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All hams here are hand sliced. Iberico, again, is soo expensive. Like €165/kg.

Here, we would encounter the most significant language barrier of the whole trip. The staff didn't speak a work of English. And even after years of private schooling in Spanish and Latin, my practical command of foreign language leaves something to be desired. The woman who I intereacted with was incredibly sweet and patient. The whole experience was among the most memorable of the trip.

I knew there were three regions that Iberico comes from. I also knew there were three sections of the ham that I wanted to try. My usage of the word "lugares" was apparently too vague. I'm also quite slow on picking up the difference between the verbs "comer" and "probar." I wish I could retell the full story here; it was amazingly comical.

In the end, however, we received just what we wanted. A tasting plate of the "tres lugares en una pierna" and "un poquito plato de jamon de otro region" in my bootleg Spanish. In other words, three cuts of from one ham and a smaller plate of ham from a different region.

My first exposure to pa amb tomaquet/pan con tomate/toast with tomato and olive oil. This stuff is addictive. I think we had like four full plates. We gratefully learned that it was complimentary with our large ham purhcase.

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Three textures of ham from Extremadura

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Each part of the ham had a clearly different texture and slightly different flavor. Those with more experience with this product can remind me and others as to the three sections we ate. We also ordered two "copas de cava." "Copas" not "vasos" as I was subtly instructed. We had already eaten a couple pieces by the time this photo was taken.

A smaller plate of ham from Salamanca

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This was silkier and saltier than the ham from Extremadura. I may have preferred this one slightly, as it was perhaps closer to hams that I had had in the past.

Overall this was a great cultural and culinary experience. It was not at all cheap, however, as I think everything came to just shy of €50. The ham really did have a certain luscious nutty fattiness uncommon in other hams I've had in the past.

Feeling more confident in my Spanish abilities I reflected to our new friend that "El jamon de Extremadura es mas como carne pero el jamon de Salamanca es mas como sal." She laughed and vaguely understood what the hell I was saying: the former was meatier while the latter smooher and saltier. I also purchased a small packet of choirzo Iberico that is extremely delicious. The nuttiness still comes through after the addition of the pimenton.

Travelers should finally note that Jamonisimo is not where it "should" be. According to Google Maps and street numbers you will find yourself at an apartment building. Face the apartment building, turn left, and walk a couple blocks and you'll see it on the corner.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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and just to enlighten us uncultured 'mericans, was tip or service charge ever brought up at any of your meals? i'm assuming it is all factored into the cost of the meal which makes budgeting for a trip like that much easier?

great report and thank you bryan!

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Travelers should finally note that Jamonisimo is not where it "should" be.  According to Google Maps and street numbers you will find yourself at an apartment builing.  Face the apartment building, turn left, and walk a couple blocks and you'll see it on the corner.

This google map seems to be right. The address is Provença 85, corner with Viladomat.

We''ve opened Pazzta 920, a fresh pasta stall in the Boqueria Market. follow the thread here.

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This is a great trip report. You're lucky that you can put so much food away; I just got back from Paris & London in February, and at one big meal a day + bakery goods, I was never hungry, always full. I think the time I had lunch at Pierre Gagnaire was one of the most stuffed moments I've ever experienced. So much so that I felt slightly panicked -- I had to get out of there and start walking it off! (The other "most stuffed" time would have to be post-spotted dick pudding at St. John's -- that stuff is lethal. It has an amazing ability to keep expanding in your stomach. Tasty, though.)

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...

Foie gras and mushroom terrine

gallery_28496_4375_96425.jpg

A realy cool dish combining a luxury ingredient, foie gras, and a basic one, white mushrooms.  What made this dish excellent was, again, the fact that the sum was greater than its parts.  Fundamentally it was very simple, just foie and mushrooms but the mushrooms almost blended with foie giving the whole dish an uncommon toothsome quality not ususally associated with foie.  The nut oil and lemon sorbet played opposite sides of the flavor spectrum as fitting accompaniments.

...

This sounds and looks very interesting--the main construction and the garnishes.

Can you remember any more details of the dish?

Was the foie gras and mushrooms at room temperature? It almost looks like the mushrooms are simply thinly sliced and not cooked in anyway. Was there any other spicing or saucing with the foie or mushrooms?

Thanks for anything else you can add!

Here is a recipe I found on starchefs that may provide some information.

http://www.starchefs.com/events/studio/tec...bot/index.shtml

Robert R

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I'm noticing that a lot of the dishes seem VERY highly decorated and garnished. Did you feel this way when you were experiencing them?

I mean three of the four Paris meals were at Michelin starred establishments. I think a certain level of garnish and decoration was exepected. Nothing was all that groundbreaking in plating, save for the Anarchy 2007 at Can Roca which I will be posting shortly.

...

Foie gras and mushroom terrine

gallery_28496_4375_96425.jpg

A realy cool dish combining a luxury ingredient, foie gras, and a basic one, white mushrooms.  What made this dish excellent was, again, the fact that the sum was greater than its parts.  Fundamentally it was very simple, just foie and mushrooms but the mushrooms almost blended with foie giving the whole dish an uncommon toothsome quality not ususally associated with foie.  The nut oil and lemon sorbet played opposite sides of the flavor spectrum as fitting accompaniments.

...

Can you remember any more details of the dish?

Was the foie gras and mushrooms at room temperature? It almost looks like the mushrooms are simply thinly sliced and not cooked in anyway. Was there any other spicing or saucing with the foie or mushrooms?

Thanks for anything else you can add!

The dish was actually quite simple. It was servted at room temperature and the mushrooms were not cooked. That helped give the dish its toothsome quality. If I recall there was a light dusting on the top but I wasn't told what it was. One garnish was a lemon sorbet. The other was a nut oil. The foie was probably cured (per the link above) but besides that there was no additional saucing.

and just to enlighten us uncultured 'mericans, was tip or service charge ever brought up at any of your meals?  i'm assuming it is all factored into the cost of the meal which makes budgeting for a trip like that much easier?

great report and thank you bryan!

Yeah, figuring out gratuities led to a couple awkward language situations. Gagnaire set us straight for France and they were relatively direct about it. I asked if gratuity was included, and gladly would've added it, but was told it was not necessary. I'm not sure if people usually tip more on top of that? In London I was told that 12% is pretty standard by acquaintances, so that's what I did. In Barcelona we assumed that gratuity was included, as in Paris and did not tip on our first meal at Abac. At Can Roca the next day we asked a runner whose English was not strong, "Is there gratuity on this?" pointing to the bill. Looking confused he said no, and we thought we'd stiffed our excellent captain from the night before. Then our captain came over and righted the situation, saying that gratuity was in fact included and that the runner had misunderstood us. Despite that minute or so of panic, all was otherwise well.

So in short, gratuity was included.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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3/16/07 part 2

Immediately after our ham experience I decided tapas were in order. Our plane had been delayed in getting into Barcelona and our original plan was to have ham for brunch, tapas for an afternoon-evening snack, and a tasting menu for a late dinner. Because of the delay and getting slightly lost trying to find Jamonisimo, ham and tapas had to be stacked back to back. For me, this wasn't so much a problem. For the g/f, however, this is where things would take a turn for the worse.

Before we get to food comas, the inability to walk, and the occasional dry heave, there was Tapaç 24, a modern tapas bar right on Passeig de Gracia, a high-end commercial street with a couple Gaudi-esque buildings too.

Croquetas

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These were good but not transporting.

Patatas bravas

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A classic tapas dish, I think, where fried potatoes are topped with mayonnaise and a spicy sauce. This dish has international appeal.

Bikini 24

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A sandiwch of jamon Iberico, mozzarella cheese, and black truffles. Like the best ham and cheese ever.

McFoie Burger

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Rare ground beef mixed with foie gras. Beefy and unctuous. Lightly crisped on the on outside on the griddle.

I also had another glass of cava. Cava effectively became my water in Spain. A glass of cava to start the meal? Sure. In between meals? Sure. You haven't had your complimentary drink to welcome you to the hotel yet, should I send you a glass of cava? Why not.

The total for this mini-meal was like €26 or €28, I can't quite picture which.

At this point the g/f had hit something of a consumption wall. It seems there is such thing as too much of a good thing. A rest was in order before the meal that night.

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I'm totally loving the vicarious thrills of all the monetary and caloric splurges you're doumenting here. And I too am admiring that layered foie/mushroom dish (and am already plotting ways I can come up with a lower-impact version...)

Meanwhile, at the risk of careening way the hell off-topic, I can't resist commenting on the bit of your post about Hostal L'Antic Espai:

A highly unique but entirely enjoyable lodging experience.  The bed, the terrace, the excess of ceiling molding and chandelier-age, and that's just in our room.  Also, the entire staff seemed to be young homosexual men, or maybe they were just European.  My gaydar is usually right on in distinguising between the two camps, much more so than most of my peers.  Here, however, I really wasn't sure.  Really nice guys though.  The location was great too, just a couple blocks off of Passeig de Gracia and Plaza Catalunya.

Boy, does that place look totally Edward Gorey. And as to the mixed signals on your gaydar scope, I was inevitably reminded of the subversively funny (and highly politically incorrect) Gay or Eurotrash? game perpetrated by the ezine Blair awhile back. :biggrin:

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Thanks for the additional info on the mushroom and foie gras galette, Bryan and for the recipe, Robert40!

Interesting about the mayo with the patatas bravas. I've had it in a few US tapas places but never with the mayonnaise. Hmmm, but I like fries with mayonnaise and sambal....

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Interesting about the mayo with the patatas bravas.  I've had it in a few US tapas places but never with the mayonnaise.  Hmmm, but I like fries with mayonnaise and sambal....

Aioli is the "mayo" on the patatas bravas

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3/16/07 part 3

Dinner that night would be at Abac, a chic one-star restaurant with an emphasis on modern Spanish cooking. Abac is also well-known for its suckling pig, another highlight of the trip.

We were presented with English menus, with prices for the ladies, unlike at Gaganire, Les M, and Astrance. We would find service in Barcelona to be more relaxed and younger than in Paris. Abac is located a simple room but it appealed to me. The tables are very well-spaced and the lighting is very pleasant. Small lamps on the two tops made for easy picture tasting.

Despite our collective fullness and the g/f's bordering on collapse we still had a tasting menu for, I believe, €82. We also opted to substitute in the suckling pig for the goat as our main. It was a small supplement but worth it I think. The dish was purposefully not complex but entirely delicious.

Before that, however.

Bread and snacks

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Olives, pork puffs, tempura-battered herbs, a crisp wafer

Amuse 1

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Rolled ham, spring greens, and a savory ice cream. A nice, clean start.

Amuse 2

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A bit of soup in a glass jar. I can't recall what the soup was, however. It was the frothiest of the servings of soup were on the trip, perhaps fitting of Spain.

Winter "salads"

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Lightly dressed greens on the left. On the right was a cool winter vegetable tart en gelee. Bits of squash and turnips and other things were pefectly brunoised, topped with a slice of truffle, and set in a light gelee. I think the crust was made with potato.

Razor clam

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Unfortunately, this was the only razor clam I would eat on this trip. I would've like to eat more of them but for some reason opportunities did not present themselves. The razor clam was removed from the shell, crisped lightly and, I think, served with bits of squid. The addition of bitter greens and vinegar helped the balance our the creamy, slightly chewy clam.

Scallop, mozzarella-potato foam, saffron broth

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This was definitely the low point of the night, as the foam was just wayyyy to heavy for the scallop. The scallop and creamy broth alone would've been good by themselves but the foam was too much. I admit to being quite full, but I feel like this dish was a failure on the fundamental level. It lacked the balance of contrasting flavors that the previous did; this was jsut too creamy and the sweet-salinity of the scallop got overpowered.

Tuna, red wine sauce, glazed vegetables

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Although this dish included heavy ingredients like tuna and a red wine sauce, it was very good. The seasoning on the tuna was some type of special cumin that added a lot of depth to the dish. Each bite left me wanting the next.

Suckling pig, natural juices, roasted potatoes

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Before I wax poetic on the merits of the wonderful foray into porkiness, an incident occured that made me appreciate the service of the restaurant. The g/f was obviously quite slow to finish her dishes, and our captain noticed this. After telling him about our eating escapades he seemed sympathetic and told the kitchen to slow things down and scale down her meat portion. While I certainly appreciated the service gesture, I was worried we would be getting less pork, the reason I came to Abac. My fears were for naught, as the half portion they took off the g/f's plate was placed on mine. Sweetness. I was pleased.

Nevertheless this dish had the crispest pork skin I've ever had. After savoring the skin and shearing the loin section of the ribs I was able to go at the bones with gusto thanks to a finger bowl also delivered with the course. I was so pleased with this dish, and it remains one of my favorites of the trip. My only complaint is that I wanted just a bit more jus to eat with the potatoes.

Cheese cart

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Interestingly this would be the only place that we would encounter a full cheese cart. In fact, I was kind of disappointed we did not come across one in France, but this made up for it. Not only was I able to try a few ballsy French cheeses, I was able to try some Catalan cheeses too. The cheese cart was included in the price of the meal, making it an overall very good value.

French cheeses, Catalan cheeses

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Besides the epoisses, which has been my favorite cheese for the past several months, I think I enjoyed the Catalan cheeses more. They were selected by our captain, and I really liked his choices.

Pre-dessert

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Another one of my favorite images. An ice cream with a bit of fruits and herbs. Nice and light.

Poached pear

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Poached pear filled with a light chocolate mousse. This was a really nice dessert and lighter than it looks.

Petits fours

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One of the cooler serving platters I have seen. A bunch of different bites and chocolates.

Abac was a really great meal. The service here was probably the most personable we encountered on the whole trip. When we told him about our meal at Can Roca the following day, our captain looked surprised but sung its praises. He also asked if we were "cookers" (which I'm guessing meant "cooks" in the professional sense), to which I replied, "Yes, something like that..." and tried to explain to him what Z Kitchen was.

It had been a very, very long day of excessive eating. Only hours later I would be strolling through the Boqueria, trying to meet up with eG member Silly Disciple, and finally enjoying some nice morning platos.

ETA an anecdote: At another table just across from us at Abac an older gentleman, his much younger female companion, and what appeared to be their young toddler were dining across from us. I'm all for letting kids come to nice restaurants if they're well-behaved and this one was not necessarily all that disruptive. The couple also made an early reservation so I don't have a lot negative to say. Nevertheless, the kid was bouncing off the walls, albeit quietly, for the first 30 or so minutes we were there. Playing with an action figure, a Gameboy, reaching across/around/under the table; it was amusing. Then out of nowhere he pretty much passes out in his seat. It was almost as if his parents drugged him. The staff, seeing this brought over a second chair and laid him across it. This kid was literally sprawled out and did not move a muscle for the next hour or so. When the couple left, the kid was pretty much tossed like a rag doll up on his father's shoulder and taken out, still sleeping. I wish we had taken a picture; it was very funny.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Interesting about the mayo with the patatas bravas.  I've had it in a few US tapas places but never with the mayonnaise.  Hmmm, but I like fries with mayonnaise and sambal....

Aioli is the "mayo" on the patatas bravas

Sounds great and more Spanish. I have made patatas bravas at home also. Next time I'll whip up some nice garlicky aioli to serve alongside.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Food-Travel blogs are MURDER on my work productivity! This is all great stuff, but I can't imagine eating all that stuff -- I'm just not that dedicated/committed. I'd be calling for soup and crackers midway through day 2. Great reading, though!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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That meal at Abac looks really interesting!

Bryan, thanks so much for sharing this with us. I'm really enjoying it.

Did you fit in much "normal" sightseeing in between meals?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'm noticing that a lot of the dishes seem VERY highly decorated and garnished. Did you feel this way when you were experiencing them?

I mean three of the four Paris meals were at Michelin starred establishments. I think a certain level of garnish and decoration was exepected. Nothing was all that groundbreaking in plating, save for the Anarchy 2007 at Can Roca which I will be posting shortly.

...

Foie gras and mushroom terrine

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A realy cool dish combining a luxury ingredient, foie gras, and a basic one, white mushrooms.  What made this dish excellent was, again, the fact that the sum was greater than its parts.  Fundamentally it was very simple, just foie and mushrooms but the mushrooms almost blended with foie giving the whole dish an uncommon toothsome quality not ususally associated with foie.  The nut oil and lemon sorbet played opposite sides of the flavor spectrum as fitting accompaniments.

...

Can you remember any more details of the dish?

Was the foie gras and mushrooms at room temperature? It almost looks like the mushrooms are simply thinly sliced and not cooked in anyway. Was there any other spicing or saucing with the foie or mushrooms?

Thanks for anything else you can add!

The dish was actually quite simple. It was servted at room temperature and the mushrooms were not cooked. That helped give the dish its toothsome quality. If I recall there was a light dusting on the top but I wasn't told what it was. One garnish was a lemon sorbet. The other was a nut oil. The foie was probably cured (per the link above) but besides that there was no additional saucing.

and just to enlighten us uncultured 'mericans, was tip or service charge ever brought up at any of your meals?  i'm assuming it is all factored into the cost of the meal which makes budgeting for a trip like that much easier?

great report and thank you bryan!

Yeah, figuring out gratuities led to a couple awkward language situations. Gagnaire set us straight for France and they were relatively direct about it. I asked if gratuity was included, and gladly would've added it, but was told it was not necessary. I'm not sure if people usually tip more on top of that? In London I was told that 12% is pretty standard by acquaintances, so that's what I did. In Barcelona we assumed that gratuity was included, as in Paris and did not tip on our first meal at Abac. At Can Roca the next day we asked a runner whose English was not strong, "Is there gratuity on this?" pointing to the bill. Looking confused he said no, and we thought we'd stiffed our excellent captain from the night before. Then our captain came over and righted the situation, saying that gratuity was in fact included and that the runner had misunderstood us. Despite that minute or so of panic, all was otherwise well.

So in short, gratuity was included.

Here is a post with photos from the Starchefs International Chef's Congress in NYC this past September showing Barbot preparing this dish.

Nice report, Bryan! I agree that the suckling pig at Abac is to die for. Did you have it anywhere else?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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That meal at Abac looks really interesting!

Bryan, thanks so much for sharing this with us. I'm really enjoying it.

Did you fit in much "normal" sightseeing in between meals?

You're welcome. Since that was the first day in Barcelona, no. It was all traveling and eating. Working backwards, I think I mentioned all the stuff I saw in Paris. Mainly we just walked around and when we saw interesting things we'd check the map and like, "Oh, that's..." Paris was very pretty overall but there was no explicit sightseeing planned beyond where our feet took us. In London we did take a day to see Big Ben (which I actually thought was really cool), Houses of Parliament, National Gallery, and all that stuff in that area. My sightseeing is literally just "seeing" with my eyes the "sight." I'm not one for lengthy tours or the like. In Barcelona we would see Sagrada Familia (also very cool, espec when on the inside and looking up), Barcelona Cathedral (but only because we were just walking through the Gothic Quarter).

Nice report, Bryan! I agree that the suckling pig at Abac is to die for. Did you have it anywhere else?

I would have it again at Cinc Sentits, whose time here will come, and while it was good it was not nearly at the same level.

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