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My last -- and anyone's best -- shot at elBulli


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According to the time zone websites I consulted, it is now 2:42 a.m. in Barcelona. I must admit, I was hoping for some updates during dinner

We rolled into our hotel around 3:30am. I'm guessing we had one of the larger meals Can Roca ever serves -- 31 courses -- and we also did kitchen and wine-cellar tours and such. I came equipped to do some live blogging but unfortunately there was no wifi in the dining room.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Did you run into my son?

We saw Andrew at the baggage claim and chatted a bit. I can't believe he's not a little kid anymore.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Okay so we're coming up on 4:30am here and I've been going pretty much nonstop since Thursday so the process of posting about tonight's meal is going to have to wait until morning. Well, it is morning but you know what I mean.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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. . . .

There's a refrigeration problem. When you leave the hotel room, all the electricity cuts out and the room gets very warm. I'm trying to figure out candy logistics, like whether it's possible to get some Sunday morning on the way out of town.

Sunday may be problem, since things tend to be closed; is there anyone there who might let you use a little of their refrigerator space? It isn't as though you'd be asking to store something bulky and space-consuming, like half a pig's head.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Ask for another key and leave it inserted when you leave the room. Or use the minibar fridge.

That said, there used to be at least two great chocolate shops at El Prat airport.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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We assembled in the lobby of Nathan's hotel in order to meet our van and driver. Saska, mentioned on the itinerary, turned out to be German, blonde, and female. She's a tour guide as well as a driver, so on our way to Girona she spoke about Catalan history, which Nathan later reported she got "mostly right." We then drove around the old part of Girona, and I brilliantly proposed that since we had 20 extra minutes we should go for a little walk.

Girona is beautiful and the walk would have turned out to be a pretty good idea were it not for two issues. First, the stairs. Because we somehow stumbled upon an unexplained festival with large crowds filling the old plaza and hundreds of candles lining the main stairs, we had to divert to an alternate walking route that had us climbing up and around the crowd. It didn't actually work out so after all that climbing we wound up having to push through the crowd anyway. Max acted as a wedge and I opened the hole wider, then the rest followed.

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Second, Can Roca is not exactly easy to find, even for professional tour guides and even for former Microsoft executives armed with GPS. After about half an hour of trying, said GPS finally got us to the restaurant's former location. Luckily this was only about a kilometer from the new one.

Upon our arrival, we were shown around the kitchen and wine cellar. The kitchen is as nice a kitchen as you can imagine outside of Nathan's house, and the wine cellar is gorgeous too. There may have been some disagreement in our group about whether the different styles of music playing in the storage areas for the different wine regions was money well spent. A hint: I thought not really, but I guess I'm unsentimental.

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We then had 29 courses of wonderful food -- 29 if you count each amuse and consider each of the 6 bonbons (served at once) separately, more like 20 if you do the math differently. To break it down as unsentimentally as possible: Of the 29 dishes, 27 were excellent. Of the 27 excellent ones, there were 6 or 7 that I'd feel comfortable matching against the best dishes I've had at any restaurant anywhere.

I'm not sure if I got a usable photo of every course. Let's see now.

1. "Caramelized olive." They bring these out hanging on hooks from little trees.

2. "Campari bonbon." A solid cocktail that you pop in your mouth and it then liquifies.

3. "Anchovy bones."

4. "Chicken cracker."

5. "Ring calamari adaptation."

6. "Vegetable salad." This deconstructed riff on the awful "Russian salad" was, I thought, the best dish of the night.

7. "St. George's mushroom truffled brioche and pot au feu broth."

8. "Manzanilla-steamed oyster, iodine juice and caramelized Sherry essence." Probably my second-favorite non-dessert dish.

9. "Escalivada with anchovies and smoke of ember."

10. "Charcoal-grilled eggplant, pepper onion and tomato."

11. "Charcoal-grilled king prawn with acidulated mushroom juice."

12. "Artichoke flower, foie gras, orange and truffled oil." Come to think of it, maybe this was my favorite dish.

13. "Onion soup, Crespia walnuts and Comte cheese."

14. "Sole, olive oil and Mediterranean flavors."

15. "Baby squids with onion rocks."

16. "Red mullet with Catalan seafood stew and lard."

17. "Steak tartare: spiced tomato, caper compote, pickles and lemon, hazelnut praline, meat bearnaise sauce, Oloroso-Sherry raisin, chives, Sichuan peppercorn, Pimenton de La Vera (D.O.) smoked paprika and curry, small scoops of mustard ice cream and mustard leaves." Okay maybe this was my favorite.

18. "Lamb with mint and peas."

19. "Hare a la royale." The last savory course. I give credit for serving it looking like a dessert, to fool you into thinking you're starting the dessert phase of the meal. But I didn't love the dish.

20. "Green colorology." My other least favorite item.

21. "Sherbert lemon distillate."

22. "Caramelized apricot." Absolutely fantastic, one of the best desserts I've ever had.

23. "Milk dessert."

24. "A goal by Messi." I have some video of this for later.

25 and on. Various bonbons.

Time constraints mean I've got to list the dishes then run all the photos together. Sorry if I missed one, but I've got to prepare for another death march.

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Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Anything I say ("wow! that's quite a meal") will just seem ridiculous in the face of the meal you just experienced so I'll skip that part and go on to our questions and comments.

PJ (context: PJ is FG's--and my--5.5 year old son) commented that he thought a lot of the food looked good, especially the fish with the 5 colored stripes of sauces. I think that the apricot looks like the must beautiful apricot I've ever seen--even before reading your description--and even from your photos!

We would like to know what the reddish-pink bon bon is (the last row of the 5)? Is there coconut on it? Tapioca pearls? If you can remember, we would like to know. We would also like to know what is in the second row chocolate (truffle?). PJ is convinced that he "has had one of those before" and he doesn't like it.

We are now going to pack some boxes--what are you doing (eating) for the rest of the day?!

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Thank you for such a complete sharing! From your photos, the presentations all look spectacular. Also, I am happy that you at least caught Johnny with a camera - how many other people in the restaurant were documnenting dinner? Who made the oven suite in your kitchen photo? Along the way ask Nathanm what equipment they have in each restaurant which he doesn't!

"A cloud o' dust! Could be most anything. Even a whirling dervish.

That, gentlemen, is the whirlingest dervish of them all." - The Professionals by Richard Brooks

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17. "Steak tartare: spiced tomato, caper compote, pickles and lemon, hazelnut praline, meat bearnaise sauce, Oloroso-Sherry raisin, chives, Sichuan peppercorn, Pimenton de La Vera (D.O.) smoked paprika and curry, small scoops of mustard ice cream and mustard leaves." Okay maybe this was my favorite.

Was that this?

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Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I don't know if I'm more amazed seeing all that food or seeing Johnny in a tie.

The tie was a little short.

Johnny actually packed quite a wardrobe. He's the reason we ran into Docsconz's kid at the baggage claim. I just came with a backpack. He packed like he was going for a transatlantic crossing on the QM2.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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We would like to know what the reddish-pink bon bon is

A partially candied raspberry. The stuff on the outside is sugar.

We would also like to know what is in the second row chocolate (truffle?).

"Palet d'or." Basically a really well-made chocolate bonbon with a little gold leaf.

We are now going to pack some boxes--what are you doing (eating) for the rest of the day?!

The rest of my day is basically over. I'm going to walk around the block to try to establish a small caloric deficit and then at 4:30 we're back in the van with Saska and the "constellation" (as she calls them) of chefs.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I actually know your driver/guide Saskia. I'm curious as to what she got wrong about Catalan history!

How long did the dinner last?

Nathan added commentary throughout. He knows a lot about a lot. I didn't note any of the specific enhancements.

Dinner was about 4.5 hours.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I am seriously impressed! I wonder what you drank with all those courses? (I suppose it would be unseemly to ask what the dinner cost.)

Our wine choices were not outrageous. They poured an organic cava to start, Privat Nu 08. We ordered As Sortes 07 D.O. Valdeorras, Nelin 05 D.O.Q. Priorat (an awesome white Priorat and my favorite wine of the evening), and Pagos Viejos D.O.Ca. Rioja (good but not a revelation).

I have no idea about the theoretical bill. Nathan M. tried to buy us dinner but the brothers Roca wouldn't let him. So all we could say to him was thanks for Saskia.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I kept joking that I liked the old one better. I think it eventually, as I ran through the permutations of the joke ("This dish was better at the old one..." "Before they sold out to the Man...") had the desired effect of annoying everyone.

Today after a little sleeping and forums posting, I hit the Santa Caterina market (again) with Nathan and Johnny (the others slept, except for Max who went running). Santa Caterina is not as nice as Boqueria but is more of a place where locals shop. Still, the inventory is amazing compared to most other things in the world. Johnny got a kilo of ham. The candy selection, sadly, was terrible. Then we actually went to a museum (pre-Columbian) We finished up with the breakfast of champions: orange juice and three rapid-release Extra-Strength Tylenol gel-caps.

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Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I should add, Nathan did give the Roca brothers a copy of Modernist Cuisine, which somehow I wound up hauling across the cobblestones into the kitchen.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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One box just about exceeds weight limits for baggage on the airlines!

Nathanm must have pulled strings to get them there for the Rocas

Edited by JBailey (log)

"A cloud o' dust! Could be most anything. Even a whirling dervish.

That, gentlemen, is the whirlingest dervish of them all." - The Professionals by Richard Brooks

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