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El Raco de Can Fabes


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Hey all,

I will be in Spain soon and have heard truly awesome reviews of this place, however all of them have been second hand. I would love to hear details of anyone's experience here . . . advice on where to stay, San Celoni? Girona?

Thanks in advance,

J.

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We had lunch there Feb 2000 and it remains our best lunch ever and the best service of any restaurant.  We long for the day of our return :-)

The sommelier chose some superb and economical wines for us and made sure that we had dessert wine and brandy at the end.  He topped these up gratis and it's a wonder we weren't poured out the door.

Chef Santimaria is a genius, or more probably a force of nature.  We had about ten courses, including sea cucumber with sole, serrano ham, parsley oil and spring oinion.

Main course of foie gras of duck baked in a salt crust with a caremelised apple.  This seemed to keep making its own gravy as we ate.

Our menu abandoned the cheeseboard in favour of a little cake of goats cheese and nuts with a honey sauce.

I could go on, but suffice to say you are in for a treat.

It is a model of how a small place can keep its three stars year after year.  A model that Don Alfonso should study.

We took the train from Barcelona, but for dinner you would be better to stay in San Celoni.

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I've got a bit of a thing about the sacred anarchy of the cheeseboard.  I think it takes the control of the meal away from the chef, so I am pleased to see a chef grabbing the reins back.

He had mashed up a light cheese and chopped nuts, forming a very small 'cake' (4cm dia by 2cm high).  Centred on the plate and drizzled with a honey sauce.  Three bites really, and not at all cloying.

I have similar problems with a chef relinquishing control to his pastry chef and I am writing a little diatribe on that.

BTW. My only regret about that meal lies in the choice of wine.  As superb as the red Roija and the dark dessert wine were, I wish I had chosen a Sauternes to take us right through the foie gras, cheese and dessert.

I find more and more that a red wine doesn't fit well into a tasting menu.  At Don Alfonso, the sommelier recommended just one glass of red with the meat and for our forthcoming visit to Michel Bras, I will be casting a suspicious eye over the reds.

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My problem at the high end, Steve, is I expect a glass or taste paired to each course.  Of course at Bras you'll probably have something wonderful in dark chocolate with a Banyuls and say gee, that dessert wine went so well.  And I've had success going from dry red to sweet white to sweet red, since I usually get a lot of desserts and try to taste as many dessert wines as possible.  But I'm in a distinct minority.  Most pastry chefs are threatened by dessert wine and most restaurants don't understand it--and don't pair each dessert to an appropriate wine.

When you go to Bras--see if they have a white Banyuls.  It's very rare and tightly allocated in the States and I just tried it for the first time last night.  Wonderful.

I can't wait for your control-acquiring pastry chef diatribe, since I am a very control-requiring pastry chef.  Of course, who has the control actually has little to do with creating a successful transition from savory to sweet and creating harmony and flow all the way to the end.

Thank you for following up and please alert me when you publish or post your diatribe.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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We had lunch at Can Fabes about two years ago. We hadn't originally planned on dining there when we first drew up our itinerary. I was still skeptical about high end cooking in Spain and truthfully I hadn't heard much about Santamaria at the time. Two e-mail conversations convinced me to go there. Interestingly enough one was with our own Steve Shaw who had met the chef in Asia. The other was with a Spanish food critic who assured me that the restaurant would be three stars even if it was in France. It was too far out of the way of our planned driving route, so we cut our sightseeing short in Barcelona, picked up our car a day early and drove up for lunch on our last day in the city. We might have gone for dinner if we could have found a place to stay. Unfortunately San Celoni is a small town and Michelin shows one small hotel. Other people I had talked to at the time advised driving up from Barcelona as well.

We were most impressed by the food, and by the sommelier who chose reasonably priced and interesting wines that very much enhanced our lunch. Unfortunately it didn't enhance the drive back, not that we had any problem, but we didn't have a dessert wine. However, we discussed dessert wines and asked for recommendations which helped us later when we were looking for wines to bring to our friends in France. Recently I heard that El Raco de Can fabes might have added rooms to the restaurant, but we learned last week that this in the works, but there are no rooms at the moment. I wish I had more of a clue about the area, but we'll be checking it out next month as my opinion about Catalan food has undergone great change in the past two years. So yes, it's an awesome place, but I have no good advice on where to stay. I also distinctly remember the impressive hunk of hot foie gras and the espardenyes. This sea cucumber is unlike any I'd seen before and has been discussed in some detail in one of the other threads in the Iberian board.

Beyond that I don't much agree with what else has been said in this thread.

... the sacred anarchy of the cheeseboard.  I think it takes the control of the meal away from the chef
I disagree, strongly. A good cheese course is no more anarchistic than a bottle of wine and no more takes control from a chef than does drinking wine made by a winemaker rather than drinking some concotion made by the chef. What you describe seems like a rather traditional pairing of fresh cheese with honey, sugar or preserves. Sometimes it can be pleasant, but I'd rarely take it over a selection of fine French cheeses.
... a red wine doesn't fit well into a tasting menu
I truly don't understand the blanket nature of this statement. Why would one not have a red wine in a tasting menu when it was the obvious choice with one of the courses? I'd also be curious to know about the dark dessert wine. Was it a Spanish sherry, a Port or a French wine such as Maury or Banyuls? Sauternes, a good Spanish moscatel, or any number of sweet white wines are wonderful with some desserts, but others, such as chocolate are best enhanced with a Port or Banyuls sort of wine. Perhaps Klc hit upon something I overlooked in reading this. Do you think it's not possible to precede a red with a white and follow it with a sweet white? I'm not at all convinced that every course needs a new wine, but it's certainly a reasonable option if glasses of wine to suit are available. While I love a Sauternes, Coteaux du Layon or some sort of sweet wine with cold torchon of foie gras, I'm of mixed opinion about hot foie gras which I often prefer with red wine, depending on the garnish to a great extent.
similar problems with a chef relinquishing control to his pastry chef
I'm not sure what you mean here and will look forward to reading your diatribe. Do you feel that the chef should create his own deserts and not have a pastry chef or just that the pastry chef should be subservient to the chef? I'm inclined to disagree just on the basis that I don't think one can arbitrarily make a blanket statement that's applicable to all chefs or restaurants. On the whole, I've had better desserts from restaurants where the pastry chef was an artist in his own right and worked hand in hand with the chef, but I don't believe that has to be a hard and fast rule.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Steve, I have had the white Banyuls when I was in that area: I much preferred it to the red.

The Pourcel brothers served foie gras with a reduction of Banyuls, so you can imagine how good that was :o)  The red is good with chocolate though.

“Of course, who has the control actually has little to do with creating a successful transition from savory to sweet and creating harmony and flow all the way to the end.”

Flesh this out a bit, Steve.  How is the harmony created, if not by the person in control?

Steve and Bux,

I do not often see the matching wine by the glass option and I am delighted when I do.  The last time we found this rarity, we had a glass of red Santenay with the fish course and enjoyed both the combination and the fact that the chef was in the driving seat.

Usually the two of us order a bottle of white (Condrieu is a safe bet) and a half of red.  Then we often find we wish we had more white and the red is getting in the way of the subtle and varied flavours the chef is presenting.

So yes, I think that a free choice from the wine list and the cheeseboard are equally troublesome anarchies.  Don Alfonso presented a selection of cheeses and accompaniments on a plate, with an order of eating.  The Voie Sacree, where we recently had the 'matching wines' served a cheese fritter and salad course - very daring for a French chef to neglect the cheeseboard.

We love cheese (my wife, especially), but are not always happy to see the chariot of cheeses bearing down upon us during a 10 course meal.  If we had only had the run of it with some bread and wine at lunch, but not now!  We can't resist 3 or 4 and the whole discipline of the meal is out the window.  I use the word discipline on purpose, because that is what makes the great chefs better than me.  Power and lightness together – a balance easily toppled by the intrusion of cheese and wine.

I can’t remember the dessert wine at Can Fabes other than to say it was a Spanish moscatelle and darker than usual.  The second dessert was a sweet paella with nuts that went well with the wine.  As I said, the foie gras was served with apple.  I didn’t think it was an ideal ‘main’ course and was casting an envious eye over the roast goat on the next table.  I would not have liked to miss the foie gras creation, but it could have been a smaller early course.

Santi also managed to avoid another bugbear of mine.  The presenting of daft little bread rolls as if they were the crown jewels.  Here there was a breathtaking display of breads that were cut to order.

Every restaurant should fire the pastry chef and get a real baker. (Joking).

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Steve Martin, I much better understand your comments regarding cheese when you place it squarely in the context of a tasting menu--especially when it's a long menu of small courses. I understand your point better. In some cases even the preselection of a single cheese, with or without, a garnish might be appropriate.

As for bread and dessert, I understand your "fire the pastry chef and get a real baker." Bread baking and pastry are two separate metiers. While some chefs may make great desserts and some pastry chefs may make great bread, one shouldn't expect or assume that to be the case in most situations. A great restaurant whould have both a bread baker and a pastry chef in my mind.

Sometimes it's wonderful to experience a bottle of wine over the course of a meal and see how the wine develops in that short period. At other times, especially with an intricate tasting menu, a pairing of wine with each course proves far more interesting--and I'm not of the opinion that one particular wine is invariably the only choice with most dishes. I've seen it in Paris 15 years ago and more and more chefs are beginning to offer this. Perhaps that's more true in the US than in France. I don't know about the UK. (In both the US and the UK, I expect I am speaking of a limited segment of restaurants anyway.) Often wines by the glass are limited to a small selection in most restaurants and one has to hope that special bottles are opened to offer with a tasting menu. The ideal solution is to dine with six or seven others and have the whole wine list at your disposal for a single glass with each course.

Sweet wines have become a subject of great interest, although I can't claim any great knowledge. On the whole, Spanish food and wine is still to be discovered by us. I've had a few wines from Navarra described as Dulce de Moscatel, as well as a similar one from the south. They are not unlike desert Muscats from Beaumes-de-Venise and the Languedoc. I've not had the darker one you describe, but have heard of them. I plan on doing some field research on our next trip.  :biggrin:

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Steve K. or any one: When I first started going to restaurants, the concept of pairing food with wine by proposing a glass of ever-changing wines with each course simply did not exist. Does anyone know where and when it started and how? My guess is five to seven years in the USA, possible in Northern California, but by whom or what enterprise or organization I have no idea. I, for one, have never succumbed to the concept, being of the school that you see how one wine you may know and like, or wish to choose yourself, "adapts" itself to the food instead of vice-versa. Is it a good concept or an affectation?: A service to the gastronomic awareness of the diner or a gimmick to keep the customer drinking or to pay more for wine than he might have ordinarily?

I hope no one has brought this up on the Wine Forum. It probably should be a new thread if we haven't discussed it before. Anyway, this is where it's at for now.

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Was that Casta Diva Bux?

Sounds familiar. The problem with large meals with a group is that the bottles keep on coming.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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When I first started going to restaurants, the concept of pairing food with wine by proposing a glass of ever-changing wines with each course simply did not exist. Does anyone know where and when it started and how?

...

Is it a good concept or an affectation?: A service to the gastronomic awareness of the diner or a gimmick to keep the customer drinking or to pay more for wine than he might have ordinarily?

I remember seeing wine included with degustation menus at least ten years ago in France, but I don't recall if the first time I ran across it, the wines were paired with each course or if it was just a matter of a white with the hors d'oeuvres and fish and red with the meats.

With the possible exception of a wine sold with a dessert or two from time to time, I've never seen it as anything but an option and it's no more a gimmick to soak the customer than is a degustation menu. While it's nice to see a wine develop during a meal, I think it's likely that six or eight people having dinner to gether will order a different wine with each course. With a restaurant offering a set menu likely to be taken by many on the same night, it's easy for them to propose a glass of different wines with each course to every table at a good price. It's no more an affectation than choosing the garnishes for the dish. Let's go to the Craft thread to pick up that discussion.

I believe it can be carried to extremes, but it's certainly a service in concept allowing the diner to taste more wines, just as the degustation menu allows one to taste more dishes. Some people tend to shy away from tasting menus and others are drawn to them. The is the case with paired wines. As far as I'm concerned, the more options the better.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I ate here about 5 years ago so maybe things have changed, although it had 3 michelin stars then. The staff were lovely and the Chef even came out to say goodbye to us. But I have to admit that I found the whole experience a little bland - a disappointment as I was anticipating great things. This was in a trip which included visits to L'Aubergade and Michel Bras so there was a high standard to match up to.

As I say this was five years ago so don't be put off.

Gav

"A man tired of London..should move to Essex!"

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advice on where to stay, San Celoni? Girona?

There is a separate inn that is very close to El Raco. I had planned a trip there, but aborted it for various reasons. You can call El Raco to get the name of the inn (it is inexpensive); certain people at the restaurant have better English capabilities than others. As you know, San Celoni is an easy direct train ride from Barcelona.  :wink:

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thank you everybody!

This has certainly been an interesting discussion, a pleasure to see where it has gone. We secured reservations for Raco. We leave in about a week for a leisurely trip through Bordeaux and Catalonia. Needless to say I am excited. I will be sure to post the details of the meal when we get back.

Cheers!

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I´m probably repeating what I´ve posted elsewhere, but as I´m pressed for time, El Raco de Can Fabes is wonderful. So is El Bulli, but that may less universal appeal especially to those who have less interest in being a guinea pig or participating in an avant garde experience for dinner.

Between the two, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, L'Esgard in Sant Andreu de Llavaneres and Sant Pau in Sant Pol de Mer offer complelling meals with varying degrees of creativity.

Hispanya in Arenys de Mer, offers some very traditional food that will be a contrast and even a relief.

One other note. It´s been hot as hell here and humid on the coast. All of these restaurants are airconditioned, forturnately and in none of them did I feel the need to wear a jacket or tie, especially at lunch.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 4 weeks later...

thelastsupper -- When you have a chance, could you consider discussing your visit to El Raco, and where you stayed? (I have not yet visited) If you ordered tasting menus, did you order the more "traditional" one? In addition, please discuss accommodations, etc. :wink:

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  • 1 month later...

Hey everyone!

Just flew in from Madrid after 6 weeks through Bordeaux, the Perigord, Catalunya etc. Will post notes on Raco and others soon. Sorry it took so long to reply Cabrales-- for some reason my password was not working while I was away.

Cheers.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Whew! Okay, so here it comes . . . the big report.

I will start with the food and post notes on the room and service later.

We ordered the "Seduction" menu, which consisted of a series of unlisted courses

1st- A glass pedestal with various Hors d'oeuvres: a) Little Whelk-like snail (cañadilla) lightly marinated, refreshing and pleasantly vinegary, reminiscent of shellfish en escabeche that I've eaten elsewhere; b) tiny tartlet with tuna and tomato; c) bacon wrapped scallop, this was fairly amusing; d) sauteed chicken gizzard (?), great flavor, reminded me of gizzards anyway, the texture!; e) barely smoked salmon with tobiko on toast round; f) prune stuffed with rillettes, my guess was rabbit, smooth and deep; g) a little palito of phyllo wrapped in serrano ham, interesting texture wise, superb ham, the perfect bite; h) a sort of spring roll with lettuce, mint and creme fraiche, also refreshing and playful, but not terribly interesting.

2nd- a cold cream of cauliflower with olive oil, cream, a few perfect clams and tiny croutons. This was a great follow up to the opening amusements. Cool and velvety. I was especially taken with the contrast between the cream and olive oil. A small thing certainly, but it added a nice little puzzle to the otherwise fairly straightforward dish.

3rd- "Ravioli" of shrimp stuffed with mushrooms, with a cepe oil. This is one of the signature dishes from the restaurant. The "skin" of the ravioli was comprised of thinly sliced shrimp rolled around sauteed shiitake and other mushrooms. I felt that the flavor of the mushroom overpowered the delicate shrimp. It reminded me of dimsum rather than ravioli, though of course both are dumplings, neh? This was perhaps my least favorite of the meal. It wasn't bad, just diminished by the high quality of the other dishes. Perhaps I was looking forward to it too much? However, I did enjoy the concept of the dish within the sequence of the menu.

4th- Lobster; both butter poached claw and carpaccio. The carpaccio was laid over a raw egg yolk which made for an amazing presentation . . . the transluscence of the lobster with the golden yolk, the play of light . . . just lovely. The lobster was surrounded by two lobster sauces and sprinkled with bits of just done asparagus and (I think) chervil. This dish was truly remarkable. Extremely intense flavors. I found the dish was a bit too rich towards the end to to the yolk. I enjoyed the reappearance of the ravioli motif.

5th- Carpaccio of buey (I have always understood this to mean ox, does anyone know if this is correct?). Our waiter explained that the chef like to mix things up a little bit, this cut (contracorriente) was thicker than traditional carpaccio and barely seared around the outside. I believe I have seen something similar in a Japanese resturant (Anyone else know of this?). The meat was incredibly tender. It was topped by a brunois of tomato, zucchini and what appeared to be more croutons but turned out to be almonds. Also baby basil leaves. The spice of the basil complemented the meat well. I enjoyed this dish quite a bit. I also appreciated the presentation of ingredients in their raw form, the contrast of later and similar flavors in their cooked state.

6th- Caviar atop pork belly with a perfect potato puree. The waiter explained to us that the cut came from the throat of the pig (cansalada). It was surrounded by a fish fumet reduced with cream. This was a bizarre dish, but successful (if rich). A clever take on "mar i muntanya."

7th- Turbot stuffed with butter and ñora (an intensely colored red pepper); with squash blossoms, fennel and espardenyes. At this point my partner and I were beginning to be a bit overwhelmed by the richness of each dish. It was a treat to get to try the esparenyes as I had seen discussion of them elsewhere on the board. I found them to be very delicate in flavor, sweet and a little earthy. They complemented the meatiness of the fish well. This dish was masterful, perhaps my favorite.

At this point we had a little break.

8th- Braised veal shank served with a veal jus and braised endive. I was surprised and pleased at the utter simplicity of this dish, homey and comforting. A perfect traditional preparation. I thought it was a clever thing to reference this type of cooking so many times in the meal and to finally present it as the crowning glory. But it was a HUGE amount of food! We took another break before cheese.

9th- Cheese. Two waiters come by bearing an enormous litter full of cheeses between them. Spanish cheeses were prominent, with a few French and a beautiful Stilton. We asked for a selection of cheeses from the region. We had a cow's milk, sheep's milk and goat. I also requested a piece of fougeres. Pleasant. I was glad to see that the cheese program had been taken back up by the restaurant.

10th- Sorbets: Pineapple, stawberry and pear. All perfect. The pineapple nearly made me cry.

11th-An assortments of pre-desserts: a) Canelles (The pastry chef is from Bordeaux). These were lovely, crunchy and caramelized on the outside, soft and moist inside. b) Orange zest dipped in chocolate, then coconut. c) Chocolate truffles. Exquisite. d) Different tuilles in long squiggly shapes: vanilla, chocolate, citrus, red pepper. I tasted all except chocolate. Red pepper was not great, a bit too sweet for my taste. Nothing impressive here. e) a silver tray with five pieces of each of the following: Turron; Passionfruit jellies; lemon tartlets in a chocolate crust; macaroons (also in the style of Bordeaux); little chocolate tartlets that were more like just chocolates. All of these were exquisite, esp. the turron, the macaroons and the jellies. I enjoyed the repetition and variations of chocolate, lemon and almond in these little bites.

12th- Baba au rhum. With Martinique rum and Chantilly. The very best baba I've ever had. Not too sweet, with a perfect melting texture. The sommelier walked by at some point and then rushed off to get us a glass each of a 1983 Jamaican rum, that it would be beautiful with the baba. It was. As we ate the baba another (!) dessert came. Caramel and a light, light custard evenly layered in a shot glass. Fabulous and simple.

Then coffee.

Okay, that is enough for a bit. To be continued.

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Buey is ox, or at least male to the female cow. I don't know if there's a difference in age between toro and buey or if there are other terms that are also used. In the US, it's beef steak, but it's ox tail. As far as I know they come from the same animal.

Caviar and pork belly sounds more than a little bizarre. I'm not even sure the fish fumet didn't make if sound even odder. I will take your word that it worked. Actually I have a lot of faith in Santamaria. The use of caviar with pork belly seems extravagant, but with all the labor that went into that meal, why should I worry about the cost of a little caviar. Let lesser chefs play with anchovies. I recall when Martin Berasategui's foie gras with smoked ell and green apple was first described to me. I scoffed until I tried it. I've had Santi's food. I know he knows what he's doing.

Did you stay nearby? Did you come from Barcelona for the meal? How did you travel if so? Any sign of the promised hotel or rooms? We seriously curtailed out consumption to two bottles of wine because I had to drive back. I would have loved a dessert wine and maybe a digestif.

Interesting that the pastry chef is from Bordeaux. Some European barriers are falling. The psychological barrier of the Pyrenees seems to be shrinking culturally.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Bux,

We were coming from France. We stayed the night in Perpignan and woke up early to get the train to Port Bou and then San Celoni. We stayed at a place called the Hotel Suis (around 80 euros a night). It seemed luxurious to us. Air conditioning is a magical thing after sleeping in tiny, (read: stuffy) hostels. The next day we took a train to Barcelona.

We had two bottles of wine, the aforementioned rum and nothing else. It never occured to us to ask for anything else. I think we didn't want to forget the rum.

They are working on expanding the kitchen to double its size. They are also adding five suites to the restaurant. I can't remember precisely but I believe our server said the project would not be completed for another three years.

Oh, I believe that toro refers specifically to a bull killed in a bullfight. The flesh is supposed to taste differently because of the adrenalin present in the blood, a little bitter. Thus the long braised rabo de toro.

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We had lunch. I regret we didn't look into places to stay iin Sant Celoni. I think I mentioned it before, but several people had told us they drove up from Barcelona and then back after lunch and dinner so we did it that way. It would have been smarter to stay in town or take a train.

When I saw the rum, I assumed it was as a digestif. Upon re-reading I realize it was with dessert.

80 euros should buy a comfortable enough room. In August, I'd probably consider air conditioning a necessity rather than a luxury. Interestingly enough, the Michelin doesn't show air conditioning for the Suis.

It's great to hear about a great meal from a great chef. Santamaria doesn't get the press he deserves in the US and that area doesn't get the good tourism it deserves from the US.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've run across my "notes," from May 2000. They are little more than the menu with brief description of the dish, but they may be interesting to compare with the more recent meal enjoyed by thelastsupper. We had lunch. I don't know if that makes much of a difference. There were eight savory courses and two desserts to what was listed as the Gran Menu de Chef. There were other set menus available. I don't know if this was the grandest menu, but it may have had more of his specialties than any other menu. I won't make many comments as the details are apt not to be clear enough for me to embellish the notes.

1.

Aperatif of celery root puree with bacon "chips" and parmesan cheese.

2.

Soft boiled (coddled) quail egg with a delicate curry cream sauce and a foam, and fresh broad beans.

3.

"Ravioli" of gambas with a ragout of cepes. The gambas were flattened to the thickness (or thiness, if you will) of a sheet of pasta and used to form the "ravioli." This seems to be the signature dish still served. I seem to recall being taken by this dish.

4.

Giant spider crab (buey de mar) layered and flanked by a puree of peas with creme fraiche and then a stripe of crab bisque at the left and right edges of this composition. A bowl of intensely green puree of fresh peas was served separately alongside the dish. I remember thinking the stripes of sauces were very painterly.

5.

Gambas a la plancha (plancha is a flat iron or cast iron griddle). The grilled prawns/large shrimp were served on a bed of sofrito--concasse of tomatoes and cooked onions. It was interesting to have simple preparations interspersed with the more creative and complex dishes. The two styles highlighted each other quite successfully for me.

6.

Sea cucumber (espardenas) with deep fat fried chips of thinly sliced artichoke hearts (crujiente de arcachofa). Elsewhere on this board, it's been expalined that these delicate and somewhat rare Mediterranean sea creatures bear no resemblance to the sea cucumbers we see in Chinatown in NYC. They are more like shrimp and tender squid in texture and flavor and something to look out for in Catalonia.

7.

Rouget (salmonetta) with scallops a la plancha on a bed of mashed potatoes.

8.

Foie gras with summer mushrooms and a reduction of port wine sauce. I distincly remember this dish as the foie gras was an impressive hunk rather than the slice I expected. The exterior was charred and the center just short of liquid.

Pre-dessert.

Cream topped with a caramel sauce served in a small wine glass

Dessert.

"Orange salad" composed of skinned orange sections with orange sauce served with orange fritters with a molten chocolate center.

Petits fours followed dessert.

I was a bit left out of the wine discussion as my wife conferred with the sommelier mostly in Spanish. She made the point that she liked albarinos, but preferred to have alocal wine and did not like oaked whites. The sommelier recommended the Torres Fransola which I believe is largely sauvignon blanc. This was followed by an Albet i Noya red from Penedes. I recall cabernet, but the notes say tempranillo. The producer was one that had been recommended to be me by others and I was happy to see it recommended by the sommelier. We enjoyed both wines and, as I recall, thought they were very reasonably priced.

I regret we were not able to include a return visit this spring, but El Raco de Can Fabes has to sit at the top of my list of restaurants to which I must return along with Gagnaire, Veyrat, Roellinger and a few others.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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It was interesting to have simple preparations interspersed with the more creative and complex dishes. The two styles highlighted each other quite successfully for me.

I enjoyed this quite a bit as well. Most notably the juxtaposition of styles on the pork belly and caviar. It was sort of shocking, exciting and comforting all at once. I enjoyed the lead up to our main course which turned out to be nothing but a perfectly done, but very simple braised veal shank.

It is interesting to think of the actual structure of the restaurant in this respect also. From the outside one could walk by without noticing it was even a restaurant. It looks just like the other buildings in the town. The room is quite homey, stone walls, exposed beams etc.

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It is interesting to think of the actual structure of the restaurant in this respect also. From the outside one could walk by without noticing it was even a restaurant. It looks just like the other buildings in the town.

In both Catalonia and the Basque region, I found this true of many of the better restaurants whether they were in town or in an outlying residential area. In San Sebastian, I recall driving right by Arzak and Berasategui was almost impossible to find once I got to Lasarte. In Catalonia, Lesguard, Sant Pau and Can Roca were all poorly marked and none seemed to have the inevitable signage leading the traveler to the restauarant that starred restaurants would have in France. It's almost as if they don't expect anyone who wasn't there before. This whole transient automobile driver gourmet travel thing that drives top restaurants in France is still rare in Spain, or so it would appear. Prices also seem most reasonable when compared to France. This is most evident as I'm planning a trip to Paris right now. My wife is right, we really have to spend more time in Spain.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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