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El Raco de Can Fabes


docsconz
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Since I have returned to work it has been more difficult to find the time to put together the logs for our trip. On the 29th of September we went for lunch at the first Three Star Michelin Restaurant I have ever been to. I have been to comparable restaurants in the U.S. such as Per Se, Daniel, Jean-George, Charlie Trotter’s, etc., but this was the first of this caliber as recognized by Michelin. We drove up from Barcelona after a morning touring the Casa Mittla’ and El barrio Gotico. I was actually relatively hungry (a rare thing for this trip that involved almost constant eating) and arrived in Sant Celoni to find El Raco de Can Fabes

gallery_8158_232_1097786925.jpg The sign

gallery_8158_232_1097787095.jpg The Entrance

As we entered we passed through a couple of lovely as yet empty dining rooms with beautiful place settings.

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We were placed in a large private room, elegantly appointed and overlooking the large and efficient kitchen.

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I asked for and had the pleasure of meeting eGullet’s own Simon Sunwoo, who was working the last day of his staige at Can Fabes.

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In our private room we had ready access for viewing the provision rooms, the cheese caves and the production areas themselves. Every thing was temperature controlled. We were given a tour of the wine cellar. It was filled with exceptional wines from all over Europe and possibly elsewhere, although I didn’t see any from other places.

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gallery_8158_232_1097807908.jpg The Tasting Table

Returning to our tables,

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the amuse cocktails arrived on long trays that were set on the table.

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These consisted of a small potato chip with fried quail egg, a ball of foie gras with gelatinized figs, a banana chip with sweetbread mousse, an almond mousse, marinated raw salmon and a potato with mussel and anchovy. These were served with Cava Gran d’Abbatis Brut Nature, a single varietal (Perellada) cava. All were excellent, although my favorite was the potato and egg.

The waiter brought around a variety of breads. This was the most impressive looking bread selection of the trip. They weren’t too bad to eat either. No, they didn’t serve the entire loaves. :wink:

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The first of the regular courses united whimsy with wonderful, intense flavor. It was “Tomato with Mascarpone and Basil”, which consisted of tomato aspic, hollowed in the center and filled with basil mascarpone.

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An “Esqueixada” of white prawns was next. Although “esqueixada” is usually a salad of shredded (what esqueixada literally means) salt cod and vinaigrette with tomatoes and onions, this consisted of shredded raw prawns with diced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and other ingredients. Though interesting and beautifully presented, this was probably the group’s least favorite dish of the meal. Some of that I believe may have been cultural as a number of people expressed doubts about eating raw shrimp.

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Macaroni with little Cuttlefish and paprika followed. This dish also had red mullet and Parmiggiano in it. The pasta was first boiled in stock then quickly pan-fried to give it a crisp texture. The flavors were fantastic. This dish combined elements of comfort food and haute cuisine to a remarkable degree. It was truly delicious on every level.

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Wild Mushrooms cream with Sweetbreads was a delicious soup with sweetbreads and langoustines that captured the essence of the mushrooms. The sweetbreads themselves were actually unremarkable.

gallery_8158_232_1097956343.jpg The Original Plate

gallery_8158_232_1097956444.jpg The Service.

gallery_8158_232_1097956642.jpg The Final Plate.

gallery_8158_232_1097956700.jpg A Couple of Soup Fans

gallery_8158_232_1097956784.jpg Uum, Uum Good!

The wine paired with these courses was Xarel.lo Pairal ’01 from Can Rafrols dels Cavs. This is a small production wine made from 50y/o vines with barriques of a special Catalan chestnut wood.

“Corvina” with “sofregit” came next. This was a beautiful piece of hard to come by sea bass served over a sauce of caramelized mushrooms, onion and I think, tomato. The dish was magnificent.

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Leg of baby goat with sage was a tour de force. It was cooked sous vide and then finished for external caramelization. This dish along with the other sous vide roasts we have had on this trip including the veal leg at Aligue and the suckling pig at Abac, prove the value of this technique as each was amongst the most beautiful and delicious dishes of their kind I have ever had anywhere. See this topic for an interesting discussion on sous vide. I came to Catalonia expecting great seafood, but these roasts have been the most outstanding dishes so far. With this series of photos I had the opportunity to show the range of a dish from initial presentation to production and plating in the kitchen to final service.

gallery_8158_232_1097957311.jpg The Presentation of the kid.

gallery_8158_232_1097957389.jpg The legs.

gallery_8158_232_1097957242.jpg Santi Santamaria at work in the kitchen.

gallery_8158_232_1097957465.jpg Starting to Plate the Kid.

gallery_8158_232_1097957536.jpg Simon Sunwoo in the Thick of it.

gallery_8158_232_1097957587.jpg Next part.

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gallery_8158_232_1097957690.jpg Just Prior to Service.

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gallery_8158_232_1097957841.jpg Two different plates.

An impressive cheese tray was carried by two people to the table.

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I selected about four different cheeses of mostly Spanish origin, the names of which elude me. The wine for these courses was perhaps the best red of the trip so far, 159 Barricas ’02 from Mas Arago’ near Tarragona. It consisted of 80% Merlot and 20% Tempranillo.

Unfortunately dessert needed to be abbreviated secondary to our time constraints. This meal took a wonderfully long time. Dessert consisted of figs in vanilla cream

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and wonderful petits –fours

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along with Moscatel de Jerez Emilin. Santa Santamaria was gracious to visit with us, pose for photos

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and autograph our menus and his books. It was a particular highlight to watch him hold court in the kitchen as he oversaw production of the meal and the aftermath of the kitchen.

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Here I developed a basis for understanding what a Michelin Three Star meal is all about. Nevertheless, not all the details were perfect, as the men’s room had run out of hand towels and was mildly unkempt. Then there is the legitimate question as to whether a number of our group suffered a day or so of major gastrointestinal distress from that meal, the timing of which makes it the most likely culprit (onset later that night and early the next day). It is extraordinarily unlikely that the source was spoiled or bad food. More likely, something may have been contaminated by someone handling some of our food in the kitchen who probably shouldn’t have been that day. The meal itself in terms of presentation, service and flavor was certainly one of the best I have ever eaten or hope to eat, but its memory, unfortunately will remain slightly tainted by the events that followed. Nevertheless, while I certainly would have preferred that it didn't happen and that my following day wasn't spoiled, I think if I had to I still would have paid that price again for that meal.

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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Wow, what a great post. Thanks for sharing your impressions of Can Fabes. Umm Umm Good indeed! Your post on the Sous Vide thread gave us a taste of your recent travels. This is a veritable banquet. We're all living vicariously through your experiences! (especially the photos)

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Great post--if it's any consolation, our whole family was suffering from a very bad intestinal bug on that very day (my partner's birthday, in Madrid). As much as I wanted to blame it on the carpaccio de bacalao that I ate the day before, it turned out that it wasn't food related, just some 24-hour virus that my toddler brought home from school...

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John, the room you dined in is actually the Espai Coch. Usually, this is where Santi offers an entry version of his dishes in the form of a fix-price menu. It's obvious to realize that you had the three star experience, from tablecloth and silverware to food, though.

The menu you had only has in common with what I had there in July the tomato with basil and mascarpone. And the kid, one of Santi's classic, is probably the best roasted kid I've ever had.

Regarding the GI problems you experienced, do you think it could be a matter of accumulation of feasts?

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Perhaps I should clarify a few points about the GI issues.

First, I am only postulating that the restaurant was the source. At this point I can not prove it. Almost half our group came down with the same symptoms independently starting about 6 hours after our meal and lasting through the next day. That was really the only day that was the case. We continued to eat quite well and richly after that without additional symptoms. It is possible that the bug came from somewhere else, but I doubt it. There were a lot of people handling our food. It is conceivable that one person, cook, waiter or other, might have handled food for some but not all of us. For example, I got sick, but my wife didn't. The association was close enough that the group leaders were going to report it back to the restaurant.

I don't really blame the restaurant unless it is a consistent problem there, which I doubt it is. The overall sanitation appears to be impeccable as one can get a sense of in my last photo. A problem like this can happen anywhere at any time. It really doesn't take much. All it takes in fact, is one person involved with handling food to be working when s(he) shouldn't be. There is a lot of pressure for highly motivated people to work even when they are feeling suboptimal. It happens. I'm surprised it doesn't happen more.

The bottom line is that I loved my meal and the restaurant. It was an exceptional experience and if I had to do it over again with the same result I believe it was good enough that I actually would.

I would prefer to not continue to focus on this aspect. I mentioned it because of the apparent association and perception and its effect on myself and the group and believe it relevent to my discussion of the context of the entire meal.

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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gallery_8158_232_1097958232.jpg

This photograph is priceless John.

As much as I love your food photos (and must confess a similar obsession when I eat out myself), this is a GREAT photo that really captures the end of service in a high-end restaurant kitchen.

The expression you captured of Santi is priceless, and the scrubbed down stove in the foreground is perfect juxtaposition...

Chapeau!

J.

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An “Esqueixada” of white prawns was next. Although “esqueixada” is usually a salad of shredded (what esqueixada literally means) salt cod and vinaigrette with tomatoes and onions, this consisted of shredded raw prawns with diced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and other ingredients. Though interesting and beautifully presented, this was probably the group’s least favorite dish of the meal. Some of that I believe may have been cultural as a number of people expressed doubts about eating raw shrimp.

At one time I might have expected a more general cross section of the population to be uncomfortable with raw shrimp, but in the post sushi/sashimi era, I'm surprised to hear of that reaction from those who were attracted to this kind of trip focused on food with a fair share of the focus on very creative food.

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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At one time I might have expected a more general cross section of the population to be uncomfortable with raw shrimp, but in the post sushi/sashimi era, I'm surprised to hear of that reaction from those who were attracted to this kind of trip focused on food with a fair share of the focus on very creative food.

Some people expressed doubts, though everyone ate it. I had no problem with the shrimp being raw, however, the overall flavor was not the most appealing to me, although it wasn't bad. The texture was fine. Even in Japanese restaurants, it still is not common to see shrimp served raw, so this is still a relatively new phenomenon to most of us.

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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Some people expressed doubts, though everyone ate it. I had no problem with the shrimp being raw, however, the overall flavor was not the most appealing to me, although it wasn't bad. The texture was fine. Even in Japanese restaurants, it still is not common to see shrimp served raw, so this is still a relatively new phenomenon to most of us.

I'm surprised to hear it's not that widely available. I'm trying to remember where I've seen it outside of sushi bars and not that recently. Tonno the new raw fish and wine bar in NYC had raw prawns the other night. They also had lobster, but since we didn't order it, I'm not sure if it was raw.

Sweet Raw Shrimp - Amaebi -$6.00, Taki, Des Moines, IA

In Des Moines, I might have my doubts too. :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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doc,

what a wonderful post. your photos are noteworthy and give a real sense of the restaurants, one of my all time faves.

in fact, all of your posts from this trip have been a joy to read. thank you so much for sharing.

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I'm surprised to hear it's not that widely available. I'm trying to remember where I've seen it outside of sushi bars and not that recently. Tonno the new raw fish and wine bar in NYC had raw prawns the other night. They also had lobster, but since we didn't order it, I'm not sure if it was raw.

Sweet Raw Shrimp  - Amaebi  -$6.00, Taki, Des Moines, IA

In Des Moines, I might have my doubts too.  :biggrin:

off subject...almost all amaebi is frozen in this country. you got to have a good connection to find it fresh, akin to a Santa Barbara spot prawn.

shiro ebi, the great sushi/sashimi raw shrimp, is very seasonal and only running for 4-6 weeks at the beginning of the summer. it is expensive and doesn't freeze/travel well.

Doc, was there a fairly assertive acid or salt element to the shrimp dish that might have taken a touch of the rawness out, like a ceviche?

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Doc, was there a fairly assertive acid or salt element to the shrimp dish that might have taken a touch of the rawness out, like a ceviche?

Not that I can recall, David. My memory is that the olive oil and shrimp were the most assertive components along with a bit of tomato. I wish Simon was around. I'm sure that he could answer this.

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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off subject...almost all amaebi is frozen in this country. you got to have a good connection to find it fresh, akin to a Santa Barbara spot prawn.

shiro ebi, the great sushi/sashimi raw shrimp, is very seasonal and only running for 4-6 weeks at the beginning of the summer.  it is expensive and doesn't freeze/travel well.

Doc, was there a fairly assertive acid or salt element to the shrimp dish that might have taken a touch of the rawness out, like a ceviche?

I'm not surprised to hear that most of the amaebi sold here has been frozen. Even in NY's Chinatown, live shrimp are only seen seasonally in markets. I'm not sure how often I've seen them in restaurant tanks. Dead shrimp don't keep that long even under refrigeration. Nevertheless, knowing Santi's dedication to fresh seasonal food, I'd be surprised to learn he served frozen shrimp at all, even in his cooked dishes. He's not only opposed to using anything that's not fresh, but he's not a fan of farmed products. If he could, he'd prefer to rely on wild foods. Pedro has spoken to him at length and could probably go further into his. He probably will at some point.

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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Live Prawns from B.C. Canada and from California are in decent supply here in California. It is not uncommon to find live santa barbara spot prawns for sale at our local farmers market several times a year. The tanks in the really excellent Chineese seafood palaces here in California have live shrimp and prawns often on the menu. Sometimes as cheap as $15 per lb ( about 40 euro per kilo) .

Love the photos Doc.

David

David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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gallery_8158_232_1097957465.jpg

I think most people wouldn't see that as the ruby it is.

It's a great shot from any camera, especially one relying on ambient lighting.

It's very good.

Thanks, Tana.

This photo was actually taken through a colored plexiglass wall so the color is not so much due to the low ambient light (although that is a factor) as the color of the glass.

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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I have no doubt that the shrimp were fresh and not frozen. There is simply too much awesome fresh seafood around there to think otherwise. Whether or not they were alive until the dish preparation is another question altogether. I tend to doubt it.

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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Live Prawns from B.C. Canada and from California are in decent supply here in California. It is not uncommon to find live santa barbara spot prawns for sale at our local farmers market several times a year. The tanks in the really excellent Chineese seafood palaces here in California have live shrimp and prawns often on the menu. Sometimes as cheap as $15 per lb ( about 40 euro per kilo) .

  Love the photos Doc.

David

David, You will have a wonderful time there! The markets are incredible. I will be posting some photos of the three markets I visited when I can get around to it.

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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I do not recall seeing live shrimp in the markets. We've seen lobsters and spiney lobsters, but I don't recall seeing shrimp. I think we've seen langoustines, but I won't swear to that. Some of the freshest stuff we saw in Spain was in the wholesale market Victor took us to.

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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Nevertheless, knowing Santi's dedication to fresh seasonal food, I'd be surprised to learn he served frozen shrimp at all, even in his cooked dishes. He's not only opposed to using anything that's not fresh, but he's not a fan of farmed products. If he could, he'd prefer to rely on wild foods. Pedro has spoken to him at length and could probably go further into his. He probably will at some point.

I had the fortune to interview Santi at length last summer, largely thanks to vserna's help. I expect the results of the interview to make TDG once its redesign to offer enhaced capabilities and tighter integration with the forums has been completed.

Santi believes that "based on how we manipulate a product, we're stating something". So, for someone who says that "I don’t use any product that is not natural, which hasn’t been elaborated by me. Well, excepting products like sugar or butter, but I control what I serve. I don’t work with manufactured products that come with ingredients I don’t know, with preservatives and stabilizers. We start from a product in its purest state and what I like to do with this product in its purest state is to adapt it to my preferences and adapt it to enable it to transmit pleasure, without betraying what in essence is the product. ", I really doubt that frozen shrimp is seen as an acceptable compromise.

I'm afraid you'll have to wait for the rest of the interview :biggrin: . It was a unique opportunity to talk at large with Santi, I confess.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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I'm looking forward to it. I am very impresseed by his cuisine.

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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I have no doubt that the shrimp were fresh and not frozen. There is simply too much awesome fresh seafood around there to think otherwise. Whether or not they were alive until the dish preparation is another question altogether. I tend to doubt it.

I apologize, i did not mean to imply the shrimp was frozen at Can Fabes but was referring to the States. We are indeed lucky here in California to on occasion have fresh spot prawns at the market. Alot of the Salmon fisherman pull up spots in their nets while netting salmon and sell it on the side, especially out of Monterey, Moss Landing and Santa Cruz.

I would expect nothing than the freshest, not frozen shrimp at Can Fabes, and considering that country's resources, not as big as an issue as here in the States.

Sorry for the confusion.

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