Welcome to Catalan Cookery! I hope you enjoy reading about my culinary adventures and delicious experiences in Catalonia, Spain.

Come check out my current blogging project,
Scrumptious Company, in which I chronicle my once-a-week dinner parties with pictures and recipes.

Friday, April 2, 2010

An update…

Hello, everyone!  I know we’re pretty much done here, and on to bigger and better blogs, but I wanted to share a couple updates. 

Video updates, actually. 

Click here to check out a professional documentary about our experience.  It was produced for a Catalan television program, a series of documentaries about the region’s cuisine.  It’s mainly in Spanish, but some parts (the parts staring yours truly) are in English.

Click here to see a series of videos published by the Culinary Institute of America.   There’s ten in all, and each one is a fantastic illustration of Catalonia, and our adventures there.  The fifth one in the series, the one titled ‘Intern Experience’, is one I think you should most definitely check out! 

Hope you enjoy them! 

- Kate

Saturday, January 9, 2010

You’re all invited!

Hey, everyone!  My new blog, Scrumptious Company, is up and running now.  Please, stop on by.  You’re always welcome!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Home, Sweet Home

Hello!  I’m back!  Back in the states, and back finally to blogging.  So, so sorry for the long absence.  I’m sure a lot of you were wondering what was up.   Well, what was up was this:  Those last ten days in Catalonia were so stuffed with things to do, I had nary a minute to get to my computer.  And then, once I was home, it was just so good being back with Ben, I had no choice but to put off my final post a few more days.  But then, after those few more days, it was already Christmas, and so you know how that goes…

And now, I’m plain embarrassed that I’ve been so horribly remiss in posting the latest news for you all, my dear readers.  I’m praying that as far as etiquette goes, blog posts follow the same rules as thank you notes, and that  ‘better late than never’  applies.  I may have gotten all wrapped up in the excitement of being home again, but I’ve not altogether forgotten :).

So - finally - here’s the scoop.   What follows is a quick picture album of my last days in Catalonia.  (A really quick picture album, now that I look at it.  I guess I was pretty pooped out with picture taking by the end there!)  Anyways, here it is, the whirlwind tour of my final few days in Spain. 

We spent a lot of time driving to destinations all through the lovely Catalan countryside…


and spent a few more wonderful days in Barcelona…


We toured ancient wine cellars…


and wintertime vineyards…


judged a truffle cooking competition at a local truffle festival…



and were treated to delicious meals in some of the best restaurants around.







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Those last ten days in Catalonia were simply incredible.  I saw and did (and ate) more in that short time than I did the entire two months previous.  I wish I had had the time to update you every single night during that week.  But now that it’s all over and done with, it remains just a beautiful, delicious blur in my mind.  And so that’s how it should be here, too, I think. 


Well… I think it’s about time to wrap up this blog.  But before I do, I just want to say thank you. I am so grateful to you all, for so loyally following my adventures through this site.  Truly, it has meant so much to me to have you as readers, and it’s been a lot of fun writing for you.  Thank you all so much for reading

In about a week or so, I’ll be starting up a new blog,  Scrumptious Company, my dinner party diary.  I really hope you’ll all follow along there too. 

So, goodbye for now.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  Or as they say in Catalonia, Bones Festes!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Pork-Filled Day

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Let me just start of by saying, that as of last Tuesday, I’ve entered into a whole new ballgame. Everything has changed. This trip is no longer merely fantastic. It’s beyond fantastic. It’s every synonym of fantastic all rolled up in one. 

On Tuesday, six chef-instructors from the CIA arrived in Barcelona, and ever since their arrival, it’s been a non-stop, over-the-top food and wine tour of delicious Catalonia. Every day from early morning to late, late night, we’ve been touring the area’s best farms, factories, vineyards and restaurants. We’ve been honored guests of the region’s greatest culinary treasures. The (figurative) red carpets have been rolled out at our every stop.

It’s the good life, for sure. And nearly too much of it! We’ve been eating our hearts out for nearly a week straight, and there’s nary an end in sight. Between lavish, multiple-coursed lunches and dinners, our time and bellies are filled with sampling the local artisanal products of the sites we tour – Cava wines, Serrano hams, truffles (!), sausages, cheeses. I’ve never eaten so much in my life (and if you know me, you know that’s saying a lot!). I am full to the brim, all of the time! But I’m hardly complaining. A glutton at heart, I’m having a complete and utter blast.

For the last five days, we’ve been constantly on the road, which leaves little time for blogging, so I apologize in advance if my reports are a little delayed for the rest of this trip. But I’ll try my best to keep you current on our eating extravaganza. Today I want to fill you in on Thursday. Thursday was all about pork.

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Our first stop was an oooooold sausage factory. Hidden behind the facade of an dusty stone row house, the factory filled four stories – floor after floor of sausages hanging to dry from the creaky ceiling rafters, with the production taking place below, on the basement level. For over a hundred years, the Riera Ordeix factory has been following the same heirloom recipe to create their gorgeous charcuterie. Similar to salami, the dried sausage is deep, rosy pink, flecked with pure white fat, and wrapped in vintage-style paper wrapper. We were each gifted one of these beautiful fresh-off-the press sausages at the end of our tour. Too huge and daunting to eat in just a week, we were quick in devising smuggling schemes for our return to the states.

After departing the factory we hopped on the bus, none of us sure exactly where we were headed. Driving into the hills, our buss climbed higher and higher. We finally came to a stop atop a high plateau, outside of a small and modern, ultra-stylish building, built of white-washed wood and green glass.  A thin plume of smoke rose from the stone chimney, leaving a wonderful smell of fall leaves and campfire in the crisp air.  I thought we had arrived at a spa.  Turns out, we were at a pig farm!

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A few minutes after our arrival, dozens of people in suits began to file out of town cars.  One of these suits ended up being the Catalan Minister of Agriculture.  Turns out, this was a big press event for the Catalan pork industry, and we were more or less the guests of honor.  After a few outdoor speeches, and a tour of the most incredibly tidy pig farm in the entire world, we feasted upon a gloriously tasty charcuterie array, served alongside fancy crackers and Catalan wine.  By the time we got back on the bus, arms full with more pork gifts and sausage tidings, our smuggling inventory had increased three-fold. 

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Next up on the pork agenda was a Serrano ham factory. Huge and modern, it was the complete opposite of the ancient salami factory we toured that morning.   We donned sanitary paper robes and caps for the third time that day, and were guided through the entire process, start to finish, by a lovely and enthusiastic gentleman wearing red glasses and a constant grin.  And of course, our tour ended with more charcuterie samples.  Thin and glistening ribbons of cured ham, fat (and fatty) cubes of pork pâté, translucent slices of bright red duck prosciutto. Mmmmm.

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I’m still impressed at the huge amounts we consumed that day.  And those tours were only the start.  Afterwards we ate at the most incredible tapas bar in Barcelona.  I’m just not going to have a chance to blog about it but if you’re ever here, you absolutely have to eat at Inopia

Well, I really must go now.  I have more eating and drinking that I just must attend to.  Cheers!

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Dos Palillos

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Last Saturday night, I was lucky enough to snag a last-minute seat at a magnificent Barcelona restaurant called Dos Palillos (which is Spanish for Two Palillos).  Blending local Catalan ingredients with an array of Asian and modern gastronomical techniques, this tiny bar-only restaurant is the absolute epitome of fusion cuisine.  Dos Palillos is owned by Chef Albert Raurich, who before this venture was the executive chef of El Bulli for close to ten years.  The place came highly recommended by my friend from work, and you know me,  I require very little arm twisting when there’s a new restaurant to try.   I opted for the (very modestly priced!) eighteen-course tasting menu, pulled up a bar stool slash front-row seat, and watched the talented chefs create my fabulous meal.  And here are my notes on that meal:

pina colada     A whimsical start to a fun-filled dinner.  Freshly juiced pineapple topped with coconut foam.  A toast to the siphon, my new best kitchen friend (and the newest addition to my Christmas list, for those of you who pay attention to those sorts of things!).

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tsukemono     Three bit-sized salads:  Crunchy and refreshing ribbons of radish topped with yuzu. Salty (and very yummy albeit ugly) fermented cucumbers.  And pickled daikon – sweetly tangy and sweetly pink.

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crispy chicken     Simple as can be, but isn’t all comfort food?  Simple of course, and always delicious.  On both accounts, these chicken cracklings fit the comfort food bill.  And with a trinity of sauces hitting all the sweet and sour notes,  I dunked these addictive salty sticks to my heart’s content.

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vietnamese summer rolls     A precious package filled with chicken, white grapefruit, carrots and cilantro.  Tightly wrapped with rice paper and topped with wispy, red ribbons of dried chili.  A perfect little gift. 

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sunomono, with fresh seaweed and mollusk     I think this is the most gorgeous dish I’ve ever seen.  The colorful collection of translucent seaweeds shined like stained glass windows.  Nestled in its rays of rainbow light were small and exotic fruits of the sea – purple and green, tender and chewy, salty and sweet. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was eating, but I relished its foreign beauty. 

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monkfish liver japanese style     A first for me, monk fish liver.  And a hit to be sure. Its rich smoothness was a perfect backdrop to the myriad of complex flavors and textures that accompanied it:  ponzu sauce, pickled seaweed, Chinese spices and lemon jelly. 

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oyster with sake     A perfectly content oyster, warm and drunk on sake, dozing blissfully in its shell, dreaming a salty dream of the sea. 

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cherry tomato tempura     Complete and utter perfection.  And my favorite bite all night.  The delicately peeled cherry tomato was at the sweet red height of its ripeness, exactly as warm as one  just plucked off a sun-soaked vine,  lightly clothed in a fall jacket of tempura and a cap of pungent green wasabi, dusted with a snowfall of sea salt.  I never would have thought this flavor combination could work so well.  But the tomato and wasabi have great chemistry – the Jim and Pam of tempura, if you will.  (Oh how I miss The Office!)  Her simple sweetness, his kick of feistiness.  A perfect (and completely adorable, don’t you think?) pair.

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steamed dumplings fresh prawn     Pink prawns, more tender than you can even imagine, so tender they were nearly creamy, enfolded in an equally velvety sauce with little specs of steamed cabbage, all enclosed in a delicate and chewy rice paper wrapper.  These were ethereal. 

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shrimp mushroom thai soup     Every restaurant is allowed a gimmick or two, I suppose.   Here it was Soup Cooked in a Bag.  Stuffed before service (with shrimp, clams, herbs, mushrooms and broth), the chefs simply pulled the bags from the refrigerator and plopped them onto the flat-top grill.  In under a minute, the soup was heated and bubbling, and still perfectly confined within its (heat-proof) plastic bag.  Into the bowl the bag would go, and in front of the guest.  A snip with a scissors, and the bag opened up to release a fragrant aroma of fresh green herbs and briny seafood.  Such a gimmick, but well-executed, lots of fun and really tasty.

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te maki     Japanese for ‘hand roll’, this sushi was do-it-yourself.  Complete with gorgeous pink slices of fatty tuna belly, sushi rice, wasabi and sheets of nori seaweed, it needed no special instructions. 

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eel with shiso     Another perfectly delicious bite.  Smoky eel brushed with a sweet-salty kiss of barbeque sauce, wrapped in a minty-spicy shiso leaf.  I could have eaten ten, at least.

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squid with miso     From the very start, this dish has an auspicious head start towards being a favorite; baby squid is one of my favorite foods ever.  But this dish may well rate as my favorite baby squid ever, and that’s saying a lot!  It’s sweet and tender pink flesh was topped with a smooth, salty, honey-like miso reduction and sprinkled with crunchy shards of sea weed and chewy toasted sesame seeds.  Beautiful in its simplicity, and deliciously refined.                 

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japo burger     A Kobe beef burger with pickled cucumbers, zesty something sauce and shredded shiso on a black sesame steam bun.  Only a bite or two, but fun to imagine super-sized. 

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pan-fried crispy gyoza     The ugly duckling of the group, no doubt.  But you know the moral of that tale.  A cross between a dumpling and a crepe, with a deliciously smooth mix of pork and shrimp hidden beneath its crunchy top, this simple dish just exuded inner beauty.

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iberica pork jowl cantonese style     Oh how rich, oh how lovely, oh how I wish this delicious dish came earlier in the meal, before I was way too stuffed to give such rich loveliness its due appreciation.  I must say though, it really was magnificent.  Steeped in Cantonese spice, meltingly tender with crisp, chewy seared edges.  Truly something to behold.

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mango mochi     The evening’s penultimate dish, this mango-coconut flan rested atop of a ginger-caramel base.  It was a refreshing combination of fruity, spicy and cool.  I’m always a little bit sad when tasting menus turn to the first dessert course, but after the rich and heady parade I’d just experienced, this was a welcome dose of fresh and lively flavor. 

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chocolate ninqyo     My last bite:  a small doughy orb filled to near-bursting with liquid chocolate.  Who could ask for anything more?  Certainly not me.  I was the picture of contentment after this long and gorgeous meal.

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