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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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