Friday, October 27, 2006

Barcelona Get Your Goat?

So many places, so few meals. The goal of the trip was to visit the famed el Bulli restaurant, located a couple of hours north of Barcelona on the Costa Brava. It took years to score this reservation, which I was unable to get until one of my colleagues, Tom, let slip that his son had worked there, and would be happy to call chef/owner Ferran Adria to request a table. Tom and his son, of course, flew in to eat with us. Thus, Barcelona's own munching opportunities were an afterthought for us, despite the fact that the city has rapidly become a magnet for some of the world's most creative young chefs.

It turns out, that the Hotel Majestic, where we stayed, was home to one of the best classic Catalan restaurants in the city, Drolma. To not ride the elevator down four floors to this culinary gem would have, certainaly been an inexcusable oversight. So, when my partner, Phil, his wife Nancy, and I ventured down to the first floor, we were hopeful, but ultimately focused on a different meal a few days hence, and a few hundred kilometers North.

BIG SURPRISE. Chef Fermi Puig (who worked at el Bulli in the early '80s) slow-cooked a baby goat leg, which transformed into one of the most luscious and memorable pieces of animal I have ever ingested. The sauce seemed to have chocolate touches (one of our party said cinnamon, but I don't think so). But it was the meat, roasted for eight hours at low temp, that created the amazing taste and texture that was now melting in my mouth. I still dream about it. It has imprinted on my brain like a baby duck to its mother. I must replicate it, or get close. If you go to Barcelona, you must, MUST, have the baby goat at Drolma. But don't fill up on other stuff (and there was a bunch of other great stuff), because after you finish your half goat leg, they come back to offer you the other half. Eat it too!

Easter at my childhood home meant baby goat. My dad, a butcher, would drive his light blue pick-up hundreds of miles to some obscure ranch to collect live animals, then deliver them to the processor for----well----processing. Most would go to his customers. One would come home. Then, my grandmother would take the resulting parts and turn them into food. Shoulder became a savory stew with tomato, wine, onions and olives. Rib chops were dipped in egg and lightly breaded; then fried in hot olive oil to become crispy little goat cutlet popcycles with the rib bone forming the easy-grip handle. Then the leg, roasted with garlic, olive oil and rosemary--like a small leg of lamb, similar in texture, but with melting collagen causing a little extra tenderness. And, no lamby or goaty flavor. Young goats don't taste like goat, they taste more like milk-fed veal.

So, now back in the States, I am trying to score baby goats and find eight-hour roasting recipes. My father's sources have long since succumbed. So far, I have leads on three goat sources; one from Alice Waters, who was kind enough to connect me with S&B Ranch in Petaluma. I was able to get one goat from this rancher, but she has since found them to be more work than profit and would prefer to sell me piglets. Maybe another time.

It also looks like a sister of the proprietor of Marin Sun Farms, which produces my favorite organic grass-fed beef, may be raising goats. Traded phone calls suggest that Julie, the sister, might prefer to sell me several at a time--restaurant style. But I went up to the Farmers' Market today to meet her and she seemed open to my request for one goat at a time. She is looking for help in finding ways to prepare goat (a special African breed raised for its meat not its milk), so maybe--if my cooking experiments are successful, I can help her out too.

At any rate, working out all the uncomfortable details of turning free- range organic livestock into food on on a one-off basis in a healthful, legal and humane fashion has proven to be a challenge, the details of which you will be spared. But I am finally convinced, I can get the goat at some price and in some condition.

The hard part, it seems, is sleuthing out an acceptable plan for preparing the meat. The Internet has been zero help. Paula Wolfert offers a recipe for slow-roasted lamb which, in principle, should apply. This will take some more work , so I may need many baby goats. I'll let you know how it comes out. If you want to be guinea pigs (which I don't yet eat), let me know. In the meantime, I will write a letter to Chef Puig, to see if he just might send me the recipe.

Just to close on Barcelona, while we were hunting goat, I wanted to find great authentic tapas as well. First choice was Cal Pep, but our concierge screwed up and blew our chance at a reservation (a skinny girl who clearly didn't grasp the importance of finding the best food and apparently didn't understand the words "call first thing in the morning on September 1, when they are just back from holiday"). Oh well, a reason to go back.

So Phil checked with his concierge at the modern Hotel Arts, who informed him that a star chef from Madrid had just opened up a new white table cloth tapas restaurant in that very hotel called Arola (celebrity chef Sergi Arola). All I can say is ANOTHER ELEVATOR TRIP TO NIRVANA. Check it out. Also if you go to la Boqeria, the central market try Pinotxo, one of Ferran Adria's "happy places". No white table cloths, but the food! Plus you are surrounded by most of Spain's greatest ingredients.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what about el Bulli? And count us in for goat experiments.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Norman said...

umm, don't want to pick nits but you can't get a reservation at a tapas bar. Any tapas bar. Maybe the concierge didn't blow it but didn't want to embarrass you with telling you this. Cal Pep, above all others, does not take reservations. Thanks to George Semler and his write ups of it in Fodor and Saveur, it is almost impossible to squeeze in now, but still fun. The same owners run Pasadis del Pep, one of the cities best seafood places and where many of the movers and shaker dine. Try it next time. By the way, my meal at el Bulli (Fermi Puig got me reservations) was as much fun as I had hope it would be.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting and useful article for me, because I'm also going to visit Spain, Barcelona. It's no wonder why Barcelona city is so popular. Fabulous architecture, brilliant Spanish cuisine, flamboyant culture and wonderful weather combine to make Barcelona a truly magnificent city. We already booked tickets and now looking for accommodation from many hotels in Barcelona.
I read a lot of information about history of Spain, famous persons and interesting places and sights.

7:33 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

I absolutely agree with you that there are so many places where you have to visit. Especially in Barcelona . I visited twice and really enjoyed this wonderful city. Even after two visits I still have plenty more to see - stayed tuned for visit number three! I still have to meet the first person that has visited Barcelona and has not fallen in love with this city. Without a doubt this is the greatest place (with people in it) that I have visited so far.

6:13 AM  

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