The little red book has been published. The votes have been cast. Once again the provinces of Girona and Barcelona (as well as their capitals) emerge triumphant as the centres of gourmet cuisine in Spain with a flurry of stars for Catalonia in the 2011 Michelin Guide. El Bulli might be done and dusted for now, but there’s nothing stopping gastronomes from exploring the other fine-dining establishments Catalonia has to offer…
The first stop on your foodie tour of Girona has to be El Celler de San Roca. The 4th best restaurant in the world and the genius brainchild of three brothers: Joan, Josep and Jordi – El Celler de Can Roca earned its third Michelin star in 2009 and sits firmly in the molecular gastronomy camp with a menu brimming with inventiveness, humour and a focus on the absolute essences of flavour.
Guests at El Celler can navigate a two volume, 1200 entry wine list delivered on a cart, spanning five key wine regions – the wine journey is an essential part of the Celler experience and it is worth choosing wine to accompany tasting menus with the assistance of Jordi – the “sommelier brother” – or one of his well-trained staff.
Food exudes creativity. The “olive tree” amuse-bouche of olives wrapped in anchovy hanging from the branches of an edible tree that sits in the centre of the table precedes a truffle brioche topped with white truffle shavings which, when bitten into, explodes with a “pot au feu” broth. Moving on to veal tendons with sea anemone, the best showcase of Catalonia’s land and sea offerings.
Heading towards the coast, you will arrive at Miramar – with its panorama windows sitting right on the water, the perfect view to enjoy whilst eating your way through a seafood-rich menu laced with Catalan specialities reinvented for the 21st century: gooseneck barnacles or percebes are on the menu, along with razor clams, oysters, sea spiders and that perenial Spanish favourite, gambas – here served “in a fossil”.
Bo.TIC in the small town of Palamos, about 10 kms from Girona centre is characterised by youthful charm and vitality – its owner and chef are barely into their thirties. The interior is smart, but unfussy and displays sunny Spanish touches of yellow and terracotta. The menu is rich in rustic, traditional “poor food” ingredients of Spanish tradition, reworked with elegance and humour to produce heavily flavoured, but delicately balanced dishes such as oxtail, liver and baked apple, pressed pig’s trotters with cuttlefish and beetroot and slow cooked rabbit with razor clams, a heavenly Catalan version of “surf n’ turf”.
Locavores will adore the philosophy at Les Cols, which boasts two stars to its name. Les Cols concentrates on recuperating and celebrating ingredients found in the immediate surroundings of the volcanic Garrotxa region, such as the local buckwheat, truffles, ratafia, local varieties of fava beans and potato, river trout, boar and snails. The restaurant itself is housed in a 13th century farmhouse with a discreet, but strikingly modern extension wherein lies the dining room. The real quirk here however, is that diners who want a full-on rural experience can stay the night after dinner in one of the 5, glass walled, minimalist “pod” rooms where sunlight filters through and privacy is maintained with tinted panels. Immersion in nature therefore, with a gastronomic experience based on elemental ingredients, simplicity, rusticity and naturalness.
On the coast towards Barcelona sits the small fishing village of Sant Pol de Mar, where Carme Ruscalleda cooks up culinary magic in the kitchens of 3-starred Sant Pau restaurant. Carme grew up in a grocery store learning the flavours and textures of Girona’s plentiful produce and the food here is complex in its execution but simple and fresh in its flavours adhering to the Girona tradition. Diners looking out of the windows of this 19th century townhouse can enjoy lively tastes of broth of fresh pistachio with aubergine and blood sausage, venison with pear and apples or colt from the Pyrenees as well as fresh Costa Brava cod and gambas.
Massana sits at the heart of Girona town, the laboratory of Pere Massana where classic Catalan dishes such as the ubiquitous Pa Amb Tomaquet (garlic and tomato rubbed toasted bread) compete with fish dishes and one of the diner’s favourite, carpaccio of cepes mushrooms. Visitors to PGA Catalunya can enjoy a Gourmet package which includes a dinner at Massana and one at the delightful Mimolet restaurant with its prime location opposite the 14th century Sant Feliu church. (For more details see below).
Sitting at the heart of the tiny village of Gombren, along the Roman road that leads from Girona towards Andorra, La Fonda de Xesc Gombren is housed in what has always been the village “inn”: offering food and respite for weary travellers. Proud to maintain this historic tradition, and still running their lodgings of 14 guest rooms, the earning of their first Michelin star has only helped publicise what locals have always known to be true: good earthy food and hospitality need not be elaborate to be delicious. Here the menu abounds with straighforward, but rich flavours: belly tuna with peppers and garlic, rabbit confit with mushrooms, veal cheeks and pigeon with cassis.
Overall it is the cuisine of Girona itself that has been exemplified by the restaurants that have earned these stars – staying true to local flavours and traditional Catalan culinary spirit whether through modern, even molecular interpretation, or adhering to the strict, but hearty base ingredients of the Girona province produce. This selection of eateries will allow the visitor to Girona to fully immerse themselves in Catalan cuisine knowing they will encounter exquisite quality and total authenticity.
The Golf & Gourmet package at PGA Catalunya includes:
2 nights accommodation (double sharing ) at Nord 1901 Suites
(1 green fee on the Stadium Course + 1 green fee on the Tour Course )
1 tasting menu at 1 star Michelin restaurant, Massana
1 dinner at Mimolet restaurant
RATES: 375€ per person per stay incl. taxes. Valid from December 1st 2010 to 31st December 2011 firstname.lastname@example.org
Drinks are not included at Massana Restaurant, 3 star Michelin restaurant , Celler de Can Roca can be booked on request.