Monday, July 11, 2011
On a gloomy afternoon, while wasting the day away my cell phone suddenly rang. Ms. Lin Guide ecstatically screamed the news that we have reservations to El Bulli, the Impossible Dream! Neither rain nor snow will stop us from the ultimate foodie journey. Thus began the crazy planning of a last minute European getaway!
Now months later, I have strapped myself down to bring the tantalizing tale to life on Kat’s 9 Lives. El Bulli is tucked away in the beautiful city of Roses. We were very fortunate in getting a special taxi van to escort us through the windy roads to El Bulli. After reading all the trouble people have with the transportation to and from the restaurant, we were lucky to have a taxi that charged us a flat rate of 120€.
It took about 30-45 minutes from the hotel to the restaurant. With the sun slowly setting we were whisked away from our hotel for a magical evening. On this scenic drive, we saw many things ranging from breath-taking views of the Costa Brava to immense foliage. Little did I know that the roaming cow I saw would be on my mind the entire night! The cow even haunts and teases me in my dreams.
After a bumpy and windy car ride, we finally reached our destination. We pull into El Bulli’s gravel drive way where we were eager to jump out of the car and begin our food exploration. All of us kept guessing at how many courses we would be tasting for the night. Before getting lost in the moment, make sure to secure your ride back for the night and take advantage that your driver, someone outside of your dinner party, is there. Ask them to take some memorable shots in front of the infamous sign before they disappears for the night.
Take a deep breath and soak in the atmosphere. Close your eyes and let the sounds of the waves crashing onto the shore soothe your soul. Ignore you giddy entourage for a second and just take a moment to realize that you are finally here. Now start slowly walking up the steps to a cave of wonders.
As you enter, the staff greets you with a warm smile and guides you through the entry way. You can’t help but notice all the adorable bull dog figurines. El Bulli was originally named for the French bull dogs that Dr. Schilling and his wife had, the original owners.
Before beginning with the aperitifs, they asked if we would like a tour of the kitchen and we were eager to see where all the artful creations are made. Immediately we are greeted by the legendary chef himself, Chef Ferran Adrià. With a friendly smile and a hearty handshake, he warmly welcomed our entire party. As you can imagine I was clicking away at capturing every moment possible and sneaking as many photos as I can in the allotted time. The staff here is super friendly and immediately asked if we would like to take photos with Chef Ferran Adrià. It was a crazy foodie paparazzi experience.
They kindly explained that they have 45 Chefs manning the helm on any given night. Everyone was busy with preparations and working hard at their stations. The kitchen was super clean and had a very modern feel. Of course with the innovative ideas that Chef Ferran Adrià comes up with, the kitchen must also be able to keep up. If you look closely, you will also see that they have a huge glass window/wall in the back looking out to a wall of rocks that I found interesting. It was a very spacious kitchen that feels bigger than the dining area.
As more and more people started to arrive for a fantastical night, all the chefs started moving from station to station. After a bunch of photos with our party, Chef Ferran Adrià diligently went back to command his crew in preparation for the many courses ahead. We were given the option to look at the menu, but they would rather have us all be surprised and give us the menu at the end of the meal. What mouthwatering dishes were to come? We were on the edge of our seats to see what The Master, Chef Ferran Adrià, had in store for us.
After the wonderful tour and paparazzi shoot in the kitchen, we were guided out to the patio dining area where we would enjoy some aperitifs. With a breathtaking view of the water, we took our seats in comfortable cushioned wooden chairs. You can smell and hear the water rushing to the shores with the wind in your hair. This was not your ordinary night of enjoying drinks with friends outside. The aperitifs were done Chef Ferran Adrià style.
Who’s up for some Piña Colada? Well how about a Pillow Like A Cocktail? Everyone was oohing and aahing at the very unique take of a classic drink. Encased in a light fluffy candy was a deconstructed Piña Colada. We were told to break it with our fingers and to enjoy. Tucked inside were chunks of freeze dried pineapple, rum ice cubes, and dippin’ dot like coconut ice cream.
The sweet cotton candy shell acted a crunchy exterior. It was sticky but super fun. Certain bites bursted with rum flavor. The key to success is to eat it fast just have fun with it. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the evening. Another serving please!
The night was young and next was the Mojito and Apple Flute. Layered in between the airy and delicate bread was a blended mint Mojito slush. They asked that we use two hands to pick up the aperitif sandwich. Sink your teeth into this delicate treat. The porous bread melts in your mouth instantly. This was very similar to the cotton candy except the exterior of the bread had a Styrofoam feel. As soon as it hits your tongue, it all comes together as a smooth and refreshing explosion of flavors.
All the plates used here are created especially for El Bulli. They are all very unique and artistic. Everything they do here is very precise and extremely creative.
Next was their secretive Gin Fizz. The ice cold gin with lemon zest was placed in front of us. Then came the secret foam that will give you a delightful surprise. Take a sip and enjoy the mixture of flavors. Surprise! The foam on top is warm! First your lips are warmed over by the foam, and then come the icy gin. A delectable aperitif that’s fun and smooth.
So where’s the garnish for this drink? Well don’t worry because they’ve definitely got you covered. Placed at the center of the table was a helping of Spherical Olives and a lovely jar for those who would want a little more of these wonderful treats. They ask that you finish this in one bite. Normally I am not a huge olive fan but I am now a believer! They were soft bubbles that contain a huge burst of flavor within. Shaped and designed perfectly like an olive that’s filled with a memorable bubble of olive flavor.
“Please, sir, I want some more.” Lucky for us, we were already graced with a jar full of more spherical olives! There was enough inside for an extra taste for each of us.
After having so many delightful aperitifs, we had to finish this part of the meal off with some light snacks. We were served Mimetic Peanuts that they asked us to finish in 2 bites. They weren’t kidding when they said that these were delicate. If you don’t pick them up at just the right pressure or angle then they will shatter between your fingers. They were essentially perfectly smooth peanut butter stashed inside a transparent candy shell.
Parallel to the Mimetic Peanuts was a tray of Pistachio with Her Shell. Each piece is to be consumed in one bite. Hidden within the similar translucent candy shell was the pistachio nut and oil that pop as the shell is crushed by your teeth. The powerful flavor fills your mouth with its delicate texture.
Slowly we moved from aperitifs to sweet and now onto light salty palette. The Parmesan Cheese “Porra” that resembled a parmesan baguette. Porra comes from a type of churro in Spain that is often long and thick. There’s a translucent layer that encumbers the crisp piece of parmesan. This dish reminded me of a very thing piece of fried pig skin, chicharrón. I could sit here for hours just snacking away at these. After all, I adore cheese and for it to be like a cheese crisp is simply divine.
The last snack presented out in the open air was the Parmesan Cheese “Macaron”. They were like big clouds of marshmallows shaped like a macaron. It was fluffy and light. Not sure if I am a fan but I love the ingenious ideas and thought that is put into every dish. Personally I like the crispier texture but this was fun take on a classic.
Thus concludes the outside portion of the meal. After we were finished with the last course we were graciously escorted into the main dining room, which will be the next installment. I shall leave the readers eager in anticipation for what is next to come. Through the small doors of Alice’s Wonderland we went for an amazing presentation of culinary exploration. An evening totaling of 48 courses that will send your tastebuds reeling had only just begun. Stay tuned for the next part of my journey.