Calçots!

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There is something unique to Catalonia, something   delicious.  It is the calçot and the tradition of a calçot lunch to go with it! A calçot (left) is member of the onion family, and resembles a cross between a green onion and a leek.  It’s a uniquely Catalan beast, and are mild and sweet. Every Spring, the Catalan celebrate with the tradition of the calçotada  – much like the American tradition of the summer BBQ, where c alçots are grilled over an open flame (in our case over vine cuttings, yum!).  The result is a charbroiled onion, but a sweet delicious delicacy underneath. How does one eat a calçot?  Once they are grilled, you strip them of course!  After barbecuing, It’s a delicate operation, as you grip the bottom of the calçot, and tug gently so the skin pulls off in one long piece.  Then, as Toni is demonstrating, you eat the calçotada in several bites – but in one fell swoop.  Delicious! a romesco sauce is served, and you strip off the charbroiled layer in a magical feat of action.   They can get a little messy however, so as Toni shows us, it helps to have a bib.  Or a cape.  After a full plate of calçot, and several glasses of cava, Toni became…Super Calcot!  The Catalon superhero! Calçots are particularly delicious with brut cava, as the crisp acidity matches perfectly with the sweet greens and the tangy romesco  sauce. Now, go out and make some calçots today!  when you can’t find the real thing, baby leeks, baby green onions or red onions can be substituted.  Broil or grill them until tender.  Enjoy with a glass of cava!  

Cava cools you off…

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It’s hot here in Spain, even though it’s only March. There hasn’t been much rain, and you can feel it all around. The rivers are dry, the air is dry, the vines are dry. One critical observation about Spain is there is an inordinate amount of smog at atmospheric gunk. While I believe most of this is organic smog, it makes for a rough go for anyone that is used to clear skies and easy breathing. I myself am suffering after 3 days of heavy smog, where you can barely see the skyline of Barcelona and you can only make the outline of the breathtaking Montserret mountain formation . Even today, from my hotel room less than 1 mile away, the giatn Gaudi Masterpiece, the Segrada Famila, is barely visible in the haze. When i was in Madrid and Rioja last year, I noticed a similar issue. With the constant burning of organic waste (and quite probably inorganic) I wonder how long this city can continue to manage this level of pollution. However, I see steps that are positive: the city busses are natural gas powdered; there are far more diesel fueled vehicles in Europe than anywhere else ( particular in gas guzzling US); Segura Viudas is making steps to become a green, closed ecosystem. While in the vineyard in the Penedes region of Catalonia, we toured one of the old vineyards at the estate.  Segura Viudas is a pioneer in the area, practicing sustainable agriculture, as operates as organically as possible with out being constrained to the organic rules of operation. Currently, they are experimenting with reusing the biomass created by pruning, as well as other vineyard activities, and selling this as fuel. Future plans include using the biomass fuel within the winery system to becoming a self contained ecosystem. Additionally, the vineyard manager Sebastià Raventós has been working with cover crops such as hay and oats, to provide a nutrient balance. Of course, this also protects the vineyards from erosion during the rainy season, and also provides another attraction for insects and animals to build a sustainable ecosystem in the vineyard. Sebastià was born and bred in this small wine growing region, and has the soil in his blood.  His family has worked the vineyards in the area for generations.    He believes that great cava or great wine begins in the vineyard, and that great wine cannot be made without great grapes.  He is part of the landscape here, born and bred in this small wine growing region of Penedes, and has the soil in his blood.  His family has worked the vineyards in the area for generations.    He believes that great cava or great wine begins in the vineyard.  To this point, he fiercely guards his vines, and has a particular reverence to the old, gnarly vines that are growing freely.  While there are advantages to head trained, neat, trellised vineyards, they are also more prone to diseases and pests since they aren’t allowed to grow naturally.  These old vines, planted 40+ years […]