“Catalunya has a fantastic climate, a rich plurality of products and diverse geography – the sea, the mountains, and the plains. There are few parts of the world this fertile.” Ferran Adrià
That’s how the famous Catalan chef describes his home region’s geographical bounty, source of its rich cuina Catalana. Culled from “mar i muntanya” (sea and mountain), Catalunya’s cuisine matches fresh seafood on the coast with hearty meats (particularly sausages) inland, while fragrant fruits and vegetables provide ballast to every meal.
The seafood variety is impressive, and includes plump shrimp and langoustine; eel from the Ebro delta; trout from Pyrenean rivers; and the ever-present bacallà (cod). Sausages, most using pork as a base, include botifarra, fuet (a thin, dried sausage) and llonganissa (cured sausage). Catalunya has taken mushrooms to a high art, not least aromatic bolets (wild mushrooms), which are picked and prepared in autumn. In late winter and early spring, calçots (large, tender, sweet spring onions) are roasted over coals and dipped in a romesco sauce, which is made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, almonds, garlic and olive oil.
Perhaps Catalunya’s best-loved export is pa amb tomàquet, bread rubbed with tomato and drizzled in olive oil, which is not only ubiquitous throughout the region, but in the rest of Spain. As for dessert: Catalunya’s answer to crème brûlée is the custard-style crema Catalana. And when it comes time to celebrate, do so with cava, a sparkling wine that rivals champagne, but is significantly cheaper.
Contemporary Catalan cuisine has become synonymous with Ferran Adrià, who transformed (and transfixed) the culinary world with his famous scented espumas (foams) and “molecular gastronomy” (or, as Ferran prefers to describe it, cocina de vanguardia). The effects have gone far beyond the dazzling laboratory of a kitchen in his former restaurant El Bulli on the Costa Brava. (Ferran closed El Bulli in July 2011 to launch a nonprofit culinary foundation; ). Chefs across the region have been inspired by Ferran, each adding their own spin, including (in Barcelona) Carles Abellán, as well as Albert Adrià who, with older brother Ferran, opened the excellent tapas bar Tickets in 2011. The region is also home to two legendary restaurants: El Celler de Can Roca and El Motel.