A Barcelona food blog
I have read much about calçots and the calçotada and have been awaiting the season, my chance to experience them and the occasion of eating them with much anticipation.
The calçot is a vegetable of the onion family, it’s appearance resembling a cross between a small leek and a large spring onion. They are traditional cooked on a barbecue until the outside is charred and the inside soft, are served in a clay roof tile and are then to be dipped into romesco sauce (made of roasted almonds, hazelnuts, tomato, olive oil, garlic, parsley, red wine vinegar and cayenne), before being lowered into your mouth.
With my first experience to be in a restaurant in the Eixample I had been preparing myself for a disappointment. How could they reproduce the barbecue experience in a restaurant setting? Luckily, being advised to go to La Dolceta 2 by a local aquaintance of my accompanying friend meant the disappointment never materialised.
La Dolceta 2 is a restaurant serving traditional Catalan food, and it’s rustic, in fact antiquated interior seemed almost perfect for the occasion. My friend and I ordered a portion of calçots, some grilled artichokes (also in season), a potato and onion tortilla and in hindsight stupidly, a portion of pan amb tomaquet (Catalan tomato bread), this wasn’t needed considering the quantity of food which arrived.
Whilst waiting for the food I saw the kitchen was well equipped to provide calçots in a restaurant, as they had a charcoal grill in the kitchen and my excitement and anticipation grew about the meal ahead. Whilst we were waiting our waiter brought us paper bibs and plastic gloves of the kind that come with hair dye, to protect our hands and clothes from the mess. I had heard about the bibs, but plastic gloves? We decided against the gloves but happily put on the bibs after being told that the romesco sauce is a bugger to get out of your clothing.
And so, they arrived charred and blackened just as I had imagined, although not in a roof tile, the only slight let down, but probably not practical in a restaurant kitchen.
The waiter gave us a quick demonstration on how to remove the calcot from it’s charred sleeve and insisted that it must be dipped in the sauce, and away we go…..
And what a joy they were, the barbecued, leeky flavour of the calçot with the rich creamy sauce was divine, and whilst my friend managed to eat her entire half of the portion without getting a drop of charred skin or sauce on her bib, I took great delight in getting stuck in with my fingers and being able to wipe them down my front after each mouthful. We also had two artichokes cooked in the same way which we ate petal by petal, dipping some in the sauce also, but they were delicious and buttery on there own.
We also shared a potato and onion tortilla which was also excellent, very soft, creamy and ever so slightly runny, maybe not to everyone’s taste but as someone who enjoys there eggs only just cooked this was spot on for me.
The pan amb tomaquet was a slight let down, mainly as it was a little too charred from the grill, but it was useful for mopping up of the romesco sauce which I was unable to leave.
Eating calçots is not a dignified affair, probably why I enjoyed it so much, and I challenge anyone to try it without at least making mess around their plate. Here is the aftermath of our feast;
The restaurant staff were friendly and welcoming from the outset and throughout our meal, although perhaps a little clichéd and like the decor, antiquated in their service style. I’m also sure there are better restaurants to eat this seasonal cuisine and that the restaurant setting is incomparable to the masia outdoor barbeque, but for taking my calçot virginity, this was near as damn it perfect.
La Dolceta 2, Comte d’Urgell 266, Eixample – non-smoking section