April 1, 2013

Dinner with Ferran

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How do I even begin to describe this evening?!  If my birthday dinner at elBulli was not the apex of my culinary experience, then tonight certainly would have been.  What exactly am I raving about?!  Well, tonight I had the rare pleasure of dining at the same table at Ferran Adrià - sitting 2 seats away from the man himself!!

The Specialist had informed me months ago that they were getting a consignment from the cellars of elBulli, and that there would be some special events held around the auction.  I was really looking forward to the auctions, especially the "lifestyle" lots which comprise of the utensils actually used at the restaurant.  I was already pretty psyched to have received an invitation to the cocktail reception before the auction.

Last week I received even more exciting news.  Apparently there were some last-minute openings at an exclusive dinner with Ferran himself, and would I be available on this particular evening?  Hello??!!  Who do I have to kill for this?!  Isn't that a no-brainer?  I promptly changed my flight back from Taipei so that I would not miss this momentous occasion.  I do have to thank Apple Daily for interviewing me about the upcoming auction of the elBullicellar through Sotheby's, as that was the real reason for me receiving this invitation...

The venue tonight was Catalunya, a branch of the Singaporean operation headed by Alain Devahive Tolosa, who has spent a decade in the kitchen at elBulli.  The restaurant still hasn't formally opened, but  it was the natural choice for tonight.

We had a bunch of aperitivo upon arrival…

Iberian ham "Joselito Gran Reserva"

Cured pork loin "Joselito" - actually didn't have the lomo

Anchovies "00" - served on pan con tomate.  Very yummy, even if the anchovies were slightly too salty for me.

Spherical olives homage elBulli - ah… brings back memories!

Creamy ham croquettes - how can one have tapas without croquetas?!

Iberico ham, Mozzarella and truffle bikini - such simplicity, such awesome goodness...

Codfish fritters with pil-pil - looooove croquetas with bacalao, but didn't see any sauce on the side…

The other Spanish tortilla - wonderful caramelized onions on the bottom, with olive oil, potato and egg foam.

La Cena:
Las Tapas:
Tomato tartar - sooooo flavorful!  With tomato foam… and served on thin toast, which made it a different style of pan con tomate.

King prawn "suquet" - interesting as I've never had suquet before…   The prawns were soooo tender that I mistook them for langoustines!

Foie and truffle canelón - I was amazed to find that this was actually a classic dish in Spain!  Very rich, very fragrant, and totally awesome!

El Show:
Suckling pig Segovian style - O-M-G!!!  This little piggy was just soooo incredibly tender and yummy!!! Succulent!

The pig was cut into pieces with ceramic plates, as is traditional, and the plates were then thrown onto the floor and broken.

Carbon grilled pineapple - very yummy… with lovely flavors of cinnamon.

Piquillo peppers "cristal" - also very yummy…

Grilled lettuce with "ajada" - never had the ajada sauce before…

Catalunya fruit salad - very pretty, and very yummy.  Chunks of watermelon, pineapple, rock melon, star fruit, pear…  Some of the pieces were flavored with cloves.

"Torrija" with apricot sorbet - this was oh-so-delicious!  How appropriate that we should be served with torijja during Holy Week.  The acidity of the apricot sorbet was wonderful, and the marinated orange slices were very yummy, too!

I know that the restaurant hasn't officially opened, but judging from what I've had tonight, it would be as Ferran said - Catalunya will be the best Spanish restaurant in Hong Kong.  By a mile.

Conversation with Ferran was nothing short of enlightening and inspiring.  He told the audience tonight: "Good food heals the soul."  I could not agree more.  He then threw out the question to our table: "What is cooking?", asked us to write down what we thought it should be, and then proceeded to do a total analysis of what he thought… Apparently he spent a year pondering this question.  What was most interesting was that he retraced mankind's steps in this area all the way to the Big Bang!  How very interesting!  I was incredibly jealous of my fellow diners, as they were presented with the 2 pages of notes/diagrams which Ferran had scribbled!

Last but not least, the rundown of tonight's wines… which - except for the Champagne brought by Richard Geoffroy of Dom Pérignon - were all from the elBullicellar up for auction:

2002 Dom Pérignon Rosé - red berries and mineral.  More intense in the pinot noir glass.

1973 Dom Pérignon Œnotheque en magnum - wow!  Loads of toasty oak.  So powerful!  Sweetness a little later.  Ripe on the palate, and great acidity balance.

2001 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc - totally Cantonese sugarcane and water chestnut juice (竹蔗茅根水)!!!  Very sweet on the nose, and slightly bitter on the palate.  With the king prawns, the alcohol really came out!

2009 Hospices de Beaune Corton-Vergennes Cuvée Paul Chanson elevé et mis en bouteille par Lucien Le Moine pour Juli Soler, El Bulli, Roses - very ripe, with minerals, metallic and lots of toast.

2009 Hospices de Beaune Volnay-Santenots 1er Cru Cuvée Jehan de Massol elevé et mis en bouteille par Lucien Le Moine pour El Bulli - lots of fruit, sweet like cotton candy.

2000 Grange des Pères - a little raisiny, still alcoholic, concentrated and medium-bodied.  A little hint of paint-thinner, par hasard?

2007 Hospices de Beaune Corton-Clos du Roi Cuvée Baronne du Bay elevé et mis en bouteille par Lucien Le Moine pour Juli Soler, El Bulli, Roses - much more intense, eucalyptus, a little spicy pepper?  A bit of smoke and cotton candy.

1997 Shafer Hillside Select - smoky and concentrated on the palate.  Nice, ripe fruit with vanilla.  Just had this wine last month

2000 Alvaro Palacios L'Ermita - smoke and concentrated fruit.

2003 Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi - black olives and smoke.

What an amazing evening!!!  As I posted on Facebook earlier, I can die a happy man…  I could not possibly thank Sotheby's enough for their generosity for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!  Very much looking forward to bidding on some wines as well as the "lifestyle" items at the upcoming auction!

BTW, does anyone want to join me to bid on an evening with Ferran at his brother Albert's restaurant Tickets?  Ferran will show the winners around Barcelona, including a visit to his Atelier…  And word has it that he's a big football fan and pretty tight with the president of Barca, so there might be some football-watching involved when you visit…  This might be the ticket to joining the elBullifoundation, which could have a membership as limited as 100…or so I've heard...

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