sábado, 10 de febrero de 2007
My Trip to Penedes Wine Country
Another great day here in Spain. Hard to believe it's February with days like these. My friend Rosa, who I met on the Internet last year, had invited me to an 'excursión' to Penedès wine country, inlcuding a typical Catalán meal called a 'calçotada'.
I left the house at around 9am (after a quick café con leche y croisant!) and headed west on the Metro to Hospitalet, a borough just outside of the Barcelona city centre. There I met Rosa and Román (pronounced Rom-AH) where we waited for Tomass, an Italian friend of theirs. Tomass soon showed up and we headed for the hills in the car.
The day couldn't have been more perfect. Blue sky without a single cloud! The countryside along the way was stunning. Green arid hills with terra cotta coloured earth. This is prime wine-growing country, so the hills are peppered with small grape trees. The champagne here is called cava, since France has the exclusive right to use the word 'champagne' due to the region where it comes from there. We actually passed the Freixenet vineyard, which a lot of you will remember from many New Year's gone by.
We soon got to our meeting point, which was a little town more or less near Tarragona, southwest of Barcelona. There, we met 5 girlfriends of Rosa's, all super-friendly. We took a short hike up the hillside, with amazing rocks and crevasses and soon came upon the caves famous in the area. After paying the entrance fee, the guide soon had us going down the long, dark, narrow tunnel into the belly of the mountain. Fresh water ran along small waterways and millions of tiny stalactites were everywhere. These tiny wonders of nature grow only millimetres in hundreds, if not thousands of years, so needless to say, we weren't to touch anything!
After the tour we hiked into more vineyard fields and it was great to feel the sun on my face. As we walked, I took turns talking with everyone. We headed back to the village and got into our cars and headed for the restaurant. After asking for directions once or twice, we finally got there!
The restaurant was called 'Restaurant can Serafi', which is on the main road between Puigdàlber and Vilafranca, and we were about to have an amazing meal. The restaurant was filled with that wonderful smell of a roaring fire in the oven. We were first served fresh thick pieces of bread. With the bread in hand, first we rubbed the bread with a freshly cut piece of garlic. Next comes the drizzling of the olive oil and then you rub a fresh tomato over the bread, gently squeezing out the juices. Delicious!
With the bread, we were served amazing red wine from the region, and it came in small decanters with a long spout that jutted out on one side. The tradition is to pour the wine into your mouth, being careful not to touch the spout. Let's just say, thank goodness for the bibs they provided!
Next came the fire-roasted green onions. There aren't the small ones that we get in Canada, they're the larger variety. You have to grab the onion where the flesh begins in one hand, and with the other hand you gently peel away the outer layer. You then dip the onion into this amazing sauce, which was sort of creamy but had a roasted pepper flavour to it. Delicious and wonderfully messy! You can see the long onions on the table in one of the pictures to the left.
Next came the main dish, which was a few small pieces of meat, a potato and some white beans. Yes, I did indulge in this feast, for all of you that are wondering! This main dish was served with chilled cava, which tasted delicious.
A perfect meal all around with good company and lots of chatter and good cheer. On one side of me, people were speaking Catalán, and on the other side of me people were speaking Castellano (Spanish). Tomass and I spoke to each other in English, even though he's Italian.
After another wonderful coffee, we all went outside for some fresh air, and were greeted by a stunning sunset, with the sky lit up in gold and auburn. After exchanging a few photos and phone numbers, we all piled in the cars and headed back to Barcelona. What an amazing day....new traditions, new friends and of course new adventures!