Calcots and Cava

On Saturday I devoured calcots. Many, many calcots. They are a type of scallion that’s grown in Catalonia. They’re much bigger than your average scallion, closer to a leek in size. Apparently, back in the late 1800s, very smart peasant farmer started covering his scallions with earth so the edible white flesh grew and the inedible green leafiness at the top dwindled in proportion. The result is the onion of onions – the calcot. It puts scallions to shame.

A group of us met at Lauren and Lee’s hostel at noon on Saturday, piled into two cars and headed about an hour and a half south of Barcelona. Mas Boronat, is a beautiful hacienda that throws epic calcotadas every weekend during peak calcot season, from November to April. Upon arrival, we arranged ourselves at the only long picnic table that wasn’t already occupied and waited for the steaming platters of calcots to arrive. There were small dishes of olives, hazelnuts and romesco sauce on the table. The romesco sauce is the dipping sauce for the calcots – made with tomato, almonds, roasted red pepper, garlic, olive oil, and salt, all blended smooth. (It was so good, that I was still dipping my fingers into my bowl once the calcots were gone.) Out came the calcots, stacked high on big platters. They appeared to be burnt to a crisp, but peeling back the first layer of skin revealed the white onion flesh, ready for dipping. It’s a seriously messy affair. Everyone wears a bib. Wine flows from what look like little glass teapots with long spouts called porrons. The idea is to tilt the porron just right, so a thin stream of wine shoots straight into your mouth. Ummm, not quite. Wine stained our chins, our fingers turned black from peeling off the first, charred layer of calcot skin and romesco sauce was everywhere. It felt simultaneously gluttonous and liberating.

Once we’d had our fill of calcots, we headed inside to an enormous lunch. Salad, sausage with garlic aoli, grilled lamb, roasted potatoes, pan con tomate and crema catalana (the Catalan version of creme brulee, with a touch of lemon) for dessert. Oh, and an endless supply of wine and Cava. Lauren, David, Jim and I digested by taking a walk in the vineyard just as the sun was setting (so civilized) and taking photos of ourselves jumping on our beds (not quite as civilized).

The rest of the night proceeded exactly how one would expect a calcotada would proceed – more food, more Cava and dancing. Only one unexpected event occurred. Circa midnight, Jim was spinning me on the dance floor, picked me up and then dropped me on my head. So, that wasn’t fun. He had a hold on both of my arms so I was helpless. Of course he didn’t mean to do any harm, but his dance move was in fact a danger move. I iced my cheek (the direct impact zone) for a while and cried a bit. It hurt. It could have been worse. And yet, we ended the night in good spirits, playing Apples to Apples until 3am.

The next morning, we stopped in a little town along the Mediterranean for paella before heading back to Barcelona. I dipped my toes in the sea. It was a perfectly sunny day. Later that afternoon when I returned to my little attic room, I felt like the time had come to move on from Barcelona and head south. I bought my flight to Granada and I’m scheduled to leave early Thursday morning. I’m planning on arriving at Finca La Loma, a farm near Benamargosa, on Saturday. I’ve been in contact with the owners – Jeanette, a German woman who is married to Antonio, a Spaniard. They have over 1,500 mango trees and a 13 month old baby. That’s about all I know. Jeanette sent me an email this morning with thoroughly confusing directions to their finca from Granada. The buses don’t run on Sunday, so if I get lost on Saturday, I could end up stranded somewhere between Granada and Benamargosa for a night. Fingers crossed I make it.

Tomorrow I’m hosting a thank you dinner party for my roommates, Anias and Edwin, and Lee and Lauren at the apartment. I think there will be at least nine of us. I’m still not sure what I’m going to make. Nothing too complex. I was thinking homemade pizza. Or maybe roasted chicken. But all the chickens at the market come with their heads still attached and their insides still inside. I’m not so sure how to handle that. Do I ask for “pollo sin cabeza, por favor?” Hmm. Regardless, it will be fun. It’s the least I can do. And please, if you’ve got a good dinner suggestion, throw it out there!

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