Friday, October 4, 2013

Spain, Morocco, London, Part 1: I Eagerly Kiss Your Cheeks

Shortly after my last trip to Spain, I came across a blog rave for a new dish at my favorite restaurant, La Llar De L'all I Oli, just outside Barcelona (see my photo essay): galtes a la brasa, or grilled pork cheeks. I resolved to go back and try them.

Anyone might say such a thing, but one thing about me is I actually follow up. Perhaps to an odd extreme, but this is the very basis of my chowhounding prowess. As I once wrote, the times in my life when things worked out all had something in common: "I was simply caring...a lot. Possibly too much. Likely to a degree the mainstream would consider odd."

My questing may resemble obsessive compulsion, but there's no stress or fraught neediness. The distinction between revelation and insanity is that the latter's never happy...whereas I experience pure joy from this stuff. If I fly all that way and they're out of pork cheeks, no problem; I'd serendipitously find something else great. I'm cool either way!

My motivation in all this is quite simple. I'm a counter-curmudgeon. My deep-seated view of life on Earth is that nearly everything sucks and disappoints. I was disenchanted very early on, but at some point in my childhood, as I noticed myself sinking into bitterness, I did a little flip and opted to focus, with vise-like intensity, on the brilliant exceptions, geniuses, and holdouts. I became a treasure-hunter, a seeker, an aficionado, an appreciator, a chowhound who'd gladly drive a hundred miles for a splendid doughnut.

That grit allows me to live in an artificial bubble of quality densely packed with greatness and inspiration. It requires plenty of energy, but, hey, anyone can shloomph into idle bitter curmudgeonliness; I've decided to actually do something about it! So I work to find (and admire and evangelize) the good stuff. And a big part of that involves simply following up on tips, vibes, and hunches.

So this month, I cashed in some more frequent flyer miles and flew 4000 miles to try those pork cheeks. And they were amazing:

The chicken was as great as ever. This is the best roast chicken I know (see more smutty photos in the aforementioned photo essay). The spuds may be mere background, but I hope they're speaking to you:

A surprising new item has been added as part of an effort by this staunchly Catalan spot to branch out. They're now making migas, an Asturian dish (very different from what Hispanics call migas). These are breadcrumbs pan-fried with a few stubs of gristly meat or sausage; the ultimate soul food of deprivation (here gussied up with a fried egg). Asturians are careful never to drink fluids with their migas, out of a conviction that stomachs could swell or even explode.

A dessert none of our party (all locals) had ever heard of: nata cremada (burnt cream, or "nata quemada" in Spanish). Utter simplicity. It's not glazed/burned custard (ala creme brulee, aka Crema Catalana, which is also delicious here). Just burnt cream. Pretty great, though not something you'd want to eat a mountain (like this) of:

Of course, after flying all that way, I pursued some other adventures, as well. Stay tuned!

Go to Part 2

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