This morning we enjoyed a breakfast of pa amb tomaquet, local figs, and two kinds of truita (Catalan for the Spanish tortilla, similar to the Italian fritatta) that we, the students, made last night. One was the traditional potato and onion and the second was white bean and green garlic.
Afterwards we headed to our first winery of the Priorat. The main difference between the Montsant and Priorat denominación de origen is the soil. In Montsant the soil is iron rich, red and clay-like, whereas in Priorat it's inhospitable slate. From what I've learned about wine grapes, the more the vines have to struggle to survive, the better the wine. The roots here need to stretch down more than 50 feet below the surface through jagged layers of slate to access their water. It's reminiscent of the rocks that the vines endure in Cornas.
The winery we visited was Costers del Siurana, maker of some of Priorat's finest red wines, Clos de l'Obac, a full-bodied blend of garnacha, cabernet, syrah, merlot and cariñena, and Miserere, the same but substituting tempranillo for syrah. They also make a unique white called Kyrie. It is a round, highly aromatic blend of white garnacha, muscat and two local varieties used in the Penedes to make Cava, Macabeu and Xarel.lo (in Catalan, the period between two L's means they are both pronounced like an L in English; otherwise they would sound like the LL in "million"). I first tasted Kyrie earlier this year at Le Bernadin in New York, where it was paired beautifully with their famous ragoût of sea urchin, scallop, langoustine, clam and caviar. It is one of the most unusual whites I have ever tried and I highly recommend it.
We lunched at the restaurant owned by the winery, located in the town of Gratallops. Our starter was a lovely salad with confited quail legs perched on top of it that were the most flavorful and tender quail I have had. Our second course was a flaky and tender filet of salt cod with white beans and lots of the local arbequina olive oil. We finished our meal off with vanilla gelato doused with more of that delicious olive oil. The bitter olive oil played of the sweet creamy gelato in a way that intensified both flavors.
After returning to our stone house, we continued with the olive oil theme. An expert trained us to become connoisseurs of the local product, the olive oils from the denominación de origen called Siurana, an area which stretches from Barcelona to the southern border of Calalonia. Later, after our lesson and our third cooking class, we sampled a dozen varieties with tomato salad, bread and sea salts.
For our third cooking class we prepared a simple Catalonian veal stew, fricando. Alicia taught us that, besides olive oil, Catalonians use a lot of freshly rendered lard. I was excited to discover this, because these two, along with duck fat, are my favorite cooking fats. Well, butter has its place in my kitchen, too. Not to mention schmalz, chicken fat, which are crucial to my favorite matzo balls.
Basically, I adore fat. Much to the dismay of all those who dine with me, one of my few natural gifts is a high metabolism and a corespondingly healthy appetite. Consider yourself blessed, you who have marketable and socially acceptable gifts, like a keen mind for mathematics, oratorial skill or some athletic prowess. Society shuns a thin person who loves to eat. And I have often been told that no one trusts a skinny chef. It can be more of a curse than a blessing. But I am enjoying it while it lasts.
Where was I? After the veal stew, we prepared a refreshing dessert of yogurt sorbet flavored with orange blossom water and fresh orange. The perfect ending to any heavy meal. For dinner, we were joined by one of the owners of Costers de Siurana, so we enjoyed copious amounts of earlier vintages of Kyrie and Miserere. Sheer bliss.