Apparently my stomach has decided to assert itself over my taste buds, as it has protested my attempts at adding any more food or wine to my gullet. No vacancy. This is a novel sensation for me, as rarely have I lost my appetite. Oddly, there is no food poisoning or gastronomic discomfort. I just cannot eat.
In fairness to Catalonian cuisine, our diet this week at Catacurian has not been typical. With the goal of presenting to us the broadest spectrum of traditional food, our host Alicia has been feeding us the equivalent, In America, of a Thanksgiving dinner every night. If you have been following my blog recently, you´ll know that just two short weeks ago I survived on a strict low-fat, high-fiber vegetarian diet for a week at a Zen Buddhist monastery in California. The sharp contrast in the two weeks must have confused the poor old digestive system.
I was fortunately able to participate in the morning excursion to the village of La Figuera, situated in the Montsant hills above the Priorat. From this ideal vantage point, we could survey the towns of the Priorat that we had visited, including Falset, Gratallops, La Vilella Baixa, Scala Dei and El Masroig.
Along the path to the scenic overlook, we gathered wild thyme and rosemary that we would use to marinate the lamb for the day´s next feast. Across the French border in Provence, these wild herbs that, as here, are growing everywhere are known as the garrigue. In some of the Priorat´s reds, in particular the Miserere by Costers del Siurana, these same sun-baked herbal aromas can be detected, but they don´t seem as pronounced as in the wines of the Languedoc or the Rhone. In my opinion, the insistence in the Priorat of aging the wines in small barrels made of new French or American oak, which earns high scores by Robert Parker, unfortunately overpowers and even masks these more subtle herbal and mineral aromas.
In La Figuera, we also visited one of the smallest and newest of the area´s wineries, Fincaria Vins. This one-man operation just bottled its first wine, dubbed Pater, 100% garnacha (garnatxa in Catalan) negra from the Montsant denominación de origen. He only produced 4,000 bottles in the 2003 vintage, but the 2004 vintage will offer slightly more. Unfortunately, my stomach wouldn't let me try it, but the reports were quite positive from others.
Back at the homestead, while I rested, my fellow gastronomers stuffed themselves on a lunch/dinner, served al fresco, of grilled lamb, escalivada (roasted peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and onions drizzled with olive oil), and romesco sauce ( the famous red sauce of Tarragona which I will describe in a few days). They started as 2 and ate and drank until 11 at night. My digestive system and my liver were grateful for the reprieve, but my tongue was envious.