Colour me biased, as a self-confessed lover of From Spain With Love but I must say this was a truly fascinating episode. They went off the beaten path of a North American cooking/travel show, exploring traditional food preservation methods like canning, smoking and salting. Annie Sibonney started out in Barcelona with her friend, food writer Tara Stevens. They introduced us to a must-visit tapas bar called Quimet & Quimet renowned for its conservas. These are gourmet-level canned foods that are not only are they edible right out of the can but delicious. The proprietor, prepared several appetizers for the ladies including a little seafood platter covered in a Spanish paprika sauce, Berberechos (Cockles) and red vermouth. The bar then opened for business and was flooded with patrons. The ladies continued with a squid stuffed with its own tentacles (no really), while Quim prepared canapés made from various conservas with sauces at lightning speed and efficiency.
Annie’s next stop was Bilbao in the Basque country. Once again, the show touched on the Spaniards love affair with Bacalao (Salt Cod). She took us to a ‘cod boutique’ called Club Ranero. I like that they flashed on the cash register, so we can see what the price. From there it was to Restaurante Bola-Viga where Don Emilio and his son Óscar prepared two dishes: Bacalao al Pil Pil and Bacalao Club Ranero. This provided one of those kitchen moments, which must be seen to be believed. Don Emilio put poached pieces of cod in olive oil. When ready, they were transferred from the pot to a wide, flat ceramic dish. Then, he proceeded to quickly swirl the dish which made the fish gently slide around in the oil. This continuous movement alone caused the oil to change its colour and consistency into that of a white sauce! I’ve seen scallops ‘cook’ in citrus juice to make Ceviche but nothing like this. Annie tried her hand but it was very strenuous. Both dishes were beautiful and the trio had a grand time devouring them. Colour me green with envy.
In Extremadura, our presenter got a lesson in making Escabeche de Verduras (Pickled Vegetables) from one Señora Rita Trestansio. There was no mention of products or restaurants because this was a time honoured recipe, being passed from one generation to another. She learned the recipe from her mother and has been making it for years. Señora Trestansio’s warm countenance and love for her heritage really shined through. Just like my own mother, this lady didn’t measure a thing. Everything was by look and feel, which is how the very best meals are prepared – not with precision but love.
St. Vicenç de Montalt
The last stop on this flavour tour was back in Catalonia (Catalunya) where we started. At St. Vicenç de Montalt, the cameras followed Annie into the kitchens of Carlos Piernas del Amor’s Carpier Ahumados smokehouse facility. In their high tech kitchen, we saw smoked fish, meats and even chocolates. Shiro, the head of Carlos’ Investigative Laboratory used Mediterranean ingredients to make a sushi-styled Rollo De Salmon Ahumado Con Salsa Tartar Y Lentejas (Smoked Salmon Roll with Tartar Sauce and Lentils). Now that’s what I call fusion cuisine!
This episode was very interesting and showed us a side of Spanish cooking on many different levels. We saw food from cans, beloved dishes, one prepared by a Grandma; and finally a look at gastronomic experimentation and fusion for the future. If their goal was to make the viewers say, “Ooh, that looks good. I want to try that!” then mission accomplished. Again, the photography is not seen in its full glory because Cooking Channel isn’t in HD. However, the production values on this episode maintained their high level. The next episode is Seafood To Die For.