On the road from Asador Etxebarri to El Celier de Can Roca
After a weekend in San Sebastian (Mugaritz and Arzak) we will be lunching at Asador Etxebarri on a Tuesday afternoon, and then driving down to Girona for a Wednesday dinner at Can Roca. According to google maps at least, that is about a 6 hour drive, and we are interested in breaking it up with an overnight stop along the way. We'll be hitting Barcelona on the way back from Girona, before flying home, so what we're really after is an interesting town or village that would make for a good overnight stop more than halfway along the route. GIven the other spots we're hitting, it hardly need have a Michelin starred restaurant. Good, authentic regional cuisine is more what we'd be after. Any suggestions???
Well, I find myself in the unusual position of responding to my own question, having now "been there and done that." On the off chance that anyone finds themselves looking for a layover point between Etxebarri and Celler Can Roca, like we did, we stayed at Fonda Cal Blasi in Montblanc - and it was wonderful. Montblanc is a beautiful walled medieval village (all of the wall is still intact, about an hour and a half outside of Barcelona (north of Tarragona). There is beautiful hiking in the surrounding mountains, a great monastery in nearby Poblet, and the Roman ruins in Tarragona are an easy day trip. The hotel is run by Carles and Carne - a wonderful couple for whom their modest hotel is a labour of love as well as a commercial venture.
But the real reason to discuss it on a Chowhould board is that Carne's cooking is fabulous. What you get here is real Catalan home cooking, skilfully prepared by Carne and carefully explained by Carles. Indeed, on our first night, Carne was cooking only for us (plus Carles and herself). We started with a grilled bread, that was served with olive oil, raw garlic and halved tomatoes, and jamon iberico. At the table, Carles showed us the proper way to rub the garlic on the toast, how to rub the tomato on without making the bread soggy. On, went a drizzle of olive oil, then the jamon, and the toast was cut and folded in half to create a sandwich.....YUM! (a and a great lesson in technique!).
The balance of the dinner - a salad, a wonderful zucchini flan with simply cooked crushed tomato and mushrooms (pictured) and several local sausages was equally good and all was typical Catalan home cooking. They source almost all of their produce and meats locally, from organic producers. It was the perfect counterpoint to the Michelin starred restaurants and finicky little tapas/pintxos bars that constituted much of the rest of our trip.
If you are in the area, or want a medieval mountain village escape outside of BCN , go and enjoy! Carles said that Carne does occasionally have people come to the hotel for several days of cooking classes, so that may be an alternative as well. Their web site http://www.fondacalblasi.com says nothing about it, but you could email them at the hotel to ask.