This past week, after visiting a new client in Palafrugell, we spent an incredible night in a sleepy seaside pueblo called Llafranc, approximately 135 km northeast of Barcelona. It was a chance for us to get away for a night as a couple, far from tweets, status updates and cellphones!
This coastal section of Catalunya is known as the Costa Brava, stretching from Blanes, 60 km northeast of Barcelona, all the way to the French border. Costa in both Catalan and Castellano means ‘coast’, while Brava means ‘rugged’ or ‘wild’. In the 1950′s, under Franco, the government destined this area as the sweet holiday spot of Spain, hoping that substantial developments in restaurants and hotels would entice both the Brits and the French to spend leisurely vacations relaxing along the sandy shore. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your view, his vision was realized; and today, tourists swarm this section of Spain, half clad in flip flops and bathing suit bottoms, with a drink in hand.
As for myself, the Costa Brava holds a very special place in my heart. Not three years ago, I took my first dive into the Mediterranean on a chilly September evening, flooded with an eerie full moon’s light, swearing to myself that I would come back to live. Well, I may not have my rustic Spanish home along the sea quite yet, but at least I was able to smell the rich scent of lavender, pine and rosemary, alongside ceramic pots filled with brightly colored flowers. And as a heavy blanket of fog settled among the mountain valleys, as seen by the lighthouse just above our hotel last Monday night, I was happy to be back!
However, part of my glowing mood also related to my leisurely four hour dinner watching the waves crash along the shore. Having read in a local tourism magazine that our hotel, Hotel Llevant, runs one of “the best restaurants in the Costa Brava”, both Ryan and I couldn’t help but be a little skeptical. A native sharing their positive impression of a restaurant is one thing, but when a tourism magazine hypes up a restaurant, you can’t help but wonder how much they paid for the sparkling review. But in all honesty, they earned their stripes, and we had a lovely romantic meal among tables filled with snow white haired tourists from across Europe.
We started the evening with the wine of the week, 2001 Brut de Brut Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava from Cavas Recaredo. Made with 60% Macabeo and 40% Xarel.lo, harvested from their three estates in the Alt Penedes: Can Romeu in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, La Pedra Blanca in Subirats, and Can Rosell de la Serra in Torrelavit. Their old vines are planted in calcerious soils, without seeing a drop of pesticides or herbicides, and grapes are picked by hand. This is an elegant and feminine cava, which has aged gracefully, as seen by its delicate acidity, full body and long lemon comfit finish.Ã‚Â With zero sugar added, as defined by brut de brut, it was also the perfect pairing for both our wild mushroom and shrimp salad with a thyme vinaigrette and the seafood paella. Plus, after the debacle at Monvinic, it was a pleasure to have great wine service in conjuction with a wonderful wine. But sadly, as far as I’m aware, this wine is only available in Spain for at around 25 euros retail. Hence, for now, we’ll just have to chalk this cava up as “a must taste when visiting Iberia”.
But allow me to digress for a minute and talk about the paella before I sign off. As odd as this may sound to you, we’ve had a total of 1paella in a restaurant over the past four years in Spain. One. Granted, Ryan has made some incredibe paellas both on the grill, and over our gas stove, but we’re always hesitant to order it when out on the town, as they’ve been known to be rather dry and bland depending on the location. Consequently, I wouldn’t call us experts on the topic, but I can say, that this particular paella, filled with squid, mussels, cigales and shrimp, was “f—–g awesome”, as quoted by Ryan. Unbelievably moist and delicious with a sweet caramelized flavor, it was one of the best paellas we’ve ever experienced…erm, well, at least better than the other one we tried in Madrid three years ago.
So, if you’re planning a trip to the northeastern coast of Spain, make sure you stop by Hotel Llevant to not only try this great cava along the rocky shore, but to eat an fantastic paella as well!