Cataria

It is easy to be carried away after a lunch as good as the one we had today at Cataria.

There were some really top wines flowing, great friends all around the table and a fella was enjoying himself, but even so I am pretty sure the superb sardines, oysters, langostines and gambas rojas, squid, baby squid, corvinata, bucinegro and anenome (and the cheesecake) were as good as I have had. I certainly can’t remember anything like it. And even if I have been on the outside of physical produce of this quality, cooked and prepared with this skill, I certainly have never enjoyed ingesting aquatic protein as much as I did today.

The quality really was outstanding: textures, flavours and aromas that will live long in the memory. Carlos Hernandez and Edu Perez, the crack chef and top man bossing the grill are clearly names to remember. But the presentation and explanations of menu and dishes were even better.

It is by no means unique these days for chefs to come over and explain the dishes, but I have never seen a menu explained and presented like it was today. Fleetingly I felt like I understood the season of the langostine, the cycle of the tides, the breeding patterns of the squid and the best neighbourhoods for anenomes. Sapidity, intensity, muscle, age: no dimension was left unexplained. It was a lot to take in and I wish I had recorded it, not least for the infectious enthusiasm with which Carlos Hernandez dropped his knowledge on us.

And it really enhanced the meal. I have written before about how a little knowledge can increase the pleasure and this was one of the clearest examples I can remember. For the first time I knew how to compare my langostine and my gamba roja, my corvinata and my bucinegro, or what to look for in my squid or anenome. And not just the anenome: I will never throw a fish head away again (even if I couldn’t find any divine presence in the tiny eye bones).

I will write another post about the wines we had: suffice it to say that sherry lovers need have no worries about the liquid accompaniment.

For now, just my sincere congratulations to Carlos, Edu, the team and the sealife around Sancti Petri. It was really outstanding today and will live long in the memory.

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