Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Catalan Cooking supper club.
The supper club was run by Catalan Cooking’s Rachel McCormack and Franz Schinagl, ex-Head Chef of Asia de Cuba.
I first heard of Rachel about 8 months ago, and ever since whenever I’ve asked a blogger for Spanish food/restaurant recommendations the response was usually, ‘have you spoken to Rachel?’. Well now I have spoken a great deal to Rachel, and have spent enough time with this lovely lady to understand why everyone speaks so highly of her. Rachel’s passion for Catalan cuisine and openness in sharing that passion is probably unrivalled in London right now.
At this point, I probably should declare a personal interest. It is because of how highly I rate Rachel, and what she does, that I’ve organised for one of my clients, Grupo Codorniu, to support Rachel’s supper clubs and cooking classes on an ongoing basis with lots of beautiful Spanish wines from Catalonia and other regions in Spain, sharing the limelight with a range of tiny Spanish producers too. Rachel will also be hosting a special Barcelona-themed supperclub for Codorniu in a couple of week’s time. If you are a food blogger and interested in coming along, do get in touch.
So back to yesterday’s feast. And I do not use the term feast lightly, there was such an abundance of amazing Catalan food on offer, the twitter hash tag for the evening was dubbed #catalanfeast.
The supper club was inspired by a Casa de Pages, which translates as ‘peasant’s house’. Casa de Pages is an informal dwelling, not a restaurant or hostel, that serves food in a fun, informal way. See this article for a better descriptor.
We arrived at Beas of Bloomsbury’s for the fun to begin at 7:45, hubby and I shared an intimate table in the corner and all the food was served buffet-style from the bar, which gave the evening an informal air and encouraged sociability.
We started with a glass of La Pamelita, Spain’s only red sparkling wine which is made by a Scottish lady called Pamela Geddes. I have tried a couple of red Australian and German sparkling wines before, but this was quite different, perhaps as it was made using the traditional method (fermented in bottle like a Champagne).
Once all our glasses were full, we helped ourselves to an array of olives, fuet and manchego cheese. My hubby was big fan of the fuet, a Spanish sausage similar to chorizo, but being Catalan, it is not flavoured with paprika or garlic – just pepper.
Next came the Sopa de Carn D’olla, a soup made from the stock of all the meats in the Carn D’olla.
The following course, was where it all went wrong. I knew there was much more food to come so I paced myself and walked way with a small plate of the mushroom rice and veggies. My hubby on the other hand totally OD’d on the Catalan rice, beans and veggies – which were all great, but then hadn’t realised the Carn D’olla to follow would be a mix of lamb, pigs trotters, chicken and meatballs. He manfully struggled to taste every meat dish on the menu, despite being on his fourth full plate by that point.
It may sound like a meat feast, but Rachel and Franz are amazingly accommodating to veggies and created a veggie soup, veggie rice, veggie veggies (i.e. not cooked in meat stock).
While hubby failed to leave room for dessert, I was more savvy and was not going to miss out on delightfully fluffy lemon and orange flavoured catalan doughnuts (Bunyols), or the Crema Catalana nor the sweet hazelnut milk with icecream and hazelnut snap (well not sure what the official translation for cruixent, crisp perhaps?, but it tasted like a hazelnut take on a brandy snap and was delicious).
Hubby is a sucker for Cava, and while he couldn’t get his head around red sparkling wine he is more than comfortable with white and so stuck to Codorniu Seleccion Raventos all evening – a Cava that was once restricted for the private enjoyment of the Raventos family and was only commercially released to celebrate 125 years of Cava making by the family.
I toyed with a little of everything, the Can Rafols del Caus Terra Prima, an organic white from Penedes which combines Xarel.lo and Reisling to refreshing effect was my find for the evening and I later moved onto the Scala Dei del Prior, a seductively concentrated red blend made on a tiny 90 hectare estate in the heart of D.O.C. Priorat.
The informality of the evening and abundance of food was demonstrated perfectly when all of the guests were encouraged to fill up a doggy bag to take home. I confess to taking more than my fair share!
This was a wonderful evening of Catalan indulgence, the range of food on offer was remarkable given the size of the kitchen. Thanks so much to Rachel, Franz and our cheerful waitress who made the night really very special.