Posts from August 2014
Leaving Barcelona was not preferable. We could have stayed there until we ran out of money or died (I'm guessing the money would go first). What a wonderful city. But the next part of our trip was directly ahead of us, and calling. We checked out of the hotel, grabbed a cab, loaded up our bags, and went off to the Hertz office to pick up a rental car.
Our destination was France. Collioure, to be precise. We drove up the coast of Spain for as long as it made sense (a very leisurely drive this is), and then got on the highway, which led us to Figueres for lunch. Figueres is probably best known for the Salvador Dalí Museum. It's a tiny little town, just south of the French/Spanish border. Some research lead us to Meson Asador Castell 4, which seemed like a fine place for a meal.
They had a good crowd going, many of whom appeared to be locals, eating tapas and sipping wine at the bar. We grabbed a table and tried to decipher the menu. It certainly wasn't in English. But we were getting pretty good at the menu thing by this point.
The burger build-out continues. The latest entry into the increasingly saturated market here in north Jersey is Habit Burger-- a California-based chain, poised to compete squarely with Shake Shack, Smashburger, and the other upscale fast-casual blahblahblah burger joints.
When we I saw a photo of the burger on BoozyBurbs's twitter feed, well we I just knew we I had to check it out--even though he they opted for avocado as a topping (actually, we I made fun of the burger on twitter for a while before we I thought to try it--busting his their boozy balls is a favorite past-time of ours mine). How does this burger (without avocado) stack up against the competition? Pretty well, we I think.
El Rincon Del Cava may not be among the best tapas places in Barcelona, but I have to think it's among the cheapest.
We spent the morning walking up to Olympic Park, site of the 1992 Olympics. It's a good little hike to get up there. There's not a whole lot going on once you do get up there, but it was somewhat interesting and offers a great view of the city. More importantly, all of that walking contributed to a good appetite. Down the hill we went in search of El Rincon Del Cava.
Rias de Galicia specializes in seafood and the cooking of Galicia--that area of northwest Spain that I'd love to visit at some point. It's also a very highly regarded restaurant, possibly one of Ferran Adria's favorites, and run by a couple of his partners. To not indulge in the tasting menu seemed foolish. Yet when we were done with the meal, the missus advised that we should have just ordered the regular stuff. We'll probably never know who was right. For my part, I had an outrageously good meal, very good service, and wonderful wines.
When I saw the tweezers being placed on the table, I thought "uh boy, an overly precious meal is ahead of us." To some extent that was the case. But the food was all grounded in top-notch high-quality seafood, and not futzed with too much. Here is the run-down of this exceptional meal, with some brief thoughts.
Salt and Pepper shrimp is an addictive dish of deep-fried crispy shrimp, spicy peppers, salt, and ground pepper. One which can be made with no special skills or equipment or nuthin'. Just regular stuff from the supermarket. Many Chinese dishes call for ingredients that are often hard-to-find. This ain't one of them.
If you google recipes for this dish, you'll see many variations on the same theme. Some call for a flour-based batter. Some call for egg whites to help the cornstarch stick. I'm sure they all have their benefits, but I couldn't rationalize the extra work. I knew exactly what I wanted this dish to taste like, since I've had it many, many times at various restaurants, so I didn't need to use any specific recipe. I googled recipes purely for confirmation bias purposes. i.e., tell me what I plan on doing is right.
A quick deep-fry of cornstarch coated shrimp yields a stupid-crunchy creature. An even quicker stir-fry of some garlic and scallions and hot peppers, along with salt, white pepper, and Sichuan peppercorn (if you have it), and you're done. This dish takes about 5 minutes of prep and 10 minutes of active cooking time.
Here's what I do...
Over the course of my adult life, I've spent an inordinate amount of time at restaurants. A couple of times it has even been enjoyable. But it feels like I've seen more places run horribly than run well. Owners, managers and servers have been making the same mistakes for so long it's clear they are not paying attention to what people complain about at all.
Because I'm a helpful sort, I've taken it upon myself to compile a list, with peace and love of course, of things that servers, managers, and owners of restaurants are doing wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. I should note that to my mind, service issues are management issues, and management issues are owner issues. The buck stops with the guy who is taking the financial risk. And too often that person doesn't care or know any better. To that end, this entire list could be directed toward owners. But, I've broken down into the functional areas for ease of review.
Owners and managers, maybe this list will help you. Or not. I do know that putting this together sure made me feel better.
Readers may disagree with some or all of these issues. As always, if you do, keep it to yourself, because I don't care what you think.