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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Looking Back: My Last Lunch at elBulli: A Memorable Day on Cala Montjoi, Dec. 4, 2010

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Because of minor road mishap on the road from Madrid via Zaragoza to Girona province--19 liters of gasoline pumped into Esmeralda Capel's Mercedes station-wagon, a diesel fuel car, which cost us a two-hour delay to get the car pumped out and re-filled--Kay, Esmeralda, her husband  Juan Suárez and I arrived in Port Lligat too late to catch the evening light.  Port Lligat is just a couple of kilometers north of the picturesque fishing village-artists' and expatriates' hangout of Cadaqués and was the home of Salvador Dalí, who, over several decades pieced together a string of fisherman's cottages to build one of the most evocative, charming, idyllic and inspiring homes on the planet.   

Dalí's Port Lligat, where he spent some of the happiest and most productive years of his life, is still relatively unspoiled.  I had stayed the Hotel Port Lligat back in the 1970s when it was a very basic hotel with minimal comfort and again in 1998s before my second trip to El Bulli when I found the place to be upgraded only slightly over my first visit, but the setting, right next door to Dalí's compound and looking out over the fisherman's cove was and still is unbeatable.  I had warned Esmeralda and Juan about the creature comforts (or lack of), but had raved about the location.  They agreed we should try the Port Lligat, so I booked two "especial" double rooms, special because the rooms look out over Dalí's cove, for €100 (about $135.00) per room.

We arrived around 8 p.m. because of our road delay with a brisk cold wind blowing--I feared we might catch the fierce tramuntana wind that is so notorious in the Empordá-Costa Brava.  The legendary tramuntana is blamed for the fact that  residents of the area are known for their strange quirks, since the wind is said to drive people mad during what sometimes amounts to an incessant week-long blow, which blows so strong that it has been known to topple a freight train.   It takes no stretch of the imagination, seeing some of Salvador Dalí's paintings with odd landscapes swept totally clean and pristine by the tramuntana, to believe that the great artist owed some of his peculiar genius to the winds of the Empordá-Costa Brava.

That's why it drives me a little tramuntana crazy myself when I read claims that Ferran Adriá, the dimension-bursting genius chef of elBulli, which is located just a few kilometers southeast of Salvador Dalí's Cadaqués and Port Lligat by boat, is the Picasso of Spanish cuisine.  

See the slideshow below for visuals of this memorable luncheon at elBulli.  I lament to say that my dear, great friend Juli Soler, the driving front-of-the-house force behind elBulli, died last year.  Every January, for the past few years, I would see him for lunch in Barcelona.  There will be a huge void at the end of this month, January 2016, when I go to Barcelona and will encounter only the indelible trail of memories he left in the wake of his passing through this life.

(Double click to see large view of slideshow.)
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About Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand prize in 2009 and received the Association of Food Journalists 2009 Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his retrospective piece in Food Arts magazine about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià.

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