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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


Albert Raurich's Dos Pebrots (Two Peppers) in Barcelona - A Culinary Time Machine

* * * * *
Palate Time Travel on a Plate (in a Bowl, in a Skillet and on the Bosom of a Ceramics Sow) from the Time of the Egyptians (and beyond) to the Middle Ages to the 20th Century

"¿Quien dice que no me gustó tu artículo? I tanto que sí, de verdad, tu manera de escribir es como nuestra manera de entender la gastronomía, desde una base profesional, comunicar con conocimiento, sencillez, humor y crítica constructiva!! Gracias y Fantástico!! Un fuerte abrazo, Albert Raurich

[*Translation:  "Who says that I didn't like your article?  I liked it very much, truly, your way of writing is like our way of understanding gastronomy, from a base as a professional, communicating (our dining experience) with knowledge, simplicity, humor and constructive criticism. A big abrazo, Albert Raurich"]

Raurich's reply came in an e-mail to after I sent him this article and did not hear back from him (I thought maybe he didn't like the references to the pig tits), then I sent him my version of his guisantes con jamón dish and wrote, "I guess you didn't like my article about Dos Pebrots."

Tabletop-made pan omelet with piñones (pine nuts), fresh perifollo (chervil) sprigs, honey and the very ancient fermented fish sauce garum--a too gentrified garum IMHO--that is a star dish.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017

Albert Raurich's Timeline, which is on the flip side of his menu at Dos Pebrots.
(Slide from Raurich's presentation at Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017, held January 23-25 at Madrid’s Palacio de Congresos)
 Former classic Bar Raval entrance was preserved.

Dos Pebrots
Carrer Doctor Dou 19, 08001 (El Raval), Barcelona
(+34) 938 539 598; Metro Catalunya/Liceu;  Weds-Sun 1pm-11pm.

Know these things about Executive Chef-owner Albert Raurich before you go to Dos Pebrots in Barcelona: Albert was Chef de Cuisine at elBulli from 1997 - 2007; he is a serious student of food and the history of food; and he has one Hell of a sense of humor.   He is also the Chef-owner of nearby Dos Palillos (Chopsticks)–just around the corner from Dos Pebrots.  Raurich runs the creative open kitchen Asian food themed Dos Palillos with his Japanese wife-sommelier Tamae Imachi.  

* * * * *

At Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017, held January 23-25 at Madrid’s Palacio de Congresos, I went down to Albert Raurich’s presentation in the afternoon on January 23, planning to take a few photographs and them move on from the auditorium back upstairs to visit some of the stands and see a couple of symposiums.   

         Albert Raurich at Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017  
As I was photographing Raurich’s presentation, I became fascinated with his presentation, which showed his timeline for the dishes he serves at Dos Pebrots, a timeline that stretches from the paleolithic and neolithic eras to 1929 (bacalao al pil pil).   I stayed for the whole thing.  Someone, I did not pick up on the pig tits dish. 

 Albert Raurich's recipes at Dos Pebrots are inspired by recipes he has researched as far back as the ancient Egyptians and Romans such as a terrific tabletop-made pan omelet with piñones (pine nuts), fresh perifollo (chervil) sprigs, honey and the very ancient fermented fish sauce garum--a too gentrified garum IMHO--that is a star dish.   Photo at Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017 by Gerry Dawes©2017  #dospebrots

Albert Raurich and Elena Arzak in the Press Lounge at Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017  
Later, I ran into Raurich in the VIP lounge and told him that I was headed to Barcelona the following week.  “Call me and I will see if I can get you in to Dos Pebrots.”

As luck would have it, our hotel was an easy block or so from Dos Palillos and Dos Pebrots, so my fiancee Kay and I walked down to Dos Palillos in the afternoon to see if Raurich was there.  He came out, greeted us and said, “Why don’t you come by tonight at 8 p.m.?  Anthony Bourdain and Albert Adrià will be there.”

 "Great, we will be there.”  

Albert didn’t say anything about the pig tits, but I should have picked up on that at his Madrid Fusión presentation.   After all, how many restaurants in Spain have a ceramics pig, feet to the sky, whose underbelly is lined with four sliced off, grilled Ibérico pig tits, tetas de cerda Ibérica, as a star course.   (We are guessing that the tetas date much closer to the near end of Raurich’s Timeline spectrum, like from 2016 as an arbitrary vintage date.)

So, we arrived at the appointed time on Friday, Feb. 3, walked in, and were told to stay by the bar since Bourdain, Albert Adrià Roads and Kingdom’s Chief Editor Matt Goulding are at the chef’s table overlooking the kitchen and busy being filmed.   We took a seat at table by the bar and began to peruse the long menu–carta dospebrots albert raurich versión VI--on the back of Raurich’s historical culinary timeline.   

Roads and Kingdom’s Co-founder, Chief Editor and Publisher Matt Goulding, Albert Adrià, Albert Raurich and Anthony Bourdain at the chef’s table overlooking the kitchen at Dos Pebrots.  In front of them is the wooden "toolbox" of  herramientos, the utensils placed on every table  that you can choose from to eat each dish. Photo courtesy Dos Pebrots.

Since there were 34 dishes, plus seven desserts, and I knew I was going to swipe the paper menu anyway, I began to mark candidates for ordering with my pen.    The menu is composed of seven columns: elaboración final (the name of the dish), productos principales (main ingredients), técnica principal (roasting, braising, frying, etc.), origen de la elaboración (period from which the dish originated; Al-andalus 10th Century/ancient Persia 1500 B.C., etc.), herramiento (utensils, including hands, used to eat the dish:  The "toolbox" contains silverware, wooden spoons, chopsticks and skewers, you provide the hands) and, finally, precio (the
generally reasonable price in Euros of each dish).   A note on the menu says "if you do not understand this menu, ask a waiter, who perhaps may understand it."

We ordered a bottle of Raventós i Blanc Nit, a superb Champagne quality rosat (rosé) sparkling wine from the newly formed from the Conca del Rìu Anoia D. O. (50 kms. west of Barcelona) and began to zero in on our choices: 

Puerros ancestrales, three two-inch sections of leeks roasted with beer and vinegar, from ancient Egypt.

Beberechos con salsa verde, steamed cockles with a green sauce made with parsley, garlic and white wine, said to date “from the first week in May of 1723.

Mollete de Barbate, a David Chang-like bun stacked with Barbate tuna, cucumber, tomato and a dressing of Spanish pimentón, garlic, vinegar and cumin.


Guisantes con jamón, tender young peas in a jamón Ibérico broth with a perfect egg yolk in the center to further enrich the sauce.  The inspiration supposedly goes back to the time when the wine God Bacchus was known a the little “pea.”

Gerry Dishes: My interpretation back in the states of the Guisantes con jamón dish inspired by Albert Raurich at Dos Pebrots: Peas in a white wine, Spanish Extra Virgin Olive oil, water and  bits of jamón Ibérico broth with a fresh egg yolk spooned in at the end.   I bought a bag of Trader Joe's English Peas and started the dish with some tacos de  jamón Ibérico (diced bits jamón Ibérico leftovers that I always buy in the markets to use in dishes) sauteed in some Spanish EVOO, then the peas, then a little white wine, then some water.  I let the peas cook about 2 minutes or so, then took them out, put them in bowls, poured the hot broth in, then spooned a raw egg yolk into each bowl.

Cebolla negra, a Neolithic blackened onion served with garum (the fermented Roman anchovy-fish sauce of legend).  Don't eat the hay underneath even at a attempt to get at the garum--it tastes like hay;

Tortilla unilateral de piñones, a single sided ‘tortilla” (omelette) with perifollo (chervil), garum (I really wanted to try some authentic garum!) and honey, inspired by a recipe from the 1st Century BC.

The parade of dishes--Raurich uses a mix of different antique china pieces (few match, as if they were purchased at Flea Market) as serving plates and bowls--began with the nicely done, but too bland puerros (leeks); then lovely, high quality beberechos (cockles) that were reminiscent of many such dishes in Galicia and the Basque Country cooking; and the exquisite guisantes con jamón, the superb peas with Ibérico ham broth and that egg yolk that is so simple, but one of my favorite sauces.  The peas would be a star dish anyway.

I was looking forward to the roasted cebolla negra, “blackened onion” with garum, which is a dish with great potential, but I found it begged for a more flavorful roasted onion (I love roasted onions) and a more assertive garum sauce, at least as I have long imagined garum.  I brought the gentrified garum up with Raurich later and he promised the next time he will serve me a “brutalgarum.   

Anthony Bourdain and crew finished filming and began to file out past our table to get to their next shoot.  Bourdain stopped to say hello and asked if I was living in Barcelona full-time now. (No.)  And Albert Adrià, the genius—with his brother Ferran—behind Tickets, Bodega 1900, Pakta, Hoja Santa and more), whom I have known since 1997 and with whom I spent a little time at Madrid Fusión the week before and at his places in Barcelona last year, stopped by for abrazos and a few pleasantries.
After the film crew filed out, a server came to our table with pad to protect the surface, a hot cast-iron two handled skillet, a pair of palillos (chopsticks), and the ingredients to whip up table-center using the sticks the 1st Century-inspired tortilla unilateral de piñones, the single sided omelette with chervil, garum (this time the dish called for the more restrained garum) and honey.  It was delicious and one of the most visually attractive dishes on the menu. 

Kay and I had had an incredible lunch that afternoon on a taburete (barstool) at the counter of Quim de la Boquería in La Boquería market, a lunch that had not ended until after five p.m., when my friend Quim Marquéz decided we had had enough dishes of his super-star food and Juve y Camps Pinot Noir Rosat Cava, so we were fine with the dishes we had ordered at Dos Pebrots.   The menu recommends that if you do not have mucha hambre, are not very hungry, you should order only 5-6 plates. 

The Best Girl in the World, my fiancee Kay, at Dos Pebrots, Barcelona, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017

We planned to finish our Raventós i Blanc Blanc de Nits and perhaps get a chance to talk to Albert Raurich once things settled down a bit.  High on the wall over the entrance, so you can see it on your way out, is a humorous PhotoShopped color photograph of the main players at the legendary, now-closed, elBulli.  Looking like a rather roughshod band of fishermen are the now superstars that made elBulli into a legend: chef de cuisine Albert Raurich, my old friend the late Juli Soler, chef Ferran Adrià and chefs Oriol Castro, Mateu Casañas, Eduard Xatruch, and Albert Adrià. 

Now that the Bourdain videotaping ban on approaching the open kitchen had been lifted, I walked up to photograph the Executive Chef Borja García Ordoño, who, sporting some serious neck tattoos, was putting the finishing touches on some dishes.

However, we were not done.  Unordered, but sent out by Raurich, the tetas de cerda Ibérica Maldonado confitado arrived, served on the upturned ceramics “Ibérico” sow with the gelatinous looking rounds of sliced off, grilled tits confit--four of them, each strategically placed along where they might have been on a real pig.  Maldonado is a quality producer of jamones Ibéricos de bellota, hams produced from free-run Ibérico pata negra pigs allowed to graze for two months under the oaks in in the Dehesa de Extremadura D. O. of western Spain.  I am sure Sr. Maldonado´s jamones Ibéricos de bellotain must be stupendous, but these were tetas, acorn flavored or not. And except for the Sherry glass with a side teta chaser of Ibérico broth, this dish supposedly dates back to the Romans, where it must have been the rage at orgies, sliced off real pig carcasses.  It is tempting to guess that the decline of the Roman Empire began precisely with the presumed rise in the popularity of this dish. 

The tetas not withstanding, I found the concept at Dos Pebrots fascinating, a trip down a little-known historical culinary trail that Chef Albert Raurich is blazing and no doubt soon, admiring chefs will soon begin to imitate.   Raurich’s ideas and execution are terrific and the history-based dish ideas will continue to grow as he expands his intellectual pursuit of long-lost culinary concepts.  
Dos Pebrots is indeed a trip back in time, with some very refined modern creative touches from the mind and talent of a great chef. 

Albert Raurich is an amusing, fun-loving guy.  He sat down with us at the end of our meal and began to clown around for these photographs.

Albert Raurich in a pensive moment at Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017.

All photos and texts copyright 2017 by Gerry Dawes.

About Gerry Dawes

 Gerry Dawes at the bar at Marisquería Rafa in Madrid.
Photo by Docsconz (John Sconzo)

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He lived in Spain for eight years, 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 “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective
In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

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