Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Crashing the Calcotada

Here in Catalonia, it's calcotada season, the time of year when the Catalans feast on calcots to celebrate the arrival of spring. In case you are wondering, calcots (pron: cal-sots) are a local, sweet onion, with a taste and size somewhere between a green onion and a leek.

Not one to miss out on any Catalan traditional festivities, I scoured the interwebs, found a calcotada happening in the nearby neighborhood of Gracia and emailed the organization for tickets.

Upon arrival, we knew we'd found the correct location by the calcots roasting on the barbie outside:

Inside, we were welcomed with the typical Spanish appetizer buffet plus local vermouth in plastic cups:

When all the old ladies hurried to get a good seat in front of the telly showing last year's calcotada, we began to think we were perhaps a bit out of place. 

As it turns out, this was a semi-private annual party and we were the only strangers in the group. Fortunately, they were a warm bunch and treated us as guests to their neighborhood gathering.

We took our seats in the converted high school gymnasium as Jeremy and Guilia prepped for the onslaught of onions...

The calcots were bought to the table, fresh-off-the-grill, in bundles wrapped in newpaper...

To eat them, you first strip the outer layers...

Then, you dip the calcot into the fantastically-delicous romesco sauce (recipe below)...

And lower the onion into your mouth.

After finishing our 20 or so calcots, we thought that was it. But how wrong we were!

The calcots, at a calcotada, are only the first course. Next, comes plate after plate of various types of meat. First, the butifarra (sausage):

Next, the grilled pork and then, lamb chops. Guilia is on her fourth plate of pork and having a hard time stomaching any more.

They also brought many bottles of wine and cava....

...and wrapped things up shots of whiskey, dessert, mandarines and coffee.

Side note: the guy below was so impressed by our American friend Jeremy's Catalan, he offered up his is Barca season passes for a game (but that's another story). 

My favorite part of the calcotada was meeting this 94-year-old woman and finding out that her family owns the cava company of the cava we were drinking. She showed me a portrait from her youth on the cap:

It was a pretty fantastic event by all accounts. We met lots of really nice people, ate lots of delicious food, and left with the secret recipe to the romesco sauce. Score.

Catalan Romesco Sauce
*Delicious on salads, fish and chicken

4 ripe tomatoes
50 grams of toasted almonds
50 grams of toasted hazelnuts
head of garlic
slice of bread
2 hot peppers
chilli pepper
olive oil, vinegar, salt 

Put the three peppers in water and soak for several hours. Then, peal the skins off the pulp.
Fry the bread in olive oil and let drain on a paper towel. 
Roast the tomatoes and garlic in the oven until completely roasted. Then peal off all the skins.
Put all the ingredients into a blender, including the nuts, and blend until the texture is smooth. Add olive oil, vinegar and salt to your tasting. Enjoy hot or cold!


  1. Hey!! Hey!! We did that OUT of season at the lunch joint somewhere near that square, you know, in Barca! I'll bet yours were even better this time! My mouth is dripping (figuratively).

    How do you guys fit all this in??? You still look fit and skinny!

    Much Love, E

  2. Two things:
    First, the picture of that women and her bottle cap is absolutely priceless! She melts my heart, (yellow fingernail and all!)

    Second, what was for dessert??!!


  3. Izzy!

    This is great! I had tons of fun with you, Ted, and Guilia that day - reading this and seeing the pictures brings back some good memories.