Hola mis amigos!
We have shaken things up a lot following our trip to Spain in June! The crew have all returned brimming with ideas, inspiration and new tattoos [not me]. Head Chef Bouwer has pretty much ripped up the old menu and introduced many new delicious plates that are a riff on what really moved us while we were away. That doesn't mean to say that I have managed to duck out of my daily bread making duties. Nor have your favourites disappeared: the goats' cheese croquetas or the lamb and fig tagine ...
Spanish Research Group 2019
Our Spanish research trip, a very long time in planning, saw our winemakers, bar manager, maitre'D, Chef and myself take a month to get back to the basics (no tents involved to be honest). We were joined by more staff members at varying points on our journey.
It started off in Ibiza with the Heart Ibiza experience - an unbeatable combination of the Adria brothers (of El Bulli fame) and Cirque du Soleil, gifted to all of us thanks to the fabulous people at Estrella Damm, Barcelona.
The Heart Ibiza Experience began with a guided tour in groups of four through a hall of mirrors whilst you clutch what looks like a vintage cardboard little ticket, which you suddenly realize is edible. A back-stage pass walks you through groups of performers playing cards, applying makeup and tinkling on a piano. Upstairs, in a circus themed verandah overlooking the sea, the canapés began; all served by performers from Cirque du Soleil. The menu was designed by Ferran and Albert Adria. Long-stemmed roses were presented to all on arrival, with an edible berry pearl containing a vodka heart nestled in the petals. Raw oysters on glowing ice; truffle brioche; tarragon waffles; huitlacoche quesadillas [google this!]; a conch shell containing caviar, quail egg and gambas [prawns] with fiery tails were all delivered hilariously by burlesque-dressed performers, sometimes hanging from wires above. Performances whirled around us at all times.
The main meal began an hour later with a series of 14 plates all served so crazily circus - amusing, so very creative and beyond delicious. Almond milk and more caviar. Josper wagyu beef rib eye. Rubia Gallega and reganas. And SEVEN different desserts ... At the same time, a full-on intense circus performance carried on giddliy around and above you... loud, colourful and death-defying somersaulting, dance, trapeze walking, a strobe lighting extravaganza of sensory input. We left hours later, 3 am, into a balmy night by the beach, stole a naughty swim in the pool and fell into bed. What a start!
Mad for all things art nouveau [the Casita Miro dining room is based upon these principles], Barcelona is always a mecca for us. Wanting a more intimate glimpse into hidden buildings and a deeper understanding of the times that gave the world Gaudi and Jujol, the Casita Miro team engaged a professor of design and history from Barcelona University to walk us into some absolutely stunning buildings off the beaten track that showcase the apex of craft movement of the early 1900's. Mosaics, architecture, parquetry, iron work, stained glass, sculpture and visual arts expressed in this period reflect the times where the natural world of trees, insects, birds, fish and flowers were represented in furniture, flooring, wallpapers, door handles, architecture and the fine arts.
These visual motifs came to prominence in this period, also known as modernism, and then, during General Franco's time, fell into disfavour as representative of a so-called frivolous and elitist past. Many building frontages were defaced or destroyed. Interior mosaics were boarded over and gracious rooms were turned into a rabbit warren of smaller rooms. The word 'gaudy' in English was a direct attack/derision against Antoni Gaudi's body of work, derided for its exuberant colour and naturalist design which was said to be naive. Almost 100 years later, these brilliant works are now revered and celebrated. Barcelona has probably the worlds best examples of works from this period, culminating in the Sagrada Familia, still under construction, which is astonishingly scheduled for completion only 7 years away.
A fast train to Madrid began our gastronomic research. Flamenco with dinner? Yes please. Our restaurants were carefully researched and booked well in advance, as Madrid is a mecca of the food world at the moment. We dined in street markets, Michelin starred venues and honest cheap tapas restaurants. The plates were resoundingly delicious, the service was uniformly excellent and the wine lists were proudly Spanish. We visited food emporiums and chefs shops. Chef Rensha purchased a hand-crafted Jamon knife which she cradled protectively for the rest of the trip. It often got her into trouble at baggage x-rays, even at the train stations.
Seville was next, the highlight being exploring the remains of a ceramics factory that produced the awesome eucaustic and art nouveau tiles that we so adore. Their portfolio was not a printed one, it was an entrance atrium tiled in every single different tile they produced. You had to visit and chose the design you wanted. They made our mouths water!
The very hard work began in Jerez de la Frontera where we visited the sherry producers that we have worked with for many years. These relationships are very important to us. Knowing the people and the history of each bodega [winery] gives a depth and resonance to our offerings that is so fulfilling. The Spanish style of business is very personal and takes hours, often involving tastings of up to 20 sherries, followed by extravagant meals matched with more sherries and then barrel tastings. Casita Miro works with small, family-centric, quality driven producers who all have a similar outlook to ourselves.
Gutierrez Colosia has opened a quirky restaurant! Daughter, Carmen, is in the ascendant!
The house of Urium, mandates salsa dancing in the barrel room after the amontillado! This amontillado is perhaps the best wine in the world ... no exaggeration at all.
We were hugely impressed by bodegas Ximenez-Spinola's accomplishment in creating a new PX denomination with the EU, the Spanish government and the appellation of Jerez for both their PX district in Jerez AND for their very special PX sherry vinegar region; these sherries I am sure you have all tasted and were blown away by them.
Our next sherry order will be with us in time for Christmas. We are working on an especially groovy sherry flight, each sherry to be paired with wee food pairings, in the traditional manner.
Flamenco is everywhere in Andalusia, and I was very tempted by all the gorgeous spotty dresses that I saw. I wished to bring them home, one in every colour. Our Maitre'D, Kim Elliot, persuaded me that these would be too hot to wear whilst charging around at Casita Miro. The wildly passionate music and dance is performed on the streets, in formal setting and in caves [Granada]. We drank our full of this visceral art form and hope to present you some of our favourites, soon.
A few days in Majorca wrapped up our month. I had never been to Joan Miro's studio in Palma. He spent the last three decades of his life here, fleeing the oppressive Franco regime. His great friend, the architect Josep Lluís Sert, designed a studio space for him after a very lengthy consultation via letter. The buildings demonstrate Serts reverence for traditional Mediterranean building techniques and materials in their native context. His design incorporated brise soleils inspired by his work with Le Corbusier in Paris and concrete walls typical of modernist architecture, but wherever possible Sert used natural, local materials like Mallorcan stone and clay tiles, while the studio’s shelving and furniture were made of local woods and palm fibers. In a 1954 letter Sert assured Miró, “I think you’ll like it … it’s the kind of building that will fit in with the landscape.”
The complex comprises a main building exhibiting 6000 works donated by the artist, including paintings and sculptures, a library, a sculpture garden, Miró's studio, and the Finca Son Botit. It is an intimate and personal glimpse into the workings of his mind, muses and work, and his love of line work and earth and the natural world.
Miró once said,“I want everything to stay as it is here after I’m gone.” A palette with paint that was enclosed in a picture frame after Miró’s death has been returned to its worktable. It felt like Miró could appear at any moment, pick up this palette, and get to work. Loved it!
Book your end of year work or Christmas function now!
And now, a little joke or two...
On our current Casita staff, we have some new Dads. So, in celebration of this we have included a few of our favourite Dad jokes. Sorry....
* I once bought a dog from a blacksmith. As soon as I got home, he made a bolt for the door
* Why did the pony ask for a glass of water? Because he was a little horse.
* Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other: "Does this taste funny to you?
* I got mugged by six dwarves last night. Not Happy
Salud dear darlings