Barcelona’s tapas bars lure sensation-seeking chefs
TOURS of duty: Simon Johnson, purveyor of food treats and staples across the country, is just back from two working pleasure trips. He chatted with FoodDetective within days of his return from New York; before that he was at Barcelona’s biennial food fair, Alimentaria. Spain, it seems, is the flavour of the moment. Johnson tells Detective, ‘‘ You would run into everyone (including chefs Sean Connolly and Frank Camorra, cheeseman Will Studd) at the fair and going to the same restaurants.’’ Tapas bar Inopia, he says, is the Barcelona buzz.
‘‘ Traditional tapas bar Cal Pep has a long history,’’ Johnson says, ‘‘ but it’s just churning the food out and, unless you have a good grasp of Spanish or are with a local, it’s all tourist dishes.’’
Inopia serves tapas with a twist: a whole sheep’s-milk cheese that you eat by dipping crostini into it, or ‘‘ tiny, tiny baby squid flashed through a pan, with their ink’’ and Iberico ham that is not aged but fresh and salted, then poached (like Paris ham); with fat marbled like wagyu, it’s served with oil and smoked paprika.
Albert Adria, brother of El Bulli’s Ferran Adria, is Inopia’s owner and chef. Johnson also ate at El Bulli: ‘‘ Thirty tiny courses, which came quickly and were delicious and perfect.’’ And only one with foam: a fish topped with aroma-packed elderflower foam. www.alimentaria-bcn.com; www.barinopia.com; www.elbulli.com. ■ SERGE Dansereau, of The Bathers’ Pavilion at Sydney’s Balmoral Beach, has also been out and about. He visited his home town, Montreal, and later met up with Johnson in New York. Dansereau tells Detective he travels in search of ideas and says just three days in New York was enough to inspire. The big thing there is organic and biodynamic: the huge chain Wholefoods (with eight wheels of Reggiano in the cheese section and a 20-chef Japanese restaurant inside the main store) has about 100 outlets. The pair ate at Lupa, Balthazar, Bouchon and big-night-out Chanterelle, where the handwritten menus gave Dansereau ideas for home. www.batherspavilion.com.au. ■ IN New York, Johnson was lured by homeware venues such as The Conran Shop and thinks he may go down that path with his stores here; if people don’t want the things he brings in, he says, he will just keep them. www.simonjohnson.com. ■ CHEF Camorra of Melbourne’s MoVida flew out last weekend, headed again for the land of his birth, Spain, in search of inspiration. His favourite address in Barcelona? Also Inopia. The tapas bar has a quirky sense of humour, he tells Detective ; it’s evident in an entrance wrapped in red tape and eccentric, shouted announcements when a dish runs out. www.movida.com.au. ■ THE country is aglow with Starlight, with the launch of this year’s Starlight Children’s Foundation’s Five Chefs Dinners. Every year 600,000 children, many with lifethreatening conditions, are admitted to Australian hospitals. Starlight aims to work with all these children (it’s now one in three) by 2010. The fundraising dinner series, launched in Sydney last week, will continue in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. Going into action at Sydney’s Four Seasons Hotel, the five chefs donated their energies, whipping up a confit of Petuna trout ( Luke Mangan of Glass), scallop ravioli with celeriac cream (Melbourne’s Guy Grossi, Grossi Florentino) and duck omelet with broth ( Peter Evans of Hugo’s). Four Seasons’ Carl Middleton slow-roasted New Zealand venison and served it with almond butter, beetroot and textured chocolate. And Justin North ( Becasse) did a trio of lush desserts. Everything was donated, from the talent to the venue, food, wine and prizes. The effort raised about $600,000. Brisbane’s dinner is on Tuesday at Sofitel Brisbane, with a kitchen phalanx that will include Restaurant 2’ s David Pugh and Russell Armstrong of Seasalt at Armstrongs. Melbourne’s turn comes around at Grand Hyatt on June 19. Sheraton Perth will be the host on August 7 and, finally, Hyatt Regency Adelaide on August 28. www.starlight.org.au. ■ CHEESE groundbreaker Studd, in his usual generous style, donated no-holdsbarred cheeses for the Sydney dinner, including a 500g round of triple cream Rouzaire Brillat Savarin for every table. Detective chatted with Studd on the steps of the Four Seasons after the do and before he set off the next day to join Tetsuya Wakuda on the big Japanese cheese hunt ( Food Detective, May 24-25). Studd says the two have been talking about the trip for years. It will form a segment in Studd’s Cheese Slices, which is being filmed for the LifeStyle Channel and will air later this year. So, although Wakuda will be leading the way in Japan, Studd is the original mover and stirrer. The new series will visit cheesemakers in England, Sardinia, Quebec, the US, Portugal and Cyprus. ■ AFTER last weekend’s success with their growers market at Brisbane’s South Bank, Granite Belt Wine Country organisers are hoping to bring the Granite Belt Growers Market to town every season. Michelle Cozzi tells Detective GBWC is 1000m up and even though it’s in Queensland, it has seasons. With August and November markets in mind for this year, spring and summer produce will be on offer. Queensland food writer Kerry Heaney reports on her blogspot that at the market’s first outing some stalls sold out by 11am. www.granitebeltwinecountry.com.au. ■ PIETRO Demaio, Calabrian-born slow food aficionado, food producer and author, will be guest of honour at a four-course lunch at Melbourne’s Grossi Florentino. Chef Grossi is devising the menu and there’ll be reminiscences and recipes. Lunchers will leave with a signed copy of Grossi’s MyItalianHeart and Demaio’s Preserving theItalianWay. June 18, 12.30pm. $100 (or $95 for Slow Food Melbourne members). (03) 9662 1811; firstname.lastname@example.org. ■ CASA Barilla, the new cooking school in Sydney’s Annandale, is offering readers 25 per cent off its courses in June, July and August. Classes include seafood, baking, fresh pasta making, Italian regions and more. From $85. www.barillaaus.com/ recipes/school/courses. The first 25 to email email@example.com with ‘‘ Travel & Indulgence Offer’’ in the subject line will receive the discount. ■ FIND of the week: Six generations of the Paech family have worked at Beerenberg Farm at Hahndorf, South Australia, and they are still coming up with fresh ideas. The latest are fig and cinnamon jam, strawberry and mint jam and orange and poppyseed marmalade, all natural and made on the farm. About $4 from supermarkets. ■ DETECTIVE loathes: Pre-packed fresh salad leaves that aren’t. ■ DETECTIVE loves: The LifeStyle Channel’s down-on-the-farm reality show Jimmy’s FarmDiaries. Jimmy Doherty reclaims a derelict English farm and sets out to raise rare-breed pigs; a gaggle of Wessex saddlebacks roaming free in the forest is a sight to see. First adventure in the third series on June 8, 7.30pm. www.lifestylechannel.com.au.
Getting ideas: Serge Dansereau