El Celler de Can Roca – all the food that’s fit to eat

“Did we really just eat for four hours?” I asked, as we polished off the last of four dessert dishes, an arrangement of distinctly-flavored chocolate strips leading to a neat heap of crispy chocolate crumble.

An eruption of giggles. It was a giggly experience. From the amuse-bouches that kept coming four courses in — “our bouches are duly amused,” one of us observed; to the waitress who began to say with a giggly, giddy urgency, how hot the soup bowl she had started to serve us from, was. Helped by her colleague, she hurriedly found the side-table on which to place the soup bowl, but the theatrics of it all, combined with the fun of dressing up for the dinner, still had us in giggles for a full minute after.

Three brothers: one specialized in breads (the wine bread was my favorite, suave in taste in fine contrast to the indulgent flavors of our sixth-of-a-day long epicurean experience) but also in sweets and confectionery, served from a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-style candy cart that rolled towards us as the waiters rounded up the last of our plates. The second brother a sommelier, and the third, head chef.

Office of the Roca brothers. Squint to see a photo of them on the left. Mexican sake ‘Nami’, to the right.

Psychedelic. Magic mountains of white asparagus heads emerged vertically from a lake of asparagus-loaded garum sauce, dotted with pickled, yes, asparagus. A smack in the mouth with all the ways asparagus could be, beyond your wildest dreams. All served on the same plate.

In an earlier course, miniature bonsai trees required that we picked olives off them to eat: the green ‘olives’, cold and sweet, were olive-flavored ice-cream; the brown ones, hot and savory, were a black-olive tempura-shelled tapenade (!) It was like Alice in Wonderland, with the scale a bit off (olive trees that fit on dinner tables), cutlery irregularly curled, and the paradox of choice – black olive hot; green olive cold, both options consumed in the end.

Excerpt from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

The most surreal experience of all was our repeated underestimation of the capacities of our bellies. Each time we thought we couldn’t possibly fit any more food, our dishes would be cleared, next wine introduced and served, plates and cutlery placed, introductory spiel to new dish given, and there we would be, relishing it like it was the first course of the evening. This was the case particularly with the desserts.

Our worlds collided. At least four of us at our table of eight were fans of the 90s Jim Henson show, The Dinosaurs, and a dessert of liquefied cucumber, cardamom, apple, fennel, and eucalyptus came accompanied with dinosaur-stemmed silverware. The silverware broke all rules of usability, but only if your understanding of silverware is simply ‘tools to eat with’. For us, they contributed to some of the most resonant giggles of the evening. Not only did we find a home for them on the strategically placed rocks that served as table centerpieces, but our dinosaurs formed partnerships and communities, traveling across the table and along their partners’ backs, before being picked up by their chubby sculpted stems to tackle our desserts. “I don’t use my juicy salif to juice lemons,” star designer Philippe Starck once quipped of his lemon juicer design, “I use it to start conversations.”

What one wouldn’t give to be a fly on the tablecloth during a dinner at Celler de Can Roca, a gastronomic experience designed to maximize delight, hearty mealtime conversation, and giggles.

crouching tiger; hidden dragon. Or maybe just dinosaurs.

Thanks to Anna for the pictures of the food. So busy was I eating that I forgot to document some of my favorite dishes. Like the magic asparagus mountains that ensure I’ll never look at asparagus the same way again.

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