After spending two days living in a villa with a private chef in Besalu, how could my week get any better? By going to a party at a 12th century castle catered by the second best restaurant in the world and a whole team of castellers to entertain me, of course!
As I boarded the bus that would take me to this fabulous party at Sant Gregori Castle, I was handed a map. A map of my dinner to be more precise. Yes, you read that right. My dinner came with a map! A whole room on the second floor of the castle was dubbed simply “Iberian Ham”, while other areas of the map indicated there would be a cheese buffet, risotto, barbeque, and lots and lots of wine. And it was all being catered by El Cellar de Can Roca, voted number two by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Shortly after arriving, corks were popped and Cava was served round. Appetizers such as veggie chips, figs topped with foie gras and served in funky-looking soup spoons (a personal favorite of mine), and skewers of cherry tomatoes and mozzarella made their way through the crowd on silver trays.
And then the crowd parted in excited anticipation as the Castellers de Vilafranca prepared to amaze us with their castells (human towers). A Catalan tradition that has evolved since the 18th century, there are about 400 active castellers of all ages and they perform all over the world. The castellers first got warmed up with a four person pilar, in which is there one person per level.
Next, they really began to wow us (and our Cava had been refilled) with four people at each level in a tower of five levels. I stood happily sipping Cava, eating figs with foie gras, and snapping away as castellers fearlessly scaled up the human tower.
And the castellers proved they could build a tower higher still as they quickly assembled a tres de sis amb folre: three people per level in a tower of six levels, with a second-level base. We all clapped and cheered as the castellers shimmied down and all their tower attempts were declared descarregat (the tower is completed to the top and successfully dismantled).
Finally the door to the castle was opened and I made a beeline for the stairs and headed straight to the ham room. My map did not deceive me! There was indeed an entire room on the second floor of the castle devoted entirely to ham. As I made my way from room to room, waiters began passing round main dishes. Cherry soup? Yes, please! Mango topped with goat cheese? Of course!
“Oh my God!” Deb of The Planet D said as she spotted me. “Have you tried the campari balls?” Just then a waiter passed by and she grabbed some off the tray for me to try. I popped the little pink sugary ball into my mouth and it immediately burst, releasing the cool liquid. Yes, that was ah-mazing.
Every few minutes a waiter would come by with some new amazing creation from the kitchen. Crusty bread with caviar topped with a quail egg, lobster…what would be next? “These are bacon-wrapped bananas,” the waiter said in heavily accented English. What? I must not have heard right. “Bacon-wrapped bananas?”, I questioned. He nodded. I’d had bacon-wrapped dates at Cafe Babareeba in Chicago and loved them, so why not give a bacon-wrapped banana a try? And then I quickly snatched two more. They were that good.
As the party wound down, we were ushered back outside for dessert. Table after table of desserts. Skewered fresh fruit, chocolate lava cakes, and lime ice cream with a chocolate cigar. Already stuffed full of figs and bacon-wrapped bananas, I opted for ice cream topped with berries and then resisted all other offers of sweets while making a beeline back to the bus.
What an amazing meal and party! The experience really made me want to return to Girona just to have a meal at El Celler de Can Roca. *Tasting menu available for €135 per person and reservations are required.
Thank you to the Costa Brava Girona Tourism Board for hosting such a fabulous party and to the 3 Roca brothers for their invention of bacon-wrapped bananas. As always, all opinions are my own.