Posts tagged spain
DNO journal- Menorcan Summer

I decided to finally "treat" myself to one whole month in Spain this summer. I split my time between Catalunya and Menorca, with a quick skip over to San Sebastian to visit some friends. I spent my 2 weeks on Menorca taking some immersive Spanish lessons and going on LOTS of hikes. In three visits to the island I've covered most of the perimeter on foot while hiking the Cami de Cavalls. Check out the fun 120mm photos I took with my Holga camera and read about my experience in the latest journal piece for Defend New Orleans. 

Here are a few more pics from my time spent there:

La Vinyeta

Spending a few action packed days in BCN felt like it warranted a weekend excursion up to Costa Brava. The plan was to bounce around from town to town, eating, drinking, swimming, hiking.... well you get it. We chose to start at the most northerly point we would be at and then work our way down the coast. After doing some research on the Empordá wine region I found what appeared to be an awesome small-production winery run by a younger generation of people who were doing things a little differently. 

La Vinyeta is located in the town of Mollet de Peralada, just under an hour to the closest border with France. Upon arriving we walked into a small building that houses pretty much everything. It smelled oddly like tomatoes and we were later told that was because they have a garden and use their tomatoes to make conserves. Downstairs holds the fermentation tanks and bottling machine and just off to the side of that was a separate barrel room. This VERY small winery has 10 people working year round as well as the owners, Josep and Marta. It is clearly a very passionate and driven group of people who work around the clock to get everything done. 

On our tour of the vineyard our host, Alizee told us all about the winery's beginnings (just over 10 years ago) and how the couple met and came to own this property and winery. When they acquired the land there were no vines on it yet so they did all the planting themselves. They did did discover, however, an olive tree grove that had been nicknamed the "dark forest" by the local teenagers. This "dark forest" was apparently a place to make out back in the day before Josep and Marta made it their vineyard. So besides wines and tomato conserves, they also make olive oil! From the vineyard we made it over to the chicken coop which houses over 1000 hens. Apparently the couple wasn't satisfied with the idea of wasting all of the grape refuse post-production so they started using it like a compost between the rows of vines and discovered that birds loved eating it. So why not chickens? They can eliminate waste more easily and now they have eggs to eat and provide to local restaurants.

The tasting the day we went was held outside on the patio overlooking the vineyard and we were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves. All the wines we tasted were incredible and each label had a very personal story. My favorite had to be the Heus line of wines. Heus meaning "once" in Catalan, the label was designed to look like the first page of an old book, it was their way of signifying that this line of wines was young and meant to be drunk early. As the wines progressed, each label had some significance to the owners. If I didn't have to travel so far I would have taken them all home with me. I was so impressed with how dedicated and intimate this project seems. Everyone was so friendly and seemed genuinely happy to be there. It was a great way to start our mini tour of northern Cataluñya.


The first time we went to Cal Pep was when we were in BCN last May. I had heard first hand from friends how great it was and had read numerous reviews touting the same. I looked up the opening time for dinner and made sure to be there 30 minutes early since I had heard the line builds quickly. After a much anticipation we filed in to grab our seat at the long bar facing the chefs and our servers for the evening. I will preface the next part with this- you are not given a menu and we weren't sure if you got to choose any of your meal, whether you spoke Catalan and/or Spanish or not but we decided to go with the flow and just let our server bring us what he thought we would like. The only guidance we gave him was, we eat anything and we want vino blanco. The meal was off to an ok start with padron peppers and a fried mix of seafood. Next came croquettes and then tortilla española. The meal continued along in that fashion, it definitely felt like we had been pegged for a typical tourist. Not to say it wasn't good but looking around at the Spanish and Catalan speaking patrons who were getting razor clams and tuna tartar and steak, we felt a little stereotyped. All in all, the meal was a bit of a let down. The service was excellent, but we obviously hadn't conveyed that we weren't your average Americanos. 

Bringing you to the present, last night we were hoping to make it into El Xampanyet for a late (for us) dinner and to no surprise, it was packed at 9:30pm. So we thought "should we give Cal Pep another go? They will probably be swamped too, but maybe it's worth not writing off just yet." So we head over and it looks like we got lucky, only 9 people were ahead of us in line! Side note- no one in Barcelona is ever in a hurry to turn over seats so 9 people ahead of us meant an hour of waiting. While in line though we made sure to note all the amazing food things that we would insist we wanted. We finally sat around 10:15, the last seating of the night. Our server came up and asked "do you eat everything? may I order you the mix of tapas?" Part of me always wants to say "YES! I love when the server orders for me!" but I knew better here. We had to be more assertive. So we said "we were here a year ago and had a decent meal, but we want something different." We were delighted when he asked us what we actually wanted. We picked out botifarra with beans as well as padron peppers and left the rest to him. What came next was hands down one of our favorite meals in Barcelona. We had confit octopus with potatoes, berberechos in a briney, garlic broth, creamy tortilla española, sauteed spinach and squid and crema catalana. WE ATE IT ALL. We had a fantastic rapport with our waiter, he guided us to all the right places with our meal. At the end, he treated us to shots of an herbal Galician liqueur and cervezas as well as toast with chocolate and sea salt. He tried to keep us longer with offers of more shots and beer and chocolate, but we didn't want to ruin the fantastic feeling of that great meal with a hangover the next morning. 

Needless to say, we couldn't have been more excited and surprised by trying Cal Pep again, it was totally worth the wait!