Calçots – They´re Back!

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Calçots – They´re Back!

Calçots from Restaurant Llar de Foc in Gracia

Calçots from Restaurant Llar de Foc in Gracia

There is something so special about the autumn season for me as it has always included many of my favorite things.  It is the chill in the air to break from the hot weather, the turning of the leaves to colors, the nostalgia of the start of the school year,  the American football season in full swing and my favorite holidays: Halloween and Thanksgiving.

But my favorite part are the aromas that come from all of these things.  The cooking of pumpkin pies and turkeys, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, dried leaves burning in the fields, the change of wind coming down from the north and the smell of the barbecue just seem stronger, crisper and more comforting.  In Barcelona, this also means the return of the most unique local barbecue item (also my favorite) – the calçots, a combination spring onion and leek type vegetable.

Traditional yearly calçotada festival in Valls near Tarragona Spain. Photo by @josep_batet

Traditional yearly calçotada festival in Valls near Tarragona Spain. Photo by @josep_batet

It is that time of year…

The calçot season spans from the middle of October to the end of March, give-or-take a week,  even though, the most popular time of year is in January and February. That is when the neighbourhoods and small villages all over Catalunya fill-up with open-fire barbecues of calçots and grilled meats.   Ahhhhh….it is that time of year in Catalunya…calçots and calçotadas (what they call the barbecuing of the calçots) every weekend.

The winter months are when the calçots are the most tasty…when they pretty much melt in your mouth along side a healthy dosing of Romesco sauce.  Winter is also the time when the largest and most traditional calçotadas happen, including the Gran festival in Valls.  Already, you can already find calçots at restaurants and local markets to prepare at home.

But…What are they again?

Fernanda and Ricardo showing us how it is done

Fernanda and Ricardo showing us how it is done

Basically…they are onions leeks but much milder and very sweet once cooked.  The origin of the first calçot is debatable, but locals agree that the tradition comes from the peasants around the area of Valls, near Tarragona.  This is the region where calçots are designated a registered EU Protected Geographical Indication.   The peasants would keep adding extra soil around the onions as they grew out of the ground – so they would grow longer.  This expanded growth is also why they are not as potent as a normal spring onion.

For me, a calçotada is the best example of how much barbecuing is already a big part of the Barcelona tradition.  It is a vegetable that is blacken burnt, scorched directly on an open fire barbecue, then wrapped in newspaper to steam the inside meat of the onion and served on traditional style Mediterranean roof tiles.  To eat, you separate the blacken outside with your hands…leaving the remaining soft insides that you dip into a homemade (or one of the many decent store bought) Romesco sauce by tilting your head back and slinging them into your mouth.  Heaven!

Our ingredients for the Barcelona BBQ

Our ingredients for the Barcelona BBQ

And there is more to the calçotada

Once the calçots eating is underway, they are replaced on the barbecue by large racks of lamb, butifarra (traditional sausages) or other choice cuts of meat.  Picture the incredibly fresh xai (Catalan for lamb)…that was raised in the nearby mountain pastures…brushed with local aceite (virgin olive oil), romero (Rosemary), ojo (garlic) and some comino (cumin)…cooking slowly on the rotisserie…as you slush down more vino tinto (red wine) from the communal porron (glass wine flask).  The entire area is filled with the air of these “earthy” flavors.   The final touch is the stacks of pan con tomate – another amazing but simple traditional plate that highlights the quality of local products; toasted bread, rubbed garlic, crushed tomatoes, virgin olive oil and just a pinch of salt.

Fernanda and Cesar at one of the many local merenderos barbecues that rent space and materials to do your own calçotada.

Fernanda and Cesar at one of the many local merenderos barbecues that rent space and materials to do your own calçotada.

The best part about a calçotada

Something about the winter that just makes drinking wine and huddling around the fire so cozy.  And to do it with a large group of your best friends, family and neighbors…in the fresh country air is even better.  Traditional calçotadas are done at large campsites called merenderos or in a rural masia restaurant – maybe close by the village of Valls, in the wine region of Pendedes, in the mountains around Montseny or in the Collserola hills above Barcelona.  But I have been to calçotadas at the beach in Cala S´Alguer (Costa Brava), on rooftops in the Raval and restaurants big and small in Barcelona.  The point is to be with a big group of people sharing an entire afternoon breaking bread, singing songs and sharing stories.

Bon Profit!

Where to find:

Carol preparing the calçots for the barbecue in Cala S´alguer in the Costa Brava

Carol preparing the calçots for the barbecue in Cala S´alguer in the Costa Brava.  Literally on the sands of the beach.

Restaurant La Llar de Foc

Address: Carrer de Ramon y Cajal, 13, 08012 Barcelona (Gracia)

Phone: 932 84 10 25

Plate of Calçots: 7.90€

 

Masia Mas Coll (Casa Rural)

Address: C/ Mas Coll 3 (Alella)

Phone: +34935553516

 

Font de les Planes (Merenderos)

Address: Carretera de Vallvidrera a Sant Cugat (BV 1462) Km.
08017 Barcelona (Les Planes de Vallvidrera)

Fernanda, Lee and Brian working the barbecue at our Barcelona rooftop Calçotada

Fernanda, Lee and Brian working the barbecue at our Barcelona rooftop Calçotada

Phone: 93 2805949

Estacion FGC: Les Planes

Table Rental (4 personas)


Barbecue Rental


Buy wood


Buy charcoal


10 €


5 €


6 €


5 €


El Merendero Font de Les Planes abre todos los dĂ­as, excepto los martes no festivos, de 9 de la maĂąana a 7 de la tarde.

Open all year.
Hours : 9:00   a  19:00 hs

 

Barbacoa de Begues (Merenderos)

Frank and Brian with the Porron during a Calçatada in Penedes

Frank and Brian with the Porron during a Calçatada in Penedes

Address: Ctra. GavĂ  a Avinyonet/BV-2411 (Begues)

Phone: Jordi: 619 428 756  Carme: 639 312 947

  • 10 € per vehicle, mĂĄx 5 personas.
  • Buy wood  2 € with entrance y without 3’5 €.
  • 3 € per person for vehicles of 2 wheels or walk ins
  • jordi@barbacoabegues.com
  • carme@barbacoabegues.com
  • Hours: 9:00 to 18:00 in fall and winter but use of barbecue until 16:00
     

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