I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Showing posts with label Restaurant. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Restaurant. Show all posts

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Eating in Paris (and Dijon)

The number one reason I couldn't wait to go to Paris? To eat. And drink wine. And then do it all over again.

If I have to be 100% honest, the food on this trip wasn't overall as mind-blowing as what I remember eating in Barcelona. However, every single restaurant seemed to have solid, delicious food--even the touristy spots. I was rarely disappointed with a dish and never dissatisfied with a meal. Plus there were a few dishes that were among the best I've ever eaten. Really, can you go wrong when foie gras, escargot, oysters, sweetbreads, bone marrow and cheese are found on most every menu you see? The answer is a resounding "no".

Septime
I made this reservation for us for our first night in Paris. I knew we probably wouldn't want to just wander around hoping for a good meal after such a long plane ride and I have heard amazing things about this place. For good reason. The first two courses were seriously some of the best dishes I have ever eaten. Specifically the first dish was unlike anything I've tried: raw fish topped with goat cheese (!) hazelnuts, mushroom granita, anise. And the follow-up was supremely tender baby leeks with speck, poached egg, leek puree and perfect bread crumbs (there is such a thing as perfection in this simple ingredient). Unfortunately I became suddenly very sick by the 3rd course and couldn't stick around to finish out the meal. The staff were so helpful and wrapped up my veal steak for me to take home and got the husband his dessert as he took care of the bill. Unsure what happened (allergic reaction? plane food catching up to me??) but very disappointed to not be able to finish this one out. The wine and champagne were also possibly the best we had on the trip (wine was Les Foulards Rouge, La Soif du Mal, Cotes du Roussiollon 2011).

Vivant Table
The only other reservation we had for the trip. Beautiful space (in an old exotic bird shop), friendly staff, food that was not anything fancy or shocking but was perfectly executed in every step.

VDB
We stumbled upon this wine bar one night looking for a simple snack and some wine for dinner after a huge lunch. One of the other clients at the bar asked how we found the place and when we let him know we just walked by and thought it looked like our type of place he told us: "You are so lucky." Casual, with excellent wine and simple yet delicious nibbles, we felt like we were in our favorite neighborhood joint back at home. Highly recommend.

Inaro

Yet another place we were insanely lucky to stumble into. A wine bar with a simple menu divided up by how long you'd like to stick around (i.e. "here just for an hour", "here for the night", etc.). We had just had dinner so only wanted some wine but our server told us he had the best cheesecake in Paris. With that bold statement we knew we would return another night to try it out and I can say that it is absolutely delicious, with an unbelievable crust. The cheese/meat/cured fish board was perfectly curated. The vibe is like you are passing the evening at your best friend's home.

Cafe Roussillon


On the north end of Rue Cler street market. Classic, hearty fare. Huge portion of gorgeous bone marrow with grey salt.

Berthillon




The ice cream gets a lot of attention, but somehow all of the good reviews did not prepare me for how perfect this ice cream is. Honestly have never had better. Salted caramel for me and wild strawberry for the husband.

Mireille Meringues
133 Rue Vielle du Temple
I love meringues and these were the most beautiful I saw in all of Paris. Huge piles with a variety of fun flavors.

Munoz Traiteur
33 Rue Rambuteau
A small shop in the Marais that sells many prepared foods. A great stop before a picnic or if  you are having a dinner party, if you are so lucky to live in Paris. Right next door to a bakery since you'll want some bread with that. I highly recommend the "Foie Gras Cone" filled with black truffles. Not to shabby for a picnic along the Seine.

Le Blanc Cassis









6 Rue du Petit-Thouars
A lovely spot for an aperitif. Perhaps a kir, rose, or absinthe?

Paris-Peche
At the top of the Marche d'Aligre, this fishmonger has a few tables and serves up oysters and seafood pulled right off their market shelves. They have an oyster special where you get 6 oysters, a glass of white wine, bread and flavored butters for 11 Euros. Lovely spot for people watching as well.

Bozart Bistrot
9 Rue JP Timbaud, 11th arrond.
Our last night in Paris we wanted to make sure to have an amazing meal. When we walked by this place, we knew that's what we would get. Scallop carpaccio with passionfruit vinaigrette, tartine with goat cheese, smoked duck and poached egg, cod crusted with chorizo: it was all good. Charming service, changing local art on the walls, regulars sharing wine at the bar, perfect cheese for dessert. Exactly the note we wanted to leave Paris on.

Grill and Cow
In Dijon, next to Les Halles in the old part of town. The decor is cheesy, and I probably never would have chosen to eat here if it wasn't Sunday and everywhere else was closed, but surprisingly the food was really good and I would recommend it to others passing through Dijon. Excellent steak and you get to choose from a large variety of sauces to accompany your meal (like an Epoisses sauce or Au Poivre).

Le Bistrot de L'Amiral
In Dijon. The man who ran the restaurant, the bar, and served us was warm, friendly and had a long conversation with everyone who was eating here. So pleasant and inviting. Lots of great classic Burgundy dishes, especially fond of the escargot in a Epoisses sauce.

E. Dehillerin

























Of course we couldn't visit Paris without a trip to the well-known kitchen supply store. I came away with a couple of escargot dishes for our future French meals at home.


I'll leave you with a bit more French food porn:
In heaven oggling the cheeses at Marie-Anne Cantin (off of Rue Cler)

Seriously.
So many types of poultry and all more gorgeous than any we see in the states.

French breakfast radishes. 

Farmer's market fish stall.

Farmer's market cheese stall.
Pastries for breakfast.
Cake filled with a creamy, pudding-like interior, topped with crunchy sugar bits? Ok.

I'm obviously into that.


Making our Breton crepe at the Bastille Farmer's Market.

And enjoying said crepe. 

Picnic behind Notre Dame.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spring Bow Tie Pasta

This week I went to see "Through a Glass Darkly" at the New York Theatre Workshop featuring Carey Mulligan. As I was standing in line for the bathroom after the show a random stranger started talking to me about Mulligan's performance. "She's very good, isn't she? And very young. Hopefully someone will find her down here." I didn't have the energy to explain to this woman that Ms. Mulligan has already been "found", being nominated for an Oscar for her stunning performance in "An Education" and for a Drama Desk for "The Seagull". She's definitely insanely talented for someone her age, giving a haunting, honest and brutal portrayal of a woman losing her grip with reality in this show. But she is far from being an unknown.

The woman went on to tell me about this girl she once saw years ago in "Frankie and Jonny in the Clair de Lune" in another small theatre downtown. She told her husband at the time, "it's too bad this girl won't ever go anywhere." That girl was Kathy Bates. D'oh.

There is something so invigorating about seeing someone so young with such a burgeoning talent. It's a thrill to know you will get to watch this person's career grow and to have high expectations (if you aren't the crazy bathroom stranger) of what they will bring to the table in the future.

Discovering a new chef or a young restaurant is quite the same feeling. How exciting to walk into a place that you've stumbled upon where you haven't read review after review of, or seen multiple blog posts extolling its virtues. It's a rare thing to find such a place in this city, as there are more food blogs and reviewers than actual restaurants (and that's saying something).

Just as there are a few young performers whose name will draw me into anything they do, there are a few chefs I've found that will keep me coming back for more, despite not having a household name (yet, at least). Before hitting up the play the other night, Joe and I came upon one of these places in The Redhead, with chef Meg Grace. It's not brand new, and has been reviewed by the Times, among many others, but it was new to us (and I didn't see those reviews until after we dined there, so there was no clouding of my judgement). The cuisine is inspired by Louisiana and sourced seasonally from the farmer's market, making a truly comforting yet creative meal. I look forward to going back again and following Meg Grace's career.

These brushes with greatness bring about the spark of personal inspiration as well. How thrilling to experience their talent and then allow that to work within you and see what comes out. It is wonderful to learn and grow from those around you, regardless of age and fame.

This meal was made before the evening in discussion, so was not influenced by that night, but was brought about by a trip to the Union Square Greenmarket and the inspiration found in its bounty. It is simple but layered with delicious seasonal flavors, and perhaps will make you want to follow my own career to come... ;-)

Spring Bow Tie Pasta
4-5 servings

10 oz. bow tie pasta
8 oz. chopped oyster mushrooms
1/2 c. shelled and cleaned fava beans
1/4 c. finely chopped garlic scapes
3 TB olive oil
6 TB butter
5 anchovies
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
1/2-3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the bow tie pasta as directed. Make sure to reserve a little of the pasta cooking water before draining.

Heat a skillet with 2 TB olive oil over medium high heat. Once hot add the oyster mushrooms. Cook until browned and slightly crispy around the edges, stirring occasionally, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the mushrooms to a plate, reserving the oil in the pan.
Add 1 TB more olive oil to the skillet if necessary (if there isn't a lot left over after cooking the mushrooms). Add the garlic scapes and cook until they begin to be slightly tender, about 3 minutes. Then add in the fava beans and cook for about 1-2 minutes more. Then add in the butter and the anchovies. Cook until the butter has melted and the anchovies have broken up and dissolved (using a spoon and crushing the anchovies to help this process along). Add the mushrooms back to the pan and turn off the heat.

Add the lemon juice and a little salt and pepper to the mushroom/fava bean mixture. Then add in the pasta, with a tablespoon or two of the pasta cooking water. Toss together until the pasta is well coated. Then toss in the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When it is Just Too Much

New York City can will kick your ass.

There are the days where you will never catch the train, where you get screamed at and called a bitch because you were walking down the street. Where you hear a parent yelling at their child just for making a funny face and you are on the edge of tears because there are so many people begging on the trains and streets that you just can't help even a fraction of them. Where it is so damn hot can't bear the thought of the subway platform or so cold that the wind whipping through the avenues off the Hudson makes you feel like you've landed in Antarctica. Where the customers you are serving treat you like you are worthless because of your chosen vocation. Where it is all just so overwhelming that you break down and cry on the train in front of one hundred strangers.

But when you can't take another punch and feel like you are loosing your grip, New York City will let up and show you mercy.

There are the fleeting connections to a stranger based on a passing occurrence and acknowledged by only eye contact and a slight smile. That block where by some magic you find ten seconds of complete silence. The multitude of visiting friends and relatives (that never would visit if you lived somewhere like Madison, WI). The fact that it is acceptable to have a martini with lunch. Stepping down onto the platform right as the train pulls into the station. A perfect weather day spent lying on the grass in Prospect Park. An art exhibit or play that challenges your world. The 5th drink buy-back at your favorite bar. The impromptu, amazing street performance that moves all those viewing to feel suddenly like long-lost friends.

And sometimes the city gives you food. Maybe like completely fresh Thai dumplings prepared on the street (as a one time only deal) by Pure Thai Shophouse at the 9th Ave. International Food Festival.
The dumpling wrapper was made right there on the street when you ordered them and then filled with a slightly sweet, crispy, and peanut flavored meat. Not quite like any dumpling I've ever had before.
Right when you are on the verge of giving up on the city, it reminds you why it would be almost unimaginable to live anywhere else.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dough

I feel like there is little better than a freshly made yeast donut in the morning. Fluffy, sweet--like a pillow for your tongue. Perhaps such a sugar rush isn't the breakfast of champions and won't fuel you for a tough day, but the joy they bring will carry you along long after you are finished eating and the sugar crash passes.

I have felt for a long time that New York City is lacking in its donut quality. Growing up in Kansas I had many opportunities for fresh baked/fried doughy goodness. I lived one town over from a Daylight Donuts where I specifically remember once having a rather enjoyable time with friends after-after-prom noshing on some perfect glazed with a cup of coffee. I still smile seeing the old building, unchanged, when I go home to visit today. In high school and college I also happened to work for a large chain supermarket and would always stop by the bakery department before starting my early morning shifts. The dough in these donuts was never as good as that at Daylight Donuts, but they were always extra fresh that early in the morning, making up for their density. I probably had donuts for breakfast at least twice a week thanks to their proximity.

After moving to New York, the only donuts I remember seeing for the longest time where those in the street vendor carts in the mornings. They never looked very appealing. Then there was the Doughnut Plant, which was a revelation, but was never very convenient for me to get to. Now, however? There is Dough in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Close enough to walk to (perhaps it is a bit of a walk, but when you are eating sugar for breakfast is this a bad thing?). And these may just be some of my favorite donuts ever.

Everyone, including the NY Times, is talking about the glazes that Dough offers: hibiscus, blood orange, toasted coconut, chocolate chipotle, dulce de leche. The glaze flavors are creative and well-executed. Deep in flavor, decadent, they truly make for an exciting wake-up call for your taste buds. I especially am fond of the toasted coconut (simply covered in mounds of the stuff) and the hibiscus, which was a flavor unlike any that I have had before. The chocolate glaze is rich and so lovely, but I feel like the amount of it could be cut down because it slightly drowns out the dough of the donut--which is honestly the best part about this place. An apt name for their establishment, their "Dough" is completely light and airy, not too sweet, and soft. Which makes the glazed donut here my absolute favorite and the one I will return for over and over again, despite the array of creative flavors at hand.*

*Although, I'll probably have the glazed right alongside of a couple of those flavored donuts each time--because who can only eat one donut?? Not this girl.
Clockwise, from top-left: glazed; hibiscus, chocolate with cocoa nibs, cafe au lait.
Dough
305 Franklin Ave. (at Lafayette)
Brooklyn, NY 11205
347-533-7544

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Barcelona, Part 3: Days 3.5-6

As the last post was epic, I'm going to try to keep this one to a more manageable size. We'll see if I succeed...
Paco Meralgo (Carrer Muntaner 171, Eixample, http://www.pacomeralgo.com/ing/home.html)
We made the trip up to the Eixample (getting slightly turned around on the way) for this restaurant as it was recommended by almost every food blog, travel guide, discussion that I came across. It didn't end up being my favorite meal of the trip, however the food was solid and the seafood was impeccably fresh. The pa amb tomaquet here was probably the best we had and the lightly crispy bunyols de bacalla (salt cod fritters) were incredible. We were also fans of the spicy bomba peca (essentially a large potato and meat croquette with spicy sauce) and the completely unique pop de roca amb cebollas (local octopus served in an onion marmalade). The standout dish was definitely the navalles de finiste (grilled razor clams). Usually razor clams are gritty, but these had none of that and were perfectly tender.

La Torna (Located in Mercat de Santa Caterina)
We stopped here for a simple breakfast of cafe con leche, bocados de jamon, and the best chocolate croissant that I have ever eaten after a quick tour of one of Barcelona's other food markets. The food being prepped for later in the day caught my eye and next time I am back in Barcelona this will be one of the first places on my list to eat for lunch. There is also a bakery counter behind the tapas bar where the wares looked fabulous, and another location on the street right behind the market.

Bodega Jane (Pla de Jaume Giralt)
Stumbled across this while waiting for the dinner hour one night and decided to stop in for a quick drink. It appears to be a wine store during the day, and a small bar at night. I saw the lone bartender cutting up meat for a small charcuterie plate in between pouring drinks, so they have one or two things to nibble on here as well. I want to go back because along the wall there were barrels and barrels of different types of sherry for sale (with spigots to pour directly from the barrel).

Xocoa Petritxol  (Carrer Petritxol, 11 --off Las Ramblas)
Right off the Rambla, this is an adorable cafe with an array of scrumptious looking chocolates and pastries, which also serves churros con chocolat. Churros were delivered by hand as we were walking in the door, so I believe they may get them fresh throughout the day. The chocolat here is extra-thick and milk-chocolaty--very pudding like. I found myself feeling like I was sitting in Madame Puddifoot's (a la Harry Potter) while enjoying our sweet breakfast here.

Taverna del Born (Passeig de Born 27-29)
Touristy and nothing fancy, but if you are looking for the "Irish pub fare" of tapas, this is the place to go. Solid pulpo a feira (octopus with potatoes and paprika), pimientos de padron, and lovely, garlicky champignones de alliol (mushrooms in garlic sauce). I think our server loved the fact that we ordered Orujo at the end of the meal and poured us another 2 glasses when presenting the check. Needless to say, we had to stumble back to the hotel.

Brunells (Princessa, 22)
We died and went to pastry heaven. Piles and piles of baked goods, an adorable older couple behind the counter, and a cafe attached to the shop. Not much more you could ask for. In the cafe there were many, many pictures of famous people with the Brunells staff. Felt a little like I was back in NYC, perhaps at John's pizza or Katz's deli...felt truly like a Barcelona "classic".

Candela (Placa de Sant Pere)
Probably my favorite place we ate on our trip, and we didn't even get a full meal here because we were there before the dinner hour. I'd never heard of the place but we found it during our wanderings. Located in a lovely, quiet Plaza, this tiny space had creative, interesting and decadent food. The vibe, however, is a little gritty and raw. It was perfect. There's seating outside, a small bar seating area, and then more tables in back once the full menu is being offered. We enjoyed piel de patas (crispy potato skins with "tartar sauce" and marmalade), arepas topped with tomato, basil, jamon and Parmesan; and the best thing we ate on the whole entire trip: bombitas de morcilla--crispy fried meatballs of blood sausage served with 2 sweet marmalades/sauces. I don't even know exactly what was in these or what the sauces were, but they were heavenly. Unfortunately they were a daily special, so they may not always have them around but I can guarantee the rest of the food is worth a visit.

En Petit Comite (Placa de Sant Pere)
Located in the same plaza as Candela, this is an excellent cafe/wine bar. They have a great selection of wines by the glass and a small menu, mostly made up of cheese and meat plates, salads and sandwiches. A lovely place to sip a glass and write in your journal during the afternoon hours.

Xurreria (approx. 10 Banyuls Nou, Gothic quarter)
Granja (approx. 4 Banyuls Nou)
For wonderfully fresh churros, stop first by the Xurreria and pick up a bag (I recommend the large one if you are sharing), then head back down the street to Granja for a cup of rich, deep, dark chocolat. We ended up sharing one cup and it was sufficient for our two small bags of churros along with two cafe con leches. Granja also offers sandwiches and pastries, and while we were there played a lot of Bob Dylan. Awesome.

La Cervesatera Barcelona (the end of Carer d'en Gignas, near the post office? towards Via Laietana)
I'm actually not certain about the name of this place, and cannot find the name of the cross street to save my soul. But if you are in need of a damn good beer in Barcelona, this is a great place to go. Beer store by day and bar by night, with about 8 beers on tap and an endless plethora of bottled beer on the surrounding walls. A couple of meat plates and olives are available if you need a small bite. One of the coolest bars we found.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Barcelona, Part 2: Days 1-3.5

As a note to begin--there aren't many pictures of the actual food. I just cannot bring myself to be one of those people that needs to photograph every living thing I'll ever eat. Occasionally I'll make an exception, but mostly you'll just have to read about the deliciousness).
Bar Pinotxo (located in La Boqueria Market, Las Ramblas)
The first thing we did after landing and dropping off our bags at the hotel? Go to La Boqueria market. And right away I noticed there were empty seats at Bar Pinotxo, the first little tapas bar as you enter the market, and we plopped right down to eat. How can you ignore the call of adorable and friendly Juanito Bayen (you can hardly see him in my photo, but google Bar Pinotxo and you can't miss him)? He couldn't have been nicer, even though my Spanish was broken and self-conscious (I'm fairly fluent, but get nervous at times and we'd just gotten off an 8 hour plane ride) as he served us our cafe con leches, and when I asked him to give us whatever he thought was good, he brought out the best tortilla de patatas that I have ever had (along with lovely pa amb tomaquet: tomato bread), and chickpeas with morcilla sausage (and spritzed with sherry vinegar out of a spray bottle, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt--as all things should be). We loved this place so much we came back for breakfast again later in the week to have a zucchini tortilla and butifarra blanca (white sausage) with more pa amb tomaquet and a small salad. During the second meal we were sitting in front of the kitchen where we could watch Albert (Juanito's nephew) prepare the food for the rest of the day. Amazing.

Bar Altamira (corner of Carrer de Girona and Carrer d' Ausias Marc)
Nothing fancy here, but seemed like we were the only tourists there amid a bunch of local men gathered around the counter and slipping outside for a cigarette. A nice place for a beer (an Estrella, perhaps? recommended as the best by the guy behind the bar) and a seat outside. We had the first of many bocados de jamon (ham sandwiches, made with cured jamon iberico or serrano) here as a light lunch.

Tapac24 (http://www.tapas24.net/index.php?lang=eng)
We finished off our first day at a spot recommended over and over again to us. Even though we arrived early we had to wait a few minutes for a table, and it was the most expensive meal of the trip but it was well worth it. I think they had some of the best and freshest ingredients we experienced in Barcelona. Highlights were the jamon iberico plate (served at the perfect temperature and so thinly sliced that the fat literally melted on your tongue), the garlic and paprika sauces on the papas bravas, the gambas a la plancha (shrimp barely seared and drizzled with olive oil and amazing salt), and the sepionetas (baby squid cooked a la plancha, again drizzled with olive oil and salt). The sepionetas squirted out squid ink as you ate them, making for dirty teeth but incredible flavor. Seriously one of the best dishes we had. And I can't fail to mention the ever-popular McFoie burger--a small burger of beef and foie gras with a (truffle?) mayo to dip it in. I could eat that mayo on just about anything.

San Joan (Passeig San Joan, 65, Eixample)
Recommended by a poster on Chowhound, I was really happy we sought this place out. Perfect for lunch after a visit to the Sagrada Familia. The menu is in Catalan and listed on the wall, so I had a little bit of difficulty getting through it (there are so many different words for the same foods! I think understanding menus is one of the hardest things to do in a foreign language). But we ended up with conejo a la plancha (rabbit--hearty, smoky, and tender), butifarra con judias (sausage served with incredible white beans) and alcachofas fritas (small fried artichokes). Straight-forward, simply delicious Catalan cuisine.

Vinya del Senor (Placa de Santa Maria 5, Born)
After a long day of walking we were hungry but it wasn't quite time for most restaurants to be open for dinner. So we headed to this spot (recommended by the Mostly Eating blog) for wine and a cheese plate. The wine selection is incredible. It is more expensive than wine in a lot of places, but that is because the wine is interesting and of great quality. We had 4 different (small) glasses and each of them was unique--definitely the best wine of the trip. Despite being located on a very busy, touristy square (right in front of Santa Maria del Mar) the small plates of food are also great. We got one of the two tiny tables upstairs overlooking the square (order downstairs at the bar and they will bring your things up through the dumbwaiter). If you choose to sit outside, make sure to grab one of the wooden tables--the metal ones right next to them are actually from a different restaurant that is touristy and not great in quality (as we learned later in the week to our dismay).

Santa Maria (Comerc, 17, La Ribera, http://www.santamania.info/?page_id=10)
Recommended by blogs and tour guide alike, I'd heard nothing but good things about this place. However, when we first walked in we were spoken to in English and given English menus, which kind-of annoyed me (people did try to speak to us in English a lot on the trip, but always seemed relieved and more friendly when they learned I could communicate pretty well in Spanish). The server spoke English the whole time, but he ended up being incredibly friendly and we had a fabulous time at this meal. We did the tasting menu, which ended up being about 14 "courses" for 27 euros each. Honestly a pretty good deal (although a lot of the dishes were small, a few of them were actually larger than expected and we left good and full). This place definitely has a lot of creative souls in the kitchen. Starting with an amazingly refreshing mango and basil lassi, moving to mussels served on fried bananas with mojo rojo; a completely creamy and rich pureed onion soup; frog legs a la plancha; veal steak with whiskey sauce, mashed corn and topped with corn nuts (a revelation); and a dessert called the Dracula: coca cola mousse, vanilla cream, raspberries and pop rocks. Awesome in every way. And at the end of the meal the server asked us: dry or sweet? Both said dry, and he brought over two small shot glasses and filled them up with Orujo, the northern Spain version of grappa. It was a little grassy, nutty and smokey--tasting to me like a cross between grappa and mezcal. Something completely new to me and something I am now on the hunt for in NYC.

Cuines Santa Caterina (located in the Mercat Santa Caterina, http://www.cuinessantacaterina.com/)
A truly interesting dining experience. Almost like an upscale food court with servers. This restaurant is part of the Mercat Santa Caterina and most of the ingredients come straight from the market, and the "pantry stock" is located along the walls as decor. Herbs are planted right into another wall (sorry for the weird lady in the pic of this--trying to not be too conspicuous with the camera). Right when you walk in there is a tapas counter. This is separate from the rest of the restaurant--there are some overlapping dishes, but you can't get the full menu here. The rest of the space is full of communal tables and a few different kitchens, each specializing in a different part of the menu, which is divided up like a grid. Along the top of the menu runs the main ingredient (vegetable, meat, seafood, rice, egg) and along the side are the different food styles (Asian, vegetarian, Mediterranean, etc.). A little confusing at first, but basically you can order anything off of this menu from any seat in the house. The first time we ate here we ordered before realizing there are specials of the day running along the screens behind the kitchen, which led to our second visit. First up, we had ensalade de tomates con lomo de atun (salad of tomatoes (with tapenade) and  cooked tuna belly), arroz montanes (rice with mushrooms, sausage, and what the menu said was chicken, but I'm convinced was pork), and empanadas gyoza de carne. Why did we come back a second time (other than the fact that the food was so good)? Because they had calcots on the specials menu, and it was one of the things I had been really excited to try on our trip and we saw them on no other menus the whole time we were there (I believe it is the end of their season). Calcots are white onions that have been planted and as the shoots start to grow the farmer continuously packs more dirt around them, creating long, skinny onions. These are cooked in the fire, and then you are expected to peel them at the table (making yourself a messy disaster in the middle of the lunch rush) and dip them into the lovely romesco sauce. Totally worth the return trip. And we had one of the best salads of my life: greens with mushrooms, parmesan, and "bacon" (some sort of crispy jamon) with a slightly sweet and creamy dressing. Dessert was maki con mascarpone: a chocolate crepe filled with mascarpone and topped with caramel and chocolate pop rocks!