This is the last post in a 4-part series about our epic visit to the Costa Brava region of Spain. We partnered up with fellow Expedia Viewfinder contributors, Captain and Clark, to create an adventure that touched on the storybook themes of discovery, adventure, and camaraderie. To honor this once-in-a-lifetime trip, we each kept a journal of our experiences. We share some snippets of those journals here.
In order to balance out the busy itinerary we’d created, we made plans for several fantastic, lingering meals. These thoughtful pauses in our adventure provided the four of us with an opportunity to reflect on our experiences and get to know each other a little better. They also helped us understand why Costa Brava is a renowned culinary hotspot.
After getting lost on our way to Cap de Creus, we were all very happy to make it to Compartir. The award-winning restaurant, with a name that means, “share,” in Spanish, achieves a perfect balance of non-fussy attentiveness. In addition to introducing us to some completely new (to us) flavors, Compartir also treated us to our first “welcome drink,” a staple in meals that followed.
Viewfinder Tip: Spain is the birthplace of Cava. If you like bubbles, make sure to give it a try.
Kent: I don’t know if I liked the vibe or the food at Compartir more. Either way, this mid-day meal will stick with me for a long time to come. My favorite memory? It was our first “welcome drink.” Black vermouth foam and blood orange Compari. A play on an Americano, we were told. People in Spain know how to kick off a meal.
It was much more difficult to get lost on our way to the Casamar; we simply walked to the dreamy little village of Llafranc along Costa Brava’s coastal path. The Michelin-starred restaurant’s idyllic setting seemed like a footnote in comparison to the food, which was prepared with whimsy and precision. Chefs expertly blended tradition with molecular gastronomy, a combination that made for a very memorable meal. Check out these chocolate covered strawberries frozen with liquid nitrogen, as an example.
Caanan: In a meal full of firsts, it’s the chocolate dipped strawberries (prepared tableside with liquid nitrogen) that I will remember. That, and the setting. We sat high up on a cliff, overlooking the dramatic coast. I’ve gotten used to these meals that linger for two or three hours. I want to return home with a renewed appreciation for savoring mealtime.
With so much food being prepared for us, it was fun to learn how to make some of the local delicacies we’d been enjoying. With the help of supremely talented (and supremely friendly) Chef Jordi, we took a cooking class and took on the classics, including a collective favorite, Crema Catalan—creamy, sweet, and with a crunchy top. Eating food can bring you together, preparing food together makes you family.
Chris: Today we met Chef Jordi. A master of his craft, he extracts the rustic ingredients out of the earth and sea and finesses them into gourmet works of art. Our private cooking class with him taught me as much about friendship as it did traditional Spanish cuisine. It’s amazing to me how much you can learn about someone in the intimacy of a kitchen. Food is the great equalizer and it opens you up in way you didn’t know it could.
Cooking together (with a view!)
A tapas tour was the perfect way to get to know the town of Palamós. The fishing village was alive with locals chatting over small plates and drinks. For us, connecting over drinks was a theme throughout the trip, too. Whether drinking daiquiris at Cala Banys or trying to determine who makes the best sangria de cava in the region (ultimately, La Sal and Restaurant Victor tied at the top), sharing these meals enabled us to begin to understand how Costa Brava “moves” (for us, that means how locals live and eat).
Tawny: My heart and stomach are ready to burst at the seams. We found ourselves wandering the streets of Palamós on an evening tapas tour of the city. Over conversations about happiness and fulfilling our dreams, we managed to sample numerous plates of papas bravas, carne mechada, and empanadillas. The most surprising plate was the crispy chicken wings. I would have never imagined that the best plate of wings in my life would be had at a tapas bar in Spain.
Despite all of the mind-blowing dining experiences, some of our favorite meals were quieter affairs where the food served as a backdrop for great conversations. Our friendship grew over a meat-and-cheese picnic at the Terraremota winery, a farmhouse meal on the porch at Mas Garganta, and quiet feasts at El Pedro and Cal Satstre. A cava-fueled food marathon at Drac in Hotel Castell d’ Emporda serve as a perfect example of what this trip was all about—connecting with one another and building memories that will last a lifetime.
What’s the best meal you’ve had on the road?