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Wednesday, 23 February 2011
I have been following Rachel McCormack's progress with her Catalan Cooking School with great interest from its very beginning, and was pleased to hear that she had decided to start a series of supper club nights at various venues. I was lucky to have been invited along to one of these events at Bea's of Bloomsbury in Holborn in association with Codorníu.
Rachel will be hosting these evenings at various locations across London, including Bea's of Bloomsbury in Holborn's Theobald Road. Her next event will be as part of our London Cooking Club series at my home in Islington on 26th February 2011, where she will be doing a cookery demonstration of several of her Catalan dishes.
To start the evening, we had a selection of Tapas dishes, including olives, Iberico ham and cheese, potato tortilla among other items, served with a delicious chunky bread. A good start to the evening as these tasted authentic and of high quality.
To follow, we had an intensely flavoured "Sopa de Carn d'Olla" - a lovely chicken broth served with fresh parsley.
Rachel served a selection of main courses buffet-style. In my opinion, the stand-out dishes were the "Calamar farcit de Alberginia" (squid stuffed with aubergine), and the delicious "Conill amb Ceba" (rabbit cooked with onion).
I would not claim to be an expert on Catalan cooking, but the dishes were flavoursome and hearty, and I enjoyed them a great deal. This was an introduction to a cuisine I look forward to learning more about from Rachel.
For dessert, we had "Crema Catalana" (Catalan cream) which was a delicious vanilla custard with a burnt sugar crust, followed by Bunyols del Emporda" (Catalan doughnuts) similar to Spanish Churros, and "Sopa d'avelianes amb el seu Cruixent" (hazelnut soup with crocanti and ice-cream) which was rich and nutty. The best hazelnuts in the world are said to come from Tarragona, the southern province of Catalunya.
One of the interesting areas we learned about at the WSET Advanced Certificate Course was the various methods of production of sparkling wine. For example, the traditional method perfected in Champagne is also used by some other good quality sparkling wines in France (the Crémants), and also by law in Spain for the production of Cava.
Other well known sparkling wines such as Prosecco and Asti Spumante, while often delicious, are produced by a completely different method and are not a substitute for Champagne or Cava as they present other flavour characteristics. Traditionally, Cava is made from three indigenous Catalunyan grape varieties - Parrellada, Xarel-lo and Macabeo. More recently, Champagne grape varieties are being incorporated into the blend such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for extra complexity and elegance.
All the wines for this supper club were provided by Codorníu. I was surprised to learn that Codorníu has been making wine since 1551, and for Rachel's supper club evening, we were offered four sparkling wines from its range.
On arrival, we were served a glass of "Anna de Codorníu Brut" @ £9.99. This was a delicate and fruity wine and the first in Spain to have Chardonnnay as a varietal in its blend. This was a good accompaniment to our selection of tapas.
The "Codorníu Selección Raventós Brut" @ £9.99 was served next with the "Sopa de Carn d'Olla". Coming from selected vineyards, this wine had slightly more intense fruit aromas than the first offering, with hints of citrus and stone fruit.
For our main courses, we had the "Codorníu Reina Maria Cristina Blanc de Noirs 2008" @ £17.99. Just released in 2011, this is Spain's first ever Blanc de Noirs (a white sparkling wine made from black grapes). By far the star of the evening, this wine had unmistakeable Pinot Noir characteristics including red fruit with excellent structure and length, as well as some toasty notes akin to Champagne.
"Codorníu Pinot Noir Rosé" @ £10.99 was served with desserts. Also made entirely from Pinot Noir, this wine had an attractive pale pink colour and good fruit intensity.
Originally from Scotland, Rachel McCormack spent most of her 20s living in Spain, mostly Barcelona. She runs fortnightly Catalan Cooking classes at Bea's of Bloomsbury on Theobald's Road.
For the supper club, Rachel works with Franz Schinagl the former executive chef of Asia de Cuba who also runs his own Austrian supper club at Bea's.
In addition to her participation in our forthcoming London Cooking Club in Islington on the 26th February 2011, Rachel's next Supper Club Evening will be on the 20th March 2011. Her next Catalan Cooking Classes will be on the 8th and 22nd March 2011. For more information on her classes, visit the Catalan Cooking blog here.
Cost: The London Foodie was a guest of Catalan Cooking and Codorníu. Prices for Rachel's supper clubs vary between £30 and £35 depending on the menu offered.
Likes: introduction to an exciting regional Spanish cuisine which is novel to London, flavoursome and hearty dishes, great wine matches.
Dislikes: in my opinion, the elongated café setting made the evening feel more like a pop-up restaurant than a homely, more intimate supper club.
Verdict: Homely and very delicious Catalunyan cooking by Rachel, expertly partnered with a range of Cavas by Codorníu. The evening was a great introduction to a cuisine I would like to learn more about, and the wines (especially the Blanc de Noirs) opened my eyes to a whole new range of exciting Cavas to be enjoyed. Highly recommended.