Sunday, May 6, 2012

Off to Barcelona to see James Taylor

Another trip to Barcelona with the train speeding past dense fields of poppies and yellow flowers. Even though it was only noon we checked into our hotel and took the metro to the El Bulli exhibit at Palau Robert, a small museum in a lovely, old stone house that was owned in the past by a wealthy Barcelona family.

If you are not familiar with El Bulli, it was a three star Michelin restaurant  in Roses started in the early sixties by a German homeopathic doctor and his wife, which they named after their French bulldogs. Roses at that time was undeveloped.  Various professional chefs were brought in and finally in 2002,  Ferran Adria became the chef.  Today chefs at five of the top six restaurants in the world have been trained by Ferran. It was a  fascinating exhibit with movies of the actual food preparation and many colourful photographs and descriptions of individual dishes. There was even a set table with pictures of a main course and arms with knives and forks eating the meal. Fascinating. One of the things I particularly liked was the display of various colours and shapes of plasticene, which would be laid out to see if the food was pleasing on the plate. I believe it was used in weighing out portions as well.

Unfortunately, El Bulli closed last year. In the exhibit you could see how important creativity is to Ferran. He strongly believes in the evolution of cooking with an emphasis on vegetables, seafood and dairy. Ice cream dust is just one example of this. I'd love to try it. Ferran has started a tapas bar in Barcelona but you have to book two months in advance.

Just in case you are sceptical of all this Ferran has lectured at Harvard. Now he is working  on the Bulli Foundation to promote his philosophy and encourage innovation in cooking.

Our lunch was perhaps not up to Ferran standards but my risotto with lemon, thyme and three shrimps was very tasty. We then walked down Placa de Gracias to Las Ramblas, window shopping. Barcelona is the perfect city for walking as it has a wonderful vibrancy to it. And with so many shoe shops how can you go wrong?

It was back to the hotel before setting off once again to the beautiful Palau de la Musica theatre for the James Taylor concert. We arrived early to have a drink in the beautiful lobby, which is decorated with stained glass. It is a special place to people watch. And there were people of all ages and nationalities tonight. On our way in, we spotted James May, who was dressed as if he'd just come off the set of Top Gear, in a delft-like blue and white shirt. The Palau was a-buzz with anticipation. Then...James Taylor.

What an amazing voice! He sounds even better than he did in the seventies. The concert lasted for an incredible two and a half hours. Fire and Rain, Sweet Baby James, You've Got a Friend, Carolina on My Mind and Handy Man were just a few of the songs evoking old memories in everyone. At the end of the concert everyone was standing applauding.  We were rewarded with not one, not two but three encore songs. My favourite of the night was How Sweet It Is, with the entire audience singing and swaying to the music. James Taylor, what a great night!

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