We are home now and I am happy to be here. There's no place like it, and all that. But I have to say it was an utterly fabulous vacation. I loved every single minute.
A couple of great food moments I didn't get blogged in real time. Shopping with the Chef in Valencia was terrific. The market wasn't quite as good as Livorno and we only did fish but I learned tons I didn't know about all kinds of shellfish, fin fish and mollusks. And octopi, whatever they technically are. Seabourn is unbelievably fortunate to have Chef Franck on the Quest -- he is talented, smart, and entertaining to boot. Treated us to tastes of oysters, calamari, and octopus, and stood us all a cappuccino as well. Great last day on the ship.
We got off in Barcelona where we had been before, but never with much leisure to walk around. It's really a stunning city. And it will not surprise you to know that we found an equally stunning lunch.
Cafe de l'Academia (how appropriate!) is tucked away in the narrow streets of the city's Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter. The whole area is mysterious and intriguing and fun to explore but we did not let ourselves be distracted from lunch for long.
The restaurant is in a tiny cave of a building, dark and cool and really, really old. There was seating outside but the atmosphere inside was just too good to pass up.
With a 6:50 flight the next morning we knew we wouldn't be awake long enough to eat dinner at the proper time for Spain, so we planned to have a lunchtime feast. I say that to try to justify the fact that somehow we each ended up having four courses. In the middle of the day.
J started with the salad Academia, which turned out to be a good version of a Niçoise salad -- tuna, olives, tomatoes and other good stuff like corn. I had an outstanding salad of herbs and arugula, dressed and layered with diced pears and topped with shaved Parmesan. Herby, spicy, sweet, and sharp in every mouthful.
Then J had a Catalan meat soup. Very meaty, so he really liked it. :) I had an inspired eggplant timbale topped with goat cheese. It was sweet and succulent with that nice goaty edge. Normally I would chalk up my enjoyment of it to my eggplant fetish but even J thought it was out of this world.
For main courses J had the most extraordinary cod fish. Perfectly cooked, and on some kind of rich pommes purée and topped with pesto, diced perfectly ripe tomato, and chopped pistachio. I honestly don't remember seeing him that ecstatic about food -- he was over the moon. And he was right -- it was magic, with the nutty topping just the perfect finishing note. I had a lovely dish of toasted pasta with lots of garlic and the most flavorful small shrimp. So, so good.
For dessert Jer had creme Catalan which they translated as creme brûlée but it was a little different and more interesting -- cinnamony and citrusy, I think. I had lemon meringue tart and that might sound a bit pedestrian but it was the best I'd ever had. Each mouthful had a crunchy, caramelized sugar bite that told me that the meringue and been brûléed right before it was served. Perfect, perfect, perfect.
And an ideal way to end a perfect trip.