Take this piece with a grain of salt-- or at Divinum, where 3 salts are presented on the table (a fleur de sel, a Himalayan pink and an herbaceous sea salt)-- your choice of grain of salt. I have been living in France for 4 months now. My Chicago tastebuds are slowly changing. I'm loosing my ultra perceptive taste for nuance and novelty; and instead I'm just sitting back, growing plumper, and becoming far too habituated to eating too well.
Girona is a nice day trip from Barcelona. Only 45 minutes north of that buzzing metropolis where everyone wants to visit, Girona is a more peaceful gem. It offers the full Catalonian flavor at a leisurely pace. Though I have not spent enough time in Barcelona, I'm willing to bet that at Girona one eats consistently better. It's far less hit or miss, and certainly way more friendly on the wallet.
I jotted down 5 restaurants that had been highly recommended on a piece of paper and I told myself that I would wander the city and stop in at the first one that I found. Divinum had been fated.
It's really nothing to look at. And in fact, I was a bit disappointed at first because unlike many of Girona's restaurants, Divinum is not tucked into a peaceful corner, beside a beautiful site, with open air seating on ancient cobble stones. It is far more sterile and frankly a bit bland.
The food however, is not.
I chose the 6/7 course menu (I believe they include bread as a course) for 30 euro. Housemade bread was placed on the table: a delightful, soft seeded bread, and a crispier ciabatta style; served with a vibrant oil and three types of seasoning salts. After having received my first course I called the waiter over to ask if I had actually chosen the right menu, as I could not imagine how it would be possible to serve courses this large and loaded with exceptional ingredients at this low price point.
First course: a salad of piquant greens, sharp cheese, tangy berries and savory Jamon Iberico
Second course: Roasted figs. Foie gras. Balsamic glaze. What can go wrong here? Nothing. And nothing did. I could have used a bit more foie, but then again, when don't I feel that way? Paired with a nice Rioja.
The third course was by far my favorite. Stuffed, hand-made pastas filled with pear and cheese, with a creamy sauce of crisped Jamon Iberico and bits of crisped cracker. The pasta was perfectly made. These combinations of flavors, classic to Florence, are some of my favorites.
Course #4 was the most disappointing: a tuna tartare, with mango gelato, and large, flat-flaked salt. This simply lacked something. The tuna was fresh, but needed to be brightened up a bit in flavor. The mango simply saturated it with sugars, overwhelming the fish. Nonetheless, I loved the presentation on the slate boards and the crunch of the salt with the tender tuna.
Course # 5 came through with a perfectly braised veal cheek, sitting plumply in its juices and topped with some citrusy rosemary. I asked what the white sauce was-- it was mild and pleasing. The waiter, in his characteristic Catalonian-accented lisp, responded that it was, 'mashed potatoes'. This was a fantastic dish.
Desert was served with huge silverware-- approximately 16 inches in length. To eat this cake required play. It was a pleasure to dig into the chocolate 'brownie' with oversized flatware. The chocolate cake was served with a slightly bitter, herbaceous green gelato; as well as a brightly acidic current sorbet. The big highlight was the scrumptious desert wine which came along with the course. I asked what it was and the man responded in Catalonian, saying that it was a local dessert wine.
I left having paid 42 euro for 6 very large plates and 4 glasses of wine (2 Cava, Rioja, and dessert). I was convinced that I underpaid, and this is something I rarely feel. I cannot imagine how it was possible that the ingredients alone of what I had eaten cost less than 30 euro, let alone their gorgeous preparation. Divinum did not disappoint.
I wandered the city on a full belly, admiring the churches and stone work. There were many other restaurants in town which were serving fantastic plates of Catalonian cuisine in little restaurants tucked into charming street corners. I'd sooner return to Girona for Catalonia cuisine than Barcelona.
(I'm not convinced my photos actually uploaded, so here's the link to the Picasa album https://picasaweb.google.com/111262644117673318238/TheGooseInToulouse?authkey=Gv1sRgCOOYosaiuOKW2AE#5775389966994127826