It's the bread, it's the bread, it's the bread. No, it's the perfectly seasoned tomato that barely wets the surface. Or perhaps, it's the house Gin & Tonic that escorts this combination to a place only gin knows where to go. Or maybe… the Ibérico de Bellota, king of all ham, that BCN Taste & Tradition serves alongside the classic Pan con Tomate.
In the common-day landscape of more, more, more on a plate… less really does speak so much louder.
The Pa de pagés, a "country" bread native to Catalunya, is toasted slightly and cut about an inch thick. Which is the size you cut when you're proud of the bread you're baking; as Chef Luis Roger, a fellow Catalonian himself, should be. Water, fresh yeast, salt, flour; that's it.
Summer tomatoes rubbed lightly on top; it's amazing how far the ripe flavor really does go. Finished with sea salt and Arbequina extra virgin olive oil; the flavor, so simple, so right. Because of all the little intricacies that make gin, gin, it latches on really well to umami flavors, like tomato. Seasoned fresh tomato, at its core, is the beginning of umami. From there you can roast it or cook it down and watch as the flavor reaches even deeper levels of savory. But, for this dish, all that's required is a tomato that lived its best life.
In the case of the BCN Gin & Tonic, served in a balloon glass, it's made with Hendrick's and garnished with all the key botanicals that the spirit highlights. A cucumber roll, a rose petal, a few juniper berries and lemon zest whimsically float around a clear, square ice cube. The cocktail is finished tableside with Indian Fever-Tree tonic, so the bubbles are spritely bitter for the first sip. Not only is this cocktail gorgeous, thanks to the surface area of the glass, it's wildly fragrant.
We're not done, yet.
It's the plate of thinly sliced Ibérico de Bellota, fat glistening, that turns this exceptional snack into super-awesome-fun time. As far as I'm concerned, this ham is welcome anytime, anywhere on anything or anyone. Ibérico de Bellota is not only made from Spanish Iberian piggies (fattier than most breeds), but Spanish Iberian piggies that dine upon the forest floor acorns of Dehesa oak trees. According to Jamon.com, these all-stars crush about 22 pounds of acorns a day; they cannot get enough. Once they are "sacrificed," the hams are packed in salt for a few weeks and air-dried for three months after. They are then hung for three years minimum with exposure to the open mountain air. As seasons change, the meat sweats and thanks to each step of the process being so perfectly handled, a much more elaborate flavor is born.
It kind of makes you wonder if you have everything sorted out in your will; because surely this is your last meal.
A BCN Gin & Tonic will run you $14, while the Spanish Ibérico ham and toasted "pa amb tomaca" is $36 (worth it.) Be sure to look around while you're there, the art is world class; Dalí, Picasso and more.
BCN Taste & Tradition is open Tuesday to Thursday 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday to Saturday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
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