© Peter Lindberg
Pine buds, served tableside at El Bulli
As I blogged yesterday, a lot
has been written about El Bulli, the world's most famous restaurant, in Roses, Spain. So no one needs a play-by-play of my six-hour meal. But, besides the dishes you might have heard of (Parmesan frozen air, spherical olives) and some that you might not have (the outstanding "pond" dessert, a paper-thin sheet of ice sprinkled with brown sugar and basil that you crack into shards and eat), the most fascinating things I tasted were the supersimple, plant-based ones. Anya von Bremzen,
expert in all things Spanish, had alerted me that botanicals were a big trend among top European chefs; sure enough, El Bulli chef Ferran Adrià
was right there. Among the amazing botanicals he offered: ultra-tender, honey-soaked pine buds (above, in their little pots before they're snipped tableside); an oyster leaf sprinkled with vinegar and minced shallot that tasted almost exactly like a minerally, mignonette-splashed oyster; and a dish called "flower nectar," a little local purple flower filled with a ridiculously sweet and fruity nectar ("what it's like to be a hummingbird," said my friend Ken). No one could tell me anything more about the flower, otherwise I would have marched into the hills to get some more before course # 11 arrived—a frozen rose flavored with cassis and tequila.