The New Face of Ibiza
The sun has set and the blue-black sky blurs into the bodies of pine trees. The summer air carries a chill at La Granja, a luxurious farmhouse inn that opened last year in the remote northern corner of the island of Ibiza. Wrapped in cashmere scarves, a handful of “members”—due to Ibiza’s arcane permitting system, La Granja is accessible only to members, though membership is gained simply by asking—have gathered around a wooden bar built at the base of a carob tree to sip mezcal cocktails laced with fresh basil. From the terraced fields surrounding the 17th-century finca, or farming estate, emerges a handsome farmer with a trim salt-and-pepper beard, toting a bushel of just-picked spinach. He whistles after his dog, a blue merle border collie named Franky.
Ibiza has a well-deserved reputation as a real-life Aeaea, a pleasure island where normally sober Europeans go to forget themselves in a summer haze of DJs and Dionysian indulgence. In a farmhouse turned nightclub, Paul Oakenfold once threw a birthday party so epic that it gave rise to a genre of music (house) and fundamentally altered the culture of Ibiza. Today, the island is synonymous with a hard-partying boom- tss boom-tss, day-into-night rave scene.
"The hippie vibe still prevails, so Ibiza is fertile soil for a farm-to-table movement"
But the massive clubs burrowed into the countryside occupy only the southern half of the island. In the center, and here in the north, the hippie vibe still prevails, making it fertile soil for a burgeoning farm-to-table movement. “From cheesemakers to sheep breeders, Ibicencans are rediscovering how wonderful their food traditions are,” says chef and author Anne Sijmonsbergen. For the last 12 years, she has been living in one of the island’s oldest farmhouses, Can Riero. There she grows avocados, figs, apricots, tomatoes, oranges and lemons. This past May, Sijmonsbergen opened a restaurant, named El Portalon, that is tucked within the old city walls in a building owned by an Austrian princess.
And then there’s La Granja, an austerely luxurious, 10-room farmhouse that’s a pet project of Claus Sendlinger, the CEO of Design Hotels, who lives with his family nearby. Last year, the property was restored by German design firm Dreimeta and renovated into a study of chic minimalism. Tables are of rough-hewn wood; the lights are aged brass. The walls: smooth concrete. But this austerity is balanced by the 25 verdant acres surrounding it. This is the domain of farmer Andy Szymanowicz, who, after 10 years spent cultivating the land in upstate New York, sold his farm and CSA, moved to the island and by chance met Sendlinger, who gave him the task of carving Eden in Ibiza.
It was once a working farm, but pines had overtaken the field, so Szymanowicz trucked in soil from a neighbor and started planting. As farms go, this one is damn sexy, all undulating fields folding into the land with limestone walls over which wildflowers tumble like a waterfall. “Here I get to think both about the aesthetics and the production,” Szymanowicz says happily. “It’s like heaven for me.” He strolls down a path flanked by bolting mustard and violet borage, past avocado trees and strawberries interspersed with amaranth. There’s one of Ibiza’s few kale patches—the island has not yet been infected by kale madness—as well as the famous Ibicencan tomatoes. Minutes after harvest, the vegetables make their way into La Granja’s kitchen, where chef José Catrimán guides produce on and off the wood-fired grill and over to communal tables at which crowds gather for weekly Friends of a Farmer suppers.
Though the menu feels more California than Spain, the timing is entirely Iberian: It’s midnight by the time dinner is served. From the kitchen come grilled endives studded with olives; charred fennel with tomatoes; and fragrant roast chicken with just-picked rosemary. Perhaps 10 years ago, the pleasures of the evening would have been augmented by the vices of the party scene, but as the group digs in tonight with a clatter of glasses and flatware, the meal, this farm, the stars, the moon are ecstasy enough. Price upon request; lagranjaibiza.com.
Below, some of the best things on the menu you can try for yourself:
Baked Kabocha Falafel with Almond-Milk Yogurt
At La Granja, Catrimán uses flavorful kabocha squash from the garden to make these bright-orange, sesame-crusted falafel. Instead of frying, he opts to toss the falafel in a little coconut oil and bake them in the oven for a healthier interpretation of the Middle Eastern staple.Go to recipe:
Seared Fennel and Tomatoes with Mustard Vinaigrette
La Granja's cooking is all about the gorgeous vegetables overflowing from the property’s garden. In September, when produce is at its peak, Catrimán says to treat it simply. Here he gives fennel and plump tomatoes a quick char and a drizzle of vinaigrette for a no-fuss side dish that’s ready in 30 minutes.Go to recipe
Grilled Endives with Sun-Dried Tomato Relish
For this supersimple side dish, feel free to play around with the variety of endive. Try a mix of red and white California endives, as we do here, or swap in a few tight heads of radicchio or Treviso. The more shapes and colors, the more beautiful this simple dish will be. Just keep in mind that larger heads of endive may need a few more minutes on the grill.Go to recipe
Lavender Gin Cocktail
This spritzy, floral cocktail from La Granja will make anyone a gin drinker. The lavender plays perfectly with a botanical-forward gin, and a touch of lime juice and agave round the whole thing out. This is definitely the new drink of summer.Go to recipe
Citrus-Chile-Marinated Pork Tenderloin
The marinade in this supersimple grilled pork tenderloin dish does double duty. Let your pork sit in the orange juice, garlic and chile mixture overnight, then cook down the leftover marinade for a glossy sauce to serve alongside.Go to recipe
Garlic Grilled Chicken
Chef José Catrimán serves these simple whole grilled chickens in the summer when he’s entertaining for a crowd. Instead of spatchcocking, a process that involves splitting a whole chicken along the backbone to get it to lay flat, he splits the chicken through the breast. This reversed process helps the bird cook more quickly and evenly, giving you juicy, perfectly cooked light and dark meat.Go to recipe