Despite being a fairly’seasoned’ (pardon the pun) foodie, I was ashamed to realise I didn’t know what a CalÃƒÂ§ot isÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ and if, like me, you’re a bit in the dark – it is a giant spring onion found in the Catalan regions in Spain (if you know, well done! I’m sending a big foodie high five your way).
Up until now they haven’t been available in the UK, but the revolutionary Spanish importers at Brindisa have made this possible right here in Britain. Now why am I harping on about onions I hear you cry? Well, because right about now we are in the midst of the CalÃƒÂ§otada festival Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a Catalan festival that celebrates the harvest of these lovely CalÃƒÂ§ots.
In true Spanish form, the CalÃƒÂ§otada Festival requires you to gather together your nearest and dearest, char up a bunch of these CalÃƒÂ§ots on an open fire and dip them in succulent Romesco sauce, all washed down with lashings of cava and red wine. So picture this if you willÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ a Tuesday night in January, sat outside on a Shoreditch terrace of Tramontana Brindisa (don’t worry they have very efficient outdoor heaters).
Arriving through the doors of Tramontana, the atmosphere was an exciting, vibrant feel Ã¢â‚¬â€œ transporting you right to what feels like a local Spanish restaurant. The chefs were calling out orders in their native tongue, and the staff were young, accommodating and energetic. Before I could even draw a breath, I was whisked to the terrace with a cool glass of cava in my hand.
Once sat down, a rather obscure paper package was placed before me, one that was stuffed full of these revered alliums. An exchange of baffled glances between my new foodie pals occurred at this point, but thankfully our lovely chef guided us through the art of eating a calÃƒÂ§ot correctly.
After peeling off the charred outer layers, you dip the inner, sweet flesh in the nutty, spicy Romesco sauce and the aim of the game is to devour this beast in one Ã¢â‚¬â€œ making the noble CalÃƒÂ§ot one fabulous ice breaker.
Yes, I was covered in Romesco slatherings on my lovely paper bib and yes, my charred-covered fingers were not the most attractive of sights, but I tell you this is well worth a try Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it is a right old hoot.
The whole experience is not just about eating a plate of these moreish scallions, because here we go, the feast continues. Out comes a meat platter with more succulent joints on it than your local butchers – lamb chops, presa iberico (Spanish pork), butifarra (a Catalan sausage) and chorizo accompanied with grilled peppers, baked potatoes and heavenly artichoke.
My absolute weakness however, was the delectably toasted sour bread with lashings of aioli. The perfect tool for mopping up any meaty deliciousness. Make sure you whip out the’dessert stomach’ for the Crema Catalana Ã¢â‚¬â€œ similar to the humble CrÃƒÂ¨me Brule but much much lighter. This had an orange-y aftertaste, and by the end I was pleasantly stuffed to the brim.