In Tarragona February is a month where the smoky sweet smell of Calçots sweeps down from Valls and sets the tastebuds running. So what better way to dispel the winter blues than to take a leaf off one of the most compelling gastronomic initiatives of the year “Somriu a la Crisi” or, in other works, put smile to the crisis.
The third edition of this gastronomic initiative, which runs from the 7th of February to the 3rd of March, is organised by the Associació de Restaurants de Part Alta (ARPA for friends) and offers a tantalising taster menu for either 19€ or 30€. Add to this a great bottle of local wine for around 10€ and you get an extra bottle of the same thrown in. So, yes, smiles all round it is.
We decided to pay a visit to the iconic AQ which is one of Tarragona top gastronomic meeting point and without a doubt the next prime candidate for a Michelin star.
Somriu a la Crisis has a great list of wines associated with the initiative; we settled for a fine Priorat red number, a Scala Dei 2012 which filled the palate with a whiff of cherries and ripe figs.
The first dish was a smooth, almost buttery mousse of humus, served with sweet onion and a marinated bacalao.
Next on the menu was a crunchy on the outside coca ( Catalan flat bread) topped with dollops of the softest octopus served with sauteed veg and a bit of a spicy punch.
This was followed by tender pieces of barbecued chicken and langoustines sitting on a bed of fried potato sticks, a nice nod to a sunday staple when the whole town queues up from the butcher to collect their roasted chicken.
What followed next had an oriental touch: crunchy spring roll of duck and seasonal vegetables topped up with salmon roe, delicious!
And there is not point of leaving the fish off the menu: next was a juicy fillet of hake topped with artichokes and a sliver of bacon,
which brought us to probably the best spicy steak tartare I have ever come across. Pure tartare melt.
And so the final dish, a spicy cinnamon ice cream topped by caramel mousse. Bravo AQ!!!
Somriu a la Crisi is a February staple, so if you like your foodie treats and happen to be in Tarragona around this time next year visit do not miss.
For more info about ARPA see www.arpatgn.com