This phase of the meal can be clearly understood as dessert. There was a longer pause after the previous course than we had experienced thus far, and the break gave us a few moments to reflect on the previous 4 hours.
Course 29: Pond
Conical Bowl Covered with a Thin Layer of Ice, Topped with Powdered Spearmint and Unrefined Sugar.
This course seems to primarily have been planned to cleanse the palate of animal proteins in preparation for some seriously inventive desserts. The bowl was topped with a ~1mm thin layer of frozen simple syrup. The ice layer was then topped with raw cane sugar and powdered spearmint. The diner cracks the ice just as they would the caramelized top of a crème brulée. The resulting spoonful of melted syrup, ice, sugar and mint is as concentrated as an entire pack of Wrigley’s, but oddly enough, not overpowering.
Course 30: Yogurt Meringue
Sweet, Airy Brioche Buns Served with Yogurt Meringue.
I’m sure there’s a name for these breads; I just don’t know what it is. They’re done in the same manner as the pumpkin roll from the boccadillo in Course 20, and this time they’ve got a vanilla/coconut undertone. They were also served with a cup of yogurt meringue that was complementary.
Course 31: Coco
Frozen White Coconut Egg Topped with Curry.
Just as we were digging into the airy brioche with meringue our lead server deposited this ostrich egg-sized orb of frozen coconut cream on our table. Over the top they ground a little curry powder, and then they instructed us to crack the top like we would do with soft-boiled egg. Keep in mind that the egg is way too delicate to eat with utensils: you’ve got to dig in with your fingers! By the time we’d eaten our way down to the bottom 1/4, it was rapidly melting into a puddle. But remember, we’ve got that brioche to soak it up!
Course 33: Puff Pastry of Pineapple
A Re-imagined Puff Pastry Filled with Pineapple.
We were both fading fast at this point. This course consists of two crisp sheets that encase small sections of candied pineapple. I think I’m done!
Course 34: Cacao
Or am I? There is so much chocolate in here, in so many different ways, that I had to eat most of it to just get all of the flavors. The bulk of the dish is a flowing ribbon of dark chocolate as thin and almost as crisp as the Parm crisp we had back in Course 2. Interspersed throughout the ribbon are a variety of of chocolate truffles (see the white chocolate below), raw cacao nibs, and some chocolate syrup. Oh, and the whole thing is dusted with sweet cocoa powder.
Course 35: Shellfish
A Re-Interpretation of Shellfish Filled with Frozen Desserts.
Concluding the menu proper is a reinterpretation of the classical French fruits de mer. The serving dish is vaguely familiar, as is the chipped ice. But what’s in those shells? Peanut butter ice cream? Yes! Lemon sorbet? Yes! And what’s with those lemons? Again with the dehydration/rehyradation/concentration treatment.
In Case You Want More: Morphings
Box of Chocolates with Themes Taken from Nature.
The wine people will no doubt be curious about what we had to drink. To start the meal we each had 2 glasses of Augusti Torelló’s Brut Nature Gran Reserva, 2005. This is a Spanish cava (sparkling white done in méthode champenoise). The bulk of the meal was paired with a bottle of Pezas da Portell, 2006, from Val de Sil. We asked the sommelier for a Spanish white in the style of a Chardonnay from Burgandy, citing Montrachet. This was his response and while the two wouldn’t be mistaken in a blind tasting, it was perfect for the meal. At the tail end of the second third we each took a glass of Bagús, 1999. This is an accessible Tempranillo from Ribera and it had the right amount of time in the bottle. And during the last third we enjoyed a split of Caligo Vi de Boira, a local Sauternes-style dessert wine. While the wine list (book) here is amazing, as you can see we kept our selections really tame so that the food wouldn’t be subjugated to an event wine. Plus, we knew we would be in Pauillac a week later so there would be plenty of time for that. We also drank Vichy Catalan (a local, naturally carbonated mineral water) throughout the meal. This water is remarkable in that, at least at El Bulli, it had a whiff of the sea. The flavor wasn’t overpowering, rather it was complementary.
People have asked us since our return if we were treating the experience as a once in a lifetime event or if we are already planning our return. We absolutely want to return! I’m hoping for one year gap before our return as the menu this late in the season will be well represented early next year. A one year gap will ensure we have an entirely new experience (less the olives).