Kaiseki a la Valenciana, Part 2

Someone, I forget who, once said that cuisine is a way of eating the environment. Our meal at Ricard Camarena’s Restaurant certainly brought to our table the seas, mountains, and surrounding fields. Combining the best products of the seas and the mountains (mar y muntanya) is not only a Valencian/Catalan gastronomic ideal, but also a Japanese one — umi no sachi, yama no sachi (the joys of the sea, the joys of the mountain). Needless to say these are all at their best in season. The Japanese term ‘shun’ (season) takes the concept further, because in kaiseki, it is usually the earliest products of the season that make their appearance.  Often, just when summer is at an end, autumn is foreshadowed by the earliest of chestnuts for a late August kaiseki.

What are the gastronomic delights of a Valencian autumnal feast? From the seas — the sweetest mantis shrimp, octopus, squid, oysters; from the mountains — aromatic fresh truffles and wild mushrooms, freshly gathered almonds and walnuts; from the fields — the tiniest, tenderest of artichokes, just ripened olives, root vegetables and Brassicas (cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts) gathering sweetness with the cooler temperatures; and fruits that straddle summer and autumn such as avocado, mango, lemon. Included as well were exotic elements from afar: from Morocco, fiery harissa (chilli-lemon condiment); from Southeast Asia, galangal (a ginger relative); and from Japan, shichimi tougarashi (7-spice chilli blend).

Here are a few from our twelve preludio (appetizers) — every single one a gem.

camarena-beet-radish-cauli-crop

Roast cauliflower with black olive-harissa topping; radish, beet with mantis shrimp and dill topping

Camarena beet eel crop.jpg

A closer view of the beet, radish, and mantis shrimp appetizer.

camarena-footed-dish-cukes-new-potato-crop

Courgettes with steak tartare filling; turnip with salmon caviar

camarena-fig-onion-crop

New potato with roast chicken and almond filling; roast Brussels sprouts with sheep’s cheese and onion; onion with anchovy and black garlic.

Today marks the 300th post in my grace journal. It was supposed to rain today — a blessing for this region that has suffered from drought for several years — but instead we got very dense fog. So dense that outside the house, all was white. Still, it is something to be grateful for, as leaves can absorb this form of precipitation. Tomorrow rain is predicted at 100% probability. Fingers crossed. What else to be thankful for? Lady Brown and Hunter are now accustomed to sleeping in their beds in the sitting room — just in time, too. It was getting too cold for them to sleep out in the open veranda. As always, it is Hunter, who was so wary of us in the beginning, who braved entering the house, with Lady B taking a good two days to be persuaded. We’ve been slowly introducing both to the idea of riding in the car. And again Hunter took to it after being rewarded with tasty treats. Lady Brown still isn’t convinced. She entered once, two days ago, but today she wouldn’t. We’re hoping she’ll get used to the idea soon.

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