On a recent culinary expedition to the wonderful city that is Barcelona, we were simply astounded at the sheer number of gastronomic opportunities that lay at literally every turn. With the one and only Olimax as our trusty tour guide, we traversed a world of delightful seafood, tapas, and tiny hidden Vermut bars that only a native Barcelonés Bon Vivant such as himself would have intimate knowledge of.
Our heads and palates were spinning after a day and night touring the back alleys of the city with Oli, but there was one little spot just outside of downtown Barcelona that he told us we really had to experience…
Around three months ago Oli’s friends Albert and Jordi Marimon had opened a tiny kitchen inside a container atop a newly constructed market to the east of the city’s central core. Intrigued by the concept, my expectations were raised just that little bit higher when Oli slipped in the fact that Albert had just been awarded Best Catalan Chef for 2013 at the Girona Gastronomic Forum. Curiouser and curiouser.
After looking at a few maps we realised that we could plan a leisurely 45 minute appetite-building stroll from our base of operations off La Rambla, through the charming backstreets of the old town, traversing many of Barcelona’s beautiful parks, and finally find ourselves at ready for lunch at Fogó within the Mercat del Encants.
All I’ll say is that we had one of the most enjoyable meals ever at Fogó Barcelona… it’s a genuine hidden treasure.
Good Food Revolution: You now have three restaurants… would you mind telling us the differences between them?
Chef Albert Marimon and his brother and business partner Jordi Marimon: Well actually none of them are real restaurants in the usual sense.
The first one AIGUA is a “Xiringuito”, like those that you will find on the beach, but inside an urban park.
Two years later we managed to open LA CAVA in Tarrega, and this is more like a tapas-bar, we serve what we call “platillos” or half portions.
And last but not least, FOGÓ, in the new placed Mercat del Encants de Barcelona, a 700 years old market. FOGÓ is been set up more like a takeaway food shop, inspired by the street-food markets that you will find in Portobello or Camden Town, London.
GFR: And where do you take your inspiration from?
AM & JM: Our inspiration comes from everywhere.
It was Picasso who said? “Let the inspiration get you working”, well it comes from every where. The producers, the team, our mother and grandmother… our customers, we rely on the feedback that they offer us. Actually they are our best “quality control” and if we spot clients with an smile on their face, then, we have done our job right.
GFR: Albert, you were recently awarded Best Catalonian Chef for 2013. What does authentic Catalan food mean to you?
AM: It actually means everything. Although I’ve been living in lots of places, living means eating from my point of view, and living “abroad”, I feel like I am learning all the time. The issue is that everybody experiments a new skill or flavour even feeling, comparing it to previous or base knowledge. Well, Catalan food is my previous knowledge.
GFR: If you could pick one single ingredient to sum up Catalan, what would it be?
AM & JM: Actually I think that the most representative would be the Calcot, which is an onion, with lots of history behind. The agricultor has to take care of it, when it is a few days old, he has to harvest it, and plant it again in a sort of handful, so that they are forced to grow thin and long.
GFR: I had the chance to visit your new venture, Fogó, in the Encants Barcelona. It’s a really interesting spot for a restaurant. What is the story behind the venue and what made you choose that location as the right place for Fogó?
AM & JM: As we said earlier, the Encants have been running for 700 years, it was an easy bet, but it was also very interesting the opportunity to open a new food-street in the market, as it has been always selling all the things you can imagine except food. We hope that the Encants will become the hottest spot in Barcelona over the next few years.
GFR: And what is the meaning behind the name, Fogó?
AM & JM: FOGÓ is the Catalan name for stove or galley, etimologicaly it’s the Latin word for FIRE. But we were also searching for an internationally easy pronouncing word, and even a recognizable one. The main idea was to find an easy name, we think we got it.
GFR: I was particularly fond of the Cap i Pota. Would you tell us a little about that dish?
AM & JM: The “Cap-i-Pota” is based on the will of making something from what is usually thrown away after the cow has been butchered. It’s a very traditional dish, although we present it in a modern way.
The one that we serve is made of beef head, tomato, pepper, garlic, onion and some hot peppers, then there are some Provençal herbs.
GFR: How often does the menu change, and what would you say were your signature dishes, and the customers’ favour
AM & JM: It changes every day, as the producers we are involved with keep bringing us new products everyday. Well maybe not every day but every week.
GFR: I really enjoyed the Catalan wine that you served me while I was there. What kind of wines do you serve at Fogo and your other establishments?
AM & JM: We are proud of serving only Catalan wines, Cava Trepat rosé from Sarral in Conca de Barnera, red wine from Batea, and also a sweet white wine made from a grape that in Spain was also lost in history, Viognier.
We keep searching for cheap but excellent wines, and so far we are achieving it.
We want to be inexpensive, but not bad.
The best seller is a new wine from this year from Casa Mariol, and it comes in a “bag in box” so it is perfect to serve by the glass.
GFR: And when it comes to Catalan beer what would you recommend outside of the big breweries?
AM & JM: There are some new ones: Matoll, Clandestina, La Guineu. You should come back and try to taste all of them, I’m sure that you will enjoy!
GFR: Well, we seriously loved our experience at Fogo and look forward to many return visits… Thank you Chef Albert and Jordi
AM & JM: Thanks for coming to visit us, we really enjoyed talking to you.