Overeating in Costa Brava

Finished plate of fish

Those of you who follow me are probably aware that I don’t exactly focus on food on this blog. Sure, I did that post on my favourite burgers, and I do enjoy the act of eating food, but I’ve never really gotten round to real “food blogging”.

There are a variety of reasons for this. The main one is that to be a dedicated food blogger, you generally spend more time looking at and photographing food than eating it, and I generally like to focus on the eating side of food. The resulting photos of empty plates don’t seem to excite you guys. You’re more into this sort of thing:

Girona walls HDR scaled-001

Usually this isn’t so much of a problem. The world probably won’t dissolve due to my lack of contributions to the food blogging space. Just occasionally though, the spread of food in front of me is just so mouth-wateringly incredible that I feel the need to pull myself away from posts of pretty mountains, gorge myself silly, and tell you about it.

And this is what happened during my trip down around Costa Brava. The food photos are from Vera, who is a little more restrained than I when it comes to actually taking pictures of the food before consuming it.

It turns out, you see, that Costa Brava is home to a whole plethora of incredible foodstuffs. From platters of deep fried fish bits, to cheeks of cows, as well as everything in between (I’m not sure what comes in between those things, but trust me, it tasted good), I was able to sample food from some of the finest chefs in the world. Literally.

And so, I feel I should tell you about it at least a little, even if only to justify the serious overeating binge I went on. Because if I put it on the blog, then it wasn’t eating for leisure, it was eating to tell you about it. And that makes it ok. So now I’ll take you on a run through one day in Costa Brava, for you to understand what I was dealing with.

This day starts early. Earlier than I have been used to in some time. This was ok though, because with the early start came the opportunity to go ballooning, one of the few things in life that are worth getting up early for.

Balloon sunrise

I’m not normally a fan of early morning eating, but since I had no idea what time our next meal might be, I bravely filled up on rolls, cereal and pastries. Nothing out of the ordinary here, but I felt it necessary to set the stomach scene. Here’s a little sketch to help explain the situation a bit better:

Scene 1. Opening location – hotel buffet somewhere on the Costa Brava coastline.

Laurence walks sleepily into room, surveys breakfast buffet. Decides the next meal may never come (ballooning is not a zero risk activity after all), and consumes breakfast like he may never eat again. Cut to slightly distended stomach. Fade to black.

So far, so simple. After breakfast our merry troop of fellow aeronauts set off to our ballooning trip, which was about as amazing as you would imagine, and fear not, will be the subject of an upcoming photo filled post. The actual balloon ride didn’t feature any food though, so isn’t going to warrant a further mention.

Once safely back on the ground, we were whisked off to a little restaurant for a mid morning champagne breakfast, which as I understand it, is mandatory following successful reunion with the ground. This breakfast though, was a little different…

Champagne glass

Scene 2: Location – restaurant not far from balloon landing site. Large square table filled with jovial post ballooning travellers.

Laurence surveys the fare on offer, which consists of a variety of cold dishes such as anchovies, tuna-stuffed boiled eggs and roasted vegetables, accompanied by some chilled wine. This looks to be a fine mid morning snack, and so Laurence piles his plate high.

Enter stage right, waiter staggering under the weight of the previously unmentioned hot course. Plates of ribs, omelettes, deep fried fish balls and other Catalan specialities. Not necessarily traditional breakfast fare, but what the hell, this stuff looks good. Slightly nervously, Laurence piles his second plate high. This might be lunch too, he thinks. Fade camera out as Laurence pushes his plate away, barely capable of standing.

Our day was pretty jam packed I have to admit, with our next destination being a fishing village where we were going to be given an overview of the Catalan relationship with the sea, as well as witness a live fish auction. The space between second breakfast and the fish frenzy was filled with a bicycle ride, which isn’t always the easiest on a full stomach. But I made it, and the show continues:

Fish market auction

Scene 3. Location – Demonstration kitchen in fishing village on Catalan coastline. Gorgeous views from windows of harbour, boats, and coastline. Seagulls drift lazily past.

Enter group of travellers who nervously eye the enormous and immaculately laid out table in the centre of the room, wondering who this might be for. The fleeting hope that it might be for someone else is quickly lost as the enthusiastic chef introduces himself and starts talking about the four separate courses he is going to be preparing, to showcase the wonder of fish based dining in Catalonia.

The chef asks which of the group is gluten intolerant, and a hand is raised, perhaps hoping to be freed from the task ahead. The chef proudly reveals some gluten free dishes. The hand is slowly lowered.

The gluten free individual desperately falls back on the back up plan of not being fond of fish. And not wanting to distress the chef by sending back plates, a quick survey is done as to who might be able to help out. Laurence kindly volunteers, intrigued by the idea of gluten free dishes. Laurence’s stomach is not amused, but is silenced by some fine Catalan wine, which serves to numb the stretch receptors.

Somehow, all four courses are consumed. Laurence’s vision starts to blur slightly, but presumably this is the end of the eating adventure. Something fades to black. Some travellers take a nap on a nearby table.

Food collage

By this point, if you’ve been keeping a tally, I had managed to somehow eat my way through two full breakfasts and a mighty lunch. If I was a hobbit, this would have probably feel fairly normal. Instead, what I had to show for it was a creaking belt buckle and the desperate urge to lie down in a corner and focus on not exploding.

Instead, it was time for the exploration of a local monastery, and then a viewing of one of the finer cliff based sunsets I’ve seen for a while, before arriving at the hotel in the evening. Luckily, the chef here was also keen to demonstrate his culinary skills. Yay!

Monastery

Scene 4. Hotel dining room, filled only with my companions. No other hotel guests in sight. Nervous giggling now coming from the group as a menu is read out by a keen young waiter.

Laurence reaches across the table, and deploys what he refers to as the “kebab strategy”. This is the theory that alcohol always makes you hungry, no matter what your condition. Plentiful quaffing of wine commences.

A side effect of this is that the vegetarian sitting opposite Laurence renounces their vegetarian tendency, and has a lamb sacrificed for dinner. This decision was later regretted.

After plentiful wine, Laurence is able to eat a delicately prepared cheek of roast beef, force down some incredibly fine chocolate ice cream, and then quietly drink until darkness literally comes from the corners. End of sketch.

So that was my day of overeating in Costa Brava. The food was quite literally fantastic, and worth the two or three kilos of extra weight I seem to have found.

Massive thanks to all the incredibly talented people who conspired to work together to put this trip on, including the hotel who provided the first breakfast, the balloon people who also provided second breakfast, the fishing village people who demonstrated incredible lunch talent, the cycle tour folks who got us between the places safely, the hotel who provided us with a dinner of kings and a bed to sleep it all off in, and of course, the Costa Brava tourism board. 

If you’re interested in taking part in any of the above activities (try not to eat as much as I did if possible), do click through the links to find out more!

Note – Vera and I were guests of the Costa Brava tourism board for our adventure, but the ability to eat twice my body weight in food and then write about it remains my own.




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