Rent Past Due—Catalan Style

Parting with a large sum of money on the first of the month, when rents and mortgages are due, can be painful, if not downright depressing. We all know that our hard earnings could be better spent on new clothes and lavish trips, but having a roof over our heads (or businesses) is a priority for the un-homeless and non-transients in most societies.

My pain, though, is eased when I’m in New York, where I have a rent paying perk that no one else can claim: a five-course meal at the city’s top Catalan restaurant (cuisine from the region of Catalonia, in Northeastern Spain). My landlord is the owner, so when I’m in the big Apple I graciously offer to drop off the check in person. “No problem,” I say. “I don’t mind taking the subway for an hour and making three changes. I really have nothing else to do.” My reward for such personal attention is a banquet of Catalan-style tapas and superior Spanish wine.

Catalan fare is quite diverse, but prides itself on pork-intensive dishes, as well as fish, such as sardines, anchovies, tuna and cod. Legumes, cured meats, cheeses and fresh produce round out the basics of the Catalan kitchen, creator of both the Romesco and Allioli sauces.

My rent office is located in the restaurant, Mercat, on Bond Street, not far from Soho and NYU. It’s a few blocks off the main drag, but well worth the detour. For people like myself, who can never make a decision when ordering, tapas-style eating solves the problem. It’s the perfect way to sample the menu without the stress of narrowing everything down to one lonely choice.

I started my meal like any good Spaniard with a glass of Brut Rosé Cuvée and Pa’ amb Tomaquet—toasted artisan bread drenched in olive oil and topped with a thick garlic-intense tomato sauce. The comforting Catalan peasant food is addictive, making it hard to leave room for more. The salad section features such specialties as Remolatxa—marinated beets with goat cheese and caper vinaigrette, which was recommended, but I opted for one of the day’s specials–grilled white and green asparagus on a bed of frisee with prosciutto, Manchego cheese and two tiny poached quail eggs, dressed with a garlic vinaigrette and garnished with fresh parsley. It was a decision I did not regret.

This will eventually be the beautifully plated salad
photo when I figure out how to download my pictures from my telephone.
I am technologically challenged, so it may be awhile.

Even though I didn’t order the Patates Bravas—wedges of fried potatoes covered in a spicy tomato-garlic sauce, a common Catalan snack, the waiter insisted I try them and brought me a plate full anyway. I managed to sample a few crispy, piquant “fries” before moving to the fourth course.

The Botifarra—housemade pork sausage with butter beans, bacon and zucchini sounded interesting, but I chose the Vedella–grilled hanger steak with cipollini onions, watercress and la Pernal sauce with its perfect reduction of red wine, beef stock and Veldeon blue cheese. Separately the flavors are good, but together, stacked carefully onto the fork, they are divine.

For dessert I tried a modern twist on a classic Spanish combination: Xhurros amb Xhocolote. Homemade churro doughnuts with a thick, rich chocolate sauce served on the side. Not as good as San Miguel’s own Churros y Chocolate at the Sta. Margarita, but decadent and tasty nonetheless.

The wine list is impressive, as massive collection encased in glass on the second floor of the building. I never knew much about these hearty wines, however, with each rent check, I’m learning more. Tonight I discovered the tempranillo grape and will not soon forget it. I can’t wait until my rent is due again, at least when I’m in New York that is.

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