Yes, you read it correctly.  It’s  a total winner and we challenge you to say otherwise!  The rich, sweet, buttery nature of the Sticky Toffee Pudding (STP) and its accompanying toffee sauce and homemade vanilla ice cream is hugged by the  embrace of that dear old friend, Glenmorangie Original  with its fruity palate and caramel and butterscotch nature.

So on your next stay with us when you find that STP is on the menu, you know what to ask for.  CHEERS!

FOOD_LA RECTORIA FEB 2012 051

http://www.larectoriadesantmiquel.com

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Exciting, anxious, stressful times?  If the adrenalin isn’t coursing through the veins every now and then something must be amiss.  It makes the senses more acute, awakening that primeval fight or flight condition.  An adrenalin rush isn’t exactly what I need at the moment, as having somewhat carelessly broken a bone in ‘me foot’ I’m now laid up in plaster for a month and with a move in the offing the timing couldn’t have been worse.  Hopping around the house I’ve managed to pack a few boxes, wrap up the odd item and make a prone nuisance of myself!  As a result I’m increasingly boxed in as we again pack up our things and prepare to move out of the house come warehouse of the last four years.  The last few days have been a mix of throwing out, sorting out, shredding, packing and stacking.

And yes up the road the place almost resembles Piccadilly Circus as carpenters, electricians and builders come and go.  From the outside the walls have taken on the appearance of a newly decorated Christmas cake whilst the inside is rapidly taking shape.  We are on schedule and with that we should be able to welcome you from the end of September.  A firm date still has to be set and when our website is up and running we’ll let you know when that is.

Thus we are beginning to make that transition from promoters/builders to guest house owners/operators and as a result this blog/diary will be up for change.  More ‘newsy’ stuff about La Rectoria and events past and present, recipes and life in and around La Garrotxa through the eyes of a scotsman.  Much of what has been said in the last 18 months or so might have been a little pedestrian, but I guess it will serve as a memory to us and those who have been involved with us.

It is over six years since we drove up to this area for the first time to look, think and dream about….what if we did leave Scotland and come here to start a guesthouse?  Now we are almost there.

Spring has sprung in a spluttering kind of fashion this year.  Bright, sunny and warm one day.  Wet, overcast and blustery the next.  Yesterday exemplified that.  We started our day under grey damp skies with a brief visit to the ‘Temps De Flors’ festival in Girona – the annual splatter of colour that adorns patios, churches, gardens and more with an array of creative floral and related designs and props.  The festival is complemented by numerous other activities which in total provide the visitor with yet another excuse if one were ever needed to visit a city which grander than its size belies.

On to La Rectoria our industry for the day entailed Goretti applying a mild acid to the steel curtain that marks the windows and doors, the aim being to accelerate the oxidation thereby giving that ‘irn bru’ (very sweet Scottish drink)orange rusty effect which will be ‘fixed’ by finally applying a coating of oil.  Mission accomplished.  For my part, I did some weeding, spraying of weeds and path construction in the garden.   We finished off with our weekly walk around the house, making or trying to make decisions about this and that.

Our third port of call was ‘Lactium’, a cheese fair in the fine city of Vic, Osona.  Wow! We discovered some whopping examples – a one and a half year old hard and equally strong goat’s cheese from Can Pujol, Vilassar de Alt.  A soft but beautifully balanced goat’s cheese from Borrada.  But the pick of the bunch came from a farm near Banyols, Mas Alba.  The genial owner had on display four or five cheeses each inviting me to pull up a chair, uncork a bottle of wine and settle down for indulgent session of cheese munching had time not been more pressing.  One resembling a French ‘crotin’ was elegantly soft and creamy with a gentle nudge of goat. The winner was the aptly called ‘Uff’, named so after numerous friends had simply exclaimed ‘uff’ having had a nose full of the cheese.  It is exciting and a pleasure to have such excellent examples of artisan deftness on our doorstep and we hope on your plate in future.   The whole experience drove me to serve up a potent little goat’s cheese soufflé for lunch today.

As a footnote to our visit to Vic, one stall holder having learnt of my nationality quickly asked my opinion regarding the prospects for Scottish Independence following the Scottish National Party’s victory in recent Elections.  I dually gave him the proud Scot speech, adding the need to consider deeply all of the facts before ‘going it alone’, as it were.  Without blinking the same man then asked me of my opinion on the subject of nothing less than crop circles, those geometric forms that appear in the corn fields of Southern England and which are alleged by some to be the result of Extra Terrestrial visits.  I swiftly dismissed this idea as mere fantasy and we walked on.

On reflection however maybe the ideas of Scottish Independence and crop circles are related.  Both satisfy our desire for escapism and fulfil that part of our nature occupied by dreams.  Or perhaps more sinisterly, our nationalist politicians actually are little green men from space – ‘Uff’, the smell of nationalist politics.

Clichésville here we come….well, the circle has almost been squared and with each week that passes the finish line would appear to be just around the next corner.   No, we are not about to announce a concrete opening date, but the changes that are taking place each week are palpable.

Most recently, holes have been dug for clean and grey waters, some windows with glass have been fitted and the first doors are now in place.  Internally painting progresses, the stairway between the main and first floors has been rebuilt, pointing and plastering of the walls in basement floor is ongoing and the solar tube that will enlighten our living room is under construction.

My neglectful absence of writing can only be forgiven by a plate that runneth over with things to do.  Never having learnt the ability to juggle, the one ball that has been dropped of late is that of blog writing and for that I apologize.

Away from the actual reconstruction of the house itself much else has been done.  Construction of the website is well underway and however it is finished, photographs will not be finalised until the casa rural is up and running for obvious reasons.  Other finishes for the house are being looked at and purchased and to that end we have just returned from a couple of days in El Delta de l’Ebre, part pleasure, part business.

The city of Barcelona marks something of a watershed in the landscape of the east coast of Spain.  To put it bluntly, to the north of the city much of the countryside would be more familiar to northern Europeans, remaining largely green and verdant more most of the year.  To the south one is quickly confronted with the grape vines of El Penedes and the arid and angular hills and mountains of the area.  Further south the vines give way to mile after mile of orange groves interspersed with olives.  We spent two nights in the somewhat forgettable seaside town of Benicarló, just south of the Ebre in Castello.  The hospitality and accommodation were good, let the visitor make up their own mind on the rest.

Being Good Friday, what else would one expect except cloud and rain.  Yes, good old british bank holiday weather.   That didn’t dampen our visit to El Delta de l’Ebre….flat as a pancake, traversed by canals and rivelettes and criss-crossed with roads and paths this is the rice bowl of Spain…..the ‘P’ in your paella!  A bracing wet walk along a windswept beach at La Tancada was followed by a hearty shell fish fideua -a pasta type paella – at Cal Faiges in Poble Nou Del Delta.   The birdlife of the area is impressive and I will certainly return to this remarkable corner of Catalunya.

The business part of the trip took the form of a visit to La Sénia, ‘Furniture City’ Catalunya….and tables, chairs and all things furniture.  I can only guess that the place is hanging on by its proverbial fingernails, given the current economic climate.  La Sénia lives or dies on the making of furniture.  Surrounded by ‘factory outlets’ and factories crying out for customers to call.  A tour of one was like a tour of every other outlet….’follow the arrows and let us know if you like anything’…country, neo-classical, glitzy, beige, simply garish to the outright frightening.   We struck lucky at the fifth or sixth outlet I can’t rightly remember which and left with an order for a sofa for the TV room firmly in Goretti’s handbag.  Good luck La Sénia and thanks for an amusing lunch time at El Trull.

‘There aren’t enough hours in the day’ …..bollocks!   If there were more I can only surmise that I’d be awake for longer and therefore get proportionally less sleep.   As things are right now when we are not working our ‘spare time’ is taken up by La Rectoria.   And now our antennae are more acutely tuned as the pace of work continues on relentlessly.

Our principal task this week was to finalize our choice of paint for the upper floors…..white.  Easy enough, but as any of you who have had to undertake this exercise before will know, there are quite a mind boggling array of shades of white.  Our architect and builder had already selected and applied three samples to the wall in the hall on the top floor, none of which we liked.  Sowe took ourselves down to the paint shop where we chose three more samples which Goretti duly applied.  An hour or so later and with the paint dry our choice was made and we have plumped for Umbra Weiss….a kind of white.

Meanwhile work on what will soon by our home – the basement –  is forging ahead.  The dividing walls that need to be erected are now largely in place and the windows are now beginning  to be fitted.  Minor amendments have been made to the position of some windows at our request as we want to maximize the views and vistas.   Light fittings are now looming as the next major decision to be made and less importantly but something I want to make a start on this year is the planting of one or two more fruit trees.

 


Our ‘normal’ Saturday routine….of driving up to the house, pottering around and casting an eye over the previous week’s work was ignored today.  Instead Goretti and I hired a transit van and headed for Barcelona to pick up a guest house quantity of bedding….duvets, pillows, sheets and other bedding paraphernalia.    Again the ‘homework’ had been carried out beforehand – comparing the prices, the quality and range of products of a number of retailers and dare I mention the service too.  Yes, that human element that is involved in any transaction; how to engage customer so that you indicate some intention to help them or at worst…piss them off.  Regarding the latter point, it is reassuring that good service can still be found and it does not cost a penny, cent or euro more.

I won’t hesitate to mention our retailer of choice in this instance; La Perla Gris.  A smile.  Can I help you?  Good product knowledge.  They might only sell domestic linen (also ladies undies next door!) but they are all ‘on the ball’ and compared to their much bigger national counterpart, shall we call them ‘The English Cut’, the contrast could not have been greater in terms of customer care.  I hope we will do the same for you.

Meanwhile up the road, the first window has been installed in the basement where our kitchen will be.  On the floor above, the service door has been opened and the metal curtain fitted.

On other seemingly mundane fronts we are making progress on our logo and on our website.  Thoughts are also turning to light fittings, dining furniture, beds and number of other things that might have slipped my mind for now.

 

Work continues at a healthy pace inside the house.  On the top floor the construction of the divisions has been completed in all five bedrooms and bathrooms, so now you can see the size of each making visualizing the ultimately finished rooms that much easier.  Thus it was yesterday we spent a couple hours with the architects discussing at length the ‘design’ of each bedroom on this floor.  Given that the floors will be toba (terracotta tiles) and the ceilings bigas de roura (oak beam) with teules (terracotta tiles) we do not want to ‘over do’ the rustic feel of the place.   Therefore, contrary to the vision and preference of the architects we are plumming for white walls in all of rooms, with no exposed stone, thereby making the rooms appear as large and spacious as possible.  Door finishes will be white, wardrobes included – and the carcases thereof.  Lighting will be subtle, using mostly wall mounted up/down lights.  Any sense of modernity will be maximized in the bathrooms with stylish, clean uncomplicated finishes.  It is our intention to try and provide the customer with as much comfort as we possibly can; to pamper and ensure that you leave the world of work or whatever somewhere else.  Although the general finishes between one room and another will be of a similar standard, we will designate two as ‘premium’ rooms which will provide that little bit extra for the guest.

The metal curtains which mark the windows have been fitted in all of the top floor rooms.  But the major development of the week was the widening of the doorway from the hall to the dining room.  Now just shy of four meters wide, this entrance shows off three of the five arched windows in the dining room and the views of the valley beyond.  A folding door will separate the hall from dining room giving greater flexibility as to how the two rooms can be used.

And….completing that somewhat spurious link between dining room and food, last week a spot of kitchen experimentation led us to trying a recipe for ‘Stuffed Pigs Trotter’s’.  Before all you squeamish anglo-saxon readers dash for cover, the finished product was something not far short of fantastic.  The recipe needs a bit of tweaking – i. changing the wayin which the trotters are initially cooked; ii. preparing a more elaborate stuffing.  But all in all they were unctuous and simply cried out to be tried again.  So get those bibs out and pour a large glass of Priorat!