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Archive for June 27th, 2022

Retama Restaurant: “Where each bite and each sip tells a story” (excerpt from the website)

Our last days in Spain came quicker than we could have imagined. We were away for seven weeks and I would have thought that I would be looking forward to getting home but my feelings were mixed. Yes, I looked forward to the amenities we have in our home, but I was also very sad to leave such a beautiful country. The produce was delicious and I knew I would miss that, the prices were definitely cheaper than Toronto, even converting to Euros. Our favourite house wine was 3.95 Euros! Going out for a meal was usually less than 40 Euros, including a bottle of wine! But the temperatures were on the rise, often reaching 30° C (86° F) so I was looking forward to leaving that behind.

One of our last and most memorable meals was at Retama Restaurant, a One-Star Michelin in La Caminera Hotel. We chose the Traditional Menu (mainly because they didn’t have rabbit on it) and it was delicious. Each course had a story relating back to the terroir of the region, La Mancha.

The reception

The inner courtyard

 

The Lobby

The Introduction

This wonderful meal tells the story of the terroir of the La Mancha region. Olive, olive wood, garlic are prominent on the landscape and the first bites lead you into this narrative. We began with little savoury meringues, made with garlic and olive oil. They were very strongly flavoured with garlic and we worried that it would scar the rest of the meal, but the chef created a small vile of olive soup, made with the juice of actual olives, which totally negated the strong garlic flavour and there was no lingering garlic aftertaste.

Amuse 1: Tomatoes are a huge part of the Spanish landscape and the La Mancha region is no different. This course of Amuses consisted of a tomato powder cookie (foreground), a spool of tomato spaghetti (left) and local eggplant with Manchegan Ratatouille. All delicious, wonderful textures with strong tomato flavours without being too acidic.

House-made sourdough bread

Bread course: Homemade sourdough bread with goat butter and a local, award winning olive oil. It was difficult not to scarf this down but we knew we had to save room in our bellies!

Pickled Partridge

The next main was a pickled partridge in a smoky tomato broth with edible flowers, tomato jelly (centre) and unknown foam (you know how I feel about foam!) Partridges run wild in fields around the restaurant.
In the background is a almond crisp with a partridge foie gras mouse, absolutely delicious.

Sous Vide Egg Yolk

The next course was a sous vide egg yolk of a local black chicken with a red crest, it wasn’t liquid but it was definitely rich and creamy served on a bed of foie cream, roast corn and honey jelly. A super-rich dish but extremely moreish. I will try to replicate this one. (Note that apparently, the Spanish make foie gras without force-feeding the ducks)

Cod with tomato, bread and garlic soup

The second last protein was a sous vide cod with cilantro sauce served in a bed of Castilian soup (a local bread and garlic soup, not at all overwhelming, think bouillabaisse).
This was also served with a La Mancha specialty called an Atascaburras ball (top left-ish) made with salted cod and potatoes. It is baked and not deep-fried. It was outstanding, I am trying to track down a recipe.

Sous vide lamb

The final meat course was sous vide lamb, it was seared and served with black garlic from Las Pedroñeras garnished with medium-dry tomatoes. The lamb was mildly gamey and extremely rich, I could only eat a couple of bites, at this point we were getting pretty full. I believe the glass-like garnish was a saffron tuille.

Dessert #1

There are almonds grown in this region as well, so it was expected as an ingredient. This was an almond praline base with cardamon chai tea ice cream, and it was outstanding!

Dessert #2

As lemons are also part of the La Mancha region landscape, they had to be part of a dessert. It was called Lemon Extravaganza! The base was a lemon sabayon with candied citrus peel, on top of almond “earth” and meringue shards. Best dessert, bar none! But we love lemon!

The coffee course

Unfortunately, we don’t drink coffee after twelve so they served this course as a third dessert. We are absolutely stuffed at this point but we managed to get it down, fortunately, they were small bites. They called them Petit fours, there were mini lavender macarons, anise beignets, chocolate hazelnut discs and a wonderful chocolate olive oil dome. A beautiful end to a memorable evening.

La cuenta

The accounting (la cuenta) is served up in this adorable little chest.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you are passing through the region. It was extremely good value (it was 68 Euros if memory serves). I loved the stories linked to each dish and the beautiful way they were presented. Service was spot on and extremely professional as you would expect. Our server spoke fluent English and was extremely easy to understand.

 

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