CONFESSIONS OF A                                                                  
A San Francisco Girl's Down and Dirty Adventures in the Culinary Playground

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Part 4 -- Impressions and Aftermath (El Bulli -- Roses, Spain)

Read Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3

This is the final installment of the El Bulli saga, and I'm sure you're all as relieved to see it end as I am. There are some things missing from the previous posts that I felt warranted mentioning before I put this bad boy to bed.

First of all, one thing Jon and I were particularly surprised to discover (and the thing that seems to shock everyone else when we mention it) is that you feel like total shit the day after eating at El Bulli. No one that we knew who had been to the restaurant let us in on this one. Actually, I'm beginning to think our friends don't like us, between this and the taxi thing. could chalk this nastiness up to too much drinking, but since we had our own vehicle to navigate back down the mother fucking winding road of death, we were fairly conservative in our imbibing and cannot blame alcohol. We also had to get up early, to catch a flight to Paris (or so we thought -- we ended up being delayed 3 hours. Fucking EasyJet!). Still, we managed about 6 hours of sleep, which is about what we were tending to get at home those days, so we can't blame sleep deprivation either.

No, none of those things were the cause of the shit-feeling. Our assessment? The body was not designed to ingest that many chemicals in one meal. I remember the drive back to Barcelona, roundabout after fucking roundabout, being filled with burps that tasted like we'd quenched our thirst at a toxic spill. Stomachs distended, our conversation on the road to the airport consisted mostly of us saying "Wow, I feel like crap," "Yeah, me too." Repeat.

Next question: Do I think it's the best restaurant in the world? In a word, no. Top Five? Sure. I certainly have not eaten at all of the best restaurants in the world, but I've been lucky enough to experience a handful. El Bulli loses the number one spot in my book because, well, everything doesn't taste good. I appreciate what they are doing there, and as I said in Part 3, I love that they are pushing the boundries of cuisine and using their diners as guinea pigs. This makes it the most unique restaurant I've ever been to, and there is something to be said for testing out something that has never been done with food before. This makes it the best culinary experience I've ever had, but the best restaurant? No.

The best restaurant that *I've* been to is Alinea. And without El Bulli, there would be no Alinea so there you have it. Why Alinea? Because Grant Achatz is still testing the boundries of cuisine, but it doesn't hit the dining room unless it actually tastes good. Make that great. What I loved about Alinea is that I enjoyed every single bite of my meal. Not so at El Bulli.

Would I go back? Fuck, yeah. The thing about El Bulli is that they like to play, and they like to challenge and be challenged. You will never have the same dish twice if you return (they keep track of everything you've ever eaten there, and never serve it to you again unless you specifically request it). And while there certainly were things that did not rock my world, the things that did were worth the flight, the crazy roads of Spain, the hotels, the mother fucking winding road of death, the cost, the feeling like shit and the delay to Paris.

Perhaps that is why it took me so long to get through writing about it. I didn't want to let it go. Holding our breath, waiting for a reservation, getting the reservation, waiting 10 months for the reservation, planning an entire European adventure around the reservation...the whole thing was a pretty big fucking deal to us.

It was the experience of a lifetime.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It was the experience of a lifetime."

Until about say, November 12th ?

10/30/2007 10:23 PM  
Blogger Alice Q. Foodie said...

Hi Joy! It doesn't surprise me that you felt like crap the day after your meal. With all the salt and odd ingredients that your liver isn't used to - it's basically the same effect as a hangover. I hadn't checked in for a while so this was a fun read. Hope you guys and Diner No. 3 are doing well! You must be getting close!

10/31/2007 12:23 AM  
Blogger Joy said...


He's due the 9th. Not that I'm counting or anything:).

10/31/2007 7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great set of post and very enlightening for those of us who hope to make it to El Bulli during this lifetime...

11/01/2007 4:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Part IV comes and no men's room pics of John.

Phooey on you!

(Or however you say that in Catalan...)

11/01/2007 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I don't think we'll ever make it to El Bulli, but it was totally fascinating reading about your experiences.

Thanks for finishing the story. Figured it was a now or never (meaning that babies have a tendency to put you on another track). Good luck on the 9th!

11/01/2007 7:37 PM  
Blogger Richie said...

Interesting...after my meal at WD-50, I too felt like shit...

Strange that Acahtz uses the same techniques/additives, and you come out of there feeling like a million bucks (or feeling like how much money you just spent....) Either way, great post.

11/04/2007 11:20 PM  
Blogger Le Meems said...

I can't believe I have never read this blog before. Amazing.

You, my friend, fucking rock.

I lived in San Sebastian, a long time ago. And I am headed back this summer with a detour to El Bulli. I just told my boyfriend how much I wanted to go there.

I know what to expect now. So thank you!

I need to find your book - so excited!

12/19/2007 8:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I haven't been to El Bulli, but I'm so glad you mentioned Alinea in your post. I went recently and still think about it at least once a week! It really was so creative and innovative, but you're right - everything tasted so yummy and I adored how they used distinct complementary aromas for nearly every dish. Smelling the food was almost as great as eating it.

7/22/2008 1:59 PM  

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