So, decision made on local initiative.

So I have perused the whole proposition by the ‘Parc Naturel Régionale des Pyrenées Catalanes’ that I discussed here. And the answer is no. I think the spirit of it is well meaning, but the actual parameters are too constrained.

There is a whole section on the amenities we must provide for our guests, including high chairs (*scream*) and general friendliness to family groups. Those who know us, know that we have a firm anti-kid stance, but just from a practical point of view: 1) babies take up loads of room, don’t spend any money and make a noise. Sometimes LOADS of noise. The parents are generally distracted all throughout their visit and wander about bouncing baby around trying to keep baby quiet whilst causing mortal danger to Dave trying to transport hot stones and hot food about. 2) We just don’t have any room to put highchairs, baby seats or entertainment equipment, and anyway, I think it’s up to the parents to provide the entertainment stuff. 3) and with a total capacity of around 30 people we just DON’T WANT THEM.

Another stipulation is the way we sort rubbish. Now this I do want to comply with, but again, we simply don’t have the space to have different bins for recyclables and non-recyclables. We do take all glass down to the bottle bank, and we save the corks for the local council who recycle them, but we only have room for the one bin in each part of the kitchen and as for composting – well, nice theory, but what to do with it once composted – we don’t really have a garden that needs it, and again, no space for a composter.

They also want us to put out loads of local information, books written by local people and about the locality. NO BLOODY SPACE! Also to dispense tourist information – which we do to a limited extent – we are hardly experts ourselves, and anyway isn’t that the job of the local Tourist Office, who, by the way, are EXCELLENT. We provide a QR code that links to the tourist office website with a wealth of information within. I don’t see how we can be expected to dispense tourist advice at any length whilst trying to run a busy service.

I think the cost is very reasonable, 40€ is all it costs the restaurateur, and the Parc participates in signage and promotion of the establishment, but I think it is for places in bigger towns, unfortunately, and perhaps with a less seasonal trade. I struggle to think how we would keep the menu local in winter and even in season to turnover the foodstuffs enough to not go over sell-by dates etc, the menu would have to pretty much have to focus on only that.

And our current best-selling mains are the Curry of the Moment (Caribbean chicken curry with sweet potato and cornbread at the moment) and American Ribeye.

So that’s a no, then.

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If I hear thus one more time I’ll scream…

Now listen, you may be the customer an’ all, but you can have your steak EITHER blue OR hot inside, but not both. WHY DON’T PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THAT?!

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A thing I love…

I bloody love this stuff …am I wierd?

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At last, Routard swung by!

It only took 5 years, but the Guide Routard finally inspected us, so we are proud to carry on the tradition.

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New initiative by the local region

This initiative has been brewing for several years, finally getting to us restaurateurs last August and becoming official just at the end of january. We are in the (take a deep breath) ‘Parc Naturel régional des Pyrenées Catalanes‘ quite a broad area as you can see. Starting some years ago, the region started an initiative which  plays in perfectly with current trends, of locally grown and reared products. They started with farmers to encourage them to produce all sorts of foodstuffs, from veg to cheese and livestock and they have obtained origin labels to give these products a territorial value. That having been established, they are now trying to develop a label for restaurants. So we would have to adher to a range of requirements, such as a minimum percentage of products have to be sourced locally, Catalane dishes, etc. Then we would be inspected, at a cost, and audited to see if we meet the requirements and then finally get the label, which means, I suppose we would have some sort of emblem to display and promotion by the Park as one of its’ labelled restaurants selling the products of the Park itself.

I got invited to a meeting at the stage of setting up the criteria of qualification for the label, but unfortunately it was at the beginning of August last year, which instantly made me suspicious that in fact the people instigating this initiative didn’t actually have any  idea of how the restaurant business works in this area, as any restaurateur worth  his salt wouldn’t have been able to actually attend the meeting. Er…or perhaps this was the aim…. Anyway, not to be deterred, I turned my attention to the details in September, well after the expiry date for our invited comments, but I read it all through and as I suspected, it looked like it was all going to be expensive and complicated. One complication that I thought would actually probably be the biggest sticking point for us, is that they state that something like 80% of dishes have to be made on the premises (as opposed to being bought in), and about 1/3 of our carte is Pierrade, which although not bought in, is not exactly cooked by me either!! Another of my worries was a seeming attempt to standardise the cuisine by making us all cook ‘Catalan’ cuisine, which as pertains to us is plainly ridiculous – we are NOT Catalan, or even French, and it’s not my preferred cuisine or style. But worse, I think, is a danger of forcing everyone to do more or less the same thing. How dull. Dull for chefs and dull for the customers. There is definitely a market for sourcing locally, I have noticed that from our customers, but let us be creative with it! Finally, no way, with all other charges we have to pay am I going to fork out another load of money for this – and I feel that as it is their initiative, and they obviously want as many people as possible to participate, they should bear the lions share of the costs.

I submitted my considered opinions and I was surprised to receive a really prompt reply from the guy in charge, actual efficiency in the government offices! Shock horror!! He tackled each of my points, agreeing with me that homogenising the cusine was not at all the goal and that they expected the cost to the restaurateur to be around 40€ – which is reasonable, I think. 

Well, I just got a letter to say that the label *Restaurant du Parc naturel régional des Pyrenées Catalanes* has been deposited at the National Instituted of Industrial Property and the list of criteria has been approved by the minister of the environment, and inviting our canditure. So I shall have to study the list and see what the final version is. I know Dave is not interested AT ALL – he thinks it is all a load of old codswallop, but I am more informed of trends in eating out and I think there is a place for us as a small rural restaurant in this scheme.

More on this soon!

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Other produce news…look what I’ve got!

Yes, folks, I am ON FIRE today! Two posts in one day, what a busy bee I am! But had to show what you can get our hands on in February, despite it being bleak, snowy and darned cold out there. The first thing I’ve got hold of is a spaghetti squash – never seen one before, but look! It is EXACTLY like yellow spaghetti! It is also delish, retaining a bite to it. I am serving it in a sundried tomato butter, but I want MORE! I could make some amazing vegetarian dishes with that.

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Also, ruby red plums living up to their name. They are gorgeous, so crimson. I have roasted these with spices, and have made some plum creme brulées (pictures when I brulée one) and will make a Nigel Slater spiced plum cheesecake next.

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Keep warm, everyone.

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Beware the evil green chilli from Morocco 🔥

Well it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing a job or how experienced you are. There’s always a chance that you’ll goof and this week boy did I goof! I saw these lovely big green chillies at Metro in Perpignan, and working on the theory that the smaller the chillie, the hotter, so these would be mild, I scooped up a box of them, stuffed all 3kg of them (took me 2 hours!!) with marscapone, pinenuts and lemon to then fry them in tempura batter to serve with a dip of natural yoghurt. So I fried up a batch to test – and both Dave and I looked at each other with not a small amount of shock – these babies were HOT! Not just hot, but like a twit, I didn’t wear any gloves to handle them and as a result I felt quite ill from breathing in the capsaicin,  (I’m guessing that’s what made me feel quite ick), but my HANDS, BURNING – literally, the only thing that would stop the burning was holding my hands in ice. One palm even went bright red and started swelling – I really thought they would explode! Even 2 days later if I touched my eyes they would instantly burn. Quite incredible. I now have a healthy respect for the Moroccan green chillie – which of-course I can’t now serve. I shall have to mince them, I think and use them in my curries! Shame – they look rather nice!

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So todays’ lesson, people: ALWAYS wear gloves to handle chillies, no matter how friendly they look, and don’t do 3kg all in one go without a gas mask.

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