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Sergi Arola Gastro - Madrid, Spain



Arola plaintain crisps

Last year I was in Spain for Madrid Fusion, one of Spain's biggest gastro-festivals that included a “who’s who” of culinary heavyweights from Spain and elsewhere, including Ferran Adrià (who announced his two-year sabbatical from his famed El Bulli restaurant), Sergi Arola (in the photo below), Grant Achatz, Sergi Arola, Alain Ducasse, Cheong Liew and Mark Best.


While there, I enjoyed an extravagant lunch at the 2 Michelin star rated Sergi Arola Gastro (, a top restaurant in Madrid and probably one of my best dining experiences in Spain. It is presided over by avant garde chef Sergi Arola, who enjoys a unique culinary pedigree. A disciple of Ferrán Adrià (who has redefined culinary techniques with over-the-top creations like freeze-dried foie gras, atomized martinis and edible hibiscus paper) Arola trained in Adrià’s kitchen laboratory in Barcelona, working alongside the master chef for 8 years.


Make sure you set aside two to three hours for this extraordinary gastronomic experience.  The menu is simplified by offering 3 “sampler” selections – a “Gastro” menu (160€) , “Sergi’s” menu (125€) and a “Basics” menu (105€).  There is an incredibly extensive wine list that features over 500 labels, mostly from small producers, which are, shockingly, all available by the glass. I was dining with two wonderful food journalists from Sydney and Singapore, and we chose the “Basics” menu – which consisted of 10 courses from the “Sergi’s” 14 course menu,.


Patrons are first served some “snacks”, consisting of large olives, croquetas, thin plantain chips, Arola-style spicy stuffed, potatoes and spicy tomato toasts.


Arola snacks tomato crisps stuffed potatoes 

This is followed by Sushi-sashimi

Marinated Hake with rice ice cream

Arola marinated hake rice ice cream 

Maki - Squid stuffed with vegetable and monkfish liver

Arola squid stuffed with vegetable and monkfish liver

Sausage of duck liver and sweetbreads

Arola sausage of duck liver and sweetbreads 

Baby Scallops with Creamy rice cooked with Idiazάbal cheese, bacon and asparagus

Arola Baby scallops with creamy rice  


Roasted Skate with Green Lentils du Puy

Skate and lentils 


Slow cooked Sirloin braised with turnip from la Cerdaña, carrots, and salsify

Arola sirloin   



And finally, we chose a "light" dessert -


Sliced Granny Smith Apple, confit of celery, and apple and celery ice cream

Arola apple dessert

And just in case that didn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, a canister full of macaroons, grated chocolate, and hard candies, was presented as a final touch.




I was truly inspired by the magnificent presentation and the unique combination of ingredients. If you're feeling up to the challenge, check out his recipes -



Sergi Arola at work in his kitchen

Sergi arola chef







Grilled Salmon with Balsamic Syrup and Fresh Ginger Spaghetti

Salmon Ginger Spaghetti 

On a recent trip to Sao Paulo, I had an excellent lunch with friends at Restaurant Spot. The NY Times described the crowd as “mostly well-dressed office workers or business people… but it's the evening crowd, however, that keeps Spot buzzing when musicians, designers, models, and other trendy types crowd in to this glass-enclosed downtown cocoon to flirt, schmooze, and preen” We had the Grilled Salmon with Balsamic Syrup with a very tasty ginger spaghetti.  I’ve done my best to recreate the recipe below.


Grilled Salmon with Balsamic Syrup and Fresh Ginger Spaghetti



Balsamic Syrup:


3 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 small sprig fresh rosemary


Combine the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar in a small pan, slowly bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat, add sprig of rosemary and simmer for 14-18 minutes until thickened and syrupy. Remove rosemary and serve syrup with salmon.


Simple Grilled Salmon:


4 skinless salmon fillets (6 ounces each)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Coarse salt and ground pepper.


1.    Heat grill to medium-high. Rub 4 skinless salmon fillets (6 ounces each) with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander; season with coarse salt and ground pepper.


2.    Lightly oil grates; place salmon, skinned side up, on grill. Cover grill; cook 5 minutes. Turn fillets; cover, and cook until opaque throughout and flaky, about 4 minutes more. Serve salmon drizzled with Balsamic Syrup


Fresh Ginger and Basil Pasta:


1 T peeled, roughly chopped fresh ginger

1 T cilantro

3 T fresh basil leaves

2 T finely chopped garlic

3 T olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 oz Spaghetti or pasta of choice


Put the ginger, cilantro, basil, garlic and olive oil in a food processor, and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set the sauce aside.


Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, add a generous teaspoon of sea salt, and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Reserve ¼ cup pasta water and then drain in colander. Return the pasta to the saucepan, and add the sauce. Toss well, adding some reserved pasta water if needed to thin sauce.




Keste Pizzeria NYC

Keste pizza

 Keste has one of the most delicious Neapolitan pizzas in NYC. My friend Chris Makos, who always knows the best spots all over the world, insisted that we share the Margherita pizza for lunch.  A few simple ingredients create a mouthwatering event -- San Marzano tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and a perfect pizza crust. Keste is located at 271 Bleecker St (between Cornelia and Jones)

Keste Pizzeria

Artisan Cheese Platter - Boka Kitchen, Hotel 1000, Seattle

Artisan cheese platter  

Serving a cheese course is finally gaining popularity in the US. There's a great website with tips on putting together a cheese platter, using a "cheese clock", which can be a big help when selecting cheeses.


Here's the selection of Artisan Cheese served at Boka Kitchen at the Hotel 1000 in Seattle (clockwise from top)

1.    Bijou – from Vermont Butter and Cheese

Paired with Oregon Hazelnuts and Mint Flower Honey

2.    Tarentaise – from Thistle Hill Farm

Paired with Marcona Almonds

3.    San Andreas – from Bellwether Farms

Paired with Orange Mousse

4.    Bourree – from Dancing Cow Farmstead Cheese

Paired with Fig jam

5.    Old Apple Tree Tomme -  from Estrella Family Creamery

Paired with sliced Granny Smith apple

6.    Baley Hazen Blue – from Jasper Hill Farm

Paired with Wine Jelly

La Bola Taberna - Madrid

La bola  

This family restaurant, with a beautiful bright red facade, is located in the center of Madrid and has been cooking traditional recipes since 1870. When I was there for lunch, we tried the signature dish, Cocido Madrileno which is cooked the old fashioned way, over oak charcoal. La Bola cooks their Cocido Madrileño in a clay pot that seems too small to hold all that’s inside. The waiter first pours a saffron-colored broth with thin noodles into a shallow dish. Once you finish that, they bring a huge plate of chickpeas, with beef, chicken, and pork and cabbage. It isn’t necessarily the most beautiful looking dish, but it’s packed with flavor. If you’re in Madrid, add this to your list of restaurants. ( )

La bola pot 
La bola stew pour 
La bola stew

Casa Lucio Madrid, Spain

Casa lucio raul 1  

Casa Lucio is one the most famous restaurants in Madrid. The PR Director at the Palace Hotel told me that if you have not eaten at Casa Lucio, then you have not really been to Madrid. I went with my friend Raul Olivo and he insisted that we try one of their signature dishes - Eggs with French Fries called “huevos estrellados”, literally "broken eggs" mixed with potatoes. It's simple, and simply delicious.

The atmosphere is completely authentic and charming. Cured hams hang from hand-hewn beams above a well-oiled wood bar. Among the clientele is a stable of sometimes surprisingly well-known public figures – even members of Spain’s royal family. This is where Laura Bush lunched with Queen Sofía during a state visit to Spain.

It’s always crowded it can be difficult to get a table, but well worth the effort. Prime seating is on the first floor, and Lucio himself will honor some guests with a visit.

A house specialty - Huevos Estrellados

Eggs and Potatoes

Huevos Estrellados - Eggs with Potatoes

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (2 medium), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt 

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil or peanut oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter 

3 -4 farm fresh eggs, seperated

Ground black pepper 


1.    Place diced potatoes in large saucepan, cover with 1/2 inch water, add 1 teaspoon salt, and place over high heat. As soon as water begins to boil, about 6 minutes, drain potatoes thoroughly in colander.

2.    Heat butter and oil in heavy 12” skillet over medium-high heat until butter foams. Add potatoes and shake skillet to evenly distribute potatoes in single layer; make sure that one side of each piece is touching surface of skillet. Cook without stirring until potatoes are golden brown on bottom, about 4 to 5 minutes, then carefully turn potatoes with wooden spatula. Spread potatoes in single layer in skillet again and repeat process until potatoes are tender and browned on most sides, turning three to four times, 10 to 15 minutes longer.

3.    Pour in egg whites and stir for 5 -10 seconds, until whites are billowy. Turn off the heat and stir in yolks until done to your liking. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a plate (or the heat from the pan will keep cooking the eggs) and serve immediately.