Thursday, June 14, 2018

Catalan Sant Jordi Day: Roses, Books & Romance

A national Catalan holiday, Sant Jordi's Day is Barcelona's most romantic day of the year. Across the region, it's celebrated as a day of love and literature, and for one magical day on April 23, the streets of Barcelona are filled with book sellers and flower stands selling roses. The Catalan equivalent to Valentine's Day, men traditionally give a rose to their lover while women buy a book for their partner. The festival has evolved from a mixture of traditions, the most popular being the tale of Saint George slaying a dragon. According to legend he saved a princess by killing a dragon with his spear while riding on a white horse. The dragon's blood caused a rosebush to grow and he offered one of its roses to the princess as a symbol of his true and sincere love. Over the years the tradition developed into sweethearts exchanging gifts: men give women roses as a symbol of their love, or to declare it for the first time, and women give men books, from which the phrase “a rose for love and a book forever” was born — however most women in Barcelona now receive books from their partners as well as roses.

Strolling through the Ribera and Gothic quarters before wandering along La Rambla, we revelled in the festive atmosphere before walking over to Hotel España for a special Sant Jordi Day lunch at Fonda España, one of Barcelona's most beautiful dining rooms with traditional cuisine directed by star chef Martín Berasategui, one of the great chefs of the culinary world with an amazing eight Michelin stars. An architectural jewell of the 19th-century with high ceilings, modernist decor and beautiful mosaics created by renowned Catalan architect Domènech i Montaner, the special six-course lunch was held in the historic Sala de las Sirenas, named after the extraordinary wall mural by Ramón Casas. Starting with a glass of cava, the menu celebrated the highlights of Mediterranean Catalan cuisine, showcasing the abundant produce from both the land and the sea: Salmon Tartare with salmon roe and cucumber mousse, Gilthead Bream with Bean Salad and saosada with pickled fricandó, and Cod Confit with grilled Calçot Scallion Broth and Seafood Béarnaise Sauce to Galician Roast Beef Sirloin with vegetable pil-pil and truffles. For dessert: The Rose of Barcelona with Strawberry Cream, Rose Water, Yogurt and Beetroot — a sweet tribute to culinary love.

Flowers and books being sold on La Rambla in Barcelona 

On a lovely sunny day, the city was full of people strolling around and enjoying Sant Jordi Day

The streets were filled with book stalls decorated in the colours of the Catalan flag

Sant Jordi Day has evolved into a celebration of Catalan identity, with many stalls selling Catalan flags, t-shirts and other branded merchandise

Bakeries throughout the city are filled with an unusual treat: bread striped with the bright yellow 
and red of the Catalan flag, the famous pa de Sant Jordi

Roses are sold with a sheaf of wheat which represents fertility, and red roses are symbols of passion

La Rambla was bustling on the warm and sunny Sant Jordi Day 

There was an obvious but discrete police presence on La Rambla during Sant Jordi Day 
given the tragic terrorist attack last year

A  little jewel of Catalonian Modernism, Hotel España opened in 1859 and was later refurbished by the celebrated Modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, in the early 20th Century

The Sala de las Sirenas with floor to ceiling mural attributed to Ramón Casas
with mermaids, fish, and other marine life on a background of waves

Arrangement of dried flowers

Painter and illustrator Ramón Casas mermaid on Fonda Espana wall mural  

Below the paintings, a lattice of wide wooden strips are inset with glazed ceramic shields of the ancient kingdoms such as this one representing Aragon

Glass of Cava to celebrate Saint George's Day

Aubergine Paté with parmesan and arugula pesto garnished with arugula and paprika

Salmon Tartare with salmon roe and cucumber mousse with curry

Serving select wines from the cellars of Fonda Espana, a white Verdejo and red Torres Mas Rabel were the wines being poured for the special Sant Jordi menu

Torres Verdeo Verdejo 2016

Fresh baked warm bread

Gilthead Bream with Bean Salad and saosada with pickled fricandó

Cod Confit with grilled Calçot Scallion Broth and Seafood Béarnaise Sauce

One of our servers arriving with a Torres Mas Rabel which is the one of the 
most popular wines from Catalunya

With seductive aromas and soft tannins, the wine is perfect with the next course of roast sirloin

Torres Mas Rabel 2016

Roast Beef Sirloin with vegetable pil-pil and truffles 

The Rose of Barcelona: Strawberry Cream, Rose Water, Yogurt and Beetroot

Fonda España chef Germán Espinosa and Spanish superstar chef Martín Berasategui 
who holds 8 michelin stars

Sugared Jelly Rose gift from the chef Espinosa in honour of Sant Jordi Day

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