If you haven’t had oxtail before as a dish you wouldn’t know how wonderful it can be. It’s not easy to make though and takes hours of slow cooking to get it nice and tender to that perfect point where it just glides across your palate and in to a happy stomach. This is why it was strange to many people here in Catalonia as well as the rest of Spain that oxtail was popping up on a lot of menus. Sure, they were expensive restaurants, but it was becoming far too common and the dishes bore a striking resemblance to one another.
Thus we come to a report that indeed, countless very expensive restaurants with tasting menus from 100€ on up (and naturally lower in cost) were making use of services that have popped up to offer frozen gourmet dishes that these fancy, expensive restaurants can just reheat and serve. Of course the restaurants make no mention of this and these frozen dishes are not TV dinners by a long shot. They’re very well made, but they’re not fresh and they have a shelf life of up to 18 months. This is great for a restaurant wherein they can just microwave some packets they pull out of the fridge, slap them on a plate, serve and pass off to the client as “haute cuisine” who is none-the-wiser… oh and the tax, bread, and water isn’t included in that menu price, have a nice day.
There is nothing new for residents of the US as this has been going on for decades there with countless providers serving countless restaurants. Naturally, what can you expect from a country where the drive thru is constantly full at McDonald’s and Italian restaurants offer up an “endless breadstick” basket (which from personal experience I have indeed not found the end of.) Europe was supposed to be different with its Metric system and soccer, but it too is succumbing to the ills of globalization and commercialization of food.
In Spain, people might say that it’s “la crisis” that’s causing this behavior, but in reality it just comes down to simple greed and is a large part of the reason why I simply don’t eat out as well as restaurant employees being filthy. If there was some way for me to get a direct line to one of these fancy food providers (who naturally keep their client lists extremely secretive) I could just heat this stuff up at home and voilà, a 100€ menu for 20€ or whatever. Add in to that, my wine selection is usually better at home with more local Catalan wines at better prices.
For visitors to Spain, this should be kept in mind as outside of the Km0 movement (which there is a knockoff copy of in Spain as well that’s not part of SlowFood, be warned) most restaurants have gone completely to shit. While most people don’t know it or are happy with the sordid tapes served on every block throughout Barcelona (which are also all from frozen food providers, but of much less quality) it shows that the quality of the country’s food is now non-existent save but for a few meager restaurants that most people never know about. In other words, don’t come to Spain looking for good food anymore. Go to France, but as the article mentions, you need to look for the “Restaurant de Qualité” sign to assure you don’t get one of these crap places that are creeping up there as well.
This was all quite disappointing for me to hear in general, but I took it on a personal level as the restaurant in Baix Empordà where I had my Spanish wedding is obviously making use of one of these providers. The chef was even telling me about these systems one day while not admitting to using one himself. But, given the predominance of oxtail on his menu, it’s clear that I have to X yet another restaurant off my list which naturally sucks as I enjoyed celebrating my birthday there every year.