If you like spring onions, and we mean really like spring onions, then The Cardiffian has found the perfect night out for you.
Bar 44, a tapas restaurant on Windsor Road, Penarth, is celebrating the Calcotada festival. This is a traditional Spanish ritual celebrating the harvest of the Calcot, a Catalan spring onion. In Spain this festival brings together family and friends during winter months, after the harvest of the Calcot, to eat the spring onions.
These onions are replanted and recovered several times during their growth period, meaning five or six shoots are grown from one Calcot. The vegetable has a similar appearance to leeks but have a milder taste compared to an ordinary onion.
These onions are traditionally grilled on a barbecue until they are charred. To eat them the skins are stripped back and then enjoyed with a Romesco sauce, which is made with nuts and peppers.
The restaurant first hosted this event last April with special guest host Rachel McCormack, Radio 4’s Kitchen Cabinet panellist and Catalan food expert. She said: “This event was great to show people there is more to Spanish food than Tapas. This is a good way to eat Spanish food because it brings back traditions seen in Catalonia.”
As the event was a success last year, Bar 44 is also hosting the festival in their Cowbridge restaurant. The Bar 44 restaurant group started in 2002 and have two restaurants, one in Cowbridge and one in Penarth. The chain won the Good Food Guide Reader’s Restaurant of the Year 2015 for Wales.
The restaurant opened in Penarth in December 2012 and has been serving authentic Spanish cuisine ever since, including a selection of Spanish wines.
Director of Bar 44, Owen Morgan, runs the chain with his brother. The two set up the business after falling in love with Spanish cuisine on holiday. Mr Morgan said: “We were delighted to be able to do the first ever Calcotada festival in Wales at our Penarth restaurant. It’s great that we can make a party out of a vegetable- it’s what the Spanish do because they’re so passionate about food.”
Mr Morgan is hoping to carry on this festival and wants to do a couple every year.
In preparation for the festival Mr Morgan had imported Calcots from Valls, in Catalonia, as it is the main town where they are produced. The onions will feature as the starter for the festival meal. Mr Morgan said: “This festival is a fun night to be involved in, you get traditional Catalonian food, wine and you get messy eating the Calcots the traditional way.”
The night’s festivities include a three-course meal, featuring Calcots as a starter, a Spanish themed barbecue for the main meal and Catalonian dessert. Bibs will be provided for the starter, as the Calcots can be a messy experience.
On arrival you will also receive a glass of Vilarnau Brut Cava and the option to take part in activities such as wine pouring, which can also get messy. This year’s event in Penarth will take place on Tuesday 17 March at 7.00pm and tickets are £30 per person.