Pollarding The Plane Tree

Any time between November and February, the Spanish Plane Tree (Platanus Hispanica) will be pruned back in Mallorcan pueblos, ready for new growth in the spring. The tree gives some opulent amount of shade during the Summer months, much appreciated during the Mediterranean heat. The pruning procedure is called pollarding, a technique by which the upper branches of the trees are removed, promoting a dense head of foliage and branches.

Two weeks ago, municipal workmen were busy in Passeig de N’Ernest Mestre in Felanitx pollarding some forty Platanus trees. It only took them three or four days. The result is quite a transformation. Felanitx looks quite a different place now in that particular street. You may well witness a similar radical change in your own town or village any moment now.

The photos were taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 15th and 27th, 2010. The time was 11:21:49 and 12:41:58, respectively.

Pollarding The Plane Tree

Esclatasangs (Lactarius sanguifluus)

The Fira de l’Esclata-Sang i de la Muntanya in Mancor de la Vall near Inca is an annual affair, here in Mallorca. This year, it happened from November 26th to 28th, with Dimonis frolicking last Friday, Gegants congregating last Saturday and Xeremiers assembling yesterday, Sunday. Somehow I feel that this undisturbed mountain pueblo manages to put on one of the liveliest and most cheerful fiestas and firas of all of Mallorca. Maybe I just really like mushrooms, Dimonis, Correfocs, giants and Xeremiers and people in good spirits. Perhaps next year you could come and see some of the fun for yourself.

Today’s photo (top) shows, fittingly, mushrooms of the Esclatasangs (Lactarius sanguifluus) variety, also known as Bleeding Milk Cap. They were in fact the biggest ones of their kind I had ever seen. The three exemplars measured a good 20 cm (6 inch plus) in diametre; they were probably grown in a greenhouse. I did not eat any Esclatasangs this time but, Girgolas de Cardo instead. Yumms.

The photos were taken in Mancor de la Vall, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 28th, 2010. The time was 13:34:44 and 13:23:33, respectively.

Esclatasangs (Lactarius sanguifluus)

The Merits of Michelin Stars – Muddled

First the good news: two new restaurants in Mallorca were awarded the distinction of the Oscars of fine dining. The new Guide Michelin 2011 bestowed one estrella each to Restaurante Gadus (in Cala d’Or) and Restaurante Zaranda (at the Hotel Hilton Sa Torre, near Cala Blava). Three other Mallorcan restaurants, Tristán (in Portals Nous), Es Raco des Teix (in Deià) and Es Molí d’en Bou (at Hotel Protur Sa Coma Playa, in Sa Coma), managed to hang on to their previously and respectively obtained one Michelin star. Sadly, the restaurant Plat d’Or (at the Hotel Sheraton Arabella in Palma) lost its Michelin star recognition.

Now to the muddle. The restaurant Gadus in Cala d’Or was apparently awarded its new acclaim for the quality creations of its chef, Thierry Enderlin. Neighbours in Cala d’Or insist that Monsieur Enderlin has not been seen since July 2009. In fact it is said that the Frenchman now lives and works in Taounate (Morocco). Gadus continued its business for another year under the aegis of chef, Sebastián Raggiante, before it closed its doors in August 2010, at the height of the tourist season, apparently for good. The restaurant is all wrapped up now and closed (see photo) but, its owner claims that the restaurant will re-open in the Spring of 2011. The proprietor, Antoni Llull Adrover, is also owner of Cafetería Neptuno in Cala d’Or, a place that cannot be recommended to anyone even under the harshest of circumstances. Quite clearly, Guide Michelin has got something seriously wrong here. If the criteria of excellence were applied under the era of Thierry Enderlin in 2009, surely it was omitted to have some follow-up checks done by the Michelin testers.

Gadus, by the way, takes its name from Gadus morhua (Bacalao or cod fish), just in case you wondered.

If you want to dine in Cala d’Or, you might want to give Restaurante Port Petit and its chef, Gerard Deymier, a try. Alternatively you might want to sample food at Celler Sa Sínia with its chef, Gabriel Perelló, in Portocolom. Both restaurants are closed during the winter months, though.

The photo was taken in Cala d’Or (Santanyí), Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 27th, 2010. The time was 17:15:14.

The Merits of Michelin Stars – Muddled

No Sooner Ripe But Rotten

The Medlar (Mespilus germanica) is native to Asia Minor and can be found in Southeastern Europe and the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey. You can also find the tree and its unusual fruit here in Mallorca. The fruit was very popular during William Shakespeare’s time; he made reference to this fruit in some of his works, such as Romeo and Juliet, As you like it, Measure for Measure, and Timon of Athens. The reference in today’s headline is not made to the Bard of Avon but, instead, is a quote from Thomas Dekker and The Honest Whore (1604): “I scarce know her, for the beauty of her cheek hath, like the moon, suffered strange eclipses since I beheld it: women are like medlars, no sooner ripe but rotten”. Apologies for the obvious sexist overtones. The fruit is also referred to by Miguel de Cervantes in his Don Quixote, there without any machismo. Nowadays, the fruit is not widely appreciated, as far as I can gather, neither in literature nor for eating.

The point I am trying to make is that the medlar is probably one of the most peculiar fruits you may ever have seen or eaten. You cannot eat it when ripe but, only when it is bletted or retted, just before it gets mouldy. You can also make jellies, chutneys, pies and tarts from it. My wife makes Medlar jelly from Mallorcan medlars. It has a lovely clear red colour. We use it instead of red currant jelly with roast lamb or roast pork to improve the meat’s flavour. The jelly is also great with a warm scone, toasted tea cake or hot cross buns. Slice the pastry in half, butter it well and add a generous dollop of medlar jelly. Delicious. And, of course, the plant makes a very nice tree indeed for your garden.

I would like to be able to tell you what the Mallorcan farmers or their wives use the medlar (Catalan: Nesprer, Castellano: Nispolero) for. Even though you can find this fruit in the markets right now here on the island and after numerous enquiries about the fruit’s use, I was simply told that one eats it as it goes soft and almost into decay. Oh well, I think I prefer the jellied version.

If you want to find recipes for making Medlar jelly, please consult the Internet. If you want to try Medlar jelly without going through the process of making a preserve you can buy a decent version from Croft House and also from Wilkin & Sons, albeit not made from medlars grown in Mallorca.

The photo (top) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 26th, 2010. The time was 14:31:23. The photo (second from the top) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of flickr and catofstripes. The two bottom photos were also borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of adambalic.typepad.com and mellerio.org.uk. Thank you very much.

No Sooner Ripe But Rotten

The Torre Del Palau in Manacor

The Torre del Palau in Manacor is the only fragment remaining of a royal palace dating back to the late 13th/early 14th century. The palau compound was built under the orders of King Jaume II as a temporary palace for the Reis de Mallorca. Quite why Manacor was chosen for the location of this palacio away from the capital, Ciutat de Mallorca, I am afraid I cannot tell you. Perhaps someone out there will be able to enlighten us on this.

When I went there the other day, scaffolding was obstructing the views of the tower (see photo below). But I could hear workmen busy doing the place up and, with a bit of luck, one may be able to visit the interior of the tower once building work has finished. I have never been inside; the torre has always been closed whenever I attempted a visit. Next time lucky, perhaps.

The photo (bottom) was taken in Manacor, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 24th, 2010. The time was 10:20:55. The photo (top) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of mallorcamedieval.com.

Muchas gracias.

The Torre Del Palau in Manacor

Gambas de Sóller

Fresh fish, seafood, shellfish and other Mediterranean food delights are some of the many reasons why the Mediterranean diet is considered healthy and full of nutritional benefits. The sheer variety of freshly caught fish and crustaceans in the island’s fish markets is both, staggering and mouth-watering. Gambas de Sóller are a particular source of bliss to my humble mind. They are pricey shrimps (25 – 60 €, depending on size and season) but, let that not deter you. Gambas de Sóller (Aristeus antennatus) are quite possibly the best tasting shrimps in the world, a delicacy that can be eaten raw, marinated, tartared or grilled. The Romans are said to have indulged in them when they were here in Mallorca, 2,000 years ago.

The best place to sample the Sóller gambas is, obviously, Sóller or Port de Sóller. The gambas season is in full swing right now. Sitting on a restaurant terrace overlooking the sea and eating red gambas de Sóller on a sunny afternoon with a cold glass of Quíbia is my idea of paradise. Sóller shrimps are also served as a succulent Carbaccio or a sublime Lasagna de gambas de Sóller (for instance at the Restaurant Béns d’Avall). If you can’t make it to Sóller, head over to the Mercat de l’Olivar fish hall in Palma and buy 10 or 12 large red Sóller gambas for a magnificent lunch for two. Enjoy your meal and be grateful for having found this great island offering such divine food.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: October 14th, 2010. The time was 11:32:45.

Gambas de Sóller

Sweet November

Even though snow is predicted in Mallorca for Friday at an altitude of 700 m, November can be a lovely month in the Balearic Isles. There have been a number of Novembers when we splashed in the Mediterranean Sea when the children were little and, in fact, friends of ours were in the sea only ten days ago. The sun is still up most days and deserted beaches appeal for a leisurely stroll even with the waves all chopped up and the sunbeds stored away for the off-season.

Off-season is a bit of a misnomer or certainly an inaccurate appraisal. It all depends on who says what and who does what. In excess of 1,000,000 tourists came through PMI airport last month, and if last year’s November is any indication, this month just under 500,000 visitors will think that some quality time on the Isla de la Calma could be a good idea.

Things you can do in Mallorca in November and actually all through the quieter months of the year, include walking, hiking, cycling, joining a retreat or a sanctuary, playing a round of golf, putting in some hunting, mushrooming, bird watching, caving, fishing, rock climbing, wine tasting, celebrating any of the many gastronomic delights of Mallorcan food, visiting monasteries, getting to know the island capital, Palma, a little better by doing a guided tour of its historic quarters, getting into better shape by indulging in one of the wellness spas on the island, sipping a devilishly sweet xocolate, watching some glass blowing, riding on horseback, you name it. The possibilities are endless. Hotel rates are lower now, flights are cheaper in November as well, and if you ask me, the Mallorcans are friendlier now that the hectic Summer season is over. I love the off-season, I like sweet November.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 22nd, 2010. The time was 13:46:14.

Sweet November