Carol and Morry – USA - October 2013 – Gourmet Catalonia Tour
What better way to learn about a city and a region but through food. I love the markets, the smells, the energy the history. So Morry and I set out on our adventure with our new friend and culinary expert Yvan Mas from Spain Taste. It is his business and personal. He suggested the best places to go in Barcelona (5 days) and with him (5 days) we traveled on our Catalonia culinary adventure to the village of Madremanya, ancient stone and terra cotta tile in the rolling hills halfway between Girona and the Costa Brava. Checking into the lovely Hotel La Placa de Madremanya, we met the Chef and Innkeeper Vicenc who would be our cooking teacher, and his sommelier wife Monica. What was in store for us were visits to culinary artisans chocolatiers, goat cheese makers, and vineyards and restaurants with tapas, tasting menus, more villages and the art museums of Dali, Picasso, and Gaudi. We found the people genuine, warm, friendly, and could not do enough for us. What we learned: Catalonia, has a language, history and custom of its own, it has a cuisine. It is natural, not expensive, and easy. It is eggplant, peppers baked in ashes, potato omelet, duck, catalan rice, paella and of course the best olive oil. Our Chef Vicenc taught us the Sofregit which is the base of all the sauces with onions and tomatoes and Picada as the bookend or thickening with garlic, liver, bread, parsley, almonds, and chocolate. Delicious small dishes with only the finest ingredients. The fish coming off the boats for auction was great to see. We could get up close to all the working boats with the men preparing their nets for the next morning.
Mark, Barbra, Anti & Eva – 10 day Barcelona & Girona tour – Sept. – Oct. 2013
We were privileged to have had a chance to be again under your guidance on a 10-day tour of Barcelona and Catalonia (or Catalan as you say it) after a great tour in La Provence last year.
You have this incredible skill of selecting and presenting experiences to us, which at the end always exceeded our expectations. All these experiences were totally relevant to show the life in Catalan with depth of history, culture, scenery, way of living, the Cava and wines and of course the traditional food: the dishes, the markets, the fish auctions, … The range was astonishing: from little traditional Sunday chocolate treat in old town Barcelona to the wonderful NoNoNo restaurant’s incredible Osso Bucco, from ancient Jewish settlers’ life in Besalú to the magnificent cathedrals in old Girona, from one of Dali’s homes to Picasso museum, from Can Joan’s traditional Catalan rice dish to a fantastic dining experience at El Celler de Can Roca (voted #1 restaurant in the World). And then to top it all, there was your introduction of your friend Chef Vincenç at La Plaça in Madremanya; from his incredible tasting menu to cooking traditional Catalan dishes in his kitchen to welcoming us as his friends – what a privilege!
Finally, your highly personal and familial touch warmed us. Meeting your lovely wife Yuki and sampling her traditional Catalan dishes made us feel part of your family. Thank you from Eva, Antti, Barbra and Mark.”
Lizette and Gerda – South Africa - April 2013 – Barcelona & Girona culinary tour
“It was the perfect holiday. Yvan was the perfect host, knowledgeable and taking us to visit the most interesting places, people and restaurants. The hotel in Madremanya was quaint with the friendliest staff. It was a special treat to share Vincenc’s kitchen. It was totally enjoyable yet relaxing and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to all foodies – a gastronomic feast! “
“We really did have a wonderful holiday and would recommend Spain taste to anyone wanting to visit Barcelona.”
Barbara – USA - May 2012 – Gourmet Catalonia Culinary tour
Spaintaste surpassed our wildest expectations. Yvan’s knowledge of the area, gourmet restaurants and Catalan food/wine made the Gourmet Catalonia tour perfect in every way. Yvan knows the local history of the towns and villages in the beautiful Spanish countryside and each day was a sightseeing adventure. Hotel La Placa is beautiful and our accommodations were wonderful. We were immediately made to feel at home. Vicenc, our host, the restaurant chef and cooking teacher, was terrific. Each class was engaging and fun and the food we cooked was delicious. I felt we were leaving good friends by the time the tour was over. It was a trip of a lifetime and I am savoring every memory….
Mary Mc Nally – USA – May 2012 – Traditional Costa Brava Culinary Tour
I want to share with everyone who thinks that they might like a cooking tour that this is the one tour to choose! I enjoyed my experience in May in the lovely village of Begur and the surrounding area. The accomodations were superb, the cooking experience much better than I had anticipated, and the tour of the area interesting, relaxing and totally enjoyable. I hope you’ll share some of the pictures that you took Yvan!
Mary – Australia – April 2012 – Barcelona and Girona Culinary Tour
‘Recently we had a glorious 6 days with Yvan. The tour was perfect as it combined 2 nights in Barcelona followed by 3 nights in Madramanya. Everything about it exceeded expectations…it was wonderful being shown around by someone who knew this beautiful area so well. We had the perfect balance of great restaurant experiences, cooking classes, fine wines, sightseeing of delightful villages and visits to special places that the ordinary tourist would not be able to access. Hotel Placa where we stayed and cooked at Madraymanya was unique – I’ve never stayed anywhere so historic and in such beautiful surroundings. The chef Vincent gives the cooking classes and the 11 course tasting menu on the final night prepared by Vincent and his team was visually and gastronomically amazing! Before the tour began we were disappointed that we were the only 2 on it but we soon realized what a luxury and a joy it is to have your own personal guide who is so knowledgeable, professional and flexible. I would now love to do Yvan’s tour in Provence!’
Aaron Weiss – USA – March 2012 – Gourmet Catalonia Culinary Tour
My wife and I spent our honeymoon with Spain Taste on the Costa Brava culinary tour—it was incredible. Yvan Mas and Chef Vincenc provided an incredible adventure of local touring, knowlegeable history, exquisite dining and meaningful, practical cooking lessons easily translated to the kitchen at home. Yvan’s local knowledge, excellent English, and friendly accomodating demeanor make him a unique and superb tour guide.
The beauty of the Costa Brava region exists on its own, yet the choices made by Yvan on the itinerary were excellent not only for their beauty but for the manner in which Yvan immerses you in the history and then the flavor of each destination. The restaurants and menu choices were each unique and provided an excellent opportunity to experience the Catalan culture through food. We never left a meal and the variety of selections and the portions were substantial. Spending each day with Yvan was a true pleasure as he is sincerely excited about sharing Catalonia with guests and bridging different cultures from around the world together.
The Hotel La Placa is a stunning beauty with modern, luxury accomodations set in a building and village dating from at least the 16th century. Staying at La Placa was like traveling back in time to the quiet and peaceful farming community without sacrficing any modern convienence whatsoever. The accomdations, friendly and helpful staff, and pool and garden area all help to create the most romantic destination I have encountered. It is at La Placa where we met Chef Vincenc who is a true superstar in the kitchen both as master chef and culinary teacher. Upon meeting Vincenc, his bright smile and perfect English put me at immediate comfort secure in the knowledge were we in good hands. Chef Vincenc cooked for us, cooked with us, and like Yvan became a new friend. We have been fortunate to dine at many of the top restaurants in the world, and the meals prepared by Vincenc compete equally with all of them. He is a true artist blending flavor, odor, texture, appearance and temperature into each bite. The welcoming meal prepared for us was worthy of Michilen stars.
Cooking classes with Vincenc were absolute fun. Rather than trying to teach all the skills and knowledge he has acquired over many years, Vincenc focuses his lessons on teaching efficiency and practicality in the kitchen. The lessons, always accompanied by excellent wines, were occassions to laugh, learn, taste, and challenge ourselves to try new things. I am very comfortable in the kitchen and the primary cook in our home, and my wife is quite uncomfortable cooking. We both were fully engaged in the cooking lessons with Vincenc, and both left with new ideas of working in the kitchen at home.
We were the only two people taking the tour and were spoiled to have Vincenc and Yvan all to ourselves. Yet I am confident the tour and lessons would be equally fulfilling were we part of a group of friends or a group of strangers. Both Yvan and Vincenc are masters of hospitality and made our week with Spain Taste one of the best experiences we have shared together. We left Spain Taste with new friends, Yvan and Vincenc, who we will visit again and who are welcome in our home at any time.
Paige and Andy Andrews –USA – Gourmet Catalonia Culinary Tour – October 2011
What a wonderful trip! You did an excellent job at thoughtfully planning out every detail of our trip. You have such a nice personal style Yvan, you are very caring and accommodating – you asked about food allergies (thank goodness we had none), about our need to stop at restrooms along the way, or if we were thirsty, or our need for breaks.
Our itineraries were planned with the right amount of activities and rest – what a great job of balancing our schedule.
Cooking classes were lots of fun! Vicenc made cooking seem easy. All of the thought and planning had been done, ingredients were all laid out and ready – now I know what it would be like to be a TV cooking personality.
Everything that we made was delicious and we are looking forward to making these dishes
with our friends and family.
Our accommodations at La Placa were just fabulous! Jaume was an excellent host, ensuring that the breakfast omelets were hot and available, to plenty of cava and vino to support our vacation fun.
The morning Jaume surprised all the women with freshly cut roses from his garden was such a nice touch from our Casanova-de Espana. I also appreciate the use of bicycles as the gastronomic tours did not disappoint with food quantity or quality – so a ride on the country roads to burn some calories was just great!
Food throughout the entire trip was fabulous – from the workman’s lunches, La Placa dinner, Girona meals, and certainly the dinner at El Cellar de Can Roca- each was unique and special in its own way.
This might be the first trip where we actually took as many pictures of food as we did anything else!
As I looked back at your website – you promised
- Lovely accommodations and superb meals
- Relaxed cooking classes with top Chefs in Catalan and Spanish cuisine
- Insiders visits to local culinary artisans and
- The wines of Spain to sample and enjoy
You delivered 100% on each of these promises and we had a GREAT time!
Thank you Yvan for such a memorable vacation, we have memories and pictures to last a lifetime!
Paige & Andy Andrews – Priorat Wine Culinary Tour – October 2011
Yvan, what a great time we had on the Priorat Wine Tour!
Our hotel, Cal Llop, in the city of Gratallops was very nice. I love how the people of Spain have preserved the beauty of these historic villages with the hundreds of year old stone and exterior architecture but yet transformed the interior to more modern and comfortable accommodations!
Gratallops is so conveniently located to all of the wineries that we visited too it was nice to not have too long of a commute between wineries.
Each of the wineries that we visited was so well planned. They were all expecting us and it was a treat to be greeted and given tours by the actual wine makers/owners.
Each of the wine makers that we met was different and had a unique passion for what their wine and the harvesting from the earth was all about.
From the energy and passion of Mikkel @ Clos Figueras, the religion of wine from Jordi the preist’s son @ La Conreria D’Scala Dei, to the humor and good nature of Carlos @ Clos l’Obac and the grand finale visit with Frances @ Capafons I Osso, each was a unique experience in the wine making ofthe rugged terrain of Priorat.
It was with the fifth and final visit with Frances of Capafons-Osso, that we
felt like we were part of a great symphony of nature where we learned all the love of the rugged land and the love and nurture of nature that makes the Priorat wine region so special! It was the first time that we had ever been given a field tour and to tour the rugged wine region in his 4×4 truck – what a
unique experience. I have to say that there were a few turns on that mountain that I was holding my breath, but Frances has made those turns hundreds of time – there was really nothing to fear. ??
The cava caves and our visit at Gramona were very nice as well! In today’s world of everything automated and done by machine – it was nice to see the love and care of the brand being completed all by hand! Elizabeth did a great job showing us the entire end-to-end process of the cava making.
She had a great deal of knowledge for the riddling process and the four steps in the yeast settling, the corking and then on to the years of storage in the cava caves.
The food that was prepared on this trip was delicious! The lunch in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia – I think it was the first time Andy had eaten a full little calamari with the tentacles on it and the meatballs were delicious! The dinner in Falset at El Cairat was excellent as well – it was some of the tenderest steak we
had on our trip.
We appreciate all your hard work and research that you did for this trip! We have so many memories and photographs of this trip it will be a great conversation topic for months to come!
Yvan you are an excellent guide and took tremendous care of us on this trip! Thank you for sharing you knowledge of the Catalonia region and your dedication, love and passion for all people.
Paige and Andy Andrews
Doug and Carol – Canada – Traditional Costa Brava Culinary Tour – September 2011
We really enjoyed our short time in Spain and particularly the time that we spent with you. The sights were remarkable, the food was fabulous, and your guiding abilities were outstanding. Thanks so much for making our vacation so memorable.
Kind regards and thanks again!
Michael & Robert – Australia – Barcelona and Girona Culinary Tour – May 2011
“Easily the best food tour we could ever have hoped to have experienced. Only local knowledge can ensure an authentic adventure. In a nut shell, this is what Spain Taste delivers. Your host, Yvan, capitalises on both his local knowledge and local contacts to introduce customers to an amazing gustatory journey. Catalan food and culture is the name of the game, and it is delivered in spades. Bar-style and gourmet tapas, together with regional and five star restaurants, are all included in the tour… not to mention the cooking classes where customers learn to create their own Catalan creations. The side trips are both informative and quirky. This tour is a must for all lovers of food. Michael & Robert”
Jerry and Karen Glaser – NY – 3 day tour – May 2011
Our group of seven traveled with Yvan in mid-May 2011. We all had a delicious and informative tour. The food was outstanding! The inn located Girona was wonderful! We were all thrilled to receive a private cooking class with a world class chef. Yvan accommodated the requests of our group with grace. We highly recommend him and Spain Taste.
L. P. – USA – Gourmet Catalonia Tour – July 2009
SUNFLOWERS OF CATALONIA
I can still see the fields of bright yellow sunflowers that cover the rolling hills of the Spanish countryside. My culinary adventure in Costa Brava exceeded all of my expectations. Everything was like a fantasy–from the charming village of Madremanya where we stayed for six nights and our fantastic 14th century converted farmhouse hotel, La Placa, to our handsome Catalan guide, Yvan, and our star chef instructor, Chef Vincenc–the whole experience could not have been more perfect.
Our personal guide, Yvan, met us at the airport in Barcelona. We were presented with our itinerary and then we were off on the 90 minute or so drive to our hotel, located in Madremanya, which is north of Barcelona, in the hills between Girona and Emporda. To say the area is stunning does not really begin to describe it. Beautiful old medieval villages dotted the hills, with golden stone streets and buildings surrounded by fertile farmland and what seemed like miles and miles of blooming, bright yellow, smiling sunflowers! It was like I was looking at a postcard.
We arrived at La Placa and settled in a bit. A few hours later, Yvan returned to take us on our first adventure–dinner in the historic medieval town of Girona. We were so lucky to have Yvan, He is Catalan and consequently very knowledgeable about the area and it’s history and, most importantly, it’s food! There is so much to share about the food, the wine, the restaurants, the villages . . . Yvan took us on a tour of a different quaint village or historic town every afternoon. Each evening was topped off with a fabulous dinner at a different restaurant each night with traditional Catalan cuisine. The tours even included a visit to a family-owned bakery still baking bread and other goodies the way they did over a hundred years ago and in the same wood burning oven in the wall of the building. We also went to a small Catalonia winery and visited with the winemaker and tasted some of the wine. One of the most fun and interesting tours was our visit to a local chocolate maker, who gave us some samples of some really delicious and original “bon bons” (my favorite was the chocolate with the lemon crème filling). After the visit in the tiny chocolate “factory” in the medieval stone building, he generously and proudly opened up his entire home to us and gave us a tour! The chocolate maker gentleman is a collector of fine art and antiques and he took us room by room throughout his home and shared his beautiful pieces with us. We were truly in awe of this generous man. And his home is actually built into part of the old medieval fortress wall that once surrounded the city. Words cannot describe how humbled, thankful and happy I felt at the end of that day.
Oh–I haven’t even told you much about our hotel, it was the most gorgeous place! The owner, Jaume Vidal (who is also a chef), has restored the medieval farmhouse to pristine beauty, inside and out. There is a pool–which looks like it’s been there hundreds of years (very well don’t to fit the charm of the hotel and it’s surroundings!) and a fabulous garden. Roses, herbs, vegetables, fruit trees . . . Just gorgeous! As an aside, while we were in the kitchen one day with Chef Vincenc, Jaume burst in with the latest copy of a magazine called “Cuina” (which means “kitchen” in Catalan). He was so excited that his hotel and kitchen were featured in the magazine and there was a full 2-page beautiful picture of him in his lovely garden. I bought a copy at a newstand in Barcelona so I could bring it home . . .even though I can’t read it! LOL! The photo spread is truly fantastic (okay–I know I’m overusing the words beautiful, gorgeous, fabulous, fantastic . . . .but those really are the only words to describe all of this!)!
And the cooking! Our daily cooking classes were taught by Chef Vincenc, who runs the kitchen at La Placa. His English was great (which was good since our Spanish was not so good), and he was very at ease showing us the ways of traditional Catalan cuisine. Each class ended with us sharing our Catalan creations and a bottle of wine (or two) with Chef Vincenc. He always gave us his full attention, even with dinner service looming each night and prep for service for a 300 guest wedding party for the coming weekend! On Thursday, deliveries kept arriving in the kitchen as we worked and Chef Vincenc was so enthusiastic about all of it–he showed us the gorgeous fresh fish that came in and described everything and made us feel so welcome and comfortable in his hard-working kitchen. Oh–and we discovered that he and his wife, Monica are big U2 fans, as well! They saw U2 in Barcelona for the opening night of the 360 degree tour! Anyway, as for cooking, check out the pics.
Peter and Vivienne – South Africa – Gourmet Catalonia – October 2009
“Peter and I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the most wonderful week. It was perfect in every way, the visits to meet interesting and friendly people, the accommodation, the sight-seeing and of course the eating!
We re-visited everywhere that you took us to and with Jaume and Vincenc’s help, we had another week of incredible food and sights. In three weeks we did not have one disapointing meal.
Then too, we have to thank your wife for organising the hotel in Barcelona, the Ciutat, it was very good, well-positioned good rooms and friendly, helpful staff.
We arrived back home on Thursday and we have been singing your praises ever since.”