17 January 2019

Crazy for calçots – everything about the Catalan onion festival

A calçotada is one of those things you wouldn’t necessarily know about unless you had been living in the Barcelona area for a while, or if you were chummy with the locals. These gastronomic feasts – which are typical of the Catalonia region – are usually held between January and March, as winter approaches its final months. A traditional calçotada involves consuming hundreds of calçots, a large variety of grilled meats, and of course – red wine. You’ll want to arrive to these large-scale barbecues with an empty stomach and a large appetite.

Crazy for calçots – everything about the Catalan onion festival
Calcots and the typical romesco sauce, photo via Saveur.com

How to eat calçots?

The calçots – which are like giant green onions – are placed tightly together on a grill and are charred, leaving their interiors soft and creamy. They are typically wrapped and bundled in newspaper and brought to the table. Once they arrive, it’s a free-for-all. Because of the mess involved with peeling off the outside layer of the calçot and dipping the end into a delectable romesco sauce (roasted red peppers and almonds), restaurants usually provide guests with large bibs to keep their outfits clean. Some even go as far as to offer plastic gloves!

Once you’ve eaten as many calçots as you can, out come the grilled meats – lamb, chicken, and sausages of all kinds. Generally, when attending a calçotada in the countryside, the restaurant charges a flat fee which includes unlimited food and drink. You can expect to leave a calçotada in great spirits as there is never a shortage of delicious wine from the region. If you want to get even more traditional, you can drink from a porró, which is a distinctive wine receptacle designed in Catalonia. The seasoned porró drinker makes it looks easy, but it’s advised to start with the spout close to the mouth at first as to avoid even more mess.

A classic porró filled with red wine, photo via La Tienda

When these beloved onions are in season, you’ll find them on many menus in various forms, but we still think the original way is best. If you want to try calçots as they were intended to be eaten, try searching in small towns outside of Barcelona for a real authentic experience. The calçotoda de Valls is one of the most famous celebration and the town itself is where calçots come from.

Have you ever attended a calçotada in or around Barcelona? Did you ever think you would find onions so delicious?

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