One of my favourite things about living in Catalunya is the abundance of festivals nearly all of which involve food, wine or invariably both.
This weekend sees it all kick off with the Xató Festival—a regional salad of escarola, salt cod and anchovies dressed with a romesco sauce–on Sunday, 23rd Jan 2011, at 11am in Vilafranca del Penedès. Centred around the Rambla Sant Francesc it will be a day of inevitable competitions for the best xató in town, innumerable tastings and lashings of young wine from last year's harvest. www.rutadelxato.com.
A little further away, and also on Sunday, the small rural town of Valls near Tarragona hosts its annual calçotada. Dating back more than 100 years this is the spiritual birthplace of the calçot. Festivities begin at 10am, but it doesn’t really start getting interesting until 1pm with the calçot eating competition, followed by huge pyres in the street barbecuing these phenomenal sort-of-leek, sort-of-spring onion followed by monster quantities of botifarra and lamb chops. It’s not for the faint of heart of appetite, though I do recommend making a restaurant reservation if you plan to eat heartily. Like most of these things, battling your way through the masses on the street can leave you with less than you bargained for. I really like Cal Ganxo (www.calganxo.com). See www.cambravalls.com for more information about the festival itself.