“Best restaurant in the world” El Bulli to close for two years

Dedicated foodies with dreams of dining at El Bulli, long considered to be one of the best (and often the best) restaurants in the world, are in for some disappointment. The mecca of molecular gastronomy will be closing for two years, in 2012 and 2013.

The restaurant, which is located on the Catalan coast of Spain and has received the coveted Michelin 3-star rating, was named the best restaurant in the world for the fourth straight year by Britain’s Restaurant magazine and is considered to be one the places any food-lover must dine at before dying. Chef Ferran Adria assured devoted fans that though El Bulli will close temporarily, it isn’t gone for good. He did say that there may be some major changes in store though. “In 2014, we will serve food somehow. I don’t know if it will be for one guest or 1,000,” he said.

What’s the reason behind the closure? The Guardian cites Adria as saying that the long hours – he regularly puts in 15-hour days – were getting to him. Though Adria has also said before that El Bulli is not a profitable business, due to the limited seatings and the labor required to do each one. Perhaps the new model will be a better moneymaker.

Thinking you can try to get in before El Bulli shuts its doors? Think again. Seatings for 2010 have already sold out, so unless you are extremely well connected, you’re out of luck. Not that you had much chance of getting a seat anyways. The restaurant only serves 50 guests per night, six months out of the year, and according the UK Guardian, more than 2 million people have vied for a mere 8,000 seats over the past few years.

Frommer’s on Gadling? The “Blogger Swap” Explained

Throughout the history of civilization, there have been swaps. Land swaps. Housing swaps. Student exchange swaps. Lunchbox dessert swaps. Baseball card swaps. Baseball player swaps. “Cash for Clunkers” swaps. Wife Swap. Now, for your reading pleasure, a Blogger Swap.

That’s a long way of saying that I’ll be writing on Gadling during the month of September, though I normally write on Frommers.com. Gadling’s Jeremy Kressman and Grant Martin will both write for Frommer’s. It’s an experiment that will hopefully not disrupt the travel/time/space continuum or cause anyone’s favorite cereals or bacon to get thrown away.

(That’s a Wife Swap reference. Everything that can go awesomely wrong with a swap is illustrated in a recent 1-minute clip of the show. Click here to watch.)

So who am I, and what do you get out of this barter? I am an Associate Editor at Frommer’s travel guides, and I contribute to our editors’ blog, Behind the Guides. I’m currently editing Napa and Sonoma Day by Day, Frommer’s India, and Suzy Gershman’s Born to Shop Hong Kong. I’m hoping to use this month to revisit a fantastic 3-week vacation I took with my sister Diane through Italy and Spain in April. We noshed our way through Rome, Siena, up through the Chianti region and Florence to Venice, then over to Barcelona and Madrid. I ate through an entire Frommer’s “Gourmet Barcelona” itinerary and had a home-cooked meal on an agriturismo vineyard/B&B in Chianti. I dined at a Ferran Adrià restaurant in Madrid! I made a lot of food memories – fairly emotional food memories. It’s funny, as the editor of Frommer’s Rome, I remember deleting a few exclamation points I thought were gratuitous. This was the sort of trip that made me want to throw them all back in.

To help with my trip “notes,” I had a strict rule for myself to take a picture of every single dish I ate – and yes, whipping out a big, clunky camera in some of Europe’s best restaurants occasionally made me feel like an idiot and earned me glances from my sister. (Identifying myself as media would have made things easier, but that’s against Frommer’s policy at restaurants.) But in the end, I got the shots, and I’ll share the best ones here.

To whet your appetite, and as a tangible sign that I will not throw away Gadling’s bacon, I sprinkled in a few shots from Restaurante Botin in Madrid. It’s the world’s oldest restaurant (founded in 1725) – and the setting of the end of The Sun Also Rises! This is a half portion of the suckling pig, their specialty, with the oven they’ve used here for centuries.

The dish was EUR 22.50, so my sister and I split it. That’s an average entrée price at Botin (though this is the kind of place with a few marked-up specialties, like their baby eels for a whopping EUR 132 and their “quarter of an hour fish soup” for EUR 16.25).

As we waited for our lunch with glasses of wine in hand, Diane, a certified veterinarian, casually said, “It was probably 4 to 6 weeks old,” referring to our suckling pig. Dining with a vet can be humbling for a carnivore. So I feel somewhat guilty for saying the pig was entirely delicious: perfectly crisp on the outside, tender and juicy inside, very delicately seasoned and served in its jus, with a ham croquette. It would have been the standout dish of the day, had I not enjoyed – there’s just no way to avoid sounding like a jerk here – the Ferran Adrià tasting menu that evening.

I’ll be back with more proverbial bacon, including Adrià’s meal, throughout the month.