2011 has has nearly blown my mind.
I have so much to tell you, but I don’t want to blather on with a never ending telenovela, so I’ve broken up my European adventures into a series of posts. I’ll try to publish them on each Friday; a little brain candy for those of you who are interested.
I thought I’d start with what might be the most exciting gluten-free discovery of the year… gluten-free croissants!
A MYSTERIOSO INVITATION
Earlier this year I opened a mysterious email. It was from a gentleman by the name of Joan [pronounced Joe-on] Turull, the president of a gluten-free food company named Proceli. I was personally invited to come visit Barcelona, Spain as his guest and tour the headquarters. I use the word “gentleman” because he even invited me to bring along a friend in order to feel more comfortable with the situation and to make clear his intentions were honorable. He made it clear he wanted to talk to me as an expert about the gluten-free market in America.
The name Proceli is the combination of the two words “pro” and “celiac”.
I think I had an adrenaline hangover for about one week! You could say I’ve somehow managed to travel a lot of the world in cava style on a cerveza budget, but I’d never been to Barcelona before. I had to think about it. NO, not really!!!
Barcelona’s airport was a stark contrast compared to La Guardia or JFK , and it’s the visitor’s first exposure to the passion Spain has for design.
I was nervous, “What does this guy look like? How are we ever going to find each other?” I called myself a few degrading names for not having arranged a plan for some sort of tell-tale sign, like wearing a red scarf or something.
Phew! It wasn’t a problem finding each other after all! Joan stood out from the crowd beaming with Spanish hospitality, euro-chic attire, bright blue eyes, and olive skin.
My good friend Jasmine was due to arrive in two days. She was my first choice as a companion for four reasons; she’s a powerful businesswoman in the world of finance, she speaks fluent Spanish, her palate is refined, and most importantly, she’s always a good time! I knew I would feel more at ease on this adventure with her around.
Joan promptly took me to breakfast near the hotel. We got better acquainted over some jamon and tortilla de patata. I was ravenous after the long night flight.
As I stuffed my face while trying to keep my eyes open, Joan went through the itinerary he had planned as a most gracious host. “Today you will rest, tomorrow I will pick you up and we will go to lunch at Cal Pep. Afterwards, we will visit the chocolate museum that my father owns, and then we will visit Sagrada Familia.”
Rewind! “…chocolate museum my father owns”!!! OMG!!! I might have been half asleep but my brain cells registered as if with a jolt of theobromine that he’s basically the son of Willy Wonka! I quickly said to myself, “Do NOT give him the organic Oregon chocolates that you thought were such a great gift idea!!!”
THE MAN BEHIND PROCELI
Joan Turull learned the art of baking as a young man while working with his father in their family owned bakery. (Now his father is the leader of what tranlsates into English as the patisserie society of Spain and famous people like Albert Adria have apprenticed with him.) Joan has even competed and won some awards at the baking equivalent of the olympics in France and Japan.
Patrons of the bakery started asking for gluten-free items and Joan took on the challenge. In true entrepreneurial style, he branched out on his own in 1976 by starting Proceli and creating only gluten-free products. Growing leaps and bounds it is now sold in 15 different countries in Europe and now there are 40 gluten-free products to choose from. Many different food allergies are accommodated with a clear chart on the labels and the products are certified by just about every possible certification you can qualify for in Europe. You can find an assortment of their items at the popular Il Corte Ingles stores in Barcelona and Madrid. There is also a store locator on the website.
So, back to the croissants, if anyone could create gluten-free croissants, Joan Turull could. This quixotic quest was perfectly suited for a pastry chef with a Spanish pedigree. After all, Spain is the land of Ferran and Albert Adria, Gaudi, and Cervantes!
My friend Jasmine is not gluten-free, but has eaten in some of the finest restaurants in the world. So, she was the perfect person to take with me to the Proceli headquarters for a tasting. Imagine a board room table full of gluten-free treats! It is true that a lot of gluten-free products, although delicious, do not taste exactly like their glutenous counterparts. Consider too, that Jasmine’s palate hasn’t adapted to a gluten-free diet. She kept a rating system for each sample and many of them she exclaimed were as delicious or more delicious than the real deal! The gluten-free croissants were well received.
At the time of our tour, the gluten-free croissants were still being made by hand! This is something that deters most companies from attempting to produce them.
(I would have taken photos, but they weren’t allowed within the facility.)
The Proceli gluten-free croissants and other products are not yet available in the US, but continue to “dream the impossible dream” of eating gluten-free croissants soon! For now, you can keep up to date with Proceli on their English Facebook page. There’s also a Spanish Proceli Facebook page. And you can also follow Proceli on Twitter and Joan Turull directly via Twitter.
[sexy saxophone music]
Stay tuned when I share my adventures visiting the Museu de la Xocolata, Sagrada Familia, Cal Pep and Albert Adria’s new restaurant!