Day 101: The Diablo and the Jester

“Hey what is the new bike like?”

“Ed, what is the new bike like?”

It took a nudge in the ribs to snap me out of my trance like state. I was staring at the front forks, thinking ‘those are pretty sturdy looking forks’.

“Huh?” – it was all I managed to say.

“I said, what is the new bike like? You can’t take your eyes of it.” He had a rough, yet soft voice, that sounded like the rustle of dry leaves.

“Oh…well..it is very good” I was trying to tear my gaze away from it, I turned my head but my eyes were stuck to the spot. I could hear the wind blowing in the tall trees that lined the valley. Eventually I blinked and looked up.

The man that was standing there was old. Perhaps seventy. He had been in the bike shop whilst my NeilPryde Diablo was having a different set of handlebars and stem fitted. In his hand he held a glass of Cava. Sunlight was catching the bubbles as they raced towards the surface in his glass. It was ten thirty in the morning but then this is Spain.

I stood up, turned and faced him to shake his hand. He was wearing an old professional cycling team jersey, stretched and faded, I could make out the logo on the front it read ‘Banesto’. His Giro Hammerhead helmet must have been from the same era, the red had faded in the sun like an old discoloured life ring that you might find attached to the railings of a pier – one of those life rings that would probably sink like a stone rather than actually save your life. I wondered if his old helmet would save him, it looked rather worse for wear. He chugged his Cava, wobbled a little bit on his feet and steadied himself by putting his hand on my shoulder.

He slowly bent down, his arthritic hips made him grunt as he did so, and then he ran his hand along the carbon forks. “They are big no?” he had seen me looking at them. They certainly looked impressive – large matt black, carbon fork legs, that tapered elegantly from top to bottom. His old steel forks on his ancient Zeuss looked positively spindly next to those on my bike.

We were standing upon the terrace of a restaurant, one that is popular with weekend cyclists. It is located in the small town of Canyamars, at the very end of an out and back route. It is a watering hole for mountain bikers and road riders that like to drink Cava mid-ride.

I looked around the terrace at the jumble of bikes leant up against the wall. There was quite a range with all manner of bike represented. I took a look at the only other matt black carbon road bike that I could see amongst the crowd. It was hideous. Whereas mine was designed by a team at BMW’s design house, full of flowing, functional lines, the other matt black bike could have been nailed to the side of a building to ward off evil spirits. I decided not to take a photo of it for fear of recrimination.

My bike admirer returned to his table, his empty glass in hand. His cycling buddies had alerted him to the fact that food had arrived. A large plate was placed upon the shiny metal table. Upon asking I was told that it was a plate of cold duck livers in a thick sauce made from sautéed apples, and served with bread. They refilled his glass as he sat down.

I decided it was time for an energy gel and some water and thought I would take a look around a medieval fair that was in town before setting off on the return leg.

Spain seems to have a fascination with medieval fairs. They tend to pop up fairly often. I like them. Walking through them is a bit like looking at one of those ‘Where is Wally Pictures’ – you can’t help looking at all the little details.

As I was about to leave, I was accosted by a man in a jesters outfit who proclaimed himself to be a cyclist and friend of the duck liver munching, Cava swilling chap. He wanted to have a look at my bike as well. It turned out that he was in charge of a sweet stall and offered his entire stock in exchange for my bike. Clearly he was a swivel eyed lunatic. I laughed, took his photo and promised to email him a copy. It was time to get back on the bike.

I had decided to add a climb and a fast technical descent to the route to test out the sturdy looking forks. I had a suspicion that they were going to contribute towards an excellent descent on the Diablo.

The road out (and into) Canyamars is well paved, with nice smooth blacktop and fast sweeping bends that flow from one to the next. As you enter the marginally larger town of Dos Rios you come across a small junction, I took the road that climbs out of town, specifically so that I could test the handling of the new bike on the fast, technical descent into Llinars de Valles.

I was wondering what sort of effect drinking half a bottle of Cava and then eating a plate of duck livers would have had on my ability to tackle the climb at any decent pace and I smiled. It is guys like him that make cycling such an interesting pursuit for me. I enjoy talking to the young racing whippets with aero hairstyles and power-meters on their carbon machines almost as much as the old guys in faded jerseys on steel-framed museum pieces, with a glass of Cava in one hand.

The start of the descent snapped me out of my daydream. It took just one fast bend to confirm my suspicion that the bike handled with precision. It felt ‘connected’, the front end inspired me with the confidence to take each bend at progressively faster speeds. This bike was a surgeon’s scalpel compared to the white plastic throw-away knife that you get in a cheap take-away.

I was extremely happy – this new bike was well balanced, with a delicate feel. It was smooth, refined and yet bubbly at the same time. Not unlike a good Cava.

When I returned home, I decided to look up a recipe for cold duck livers and thought I would share one with you.

Unless you are a professional chef, you might not know what ‘curd’ or isinglass is. I certainly will not pretend either of those ingredients are in my kitchen.

Curd is apparently quite easy to get hold of. You just have to ask for it in a large supermarket.

I really had no idea what on earth ‘isinglass’ was. Apparently it is made by cleaning and drying the air-bladders of the Sturgeon, Cod, or Hake. Finding this one might be a little more challenging.

Right then, so this is what you will need:

Ingredients (for 6 persons)
600 gr Foie-gras.
15g fine salt.
1g black pepper.
50ml Armagnac.
400 g Apples.
Olive oil
102 g sugar
Water
250 g Curd.
180g lightly whipped cream.
2.50g isinglass.
1 slice bread.
Maldon Salt.

Preparation
First remove the veins from the duck liver, then season it with salt, pepper and sugar and fry at 60ºC ( this is a pretty low heat) until it begins to release fat and juice. Wrap it in cling-film and place it in a mould with a weight on top to give it shape, and leave it to cool for 12 hours (this is not fast food).

Calculate 100g of cooked liver per person.

Peel and cut each apple into 6 segments then sauté in oil, add the sugar and allow it to caramelize.

For the curd mousse, heat a little of the curd and dissolve the isinglass in it, then add the remainder of the curd together with the sugar, and mix. Place in the fridge and when the mixture is cold carefully add the lightly whipped cream.

To serve, first divide the liver into three portions per person with a hot knife and place on the plate. Put the three segments of apple beside it and garnish with Armagnac.

The toast and butter goes on a separate plate.

Serve with a nice cold bottle of Cava, and enjoy it, preferably on a warm terrace in the sun, definitely post ride, not mid-ride, unless you are friends with a medieval jester, in which case, do as you please.

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