In the small village of Regencós, between Pals and Begur, is a unique restaurant with the Slow Food seal and named after a flower: La Calèndula (marigold). Its chef Iolanda Bustos is, besides being an excellent cook, a true botanical connoisseur, more capable than anyone of putting her love of the landscape into her dishes. Daughter of a chef and a farmer, she has been able to use her family legacy to create a unique combination: recovering the ancestral knowledge of nature and whipping up tasty surprises in the kitchen. La Calèndula’s elegant dining room looks towards an extraordinary terrace and flower garden in one
direction, and an open kitchen in the other, which, at first glance, looks more like a florist.
-How would you define your cooking?
–It’s inspired by the surrounding landscape. I want people to learn to play with nature, connect with it and to awaken a different way of seeing things. I cook the landscape.
-How do you come up with the dishes?
–My team and I leave the kitchen and head for the countryside or the beach. When we’re in nature our minds are in the kitchen and vice versa. We create a dish from a flower, we don’t add a flower to a dish. We don’t do tasting menus, but rather gastronomic wanderings; some long-distance hikes and others short strolls. This spring, for example, we’ve done the coastal paths around Begur. Instead of first or second courses, we have sections: Illa Roja, Sa Riera, Cap sa Sal… with herbs and flowers picked along the path. I also like something which is very typical here known as “sea and mountain”. One dish pits “sea nettles” (a kind of sea anemone) against the stinging nettle plant, the intensity and sweetness of the earth combined with a bite from the sea.
-And what about the techniques?
–I try to use the classic techniques. Natural fermentation, drying in the sun, maceration… Back to the mortar and pestle and hours spent on preparation. Biodynamics are always present; the moon is a strong influence.
-And the wines?
-They’re all ecological. We offer wild wine menus, which, besides including our fermented drinks, also have different wines, depending on the ingredients for the dishes. We take hotel guests to the vineyards where we pick the flowers which we then take into the kitchen. Later they eat the flowers accompanied by wines produced from the same vines.
-Do you have any surprises in store for the summer?
–We have some special dinners planned for the full-moon evenings. We’re going to serve up biodynamic dishes and wines, a duet will sing songs inspired by the moon and we’ll have an expert in astrology in the restaurant. The moon will be the star of the show.