Barcelona’s banquet of food
Barcelona is a world famous city; old and yet cosmopolitan, yoked with Roman, Medieval, and Renaissance architecture. It dates back over 2,000 years. This city is full of amazing Art Nouveau as well. One could say the city is an open air museum, and a walking tour is all you need, if your time is limited.
I actually don’t know what to list first because I found this city unbelievable in food, culture, and art. No doubt I ate a month’s worth of calories in one week. Let’s just talk about the food for now. Because…La comida es mi vida!
A great starting point is in the Gothic Quarter where we stayed, and soon found out it’s Roman beginnings. My friend and I had a wonderful meal at Neri Restaurant. Scallops with Iberico ham crackling, Moorish chicken with turmeric hummus, and roasted cannelloni in almond white sauce. All three starters were outstanding and first rate.
This area is steeped in history. Built similar to many old towns in Europe with winding streets, very narrow — perfect for pedestrians. Similar to old town in Nice, France, with a master plan, so too with the old town in Barcelona. Both cities were created with a grid for ventilation.
Good and healthy is the only way to describe the Barcelona cuisine, which is based on the Mediterranean diet. Spanish food is world famous, and I would put the local cuisine as one of the main reasons for living in Spain.
Tapas are the most famous meals. In fact, it is a style of cuisine. Everything is served in small portions, prepared for sharing. A couple times I was alone and there was too much food on the plate. The classic tapas that you can find in tapas bars are croguetas, tortilla Española, gambas al ajillo, calamaris a la romana, pulpo gallego and much more.
La Boqueria is called the “largest and most famous” in Europe; “famous” yes, “largest” is debatable. Agreeably, it is a top public food market anywhere and easy to navigate, and certainly not at all overwhelming as I had imagined. It was the first place I went to after landing in at the Barcelona airport and getting settled into my hotel. Any foodie would have done the same!
Like any covered outdoor market, locals and tourists are everywhere. The environment is very lively and the service extremely friendly. November proved to be a good time here.
Surprisingly, the place was not noisy and well organized. With no agenda where to eat, I let my discerning eyes do the searching for the right place.
The restaurants are long bars with stools with the exception of Bar Central. High top tables are available. Lunchtime can be a challenge to find a seat. Fortunately, I shared a table with another person so I didn’t have to sit on a barstool (with minimum eating area). This restaurant looked phenomenal after I saw shrimp dripping off the plate!
Gigantic Shrimp like that doesn’t exist in the States. I could not resist the Sea Bass which was huge, thick with fish on each side of the backbone.
What was unusual was the plate of roasted veggies: Carrots, zucchini, asparagus, eggplant, red pepper, and tomato. What a treat! No silly pre-packaged French fries here.
The next night my friend picked out Bar Pinotxo which is a legend. You can’t miss it…right near the entrance.
We each had a plate of Catalan stew. Looking back, I don’t remember ordering it. I got off my stool to look at some other plates that people were eating.
My friend was ravenous and had her bowl immediately. Maybe this was the special of the day made by Juanito (the owner) as there are no menus here. I looked at her plate and she had a couple of “patatas,” but I had none. “What, no patatas for me?” The cook shook his head no. My friend gladly gave me one. Each bite of the stew was perfect, tasty and filling. Even the little baby next to me was digging in!
We really had to breeze by, or shall I say, pass up everything; produce, Iberico ham, dried fruit, you name it. We were not here to cook. Our only souvenir was 1k (2.2 lbs) of Marcona almonds between us, which I have taken great measures to hid from my husband. They are the queen of almonds! Roasted in olive oil with the right amount of salt. They are undeniably the best almonds.
I was not impressed with Las Ramblas, although famous, and a bit cheesy with tourist items. It’s a large street that cuts through the center with cars on either side. Just head straight to your destination by walking the side of the street. It starts at Plaça de Catalunya and ends at Monument a Colom, It could serve as a boundary for activity. See red lines below.
La Alcoba Azul is a tiny bar right around the corner from our hotel, almost 25 steps away. This was not on the hotel list and it looked like the best place to be for wine and tapas. A bit on the medieval look; chandeliers, wood floors, with soft jazz. Complete with an outside walk-up window!
They serve original tapas and wine at reasonable prices, 3.40 – 4.50 euros a glass. I noticed they have Caipirinha’s and Mojitos, and now I wished I had one. They don’t make drinks; they create drinks as a work of art. Even the way a gin a tonic is made looks like a ritual.
Late night snack: Catalan bread with blue cheese and caramelized onions.
What a way to end the evening… with a talented street musician.
While looking at my travel folder I noticed a Barcelona article dated 2007. That’s how long I have waited to come to Barcelona. Mission accomplished! I can’t wait to go back; taste more, and see more, and buy more almonds.