It’s been about 3 weeks since I’ve cooked anything and it’s been a nice break. I might have forgotten how to operate the stove.
The past 3 weeks I’ve spent touring around Barcelona, Spain. This was my third visit to Barcelona but those visits were only a day or two and I was less interested in food. I do remember loving the shopping though and it is still amazing. So many unique boutiques – El Born was my favorite neighborhood by far!
When I visited Barcelona in 1993, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia was under construction and of course it still is – 2041 is the new completion date. This time the interior was open to the public. It’s mind-blowing architecture – just look at the photos.
My favorite part was a hike at Cap de Creus. Upon arrival to the base of the park, our bus driver, Jordi (apparently the most common male name in Cataluyna, Montse, for Monserrat, is the most common female name) stopped the bus short and declared that we could not take the bus into the park. What!? The street sign was clear that no buses were aloud. After much convincing and a promise that we would pay the fine if a ticket was issued, we ascended to the peak of Cap de Creus and it was like another planet.
Large craggy mountains with cliffs that flanked the sea – it was like giant coral rocks. Turns out a new park law requires a special permit for buses – we were lucky that no one was checking that day.
Coming through customs on the way home, my bag was filled with food related delights. Cheeses, olive oil, paprika, Marcona almonds, olives, beans and of course cava and chocolate. The customs agent might have though I was a bit nuts hauling around sacks of beans. I just couldn’t help myself. There were several spice shops with burlap sacks full of any type of flour, chocolate, bean, nut, spice, etc. Surely a must-visit for any cook! My favorite was Casa Perris.
Our trip was somewhat work related. We were leading a group of college students on a study abroad course called The Entrepreneurial Mindset. Part of the course included site visits to Spanish entrepreneurs – one of which was a family-run vineyard called ArtCava.
If you haven’t heard of cava – it’s Spanish bubbly. It can’t be called Champagne since that only comes from a specific region of France. I found it interesting to learn that the soil and weather patterns in France are not ideal for growing grapes – the soil is rich and the weather brings too much rain – resulting in a heftier price to pay for the goods. On the other hand, Spain’s poor soil and dry conditions make the perfect growing environment. Maybe that’s why the wine is cheaper than water.
ArtCava focuses on the experience of cava creation and not on selling it. It does have a small bottling production, but they make most of their profit from their all day owner-led experiences – cooking classes, cava making, etc.
Needless to say, I ate my way through Catalunya and will need the next few weeks to return to my normal eating habits and times. Europeans really do eat dinner at 11pm!
Best Eats in Barcelona:
Authentic Mom + Pop Catalan:
La Cova Fumada – In the Barceloneta neighborhood, this hidden gem is easy to walk past. In fact, there’s no sign. It’s small, but it’s the most wonderful place to eat ever. This would be the first place I go back to when I return to Barcelona one day.
Bar del Pla – Our friend Elizabeta brought us to Bar del Pla. We had an hour wait before we could get a table, so we walked and walked and walked around the neighborhood as is the Spanish custom. It was worth the wait. I tried black squid ink croquettes (croqueta de calamar en la seva tenta) which were surprisingly good! Another favorite was a garbanzo bean dish.
La Fermata – We spent two weeks in Barcelona and ate here 3 times. You get to choose how big a square of pizza you’d like. They usually have 8 different types. All of them were delicious. Sometimes you just need pizza!
Teresa Carles – After endless tapas, a local friend suggested we this place out. We didn’t have a reservation which was not a great idea, but they fit us in no problem. Their menu is awesome, everything was delicious and the service was great! They had some great flavor combos which we really enjoyed. I had some great beet ravioli!
A short train ride just south of Barcelona is the quaint seaside town of Sitges. If you have a day to explore outside the city, I highly recommend the side trip! It has nice beaches, good restaurants and little shops and bakeries. If your lucky, you’ll be there at the same time as the Corpus Christi Festival where the town streets are carpeted in murals made with live flower petals and there is a huge parade with giant paper mache heads – aka gigantes y cabezudos which means “giants and big heads.” It’s a site to be seen.
We dined at La Picara Sitges. We opened the place which meant we had our pick of their beautiful tapas selection. The owner waited on us and suggested some amazing dishes off the main menu. We had a wonderful dinner here and would go back in a heartbeat!
You may enjoy this recipe I made with all my Spanish loot!
Smoky Kale Salad with Manchego and Marcona Almonds