Eating in Barcelona the Serious Eats Way
My niece Anna got married yesterday. It was a gorgeous outdoor wedding in Connecticut with perfect weather, a mercifully brief and to-the-point ceremony presided over by a U.S. Court of Appeals judge with a sense of humor, and a radiantly happy and beautiful bride. We gave Anna and Andrew a couple of pots they had registered for, but they are leaving for Barcelona tonight for their honeymoon, so as a little bonus gift I wanted to give them the Serious Eats Barcelona Food Lovers' Guide. Please feel free to add to my admittedly incomplete list.
My wife, Vicky, our son, Will, and I went to Barcelona this past March for a week. Thanks to Teresa Parker, a friend of a friend who runs Spanish culinary tours, we stayed in a great apartment beautifully located five minutes away from La Boqueria, the great Barcelona food market, and The Ramblas, the walking boulevard both Barcelona-ites and tourists seem to frequent daily.
I was armed with a 22-page fax courtesy of Andy Nusser, the chef-owner of the excellent New York Spanish restaurant Casa Mono, who went on a Barcelona eating expedition with Mario Batali. Batali and Nusser had gone to Spain together on an R & D eating and drinking trip before opening Casa Mono. As a kicker, I had a one-page guide from Jeffrey Steingarten. I figured that, between Batali, Nusser, and Steingarten, we would eat very well in Barcelona. That turned out to be an understatement.
Basically, we walked and ate for seven days straight, with a few forays to museums and Gaudi houses and parks in between. So, without further adieu, Barcelona bite by bite.
Address: Mercat de la Boqueria, 66-67
Breakfast was my alone time in Barcelona. Vicky and Will would sleep in, and I would wander over to the the Boqueria. My first stop would always be Cafe Pinotxo, a corner L-shaped counter-food bar. Since I ate there every morning I sampled a wide variety of items: perfect scrambled eggs with tiny clams, smoked trout with Muscat grapes, baby scallops still in their gorgeous shells, baby calamari with in ink satueed with white beans and pomegranate molasses, a simple plate of patenegro, the incomparable Spanish hams, served on a plate or in a pressed sandwich with cheese, gambones (langoustines) with roe sauteed with garlic and parsley, various and sundry fried things. Needless to say, the breakfast menu at Pinoxto is not your typical diner fare. It is delicious, especially washed down at nine in the monring with cava, the Spanish sparkling wine,
Then I would walk around the boqueria trying to educate myself about Spanish ham, because there were literally fifteen ham purveyors in the market. Thankfully Serious Eater Jose came to my rescue with a little on-line tutorial. I bought ham every day in Barcelona, a sort of perverse carnivore's take on the apple a day keeps the doctor away rhyme we all learned as children.
Address: Plaça des les Olles, 8
Although Cal Pep may be overexposed in the US food media, the cooks behind the counter (there are a few tables in the back) do in fact turn out incredibly tasty, deceptively simple Spanish food. We would order a few dishes, I would then see things we hadn't ordered that looked incredibly yummy, we would order some more, and I have to say I found nary a loser. Perfectly fried baby artichokes, a mini-fried seafood combo platter with whitebait, baby calamari, and baby shrimps with their heads still on; barely cooked little clams sauted with bacon, garlic, parsley, white wine, and olive oil; a fresh, fluffy version of the omelet called a tortilla in Spain, made with chorizo, onion, and potato, finished with just a touch of aioli that was the coup de grace; a perfect trio of crisp croquettes stuffed with a perfect bechamel sauce, a little cast iron pan filled with sausage and beans topped with a sweet quince-fruit sauce, and for dessert four shot glasses filled with lemon, coffee, egg nog, and chocolate foam. Cal Pepe is touristy, but it rocks anyway.
Cafe De L'academia
Address: Carrer Lledó, 1
Perhaps my favorite dinner in Barcelona was in Cafe De L'academia, a neighborhood restaurant impossible to find that serves hearty, delicious, market-driven contemporary Spanish food that is never overwhelmed by foam or any other contemporary culinary fad. Note that is closed on Saturdays. You have to admire someone in the restaurant business willing to close on Saturdays.
Address: Carrer Aribau, 58
Our best fancy-pants meal was a lunch at Cinc Sentis. The chef there is a self-taught Canadian who pushes the envelope just far enough. The room itself is cheery, welcoming, and simply and elegantly furnished.
Here are a couple of spots we went to for lunch, dinner or sometime in-between, that I wish I could go to right now. One of the many things I loved about Barcelona is that people seem literally to eat continously from dawn to midnight and even later. That's my kind of city.
Address: Carrer de Pau Claris, 192
A true neighborhood tapas bar with things like a perfect four-cheese risotto, mussels, hangar steak, and a bruschetta topped with silky duck liver and caramelized onion.
Quimet I Quimet
Address: Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25
A teeny, tiny stand-up bar serving radical but delicious tapas often made with jarred and canned ingredients. Just go in, prepare to be jostled, and point to things you want as they go by.
Address: Carrer de Tamarit, 104
One evening, when Vicky was too tired to go out for dinner, Will and I went to Inopia, Ferran Adria's brother Albert shockingly traditional tapas bar. It was jammed with locals eating perfect croquettes, fresh sardines, and plates of ham and cheese. Nothing radical here, just delicious food in a beyond casual setting. Not much English spoken here, but they do understand pointing.
Address: Rambla de les Flors, 83; Gran Via, 546; Ronda Litoral, 42
Phone: 93-301-60-27; 93-454-75-35; 93-221-07-29
The ruling class's pastry shop in Barcelona. I found myself gravitating to it nearly every day (don't tell Vicky). It's filled with wonderful buttery, chocolaty things.
Address: Carrer Dagueria, 16
A tiny little cheese shop down the street from L/Academia. run by a super-friendly Scotswoman.
Anna, Andrew, congratulations on your wedding. Please enjoy every step and every bite in Barcelona.