Cook the Book: 'The Barcelona Cookbook'

20090706barcelona.jpgWhen The Barcelona Cookbook showed up on my desk, I initially thought it was a Spanish cookery book, or perhaps a cookbook of tapas recipes. As it turns out, The Barcelona Cookbook is both of these and more. It is a collection of recipes from Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurants, a group of six restaurants located throughout Connecticut. While the cuisine served at all of the Barcelona restaurants can loosely be called Spanish, the menu is peppered with international influences from the backgrounds of this restaurant group's two owners, Sasa Mahr-Batuz and Andy Pforzheimer.

Mahr-Batuz is a former professional tennis champion and restaurateur, and Pforzheimer is a Harvard-educated chef whose varied resume includes cooking dinners for the Harvard Lampoon, working with the legendary Jerimiah Tower, and creating menus for the Hard Rock Cafe. Mahr-Batuz fell in love with Spanish cuisine while playing tennis in Spain. He wanted to recreate the easygoing, glass-of-wine-and-a-bite atmosphere of a Spanish tapas bar but in Connecticut. Pforzheimer was working as a restaurant consultant at the time, and when Mahr-Batuz approached him with the tapas concept he was immediately sold.

All of this happened in 1996, when tapas were considered pretty exotic. Initially people were a bit confused by the set up. Why were the plates so small? Where were the waiters? Pforzheimer and Mahr-Batuz resolved these issues by expanding their restaurant and offering table service and introducing more substantial hot tapas. Their clientele quickly became comfortable and well-versed in Spanish food and wine.

The menus of the Barcelona restaurants and the recipes in the cookbook are not stuck on being authentically Spanish; Italian, French, Argentine, and Mediterranean touches and techniques show up throughout.

Each day this week we will be highlighting a recipe from The Barcelona Cookbook—tapas standards such as patatas bravas and Fire-Roasted Peppers with Boquerones, Gazpacho Boracho, delicious desserts like Crepas Salguero filled with dulce de leche, as well as some inspired cocktails. So grab a glass of rioja or albarino and get ready for some Spanish tapas by way of Connecticut. Caroline Russock

Win 'The Barcelona Cookbook'

Thanks to the good folks at Andrews McMeel, we are giving away five (5) copies of The Barcelona Cookbook this week. All you have to do is tell us about your most memorable tapas experience in the comments section below.

Five (5) people will be chosen at random among the eligible comments below. We're sorry, but entry is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Comments will close Monday, July 13 at noon ET. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.

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