The first time I became aware of Basque cuisine, I was standing in New Deal Fish Market in Cambridge, talking to the owner about the best way to prepare hake. "You should make it like they do in Basque Country," he said, and offered a loose description of cooking the fillet with clams, white wine, olive oil, lots of garlic, and parsley. Sounds goods to me, I told him, and left the shop wondering what else this northern region of Spain had to offer.
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Two weeks ago, I fell in love with Barcelona. I was expecting to, having heard raves about how beautiful everything is: the dramatic Gaudi architecture, the sparkly Mediterranean, the people, and of course the food. For every museum, park, or otherwise-"cultural" landmark we visited, we made at least as many feeding stops along the way—everything from paper cones of Iberico ham chunks, to fresh-pressed dragon fruit-coconut juice, to some truly stunning chocolate desserts.
Hidden away mere steps from the Puerta del Sol is the famous Chocolateria San Ginés. It's been serving up churros and chocolate 24 hours a day since 1894.
Opened hundreds of years ago in 1470, under the name Mercat Bornet, the legendary Mercat de La Boqueria was once the city's major pig and meat market. Centuries later, it's still one of the most impressive markets in Europe, a fantastic place to shop, sip, and nibble.
The theme of my trip to Spain: even when I wasn't trying to eat jamon, I was probably eating jamon. Oops? Another example: potato chips. While roaming the corner grocery stores of Madrid, it was fun to see all the meat-centric flavors on the chips wall. Jamon Ruffles, barbacoa Fritos and cheeseburger Lay's. There were "vegetarian" options too.
When I told Carrie I was headed to Spain, she had this advice to give: "If you can tear yourself away from all the jamon, look for ensaïmada." But after a few clicks of research, I realized, uh, it's not entirely jamon-free. The pastry is made with flour, water, sugar, eggs, and reduced pork lard (where the oink comes in). "Saim" actually means "pork lard" in Mallorquí.
McDonald's condiment options don't include foie gras mayo (big shocker) but at Tapaç24, the small plates hotspot in Barcelona, they pay homage to the fast-food chain in the form of this little burger. The beef patty comes medium-rare, almost tartare-rare in the very center, on a thin, crisp bun. Nothing else on the burger, just that little black dish of creamy foie on the side waiting to be spooned up. As my Kindergarten teacher Ms. Wookey said, a little dab will do ya (in that context she was referring to Elmer's glue).