Lunch at the touristy—but terrific—Pinotxo Bar in La Boqueria market.
Pinotxo Bar: Sautéed Mushrooms
These mushrooms, an olive oil- and sea salt-seasoned medley that included black trumpets, mousserons, and chanterelles, were the best I've ever had.
Pinotxo Bar: Beans with Squid
Creamy white beans, baby squid so fresh they were almost crisp, plenty of olive oil, and a zigzag of balsamic.
Pinotxo Bar: Chickpeas with Spinach
This garlicky garbanzo bean and spinach combination was somewhere in between a side and a stew.
La Boqueria: Eggs!
One of several egg vendors in the market.
La Boqueria: Dragon Fruit Juice
Of all the incredible snacks at La Boqueria, my favorite might have been the fruit juices. The displays spanned entire counter lengths and showcased dozens of fresh-squeezed options, including dragon fruit (with or without coconut).
La Boqueria: Jamon
A beautiful, and very typical, site at Barcelona markets.
La Boqueria: Fried Plantains with Quail Eggs
Thanks to the language barrier and the blanket of eggs, I had no idea that these fried chunks were creamy, sweet plantains until I took a bite.
La Boqueria: Razor Clams
They look like dripping mozzarella sticks, but these long, narrow clams are classic tapas fare.
A cart near the harbor selling churros offered plain, chocolate, and my favorite: dulce de leche.
Jamon shops are all over Barcelona, and many of them sell cones of the stuff—in chunks and more delicate shreds—for snacking. Move over, ice cream.
La Flauta: Pan con Tomate
Oiled toast rubbed with tomato and garlic is Barcelona’s answer to bread and butter. It comes standard at many restaurants, and isn’t free—but who could say no?
La Flauta: Pimientos de Padron
Seems like these deep-fried-then-salted-peppers are on menus all over the US now, but they were at their grassy, faintly hot best in the mother country.
La Flauta: Grilled Baby Squid
Nuthin’ but puffy tubes of sweet-briny squid, grill char, lemon, fresh herbs, and salt. Perfect.
La Flauta: Patatas Fritas
The Spanish equivalent of cheese fries, but so much better: shredded potatoes deep-fried until crispy, then tossed with broken fried eggs and aioli.
La Flauta: Fried Eggplant with Cheese and Honey
The fine folks at CulinaryBackstreets.com are responsible for my introduction to this fantastic tapas restaurant, and these broad, crackly-edged eggplant peels that came covered with shards of salty-rich cheese and drizzled with honey. Muchos gracias!
La Flauta: Pork Croquettes
You can barely see it, but there are tiny bits of ham in there that makes these creamy-inside, crispy-outside croquettas rich and savory.
La Flauta: Molten Chocolate Cake
Just another tired molten chocolate cake? Hardly. This dessert was a boasting point for Spanish chocolate—lush, rich, and not especially sweet.
Pla: Celery Root Vichyssoise
Pla, an intimate dining room tucked into a corner of the Gothic Quarter, came highly recommended, and didn’t disappoint. The lobster meat and caviar garnish did this version up fancy, and gave the soup a briny kick.
Pla: Vegetable Salad with French Dressing
Probably the most boring thing we ordered the whole trip, but also one of the most delicious.
Pla: Chicken with Citrus
Delicate thigh meat medallions with meaty jus, quinoa, and snow peas.
Pla: Foie Gras Terrine
Dense as butter and just as rich, this slab was a splurge and needed every bit of its accompanying garnishes: crisp toasts, apple and pear butters, and my favorite description on the menu: “wobbling Muscat” (translation: jiggly wine jelly cubes).
Pla: Peach Tarte Tatin
Not what you’d expect given the name, but delicious nonetheless: sweet, concentrated peaches with a shortbread-like crust, creamy raspberry sorbet, and lime meringue.
La Pubilla: Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce
Spain is not where I expected to eat the best bowl of spaghetti and tomato sauce I'd ever had, but this was it: bright, sweet, and rich with really good olive oil. So, this is what pasta sauce is supposed to taste like.
La Pubilla: Sardines with Pastry and Pepper Salsa
Sardines weren't my thing until this dish came along. Rich, meaty, and not the least bit fishy, the fillets were draped over a bed of pepper salsa and slab of shatteringly crisp filo-type pastry, and drizzled with a sweet balsamic reduction. Inventive and delicious—par for the course at this market-driven gem in the Gracia.
La Pubilla: Traditional Catalan Beef and Potato Stew
Thanks to the language barrier, I wasn't exactly sure what I'd ordered, but I had no regrets when it arrived. The tender beef practically collapsed at the sight of the fork, and the buttery potatoes were perfect sponges for the savory broth.
La Pubilla: Tuna with Potatoes
Unlike the 2-inch-thick slabs we usually see in the States, this tuna wasn't thicker than a chicken cutlet, but grilled up as nicely as a steak. Smoky onions and fingerling potatoes on the side.
La Pubilla: Pistachio Ice Cream
If I didn't know better, I'd guess that chef Alexis Peñalver squeezed the pistachios like citrus fruit to produce this ice cream's intense flavor.
Hisop: Grilled Anchovy with Pear and Sichuan Pepper
The first of many courses at the elegant Eixample restaurant Hisop—our splurge meal.
Hisop: Ermesenda Fondue with Wild Mushrooms
One prick of the fork and this shiny teardrop of local Raclette-style cheese gushed its silky, creamy center. A tiny, but incredible bite.
Hisop: Porcini Rice with Langoustine and Bacon
No surprises with the risotto—creamy, rich, and full-up on mushroom-iness—and the langoustine was sweet and tender. But where's the bacon, you ask? It's in that white aioli foam.
Hisop: Sea Bream with Fennel and Green Tea
After seeing some grill time, the firm, sweet flesh was dusted with fennel and green tea powders.
Hisop: Suckling Pig with Plums
A dish that far exceeds its description. The rich, fatty belly meat, seared crisp on either side, was topped with baby carrots and paired with ginger and plums that hinted at Asian flavors.
Hisop: Lamb Osso Bucco
The shank was gorgeous and fall-apart tender, but my favorite part was the buckwheat with snip-its of broccoli, which soaked up the savory jus. That's an oyster sitting on top.
Hisop: Cheese Plate
A trio of Catalan quesos from cow, sheep, and goat milks, plus talleggio, a smoked sheep's milk cheese, a French bleu, and a slab of quince paste.
Hisop: Camomile with Lime
The clean, toasty-floral flavor of camomile in the form of chilled dessert soup.
Hisop: Chocolate, Smoke, and Raisins
My last bite in Barcelona was also one of the best. Semi-frozen chocolate mousse surrounded by dollops of creams: tart lemon, smoky tea—maybe earl grey—and something rich and tangy like sour cream.