It´s my last day in Barcelona, and that can only mean one thing: Food Time! That special time when, before leaving a foreign country, you go to binge eat enough of your favorite region exclusive cuisine to hold yourself over until next time. My five must-eat specials from Barcelona are:
Move over French fries! When it comes to fried potato snacks, Spain wins the game with these starchy gold nuggets of flavor. There are several variations of this iconic dish that are served throughout Spain, but the real deal comes from Bar Tomas in the Sarriá neighborhood. This lively, old fashioned tavern fries slices of earthy, hearty potatoes and balances their taste with sea salt. The hot, soft spud chunks are then drenched in a generous amount of garlicky mayonnaise sauce whose strong essence adds some well placed pungency to the loaded dish. Patatas Bravas are a necessity for any first time travelers to Spain.
Jamón Ibérico & Jamón Serrano
The ham in Spain is simply amazing, and has been for centuries. Free-range, grass-fed pigs from southern Spain are raised naturally to have incredibly high quality. The meat is dried for months and then cured with the finest spices of the Iberian Peninsula. The techniques used date back to the Roman Empire and have perfected over several generations. While I wouldn’t say that any food from Barcelona is especially spicy or zesty, I do think that this pig meat packs a real punch.
“But I thought every country had chocolate?” Well, go home and do your research. There´s plain old chocolate and then there´s the amazingly rich Xocolata that only Cataluña produces. The cows here are free range and grass fed, giving full flavored, locally produced milk that makes the chocolate in Barcelona unmatched in quality. The chocolate can be eaten plain, used as a dip for churros, or, at the Museu de la Xocolate, made into an elaborate statue.
You already know that I have enough in my suitcase to last until my next trip.
This seafood dish really shows why the small, family owned fishing neighborhoods of Barcelona have been able to hold their own in the struggle for land against large hotel and tourism companies. The delicious regional take on paella (that substitutes the rice for small bits of noodles) features freshly caught prawn, calamari, and mussels whose pleasantly firm texture and sweetly salty taste easily make the hardworking fisherman just as invaluable to the city as its booming hospitality industry. If you eat seafood in an authentic restaurant in Costal Barcelona, you´ll know that the fish were caught earlier that day and handled with the utmost respect in preparation. In Fideuá, these fish pair wonderfully with the robust and filling noodle base.
Throwback to my earlier blog entry! Go read it!
The horchata of Cataluña is commonly made from ground tiger nuts and has a flavor whose strength lives up to that wildcat name. This chalky, smooth drink has a fiercely sweet flavor reminiscent of a cross between coconuts and adzuki beans. Even if you´re no stranger to the rice-water variant, this one is worth its own try.
Pintxos & Tapas
Tapas are a satisfying experience for anyone visiting Barcelona. They cover a variety of food choices including ham croquettes, mini sandwiches, calamari, and olives, and they´re usually served as sides to drinks at bars. Those who are looking for more substantial meal should go to a Basque style restaurant where larger helpings of tapas, called pinchos, are served like Hors d’oeuvres or sushi platters. My favorite has been the tortilla española, an omelet made with potatoes whose light, spongy texture and hearty flavor complement the flavors of the other tapas well. Also, it´s great to have an egg dish every once in a while considering that Spaniards don´t eat eggs for breakfast often (Seriously, go read the cereal post if you haven´t already).
While going out and trying new foods is great, it´s nice to give your pallet a break every now and again with the familiar flavors of home. I’ve seen Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger Kings, Dunkin Donuts, and Kentucky Fried Chicken all within walking distance of the Plaza de Cataluña, and they all seem to have one thing in common: The European branches are better than the American ones. I´ll miss being able to walk into an upscale McDonalds and being able to order a burger on freshly baked artisan break with fries that aren’t overly greasy.
This is the part where I´ve made myself really hungry and will proceed to go buy all of these foods one last time… for now.