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barcelona eats

2 In food/ travel

The best Tickets in Barcelona

barca-tix-INTOne of the things I was most excited about on our Eurotrip was eating at Tickets. In all seriousness, I set an alarm to wake at 2:55 am one night two months before our trip to score the reservation, and it was worth every bit of wasted sleep.barca-tix-porkleg
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As a foodie, this was a serious bucket list item for me. I was on the waiting list for a reservation at el Bullí when Ferran Adrià announced its closure, and was heartbroken at the thought of having missed my chance. So this, his brother’s restaurant, was the next best thing. The Michelin star was reflected in well-executed decor and lovely service. And as we settled in to our seats at the open kitchen, to watch the chefs execute our tasting menu and enjoy our caparainhas, I knew we were in for the meal of a lifetime.

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Mini airbags de queso were served on a platter of rock salt.  Filled with Manchego foam, topped with aged Manchego, caviar, and pimentón, it was a cascade of flavors and textures.

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Then I had my mind blown by the legendary el Bullí olives.  Alignate spherification encases an intense olive purée just until it dissolves on your tongue. I am no olive fan, but these were glorious and a little bit life changing.

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Our oyster course included two delicious variations. I especially loved the second, where the oyster was served with its pearl  (spherified champagne and powdered silver). Full disclosure, I might have been influenced by the darling waitress who suggested it was because I was una princesa and complimented my skirt.

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Monica was the most perfect waitress ever, for the record. So solicitous about indulging our palates and preferences throughout the tasting menu, and so enthusiastic when discussing the food with us, but never a bother.  We exchanged addresses and emails, I adored Moní that much.

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She’d just brought me my next cocktail, with a dragonfruit base and dry ice cloud, when I was admiring the fancy gold-wrapped jamón iberico gran reserva on the counter. I watched as another waiter lifted the entire ham and its stand to deliver to a nearby table, and I nearly fainted when I realized who was sitting there… Albert and Ferran Adrià.

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I’m not typically the type to get starstruck, but Ferran Adrià is practically a god. Some people hunt big 5 game, but my big five is Choi, Chang, Bourdain, Ripert, and Adrià. The hero worship is real. So after I worked up the guts to stop creeping and staring at the master of molecular gastronomy, I was grateful to have Monica to translate. I was practically vibrating as I held his hands and fawned and babbled about how he inspired me and food and love and cried a little and god knows what all else- sucked to be David attempting to get a picture of my hot mess, and I was too much of a wilting violet to bother him again. The entire exchange is a blur, but I will never forget it as long as I live.

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It seemed almost silly to eat when I was so excited, but the next arrival brought my attention right back to the plate. Crunchy pizza with Bufala straciatella is one of the most popular tapas on the menu, and it was easy to see why. Shatteringly crisp crust, brightly flavorful dehydrated tomato dust microbasil and spherified basil oil are topped with strands of creamy burrata. It was at the same time both definitively a margherita pizza yet completely unlike any pizza I’d ever had.

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Scrumptious smoked eel mini sandwiches were accented with shiso leaf. The bread was an ultralight and crispy air baguette, a perfect contrast to the tender unagi.

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Crabmeat and vegetables were delivered in delicate cucumber rolls,  served floating in a watercress broth.

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This dish was dubbed the Nordic landscape. Veal tartare, lingonberry, shallots, soft smoked cheese and greens were piled upon a dark crisp bread and dusted with sherry vinegar  ‘snow.’   We were loving the experience of eating with tongs rather than traditional cutlery.

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The suckling pig mollete was a delicious grilled jamón y queso sandwich. The tender bread was totally unique to me, with the delicacy of a steamed bao but the crumb and crust of an English muffin.

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Roasted sunchokes and celeriac were drenched in a rich truffle purée. My mouth is watering just remembering- I’m pretty sure I fought David for the last bite of this goodness.

barca-tix-unipasta Korean king oyster mushrooms were spiralized into spaghetti, and serves  in a creamy Parmesan porcini sauce. The texture was just impeccable, and the umami was so perfectly highlighted.

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Spicy fresh tuna tartare  was served on a nori mille-feuille with popped tapioca. Fresh and delicious, the different textures combined beautifully, in a way that recalled California sushi bar tuna crispy rice.

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Maresme was bright and refreshing. Whole Catalán green peas floated in delicate pea soup, drizzled with fennel jus and and sprinkled with crunchy pancetta.

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Even dessert was a three-course affair- my sweet tooth was thrilled! The first was caramelized carrot cones, with a fluffy queso center. All the best aspects of carrot cake and cheesecake, they were served planted in chocolate soil.

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The meringue churros were positively meltaway. I could barely stop nibbling to dip them in the rich spiced hot chocolate, but I was glad I did- the two together were incredible.

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A seriously scientific candy bar, the molecular chocolate eclair  was just plain delicious. Crispy rice and a peanut butter center enrobed in chocolate may sound typical, but it was outstanding.

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A dessert drink to share rounded out our meal.  Cocoa and citrus combined with cachaça for a cocktail that managed to be equally rich and refreshing. And then my new friend Ferran sent over shots of his family reserve orange-and-limoncello and I was so flattered I could have died right there on the spot, and I’m certain I would have ascended straight to heaven.

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After such amazing food and drink and the emotion of surprise hero worship, you could have stuck a fork in me, I was so done. Our incredible dinner experience had stretched more than four hours, so we paid the (substantial) bill and headed out for a moon-and-neon-lit walk home.

loveRavayna

2 In travel

eating across barcelona

Let’s be real. As I’m sure you’ve clued in by now, I live to eat. Delicious and high-quality food is one of our priorities in life, and a cornerstone of vacation planning. I do serious research (family, friends, tripadvisor, metafilter, blogs) to find the yummiest noms, then we map it out and hit as many of those places as we can.

  

Can Paixano, the most amazing little xampanyeria and eatery was our neighborhood favorite, and will likely be my first stop on our next trip to Barcelona. I was and remain obsessed.  It’s a narrow little place, standing room only at the counter to eat yummy charcuterie, grilled sausages, and entrepans, the most scrumptious toasted sandwiches, all washed down with coupes and bottles of their house-made cavas

We went nearly every day in Barcelona, if not to grab a bite, to purchase bottles of my absolute favorite, cava rosat. (I taste-tested all of their varietals to be sure 😆). I even went so far as to price out shipping a case back to the States, and settled for taking several bottles with us. Amazingly delicious, and so inexpensive you want to double check the conversion rate. 

 

We were totally spoiled going daily and at off hours, though- and totally astonished by the sardine-packed bar and the long queue when the weekend rolled around. In that case, it was cava to go, and cocktail hour back at our loft. 

We went out of our way to check out Horchateria Sirvent. I’m a big fan of (rice-based) Mexican horchata, so I really needed to compare the Valencian version, which is made with tigernuts. This third generation family owned shop is legendary, so off we went.

It was absolutely incredible- so flavorful and creamy! It honestly reminded me more of my mom’s Trinidadian punche de creme than any horchata I’ve had. I think it may have ruined David for Mexican horchata forever, and I can’t really blame the man.

This horchateria is out near Sant Antoni, in a residential area away from the tourist madness. We try to spend time living local on our trips- I love heading away from the crowds. I’ll note that this was one of the only places we visited where no employees spoke any English. I took Spanish through school and college, and made a point to review before our trip, so I’m decent (though far from fluent.) But I got tangled up with some bits of Catalán, and David, I, and the darling shopgirls all had a good laugh.

The most delicious treat was the granizado de café. It was frozen black coffee (like a slushie), with their rich horchata as creamer, and it blew my damn tastebuds. Seriously, I demolished it so fast that I forgot to share with David (and gave myself brainfreeze). Of course, that meant another round to go, much to my delight. Proof that asking your server their menu favorite can really pay off.

Can Majo was the perfect spot for dinner down by the water. We walked around Barceloneta, then along the boat docks before settling in for an intimate and scrumptious meal. It was touted as the best paella in Barcelona and was easily the tastiest I’ve ever had- mouthwateringly savory, impeccably cooked, with astonishingly fresh seafood.

  

We also had some tasty olives (which is major, if you know me) and fried baby smelt. David had been craving fried tiny fish since we had shared some with a new friend at La Boqueria, but we’d only come across them premade and under heat lamps, which isn’t our style. These little fishes were freshly flashfried- juicy and tender inside of a shatteringly crisp exterior, piping hot, and we scarfed them.

We also loved El Xampanyet, despite the lack of pictures- we tended to go late at night, and neither the packed bar nor dim lighting was conducive. The menu is tapas and conservas, which are canned Spanish delicacies. It may seem strange to go out to eat tinned food, but this was nothing like the canned food we see in the US- trust. The presentations were elegant, the flavors diverse and vibrant and not the least bit tinny tasting. We devoured several kinds of jamón iberico, stuffed octopus and calamari, anchovies and artichokes, pimientos stuffed with queso and patatas bravas, and an obscene amount of tender white asparagus.

I swear, I’d move to Spain just for the cuisine, and be fat and happy all my days. We literally did not have a single bad meal. And y’all: we, hands down, had the most incredible meal of our lifetimes on this trip, and I don’t say that lightly. Sharing that soon…
loveRavayna

0 In travel

la boqueria: bigger bites

 

As I mentioned, La Boqueria was kindof killing it as far as deliciousness. I swear we only got to eat and see one quarter of the offerings.  I obviously loved the market vendors, but one of the things I thought was coolest about the Boqueria were the restaurants. Just a dozen seats around the grill and counter, which is laden with the freshest of that day’s catch.

The cooks have access to the city’s best raw foods in the produce, seafood, cheese, and meat vendors around them, and that is clearly reflected in the uncomplicated but delicious local food presented. Once you’ve scored a seat and a drink, you place your order. Often, we heard the provenance of our meal- who caught it when and so on. I love eating so utterly local.

Bar Central, all the way at the back of the market, was our favorite. Despite the perpetually waiting throng, the service was speedy and positively charming. And the food: scrumptious. 

You know I went to town on one of those lobsters, along with clams and chorizo, tiny seared pulpitos (baby octopus),  and sizzling garlic shrimp.

Razor clams, grilled with lemon, garlic, parsley, fruity olive oil and flaky salt? So succulent, so fresh and tasty- you could have knocked me over with a spoon. I ate multiple orders.

 We also had great meals at Bar Pinoxto, which is cash only, FYI. I love spicy food, so played the roulette of grilled local peppers every chance I got. They were generally both sweeter and spicier than the shishitos we get here in the states.

We ate ginormous red prawns, perfectly flaky trout, and the most incredible harissa chickpeas. The langoustines, white beans, and garlic shrimp were also yummy here- so basically every single thing we tried.

  For what it’s worth, we ate at lots of delish places outside La Boqueria too- I just haven’t gotten a chance to tell y’all about them yet! More amazing Barcelona food, coming up soon.

loveRavayna 

0 In travel

la boqueria: a foodie’s paradise

 

Our first morning in Barcelona, we grabbed a Spanish SIM card for my iPhone first thing, then walked to Mercat de la Boqueria to begin indulging in authentic Spanish cuisine. It was the perfect way to start our week of food and fun.

I’d heard tale of ‘cones of Spanish ham,’ and pork is hands-down my favorite protein. I was so excited to find them right at the front! Shopping while munching on luscious treats was simply glorious, and there was literally yummy snack after yummy snack.   I especially loved fresitas, tiny super-sweet wild strawberries.

 And once I realized it was perpetually happy hour, I was in heaven! Through the week, I got friendly with the sweets-and-sangria go-cup vendor. Leisurely day drinking is one of my vacation priorities, and Spain agrees with me.

  

I juice regularly at home, so went a little crazy at the 1€ fresh juice stands, trying tons of flavors. The pitahaya + coconut,  pineapple + passion fruit, guayaba, and kiwi strawberry were some of the standouts. I couldn’t help myself- I got at least one juice, usually multiple, every time we were there.

 

I also made a habit of visiting the nicest fishmonger. She had incredible ceviche,  and was happy to pry open ultrafresh oysters and sea urchin for me, so I was happy to oblige her by slurping them merrily down. I practically gorged myself on the most delicious (and inexpensive!) uni I’d ever come across.

Total first world mini-regret, but I wish we’d had more time in Barcelona simply so I could have done some serious cooking. Our apartment kitchen was spacious, and the raw foodstuffs at La Boqueria were so lush and varied, but we had so many amazing restaurants to try and things to do, I never served more than cava and pinxtos at home. But seriously- I dream of being able to do my grocery shopping here, with access to all that gorgeous seafood and artisan products.  

  

Slightly more seriously, I remain upset that US customs and my dear husband conspired against me- I desperately wanted a whole jamón iberico as a souvenir. David staunchly refused, spouting some sensible nonsense about rules and room (in our luggage), so I consoled myself with purchasing some amazing smoked pimentón to take home, and eating as much as I could while in Spain.

Honestly, we wound up at La Boqueria almost every day for a snack, a meal, or to pick up yummies for a picnic or our apartment. Wandering the market, we also had delicious paletas and croquettes, pastries and gelato, and more. All of the fruit was perfectly ripe, which made it so tempting and gratifying. And I had some positive feasts of cheese and charcuterie. We truly endeavored to eat everything in sight, and were pretty pleased with our showing.

  

 I always found new and delish things along with my established stops (ham, sangria, juice) and such great people-watching to boot! I didn’t even mention the amazing sit-down meals available at the tiny restaurants interspersed with the vendors;  I’ll share our meals at La Boqueria soon!

 

loveRavayna 

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