Wednesday, July 13, 2011

BIts & Morsels in Barcelona

The view of the Barcelona harbor from La Gavina.

by Erin Frankel

¡Hola mis amigos. Estoy aqui, en Barcelona!

I’ll be traveling for the next few weeks writing all about my culinary adventures abroad! Right now I am eating my way through Barcelona, a region famous for its Catalan cuisine — a fare rooted in fresh seafood dishes, many of which have a strong tomato and olive oil base.

A glass of cava at Agua.
At nearly every restaurant in Barcelona, you will inevitably start with a pan con tomato, a baguette that is cut in half and rubbed with a fresh tomato, drizzled with olive oil, and then finished with a dash of salt.

It is a glorious in its simplicity, especially when paired with Spain’s version of a sparkling wine called cava, which is produced in Sain Sadurni d’Anoia, near Barcelona.

Undoubtedly one of the best things about being in Barcelona in the summer is the city's unbeatably delicious gazpacho soup, an age-old dish in the Catalan region that pre-dates the Roman Empire! Most of the gazpacho soup I evaluated (and inhaled) in Barcelona used fresh ingredients right from the local market each day.

As opposed to the gazpacho soup you will find in New York, the gazpacho in Spain is smoother and creamier, yet contains no dairy! In fact, the soup is made purely with blended tomatoes, garlic, green paprika, cucumber, wine vinegar, salt and pepper, with a generous drizzle of olive oil. You complete the dish by dropping a handful of bread-crumbs and green peppers into the soup. A bowl of gazpacho is one of the most refreshing ways to start your meal in Barcelona!
Pan con tomato at la nostra carta de tapas.
Gazpacho soup from La Gavina.
Gazpacho soup from Agua.
Since Barcelona is wedged between the mountains and the Mediterranean sea, you will find most of the dishes to be a mix of flavors from both environs — a happy mixture of chicken, pork, seafood and fish. One of the most popular dishes of this ilk is the region’s famous paella, a hot rice dish (either tomato-based or made with black rice) typically prepared with a variety of shellfish, vegetables, and at times game. If you feel you should forgo the carbs, then stick with a piece of grilled fish or shellfish. Good paella and fresh fish can be found all over Barcelona.

I already have my favorites especially when it comes to dining al fresco. La Gavina (Placa Pau Vila, 1 Palau de Mar) and Agua (Pg. Maritime de la Barceloneta, 30) are both on the harbor and on the beach respectively, where you can watch the sunset over the multitude of sailboats and the people stroll by late into the evening, all while taking delight in some of the freshest, lightest and most flavorful Catalan cuisine.
Exterior of La Gavina on the harbor.
Views from La Gavina.
Black Rice Paella with Cuttlefish ink from La Gavina.
Confit of cod fish with tomato marmalade and basil at Agua.
Sauteed fresh pasta with shrimps and mushrooms at La Gavina.
Grilled Gilthead (dorade) with garlic wine vinegar at La Gavina.
Steamed mussels at La Gavina.
Grilled Prawns at La Gavina.
Agua from the outside.
Paella with artichoke, shrimp, and cuttlefish at Agua.
Gratinated Mediterranean crayfish with fresh pasta at Agua.
When Spaniards are not feasting on large plates of paella or fresh fish, you will most likely find them nibbling on tapas at a high-top bar inside of a clean, modern space, such as the authentic Bar Mut, where we dined with some of our local friends who live in Barcelona. It is here where you won’t find any tourists, only locals eating tapas ranging from salads to small morsels of game to dainty shellfish. The meal concludes with a typical Spanish dessert, a frozen greek yogurt drizzled with a sweet jam and pesto.

If you want to do tapas al fresco, there are a number of tapas joints open for lunch and dinner in and near the old city, like the Taller de Tapas or the la nostra carta de tapas. These are a bit touristy, but the food remains authentic and the atmosphere magnetic.
Baby clams tapas at Bar Mut.
Grilled scampi tapas at Bar Mut.
Steak topped with mushrooms tapas at Bar Mut.
Greek yogurt with jam and pesto at Bar Mut.
Exterior of Taller de Tapas.
Sauteed wild seasonal mushrooms at Taller de Tapas.
Russian salad from the workshop at Taller de Tapas.
Tomato, spring onion, anchovy and black olive salad at Taller de Tapas.
Mixed leaves, avocado, and langoustines with basil vinaigrette at Taller de Tapas.
Sizzling prawns cooked in a clay pot with garlic and chili at Taller de Tapas.
Grilled squid at Taller de Tapas.
Me tengo que ir ... ahora tengo que explorar Barcelona. Nos vemos pronto.
Photographs by Erin Frankel.
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