Monday, January 2, 2012

Barcelona

After San Sebastian we hopped an early train to Barcelona. Our apartment was in the Barri Gotic neighborhood and we decided to stick close to home for our first meal out.

Just a few blocks away was L’Antic Bocoi del Gotic, a stylish candlelit restaurant that specializes in sweet and savory coques. Coques are a Catalonian regional specialty of a doughy base topped with all manner of ingredients, from vegetables to fish to bacon and every cheese imaginable. Sound like pizza? It kinda is.

Before we got to our coques we started with olives and a platter of local cheeses.

See that bread in the background? That’s pa amb tomaquet which translates to “bread with tomato.” It’s bread rubbed with garlic and ripe tomatoes then doused in olive oil. Sounds simple, but pa amb tomaquet is the essence of Catalonia and it’s served at pretty much every restaurant. It’s difficult to replicate anywhere outside this region as the bread just doesn’t have as many nooks and crannies, the tomatoes just aren’t as sweet and the olive oil isn’t nearly as fruity and fresh.

The version at L’Antic Bocoi del Gotic was one of the best we had during our five days in Barcelona.

We also shared a plate of beef carpaccio with foie, arugula and parmesan.

We each ordered a plate of coques and shared. There were coques recapte topped with smoked bacon, dates and cheese and coques with camembert, arugula and nuts.

And my favorite, the coques with escalivada, tender cod and whipped garlic sauce. Escalivada is a typical Catalonian combination of roasted eggplant, red pepper and onion. 

One afternoon we wandered out to the beach.

While the girls sunbathed I scoped out the dining scene in La Barceloneta and settled on Can Majó. As with every meal in Barcelona, we started with pa amb tomaquet and a bottle of cava.

I ordered a big plate of razor clams…
  
… and we shared a shellfish paella with langoustines, mussels, prawns and mini scallops.

My favorite neighborhood we visited in Barcelona was El Born in La Ribera. Such great energy and lots of independent shops and restaurants. We stopped at Casa Delfin for a snack and ended up staying for a full meal.

Guess what we started with! We also had patatas bravas (fried potatoes topped with spicy aioli), alcachofas fritas con salsa romesco (fried artichokes with romesco sauce) and pimientos de Padron (fried Padron peppers sprinkled with big salt flakes).

I especially enjoyed the ensalada de arugula con Marconas fritas, queso fresco and dulce de membrillo (arugula salad with fried Marcona almonds, fresh cheese and squares of quince paste)…

… the sesos (lambs brains fried in egg and flour batter) with spicy sauce…

… and the suquet de rape (monkfish, potato, garlic and tomato stew).

That stew inspired us to take a visit to La Boqueria the next morning to shop for ingredients for our own homemade suquet.

La Boqueria is one of the best markets I’ve ever visited and is a must-do for any visitor to the city – food lover or not! You can find every imaginable cheese, sausage or fish…

But you’ll have more fun seeking out exotic ingredients like emu and ostrich eggs or lamb’s heads and cow hooves.


Back at our apartment we made a nice conservative meal of pa amb tomaquet and suquet de vegetales (tomato bread and vegetable stew).

Any good visitor to Barcelona will spend a day or two seeking out Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces. Except for the inevitable crowds, Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia never disappoint.

After detouring to see Casa Battló we walked a few more blocks to Tapac 24 in the L’Eixample ‘hood of Barcelona.

A lot of buzz has surrounded Tapac 24. It’s run by an alum of El Bulli and fittingly the dishes are traditional Spanish tapas with playful, creative twists.

It’s an obviously hip place with high top tables you share with other diners and an open kitchen that quickly churns out small tapas plates.

The trendy atmosphere carries over to the food. Starting with the menu, which is printed on a paper bag that holds your cutlery.

The pa amb tomaquet here was the best we tried during our whole trip – impossibly sweet ripe tomatoes on perfectly crisp bread finished with a healthy glug of olive oil.  

One of Tapac 24’s signature dishes is the bikini, a toasted sandwich with cured ham and cheese and truffles.

Other dishes we tried were tempura vegetables with allioli.

Patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and garlicky aioli).

Huevos estrellados with chorizo (“broken” eggs with sausage).

Arros negre de sipia (squid ink black rice).

And finally, xocolata amb pa, sal i oli (balls of chocolate in olive oil with salt and wafer).

Ñam ñam indeed!

3 comments:

Robert said...

Cari!

My wife and I ate at this marvelous restaurant two years ago – it's as close to El Bulli as we'll ever get. The food was stellar. The McFoie Burger was a treat and my wife had some of the best gaspacho of her life here that night. We stayed in the same neighborhood and truly felt like locals! Coupled with an incredible lunch at La Boqueria - Barcelona will forever be at the top of our culinary travels. Great pics, thanks for letting us relive the memories through you!

Cari said...

Robert - glad you enjoyed the post!!! Barcelona truly is a culinary gem:)

cushieschair said...

I love your blog. My daughter travels a lot and she always takes pictures of the food. We toured Vietnam so I have lots of pictures of me eating Vietnamese spring rolls. Luckily she did not fixate on one particular type of food. Thanks for the Gaudi picture. I would love to go to Spain but will live vicariously through your blog. Thanks again