Our first couple days in Barcelona, we felt almost overwhelmed by all the food and drink options. We had just come from spending a month on a hospital compound in Nigeria, where all our meals were prepared and provided for us. Eating required no thought or effort on our part. Then, all of sudden, we are in Barcelona and we are free to eat whenever and whatever we would like, and there are thousands of options. Our flight into Barcelona arrived early in the morning and after we dropped our bags off at the hotel, we started walking around the city. We found ourselves stopping in front of each restaurant we passed, reading the menu posted, and deliberating over our options. We soon realized that it would not be an issue to find good food in Barcelona; the issue would be deciding where to go.
One of our favorite places to go was La Boqueria, a large market in the old city. We’ve experienced a lot of markets in our travels, but this one tops them all. Its history dates back to the early 1200’s. They say it’s one of the best markets in Europe and it’s clear to see why. Here’s how the market is described by Ferran Adrià, a Spanish Catalan chef, “La Boqueria is a gastronomic temple, a place that congregates all the phases in the food chain, from the producers, harvesters, butchers and fishmongers who provide the food, to the individual and professional clients who wander through this magnificent, characteristic maze of traders in charge of the market stalls.”
We ended up going to La Boqueria every day. Sometimes just to grab fresh fruit juice or some fresh fruit, sometimes for breakfast or to pick up items for a picnic lunch, and other times just to sample from the many culinary delights. It quickly become one of our favorite spots in Barcelona.
The other place we went to on a daily basis was a corner coffee shop called Cappukccino. In Spain, they like their coffee strong and without the fluff. If you simply ask for café (coffee), you will get a small cup of espresso. If you want what we would consider a cup of coffee in the states, you need to ask for an americano. And if you want milk, you have to ask for it – it’s not customary to add milk. Jay likes his coffee strong. So strong, that when he orders coffee back home, he has shots of espresso added; this was not necessary in Spain.
One of the greatest things about the restaurants in Barcelona is that nearly all of them offer a set menu each day, where you can get a drink, appetizer, entrée, and dessert, all for one reasonable price. The set menus are posted outside the restaurants on large chalkboards. One night, we did a set menu which included two of the staples of Spain – paella and sangria. Paella is a dish of rice, meats and vegetables, cooked together in a large pan. It’s said to have originated in Valencia, Spain, where they would mix whatever ingredients they had on hand with rice. Sangria is a wine punch; it’s typically made with wine, chopped fruit, liquor and a mixer.
In Barcelona, there are also plenty of options besides traditional Spanish fare. There are a number of Italian gelato shops, which we couldn’t pass up despite the cool weather. We went to a popular spot called Kiosko Burger, where we enjoyed our first hamburger in months. And, we nearly became addicted to the Turkish Doner wraps, which I would consider the middle eastern version of a burrito. It’s a durum tortilla filled with meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, tomato, onion, cabbage, and tzatziki sauce. Needless to say, we did not go hungry in Barcelona.
Our last night in Barcelona we experienced flamenco at JazzSí, a club run by the music school next door. Flamenco originates from southern Spain and includes singing, guitar playing, dance, and hand claps. They have theaters in Barcelona that put on big flamenco productions, but we opted to experience it in this small, local venue instead. It was the perfect way to spend our last night in Barcelona.
Here’s a link to a short video clip we took – a 15-second sample of the performance that night. Enjoy! http://youtu.be/7kg9ZhIB8j0