Thursday, December 31, 2009

Barcelona Dining

I went to Barcelona, Spain mainly for the wonderful food that it is known for. My wife wanted to see the Antoni Gaudi's architecture, but if you ask me, it was a bit too "gaudy" for my tastes.

Pretty much all people of Spain have their dinners starting at 9pm. To keep from starving, most people duck into tapas bars in the early afternoon to tide themselves over. Tapas or Pinchos bars are like Spanish equivalent of a dim sum restuarants. Everything you order comes in small portions on a piece of bread or a skewer. If you're interested in saving money, these are the places where you want to load up on. Our tapas bar of choice is Cerveceria Catalana located on C/ Mallorca, 236. It was great because we could sit down and bring our baby's stroller in unlike other tapas bars that only have stools and standing room. You can see my order of grilled shrimp on a stick. It was grilled to perfection. I'm not a fan of shrimp, but if I had grown up eating this my opinion would probably change. Everything looks good here. I only wish I could have tried it all.

Of course, any food journey would be incomplete without a visit to the local market, which Barcelona has in spades. We first went to the Mercat Sant Josep (aka La Boqueria). This is probably the most popular market for tourists to visit. We visited one of the ham merchants who gave us a free slice of Jamon Iberico (Iberian Ham) to try. The pigs that made up this ham were fattened up on acorns in the forests of Spain for months before slaughter. This imbues the ham with a green nutty flavor that you can only find in Spanish hams. We later went back to this merchant to purchase 5 euros of meat and 5 euros of cheese. Unfortunately, trying to convey what we wanted with our limited Spanish was quite a struggle but we managed to score some ham, salami, and some manchego cheese (which turned out to be a good surprise). We then ate at one of the counters setup in the market. The place on the right seems to serve everything on a plate of french fries with some herb infused oil. I had the squid, which was quite good, but didn't quite feel like a meal.

The highlight of the trip had to be our visit to the Michelin rated Alkimia restuarant. I have to say, that in all the places I've been to (including other Michelin rated places), this has been the best. Too bad I felt too awkward to bring a camera, but just take a look at their food here. It really looks like that, and it tastes even better! I have to say though, that you should always get the fixed course or tasting menu of any fancy restaurant because that's their chance to showcase what they can do. Here, you get a choice between two fixed course menus, but unfortunately everyone at the table has to pick the same one. We chose the cheaper one only b/c the dishes sounded more appealing to us and we couldn't have been more happier. The bill still came out to around $200 USD for 2 with a glass of wine for each of us so if you're gonna spend that kind of money, pick what you like. At this level of restaurant, just because it costs more doesn't mean you'll like it any better.