Lo que no mata engorda: Barcelona Bites

View of Barcelona from the tower of the Sagrada Familia

I’d like to apologize for the lack of food pictures for this post. Either the dubious lighting, the rollicking company, or the amount of wine imbibed is at fault. But I didn’t want to go without sharing my gastronomic highlights of a city with which I fell in love at first sight when I was a teenager, and still love to this day. So I am posting some scenic shots of Barcelona to keep you entertained throughout.

La Pedrera...one of Antoni Gaudi's famous buildings along the Paseo de Gracia.

Lechal at Asador de Aranda
I have eaten in this place every single time I have been in Barcelona. “Old favorite” is an understatement. The restaurant is a former monastery and very beautiful. The specialty of the house is lechal...“suckling lamb”. So flavorful and incredibly tender…it will bring tears to your eyes. Just think cuchinillo, but lamb. It is superb.

For appetizers, you can get typical Spanish specialties like jamon iberico and morcilla (blood sausage...if you eat blood sausage, their's is excellent!). My favorite starter though is riñones (kidneys). They are served on a small rack with live coals underneath, drops of fat dripping between the grills. I love them but they are not for everyone.

For dessert we had hojaldre de la casa (sweet puff pastry, a popular choice). Post-dessert they serve you a small cookie and a digestive liquer...we like to dip the cookie in the liquer. Of course, at this point, you can only imagine how full our bellies are, so our brains in turn, are a little addled.

They are at 31 Avenida Tibidabo (tel: 93.417.01.15). Best to take a cab as there are no Metro stops close by.

More then a club! Yes, Barca is definitely that...this is the Nou Camp, one of C's highlights.

Pintxos at Txacolin

Txacolin is a typical Basque-style tapas bar (in the Basque region tapas are referred to as pintxos). The pintxos are spread around the bar…platters and platters of delicious “small bites” skewered with toothpicks. You simply grab stuff off the bar and in the end they count your toothpicks in order to see how much you owe. It's a lot of fun and the pintxos are fantastic here, and very traditional. You stand by the bar, with your wine or your beer, and just eat your heart out.

This isn't a sit down dinner type of place but I enjoy it. And C enjoyed it too! We had gildas (our favorite, a skewer of olives, anchovies, and pickled chili peppers), pintxos of jamon, mushrooms, beef, bacalao, squid, tuna, and lots more…more then we should have I think. Oh well, all the better to fortify us for a night out in El Borne.

They are in front of the Estacion de Francia in the El Borne area. The El Borne area is a great area to go bar hopping and have a night out on the town. It’s a once-industrial area that has become hip, much like the meat packing district in New York.

A cryptogram on the door of the Sagrada Familia. The numbers can be added in 310 different combinations which always add up to 33: Christ's age at his death.

Bacalao at La Bodega

This is a gem of a restaurant and this trip was my first time there. Great food and over 10 different bacalao dishes. This was on C’s list as bacalao is one of his favorites. The bacalao dish he had, with romesco sauce, was very good. The fish was fresh, succulent, and flavorful…soft and juicy. Very different from the bacalao we get here which is only the dried kind.

I, along with my cousins, had steak which you cook on a hot rock. The meat is from Galicia which is where the best meat in Spain is from. We also had habitas (broad beans) with mushrooms and young garlic, grilled Padron peppers, anchoas (anchovies), pan amb tomaquet (pan con tomate…see my post on El Far), and a terrine/pate of pescado (fish) which was everyone agreed was delicious.

The best part is the waiters who come out when you are ready to order and present the specials for the day. They parade heaping plates of goodies in front of you, launching into descriptions of the food in rapid-fire Spanish. A nice bonus for me: a lot of them are Filipino, and if they know that you are one too, they expertly insert a few Filipino words into their monologues to entertain you.

I always enjoy picking something from those selections because you know it's fresh and in season. If they have char-grilled Padron peppers (most are not spicy but sometimes you get a really spicy one...exciting!) or habas/habitas (broad beans) on offer these are some of the things I really like and would recommend.

They are at Plaza Molina 2 (near Balmes and Via Augusta) tel: 932378434.

The Sagrada Familia changes every time I go to Barcelona. This is the ceiling, and it was the first time I had seen it. It is supposed to resemble the ceiling/canopy of a forest, with the sunlight shining through the leaves.

Cocina de autor at El Rus

El Rus is an unassuming place tucked away near the Camp Nou. This is a place where you can experience "cocina de autor", an avant garde dining movement sweeping across Catalonia ever since the rise of master chefs like Ferran Adria. Basically, a slew of talented and daring chefs are putting up their own restaurants and serving up their own vision of a dining experience with unique takes on various dishes. The chef of El Rus used to work under Ferran Adria, so he is quite talented. We didn’t order anything. We just sat down and the chef served us dish after dish, creating his own tasting menu for us on the spot.

We started off with coca (Catalan flatbread) topped with bacalao crudo (raw) with tomato and a balsamic reduction sauce, and another set topped with bonito crudo with a sauce made of dates and topped with sprouts. This was followed by gambas a la planxa (grilled shrimp) with fideos con sesame and creamy alioli. It tasted like an Asian fideua…which I of course loved! Then came more bacalao, a la planxa this time and served with couscous con canela (cinnamon) and espuma de alioli (alioli foam…ah, Ferran’s influence no doubt!) with beets. Then we had fish with tomato confit, guacamole de platano (banana) y pesto de piñones (pine nuts). Next came magret de pato (duck breast) con marmelato de pimiento rojo (red pepper marmalade) with a banana “lasagna” con setas (mushrooms). Last we had pan fried foie on a bed of shoe string potatoes. Wine from Bilbao flowed freely during the meal. Siiiiigh...

They are on Comandante Benitez 18. Tel: 934905634.

This is a quiet little square we came upon while wandering around the barrio gotico...the gothic quarter of Barcelona.

Pan amb tomaquet at Paco Meralgo

Paco Meralgo is a kind of higher end tapas bar where you order from a waiter instead of choose from the bar. They are a hip place with an edgy atmosphere. And they have the best pan amb tomaquet I have ever tasted! Their pan amb tomaquet is serious business…drenched in tomato and olive oil just enough to blast all previous pan amb tomaquets out of the water!

We also had solomillo with garlic, similar to what we know in as “salpicao”. The meat was tender and the garlic flavor perfect. We had an order of pan fried foie…no, I don’t ever get tired of it. Of course, a plate of melt-in-you-mouth jamon iberico and come fresh anchovies. C and I are big anchovy lovers and he could not get enough of the anchoas in Spain…which are far, far removed from the tinned variety we get here.

Dessert was a struggle of indecision: The fresh figs with cream (when will I ever have them again???!!!) or the Miel y Mato (Mato is a fresh cheese from Catalonia, here served with honey…another favorite). A struggle, but not for long. I ordered both. And I licked both platters clean.

They are on Muntaner 171. Tel: 934309027.

***note: Again, I am posting culinary highlights only, but if you have a question about anything else, or if you need more information than I have put up, please email me at eighty_breakfasts@yahoo.com and I will answer as best I can.