Friday, November 23, 2007

First day of awesome eating in Barcelona

A trip to Barcelona is, for most food lovers, a pilgrimage. With all the buzz surrounding the city, it's almost impossible to scale one's expectation to any realistic level. It's then perhaps a great thing that I brought along with me, on this sure to be food filled trip, a man who eats hardily, but cares very little if at all about what or where to eat. We have learned, through our years of traveling together, that as long as I don't stress him out with too much talk of food or what appears to be active food seeking, he would happily ingest whatever we "happen to discover" along the way. :)

Having survived the mad Thanksgiving crowd and a two mile trek to get our messed up tickets reissued in Madrid, we finally found ourselves in Barcelona sans luggages, which are chilling somewhere else in Spain. Ravenous from the ordeal, we strolled to Cerveseria Catalana near our hotel for a drink and some snacks. J ordered a local beer from the extensive international beer list, while I secured my first glass of cava. For nibbles, I was compelled to ask for the sampler plate of Iberian ham, having read and heard so much about it. You know what, the ham did not disappoint. Salty and lip-stickingly fatty, the ham went equally well with J's beer and my cava. My favorite of the bunch was the soft type on the far left. We happily sat around for a few well-deserved leisurely hours nibbling and people watching.
With all that salt on our lips, we craved something sweet and cool to round out the simple meal on this first night. We had no destination in mind (truly for once), but harbored hopes of running into a gelateria, having read that the people of Barcelona are rather fond of this Italian import. Sure enough, we walked right into one within five blocks. It's amazing that J and I never have trouble making a decision in a gelateria when faced with a dizzying range of selection. He always goes with the chocolate and coffee, while I invariably pick dulce de leche, pistachio, and some sort of caramel. The small shop had no seats inside, so we ducked into the glitzy department store across the street to lick our little cup of indulgence in warmth, while ogling at stylish houseware designs.
Jetlag knocked us out early the first night and then rudely drove away the sleeping bug the next morning well before dawn. Unable to rest more, we set out to explore the famous Boqueria market. We found Juanito holding fort at the tiny, but must raved about Bar Pinotxo near the entrance. We snuggled up to the bar to watch Juanito expertly brewed up two hot coffees for us. He also handed me a cute little croissant to nibble on and insisted on snapping a goofy picture for us. Unfortunately, Pinotxo doesn't start any real cooking until an hour later, so we bid goodbye to look for more substantive munchies. We found what we were looking for at the much bigger Bar Central towards the very back of the market. The husband and wife team were already working on the final stage of a fragrant stew when we approached around 7:30 am. The kind faced husband immediately offered up thick pieces of freshly fried bacon for us to taste, while the wife poured two beers for themselves. How could I help but love a good old couple who believe a cold beer is the right way to start a busy cooking day on a chilly morning.

We gladly accepted the wife's suggestion that we share a seafood plate composed of the fresh catch just arriving at the stall. As we watched, the husband tossed an assortment of squid, razor clams, prawn etc. on the sizzling flat top. A few minutes later, we were handed the above beautiful platter of just cooked through seafood, loving arranged and lightly drizzled with a green olive oil. As unconventional a breakfast as this was, it was the most tasty in recent memory. Each piece of seafood tasted so well-seasoned, it's hard to believe that it is dressed with nothing more than salt and a little lemon juice. Much varied in texture, no single piece was overcooked. Simply magnificent.
Very very satisfied, we strolled through the market to check out the fresh fruits. I could not walk pass a large tray of wonderfully dewy figs without taking some back to the hotel. They were a bargain at 2 Euro for a half kilo. Look at that ripe garnet flesh! Can you really fault me for being greedy?

1 comment:

Sudhir said...

I think I've eaten at both Bar Central and Bar Pinoxto. Both were excellent. A one-of-a-kind experience. Loved it.