Like many people, my love affair with Barcelona began in the summer of 1992 when it hosted the Olympic Games. Until then, it was just a name on a map. Travel shows have done nothing more than scratch the surface of this Catalan metropolis. However, From Spain With Love tried to do a bit more with a whirlwind tour starring some of the city’s culinary rock stars. Like Madrid: Dusk ‘Til Dine, they started out in the city’s central market, La Boqueria. Annie Sibonney along with food and travel writer, George Semler, gave us a quick look at the fresh fish, meats, spices and other food items for sale.
At 9:45 am, the duo had breakfast at the Pinotxo Bar. You can’t miss it since there’s a Pinocchio marionette on display. Juanito Bayen, who Mr. Semler called “the heart and soul of the Boqueria” welcomed them warmly and granted her access to their kitchen. His nephew quickly cooked three tasty dishes in a wok, of all things. Since this was a very busy, working kitchen, the ingredients were already prepared and he moved with precision. Her first taste was of Baby Squid and White Beans, then Chick Peas and Black Sausage. The final plate was Cooked Clams and Scrambled Eggs. His English was pretty good, so there was no time wasted with miscommunication. The meals were flavourful and hearty. However, they were as far away from toast and tea as one could get. Oh, and they had Cava (sparkling wine made with the champenoise method) with their breakfast!
In the afternoon, Annie showed us some of Salvador Dali’s architectural wonders went in the L’Eixample District. They are uniquely beautiful and part of the standard tourist map. Definitely on the foodies’ tourist map was a visit to Cinc Sentits, a restaurant which is owned by the brother-sister team of Jordi and Amélia Artal. They treated Annie to Wild Mediterranean Sole, a carefully prepared dish with extraordinary plating. Self-taught Chef Jordi definitely brought his A-game. Despite his obvious talent however, he explained everything he did and they both encouraged home cooks to try these methods at home. I definitely learned a thing or two about frying fish fillets. The three Canadians sat down to lunch and enjoyed Conca de Barbará wine. The Artals teased each other as siblings do, while regaling Annie with childhood stories. They hardly seemed self-conscious at all and had an easy going charm that carried over very well.
Before Annie encountered her next meal, she introduced us to Ferias. These are Spanish street fairs that take place on weekends, where one can buy all sorts of food products like artisanal cheeses, cured sausages, etc. As is typical in European markets, it’s customary to try before you buy. At Café La Viena on Las Ramblas Boulevard, Annie indulged in a cold beer and their signature sandwich, Flauta A D’Iberico Jabugo. Imagine toasted bread rubbed with tomatoes and packed with paper thin slices of Iberian ham. This is the kind of ham that you smell and rub on your lips before putting into your mouth. Imagine a sub like that? Pardon me, while I wipe away the drool from the corners of my mouth. After an unseen shopping expedition in the El Born District, Annie took a seat at Taller de Tapas to get tapas-ed out. It started with a glass of Cava and Pa Amb Tomaquet. Then, Escalivada con Anchoas De L’Escala (Roasted Red Peppers and Eggplant with Anchovies), Esqueixada De Bacalao, Choricitos A La Sidra and Huevos Estrellados. I don’t know how she coped with all that food. The owner Ferrán kept bringing out dishes, and the portions were larger than the tapas we’ve seen featured in the series so far. Despite that, a couple hours later, Annie sought out Buñuelos from a food truck. These are essentially churros filled with dulce de leche. I would have sought out a shot of baking soda and water, but that’s just me.
It was 10:30 pm and in keeping with the Spanish custom of late dinners, Annie was on her way to the Suquet De L’Almirall restaurant on the Barceloneta. Quim Marqués and Manel Marqués welcomed Annie into their kitchen, as they prepared the restaurant’s speciality, Suquet. It’s a traditional fishermen’s dish made with first-class ingredients. They sat down and toasted with a white wine from Alella, before diving into the meal. It looked rich and sumptuous, which are two good adjectives to describe this episode. Although it was closer to twelve hours in Barcelona, than twenty-four; this episode was beautiful from start to finish. I’m pretty sure that one day, or even one week isn’t enough time to really see this city. However, we saw things we’d never seen before and definitely things worth the airfare to try. The only question that remains is when do we leave? The next episode is Playing With Fire.