Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Barcelona - Dining Adventures

We've now tried Tapas several times and found that it can range from excellent to mediocre, so it's important to know where to go. Our first experience at Taxapela Euskel Taberna was eating mostly pinchos, which were bite-size portions of toast with different toppings for 1-3 Euros. Tapas consisting of meat or seafood dishes are larger and are in the 4-10+ Euro range. Our favourite place is still Tapas 24 on C/ Diputació, 269 where we had the squid ink risotto, breaded rabbit ribs, rare sliced beef in spicy sauce, fried anchovies and Russian potato salad. Yesterday we ate tapas the way locals do, sitting on stools at the tapas bar and pointing to the pre-made choices that we wanted.

On our day at the Barcelonetta/Port area, we tried Seafood Paella which came in a cast iron pan full of flavourful rice, shrimps, mussels and squid. For breakfast, we had the traditional Xurros amb Xocolata in the beautiful Escriba pastry shop. For me, this did not live up to expectations as I found the luke-warm chocolate now sweet enough and too rich to drink after the dipping. Rich seemed to like it though. More importantly for Rich, we've now tried all the different types of "Spanish dining" experiences that he was looking for.

Our first of two fine dining adventures turned out to be a great success. We went to the restaurant Cinc Sentits for an 8 course tasting menu. The chef and his sister actually lived in Toronto and were born in Oakville, so there was an unexpected "Canadian connection" to one of the courses. This turned out to be a shooter consisting of chilled cream, Cava Sabayon, a touch of rock salt at the bottom, and a layer of maple syrup! Imagine travelling all the way to Spain to have maple syrup.

This was followed by an asparagus clam soup in the prettiest plate I've ever seen, fresh spring peas with herbed mint ice cream(?!?), the best tasting fois gras I'd ever tasted (on a layer of glazed leeks and candied sugar crust), then a red mullet fish with vegetables steamed in a plastic bag that arrived at the table like a present which had to be cut open. And all this was just the starter courses.

The main courses seemed actually anti-climatic after all that, and consisted of either Iberian suckling Pig with roasted apple, or beef tenderloin with truffled potato (both very tasty). Next came a very strong blue cheese with a spiced bread cookie, and then a palette cleanser of lemon ice cream with lime sorbet. Finally came the dessert which was a delicious chocolate mousse with olive oil and salt(!), olive oil ice cream and macademia nuts. The food was all so innovative, delicious and beautifully presented.

While eating out at nice restaurants is alot of fun, after a full day of walking around, occasionally it was nice just to have quiet meal at home. Since we had an apartment with a complete kitchen (abet a "European style kitchen" which is very compact), we were able to buy fresh food from the market to eat at our leisure. After a successful trip to the Mercat de la Boqueria, we ended up with a baguette, several types of cheese, Iberico ham, and my favourite grilled veggies including exotic mixed mushrooms, fava beans and zucchini.

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