Barcelona: A Culinary Adventure
Barcelona, regarded as one of Europe’s most visually stunning cities, is mostly associated with art and architecture. Barcelona is considered a place to go for a cultural experience. With culture comes food.
From 2005 to 2006 Barcelona commanded culinary respect when it hosted a 12-month celebration and exhibition of food. Since then, Barcelona has not been able to live down its reputation.
Barcelona features chefs from all over Spain and around the world, but an appreciation of two qualities — local and fresh– bind them together.
People in Barcelona love fish, rabbit, duck, lamb and natural ingredients such as mushrooms and herbs from the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. If you’ve never been able to tell when dishes are made from frozen ingredients, a visit to Barcelona will grant you the ability.
Barcelona’s chefs have a signature style which is unique pairing. You will find menus with creative and tempting food couples such as duck and pears and goose with prunes. Fish with nuts is also popular.
Visitors usually find the combination of flavors quite irresistible. More than a few travelers overspend because they are enticed by food adventures. For many, the tasty budget busting is well worth it.
Advice Before You Go Out
Speaking of money, there are a few things to consider unless the number of euros you peel off doesn’t concern you.
If you choose to eat in touristy places, you will eat like a tourist. That means you will get scanty portions of somewhat authentic and mediocre food.
Lunch, usually served from 2 to 4 p.m., is the locals’ main meal of the day. If money and value concern you, it should be yours too. Most restaurants offer a menu of the day which may be one of the most delicious deals in Europe. Usually you get three generous courses including wine and coffee for only 5.50 to 25.
Dinner in a restaurant may be something you wish to try for a night or two. If you plan to dine in restaurants every night, hopefully you are not a budget traveler.
People of Barcelona eat late and enjoy courses. Dinner rarely starts for locals before 9pm.
Don’t be shocked to find that the portions are small, especially if you eat in a touristy restaurant. Usually items are a la carte. So you may find that you order a meat dish but vegetables, if desired, must be ordered separately. By the time you receive the bill, it can easily amount to 55 or 60 per person.
To do as the locals do, in lieu of restaurants for dinner, you will choose tapas. If tapas had to be compared to something, fast food would probably be best. But the offerings are not burgers and fries.
Tapas are small portions of fresh foods that are prepared quickly. A delicious example is gambas ajillo (shrimp in garlic). Tapas dishes are not designed to get you full. And, the tapas experience is not meant to be had in single location. The idea is to have a dish or two in one place and continue to the next and the next until you have had your fill.
Breakfast in Barcelona is far from an extravagant affair. For most people, a cup of strong coffee will do. Sometimes locals go for bread or patisseries.
Barcelona’s diet is a healthy one which thrives on seafood, fibrous vegetables and red wine. But the three absolute musts in every kitchen are olive oil, tomatoes and garlic.
Fideua is a good example of how the popular ingredients merge. This dish is like a special Catalan paella. It is cooked in a large flat pan with olive oil, shellfish, poultry, meat and vegetables. The unique twist is that skinny noodles replace rice.
Mar i muntanya (sea and mountain) is a specialty dish which is hard to hide from. In Barcelona, chefs have their own method of surf and turf. It is not merely the predictable steak and shrimp that most Americans know. Sea and mountain pairs game with seafood. So you may well find at your fingertips a platter of rabbit with prawns or meatballs with cuttlefish.
Pa amb tomaquet is thick rustic bread doused with olive oil and rubbed with garlic and tomatoes topped by a pinch of salt. This is a Catalan staple that is delicious anytime.
Espinacas a la Catalana is spinach made divine by cooking it in olive oil, with garlic, pine nuts, raisins and sometimes bacon bits.
Additionally, there are five sauces that lie at heart of Catalan cuisine:
Sofregit consists of fried onions, tomato and garlic.
Samfaina is sofregit with red pepper and eggplant.
Picada has a base of ground almonds accompanied by garlic, parsley, pine or hazel nuts, and usually breadcrumbs.
Allioli is pure garlic and virgin olive oil whipped into a mayo that you will find served with potatoes and vegetables.
Romesco consists of almonds, tomato, olive oil, garlic and vinegar. This sauce is sometimes used as salad dressing.
Barcelona’s cuisine is most often complimented with robust Catalan wines from the Pendes region. While you may enjoy the chase of hunting down a nice red wine, white wines are almost always better. Most popular is cava, a local sparkling white wine.
Sangria is also popular. Some restaurants place jugs of it on the tables. This drink is usually made with wine and fruit punch. But be careful. Sometimes sangria is laced with brandy. For those who aren’t accustomed to the mixture, the end results can be heavy.
Estrella Damm is a local beer that has several varieties. If you are going for potency, you’ll want Voll Damm. If you want to experiment with your brew, order a clara, which is beer with a generous splash of lemonade.
Bars, cafes, tapas, whiskerias (singles bars filled with professional escorts) xampanyerias (cava bars), restaurants and beer halls– each of these places have their own styles and offerings. In Barcelona, you won’t go hungry or thirsty. And you won’t be able to stick to a diet either.
Located in the Sants-Montjuic district of Barcelona, the Mossen Costa i Llobera Garden is considered by many to be one of the most important succulent plant gardens in the world. Dedicated to cacti and other tropical plants from as far away as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Mexico, the garden offers a range of scenery unlike anywhere else in the area.
Mossen Cinto Verdaguer Garden
The Mossen Cinto Verdaguer Garden, which is also located in the Sants-Montjuic district, is known for its beauty and tranquility. Dedicated to aquatic, bulb, and rhizome plants, the garden showcases outstanding planning based on color and height, with extra consideration given to the blooming period of each species. The best time to visit is from March to April or July to September when the garden is in full bloom.
With so many beautiful gardens to see in Barcelona, it can be hard deciding on which ones to visit. For a unique experience, consider going to one of the city’s thematic gardens. With a different theme featured in each of the three locations, you can witness spectacular sights unlike anything else in the city.