Barcelona: unique, game, goat/lamb and seafood
In case not clear: 4 categories of interest: make that 5:
-The uniquely Barcelona stuff you couldn't in 1000000 years stumble upon yourself (unless very lucky)
-Lamb, mutton, goat slow cooked style
-Anything I would not even know to ask about, but should definitely try.
With many thanks.
(Spanish/Catalan menu items untranslated are appreciated so I know what to look for)
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Here's something for the "you need to know to ask" category: eat some calcots. These are something you can't get elsewhere. They are green onions that are like super sweet scallions but are closer to the size (but nothing like) leeks. They are seasonal and, lucky you, it is now season. They are grilled and brought to the table in huge quantities. You peel the blackened outer layer off and then dangle the rest of the calcot above your mouth and drop it in. First, though, you dip it in a paritcular variation on romesco sauce, one of the great sauces (garlic, nuts, etc.) of Catalan cuisine. The whole thing is a specialty of Tarragona, but they do it here in Barcelona. I literally can't give directions to the obscurely located country place where I just ate some, but I am pretty sure that if you hit the main Catalan places you can have some. Season ends, I think, by January. Don't miss it.
For lamb, I have been told (though I've not yet confirmed) that El Asador de Aranda (31 Ave Tibidabo, way out at the end of the L7 FGC line) is really, really great.
Some good queries in this post.
For seafood, look for more unusual items like percebes (barnacles), canaillas (sea snails), zamburinas (bay scallops) and tallines (wedge clams). The former 2 taste very much of the sea and the latter two are sweet and succulent. You can find them at seafood tapas bars like Paco Meralga and Cal Pep or in the Boqueria and other markets. For something highly prized, keep an eye out for angulas (elvers) from the mouths of rivers in the Basque country, they retail at approx 600 Euros per kilo so you'll pay through the nose. Available at upmarket places like Ca L'Isidre in Raval.
For a great cheese experience, go to Formatgeria La Seu on Calle Dagueria in the Gothic Quarter. It's owned and run by a wonderful Scottish lady whose knowledge and selection of Spanish cheeses is top class. You can do a 5 Euro tasting of 3 cheeses and a glass of wine I think. She doesn't just carry Catalan cheeses but cheeses from all over the country. She also carries cheese ice creams, unique and delicious. Generally speaking look out for local cheeses like Nevat and Garrotxa and non local cheeses like Torta Canarejal (delicious, gooey, think Vacherin Mont d'Or), Valdeon (mild blue cheese from Castilla-Leon), Cabrales (strong blue cheese from Asturias), Idiazabal (from Basque Country). La Masia de la Boqueria, a stall in the Boqueria, is a good place to buy cheeses as well as cold cuts, local foie gras etc, look out especially for their mermelada de tomate (tomato jam) which is a fine accompaniment for cheese. More generally look out for cansaladerias, stores where you can buy local embutits (cold cuts) and other bits and pieces. Vic is the most famous production centre, look out for items like longaniza/llonganissa, butifarra/botifarre, fuet.
Wild mushrooms and game are widely used in Catalan cuisine, you should catch the tail end of the season. I never went but Cafe de l'Academia is popular with locals and tourists alike, serves hearty fare (including plenty of game) and is very close to Formatgeria la Seu so the two could easily be combined.
Lots of good local wines of course, cavas, whites from Penedes and reds from Priorat. The following are some notable cava producers: Recaredo, Rovellats, Gramona, Torelló, Nadal.
Basque pintxos culture is huge in Barcelona, I tried all the rated places and my favourite is Txakolin opposite the Estacion de Francia, don't miss this place.
Not really exotic, but suquet done well is an amazing monkfish and razor clam dish I can't get enough of in this area.